Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dads on Wheels: J.J. Strahle Rides with Cobalt

Image: Meli of Bikes And The City

First two-wheel ride in the park

First trailer ride to the ocean

Look what we got on Craigslist

JJ with Cobalt in Windy City

BIKE NOPA and Bikes And The City get the momentum going on our new collaborative series, Dads on Wheels. Every Tuesday on both sites find San Francisco dads who bike with their kids for transportation and fun.

J.J. Strahle had the best of reasons for delaying his responses for this series. He explained that he and his wife "just got home from the hospital today with our newest bicyclist this afternoon." I like these early starts with bicycling! J.J. knows what to do when his "newest" is ready; he's been bicycling with his son Cobalt for a few years now.

When did you start biking with Cobalt?
He's 5-1/2, and we started bicycling with him in a bike trailer when he was about 2-1/2. It was mainly for recreation and weekend exercise and soon became a major mode of daily commute transportation for my wife and son.

How often do you bike with him now?
We try to get out as much as possible. I work long days on the peninsula and with afterschool activities all over the city and being on a tight schedule, it's not always conducive to cycling. For the time being, and with him on his own 2-wheeler, bicycling is more for fun. We will still, occasionally, take the trail-a-bike down to the ball park to take in a game, however.

How did you start biking with Colbalt?
We started off with an el-cheapo trailer from Craigslist. After we went on more outings and my wife got a new bike for commuting to work, we purchased a new Burley. When he was around 4, I found a trail-a-bike on CL and by age 4-1/2, he was using it daily for commuting to and from preschool. He received a 2-wheeler for his 5th birthday, and it only took a couple of times on training wheels before we took them off. Once off, he took off in a breeze and hasn’t looked back.

What’s the best thing about biking with him?
Exercise, time together, fresh air.

What do you say to relatives or friends who think San Francisco streets aren't safe for kids to bike?
They are both right and wrong. I also drive a car every day, so I know and appreciate being communicative and predictable on a bike (as well as in a car). I try to stick to designated paths and routes as much as possible. When it is not possible, I try to take less-congested streets. We will ride (slowly) on the sidewalk if the streets are not safe. In general, however, I feel pretty safe as long as we are smart, courteous, visible, wearing helmets and following the rules of the road.

What makes a street OK for you and your son to bike?
A street without cars is preferred, e.g., GG Park on Sundays. I try to stick to designated routes. I don’t know the classes of bike lanes off the top of my head, but we stay to designated paths and routes whenever possible, even if it is “out of the way” or “less convenient” to do so. For example, I will occasionally ride the Fell street route between the Wiggle and our house, but I also understand that cars drive close by at 25 mph, so most of the time I will make the short climb up to Hayes to head west.

Is it even harder getting kids ready for trips if you’re traveling by bike?
Harder than what? Than a car? Sure. Cobalt likes riding with us, even in the rain, but sometimes it’s harder to get him motivated to take the bike over the car. But that’s mostly when he’s tired or it’s cold. He loves taking the trail-a-bike out to the zoo, for example, even in the cold and fog.

How often do you bike on your own?
Not as much as I’d like to. When I can get away with it schedule-wise or because my car is in the shop, I will do the bike-train-bike commute, but that takes me an extra 45 minutes to an hour each way. On the weekends, I prefer to leave the car parked in the garage and bike anywhere I need to in order to run errands. My wife is the bike-commuter of the family…she works downtown.

Any advice for dads who are thinking about biking on their own or with their kids?
Seriously? Just do it (or at least try it). It’s easy! I just gave that advice to a dad yesterday. It’s a great way to get yourself and your kids some exercise. And for us, the transition to a big-kids bike was a snap. Bicycling in SF is really pretty easy and convenient when it comes down to it. The Bike Coalition and MTA have done a great job in the last couple of years bringing visibility and respect to riders and that helps make the move from biking as an alternate form of transportation to simply another way to get around.

For previous posts in the Dads on Wheels series, check here.

Dads, moms, kids: go the distance with your bikes on car-free Sunday Streets this summer. Next up: Golden Gate Park and the Great Highway, August 22; and the Western Addition, Sept. 19, with 11 blocks open through NOPA. More info on Sunday Streets here.

Dads don't have all the fun. Check BIKE NOPA's Women Who Bike series. And more women on wheels at Bikes And The City.


  1. I like how the mom is the commuter!! **rocking**
    thanks for sharing JJ!! it is nice to have a rider/driver perspective as it benefits the calming on both ends.
    :D meli