Tillie & Coco

two ladies, two bicycles, two hemispheres

Category: Street furniture

A Midsummer Cycle

by Tillie

Dear Coco,

It’s been a while since we posted about a cycling journey. I had a number of errands to do today (not very important ones) which were best done by bike, so thought I’d do you a bit of a photo essay. It is a billion degrees today, so definitely not helmet weather, but I have no qualms about cycling on the pavement considering there are so few pedestrians to contend with, and the roads are so pot-holed they aren’t always the better option anyway! As you see, I’ve finally discovered Instagram. I am totally “gramming” as the cool kids say.

First, I went to the post office, and enjoyed using the drive-thru postboxes. This is the main post office, which is the best one to use because they clear the postboxes at 5.30pm. To catch the postman at the other boxes around town you have to be organised enough to post everything by 9.30, which never happens unless I have the extra incentive of posting a Netflix envelope. I’m pretty sure I am singlehandedly propping up the United States Postal Service.

From the Post Office, I headed back towards the centre of town. I meant to take a photo of this magnolia tree for you back when it was flowering. It was really pretty, but didn’t last long because there was a surprise snowfall that ruined everything, like a cold white unseasonal scrooge. Anyhoo, here it is for you in its leafy summer cloak instead. Soz.

You can see why the pavement is far more appealing than the road! I’m a bit confused by the apparent cycle route on this sign, though. Just around the corner from here is a really nice, wide pavement out the front of the Corning Museum of Glass, which leads straight to the pedestrian bridge and then Market Street. I tell myself that the pavement is deliberately wide to accommodate cyclists, even though it’s possibly illegal (maybe I should find out).

My next errand was to Market Street Coffee & Tea to get some coffee ground. We bought a packet of coffee beans from Four Barrels Coffee in San Francisco thinking that we’d buy a grinder, which of course we didn’t. The good folks at the coffee shop amazingly offer a grinding service for free, but I bought a bag anyway because once I needed to get about 20 quarters in change (Ithaca parking metres) and they were kind enough to do that for me without asking me to buy anything, so I had some karma debt to repay.

As usual I had to improvise a bicycle park, but this bench proved a lot easier than my slightly awkward bin technique.

My next stop was Walgreen’s, to see if they had anything in Sali Hughes’ recent Hero Products under £10 column (one thing). It’s always fun to gawp at all the STUFF in there.

Interesting Factoid: the pointy roof (er, architectural term?) was a sort of compromise to make the building fit in with the surroundings more easily – it takes cues from a nearby church and possibly the Rockwell Museum as well. The obligatory car park is set off slightly by some garden (not pictured), but it’s still ugly. And a heat trap on a day like this.

They do have a bicycle park though, so points for that!

I have omitted a rather painful few minutes in glaring sunlight waiting to cross Denison Parkway on the way to my next errand (groceries). Just imagine a hot concrete desert and lots of cars roaring past. When I finally got back to the quieter part of town I cycled down Market Street (on the shadeless side of the road, aargh!) and snapped (I mean “grammed”) this summery pot of petunias on the way:

Planning Moan: I don’t get this sign. I assume it’s there to warn drivers that pedestrians can cross here, but it’s very confusing. Cars may or may not stop for you (mostly not). Why not just have a real pedestrian crossing? Duh. I don’t understand why you need a PhD to know how to cross the road.

Next stop: Wegmans. Another heat trap car park! I do like cycling through it though. It’s so much easier than the bother of parking a car, and it’s much easier to see where the pedestrians are from a bike. One of my greatest driving fears is backing into someone (or running into a deer, not that I’m likely to do that at Wegmans).

Check it out. “Cilantro”. Haha. (Other words I’ve learned since moving here: garbazno beans (chickpeas), arugula (rocket), pignolia nuts (pine nuts). I still don’t know how much a pound is. America, please get the metric system!)

I get an eye twitch every time I pass this sign. I assume the point is that the pavement is very narrow and runs past a Seniors Centre, but it seems a bit harsh. You’d have to be cycling very fast for it to be remotely hazardous. Maybe it’s there because someone had an accident at some point. That’s the only excuse I’ll accept.

After the mean no cycling signs, there’s a rather nice stretch of path through a shady park. I happened upon two workmen doing something to the road, and one of them said to me “nice day for a cycle!” A tad too nice, perhaps, but not complaining.

(PS. I changed our theme… hope OK! Feel free to change it back if you prefer.)



by tillieandcoco

Hi Coco! Thanks for holding the blog fort in my absence. As you know I have been having a whale of a time in California, which was 1 billion times even more awesome than I’d expected. Of course I had a keen eye on the cycling scene on the West Coast (despite getting around in a very uncool hire car, tsk), and you will be pleased to hear that even in a country built for the automobile, cyclists are a fixture on the roads, and a stylish one at that!

This should have been a photo of a cool guy with an Electra. Instead it’s a sign about Boats. But it is in LA OK?

In Los Angeles cyclists don’t have a great deal of designated space, but they do have cycle-friendly flat roads and ELECTRAS! After three years living in socially reserved London I was really taken aback by how genuinely friendly people were. It was a whole new world of street etiquette. I was walking from Abbot Kinney Boulevard (cool street names much?) back to Marissa’s house, and a very cool guy walking a blue Electra on the pavement smiled at me and said hello! I took a hit from the shyness stick at that point, unfortunately. I wish I’d asked him for a photo! The Sartorialist makes it look so easy.

Lombard Street, San Francisco. The “crookedest” (and best!) street in the world (allegedly)

We drove from LA to San Francisco on Highway One, stopping in four different cities on the way. Santa Barbara warrants particular mention as an urban nerd’s paradise! Its main street has beautiful wide footpaths, comfortable street furniture (with pot plants) and of course plenty of two-wheeled Americana. It was so nice to visit places where cycling is just a normal way to get around.

Comfortable street furniture with pot plants, Santa Barbara

You would expect a city famous for its hills to have no cyclists at all, but actually there were many people cycling in San Francisco. Of course the areas like Russian Hill where you have to park at 90º (and it still feels like the car will roll down the hill) are unsurprisingly cycle-free, in the flatter areas of town it’s a viable option. I saw this lovely bike parked outside the Museum of Modern Art. Love the knitted pole.

Fab orange bicycle, San Francisco