green bike lanes

May is National Bike Month.

In the Bay Area cycling has been growing constantly over the last years. When we moved here in 2009 it was just the “new Golf”. Only middle-aged men with money seemed to ride around with their super expensive Cervelos and Spezialized bikes.

Now you actually start seeing “normal people” on average bikes, sometimes even without a helmet. They ride instead of using a car to run errands or even to ride to work. These are mostly the Europeans, I guess 😉

California is ranked # 8 in the Bicycle friendly state listBut riding your bike here still doesn’t feel very safe. The car drivers don’t take you seriously. They don’t accept you as a full participant of the traffic. I’m riding my bike in average twice a week as a workout and I run errands on the bike, too. If we go out locally, my husband and I ride the bike to the bar/restaurant.

Often I feel drivers think some things like:

Oh, poor woman. Are you not able to afford a BMW/Audi/Tesla?? Well, even if I’m not, there is no reason for you to ignore me in traffic, cut me when you’re driving off a parking lot onto the street or come too close to me while passing.

Why are you’re using a full lane?? Stay closer to the curb so I can pass you in the same lane! Guess what, I need some safety distance since I’m not having a ton of metal and airbags around me to protect myself. And actually it’s California law to keep a 3-feet distance from cyclists.

And women are the worst! Oh, I could go on forever now, but what’s the point?

A couple weeks ago my friend and I saw these signs on our ride through Los Gatos and I thought: This is an excellent development. And I was sad that I could not join the Ribbon Cutting Celebration because this is something worth celebrating.

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 (You actually see the green bike lane in the background.)

Not even half of the streets here have bike lanes, let alone colored ones. San Francisco for example already started installing green bike lanes in 2010. Bicycling-crazy Portland, Oregon,  has colorized bike lanes at numerous locations and concluded that such improvements lead to better driver behavior and make bicyclists feel safer. A report found that 92 percent of motorists now yield to bicyclists compared with 72 percent before. And, perhaps more significantly, 87 percent of drivers now slow down compared with 71 percent before.

Cycling fatalities in California have gone up over the last years, so I’m really hoping that the cities will install more green bike lanes in the future. We’ll have to get involved and we have to try to make changes. I think we’ll probably paint the streets ourselves, if we have to.

Riding a bike is good for everyone.

And tomorrow is Ride your bike to work Day, so let’s ride.

random acts of kindness

Californians are particularly happy, friendly and helpful. They smile a lot and it’s not odd at all to get smiled at by a complete stranger. When I’m running on the trail it actually happens all the time. And I try to smile back. Not always, sometimes you’re just preoccupied with your own stuff, but definitely more often than I’d done it back in Germany. During my visits in Germany I’ve been trying to smile at strangers, too. Occasionally people smile back but in general they’ve looked at me more confused and rather suspiciously.

This friendliness of Californians is one of the things I really appreciate. It just makes your everyday life a little brighter and easier. I know that the Germans like to spread the prejudice about Americans being so superficial and that all the happiness is not real (sometimes I want to agree to that), but: I honestly think it’s worth trying to be a little bit more friendly and kind to your fellow man. It will make a difference.

That’s why I’m posting these pics I spotted at my daughters’ school last week. Research shows that you can teach kindness and that our willingness to help other people, even strangers is flexible. It can be shaped be small changes in perception. I think it’s absolutely great that schools implement kindness training in their curriculum. Our kids will be able to spread this kindness to their peers, their families, their communities, the world.

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Read more about random acts of kindness and RAK, a foundation that wants to “inspire a culture of kindness in schools, homes and communities”.

Kendama

In the last six month a new toy has become “the thing to have”.It’s out of wood and called “Kendama”. It is a traditional japanese toy consisting of a ken (sword) and tama (ball) connected by a string.

It’s been very popular for a few months now and when I told a IMG_0772few german friends, they didn’t even know what it is. NPR’s monkey see calls it a potential viral sensation.

Our kids love it and it takes their attention away from screens and actually boosts the eye-hand-coordination. There are some people  that do awesome stuff with these things.

Here is a video about the 10 basic Kendama tricks

And here you watch the most amazing Kendama Ninjas

In Germany you can actually buy them on kendama-germany and amazon.de

I can highly recommend this toy! I’ve seen 6 year old kids mastering it pretty well. It’s kind of weird that Kendama USA recommends it for kids 13+. Well, yes, the string can come off but that’s something a younger kid might be able to anticipate, too. I guess it’s about the american liability madness.

Play away! It’s fun.

parades

Today we went to Campbell downtown to have brunch with some friends. But we didn’t know that the “17th Bunnies and Bonnets Parade” was scheduled for 12 pm, so first we had a hard time parking, because E Campbell Avenue was closed to traffic. That was a little annoying, since my husband is on crutches right now and he had to hobble half a mile to “Mo’s” where we met our friends. After a spectacular brunch with their special “french toast with Nutella and bacon” (OH. MY. GOD.) and “Bottomless Mimosas” we went back outside and watched the parade for a while. 

I think parades are a really american thing. They have parades for Christmas, Memorial Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, 4th of July, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and so on. The only parades I know from Germany are the ones for “Karneval” (the “5th season” in Germany), the Pride and the Love Parade and of course all the parades of the “Schützenvereine” (shooting clubs) which I hate. It’s a little bit like the NRA having a parade with a marching band.

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I think the parade today really reflected the area we live in. You could totally see you’re in Bay Area because of the diversity of people. People from all kinds of countries and cultures having a good times watching the local groups, clubs, schools and officials. You know that you’re in Silicon Valley when the Indian toddler is giving ‘high five’ to the American Eagle. 

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Interesting enough, none of the parades in Germany would actually attract a big crowd without alcohol involved. Total different story here, naturally. No alcohol in public. None. Well, we all had a slight champagne buzz and enjoyed the parade even more. Another beautiful day in California. Cheers!

body fluid clean up kit

This was not my first time on a school bus, and I actually noticed this box earlier, but today it gave me the creeps again. I mean, hey,  sure you can or even should you have this box on a school bus, but do you really need to label it??  I don’t really think that our second graders noticed, but if they would have, that would produce a lot of questions I guess.

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Death Valley

I want to start sharing some of our travel experiences. Last year in Spring Break I took my girls on a road trip to Death Valley. We stranded in the middle of nowhere because the alternator of our Eurovan died on me. After a 2-night break in Ridgecrest, CA we eventually spent only 24 hours in the valley of death, but I must say: I forgot how breathtaking it is. My last visit was in 1997 and we actually just drove through it on our way to Vegas.

Here some impressions:

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I will be back.

there is a day for everything

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Yesterday was the National Puppy Day I know that since my friend just got a puppy in time to celebrate. I can’t remember that we celebrated days like that in Germany. It seems that there is a day for almost everything.

In February the Americans celebrate the National Pizza Day, the National Donut Day and the National Pie Day. On my husbands birthday in April it’s National Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Day. While I still not quite understand why you would celebrate a certain food on a certain day, I really doubt that one would need a National Life Insurance day or National Cellophane Tape Day? I kinda like the National Visit your relatives Day, National Underwear Day, National Wine Day or National Happiness Happens Day  though 🙂

Here is the National Day Calendar.