Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies

Living in the East Bay got a little better for me once I got a bike.


Mr. WholeHog has long wanted me to get a bike, but I just couldn’t imagine biking up and down San Francisco’s massive hills. Here in the flatlands, though, a bike makes sense and it’s also made some of the things that I haven’t liked about the East Bay seem like attributes, like how flat it is.

From the front windows of our SF apartment, I could see Sutro Tower and the fog pouring over Twin Peaks. Our back deck looked out towards Liberty Hill and the sky-scrapers of downtown.

From our East Bay home, the front windows simply show the house across the street. The back windows look into someone else’s backyard. It’s a little claustrophobic, but it certainly makes for easy biking. I hardly have to shift gears because there are so few inclines or declines. (Of course I haven’t specifically headed towards the hills, but that’s just it: here one can avoid hills. In SF, I’d simply be trying to avoid the biggest hills).

The East Bay is also more spread out than SF. Commercial areas are separated by large residential stretches and businesses tend to close earlier than I’m accustomed to (grocery stores that close at 7pm, say). As a result, we were driving more than we wanted to.  But now that we both have bikes, we’re getting back to a more car-free life.

The pace is slower, too. Pedestrians wait to cross on the light, even when there are no cars coming, and I never see anyone jay-walk. Cars will wait for the light to turn green rather than making a right-on-red.

Maybe because people are in their cars more or at home tending their gardens or their kids, I don’t see many people on the street. When we moved, I was reminded of the time my sister and her girlfriend visited SF from New York City and were baffled by the lack of people on SF’s city streets. Compared to NYC, SF was sleepy to them. I feel just like them at times in the East Bay. I peered out the windows endlessly when we first moved here, hoping to see someone walk by.

But deserted suburban streets and a more leisurely pace have helped me adjust to being back on a bike. I rarely have to maneuver around pedestrians or cars.

Living in the ‘burbs has given me time to get used to riding again, and time to gradually adapt to biking near moving vehicles — all skills I’ll need when we’re back in the City.


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