As a Realtor, I work a lot of night and weekend hours. In fact, many of my colleagues would argue that Realtors are never not working: as a fiduciary who works with high stakes transactions representing large sums—for many people, the largest financial transactions of their lives—I have to be available for my clients whenever a situation arises.
That said, there are also times when I can be flexible with my time. Today, I was fortunate to be able to take some time to celebrate Valentine's day with my favorite person: myself. OK, I'm kind of kidding (obviously my baby is my favorite person!), but I do love to use the opportunity to treat myself. I decided to take a leisurely 6-mile bike ride from my home in lower Piedmont to Westbrae to take a ballet class at Berkeley Ballet Theater. BBT was founded in 1981 and operated out of the historical Julia Morgan Center for the Arts in the Elmwood for decades, but a few months ago the school moved to a much larger facility in a formerly-industrial neighborhood near the Berkeley waterfront and the ultra-hip 4th Street shopping district. BBT offers a comprehensive and rigorous classical ballet training program for children and teens (I'm a product of that program!) and also offers a full roster of open ballet classes for adults, at every level from absolute beginner to professional. With all those classes, the school badly needed the extra studio space provided by their new home.
Even though the new venue at 1370 Tenth Street is a little further from my home, I hardly mind because there's an excellent safe, beautiful, and most importantly, flat bicycle route between my home and the studios (thank goodness I live in Baja Piedmont!). Berkeley was way ahead of the times when the city introduced the now-iconic traffic-calming bollards in 1975. The bollards in Berkeley are a familiar grievance for motorists: most of us have had the experience of driving happily along, only to be stopped suddenly by a row of barricades and a sign warning not to enter for fear of a $175 fine. I completely understand how aggravating they can be to motorists, but they make a huge difference in the bikeability (how safe and pleasant it is to bike) of Berkeley, especially in tandem with Berkeley's Bicycle Boulevard Network. A Bicycle Boulevard is "a low-speed, low-volume street which has been optimized for bicycle traffic. Bicycle boulevards discourage cut-through motor-vehicle traffic but allow local motor-vehicle traffic. They are designed to give priority to people biking as through-going traffic," and let me tell you, they are glorious. I most often take the California-King Bicycle Boulevard, which runs North-South through Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley. It's relaxing, way safer than biking on a major thoroughfare (GoogleMaps told me to bike on San Pablo to North Berkeley, which is a terrible suggestion), and just an all-around refreshing break from the stress that often comes from being a single, soft body trying to navigate traffic in a see of two-ton fossil fuel powered monsters. My favorite thing about the Boulevards is that it makes biking for transportation so accessible to people who would otherwise be put off by the fear of riding in traffic. When I was biking around Manhattan regularly, I fancied myself pretty tough with regard to traffic conditions. Now that a lot of my biking includes my toddler, I'm much more anxious about road safety.
Beyond being a sustainable mode of transportation, and a chill form of exercise, I love the way that biking through the Bay Area helps me stay in tune with neighborhoods and communities. Biking to ballet class this morning, I passed through Baja Piedmont, Piedmont Avenue, the Temescal, Bushrod, South Berkeley, Northbrae, and Westbrae. If I were driving, I'd be going 30mph on San Pablo, or 65mph on 580, and there's no way I'd be able to take stock of newly opened businesses, freshly painted homes, recently completed renovation projections, or repaired playground equipment. When I'm biking, I have the chance to observe much more about my surroundings and I can watch kids playing or exchange pleasantries with pedestrians and other cyclists. Not to mention the fact that I have much more time to soak in the stunning Bay views to my left and Hills to my right as I pedal on!
After ballet class I jogged across the street to buy a pound of Icelandic Cod from the Whole Foods on Gilman. Chris said she'd make fish tacos for dinner if I picked up the fish. Lucky, lucky me!