Category: Bicycle Brands

Ellen Fletcher, Holocaust survivor

Ellen Fletcher

Many San Francisco Bay Area cyclists know about Ellen Fletcher’s long history of promoting cycling in and around Palo Alto. She served on the Palo Alto City Council in the late 70s and as Vice Mayor in 1980-81, where she worked to promote cycling through changes in city code, and was instrumental in lobbying Caltrain to pilot bikes on board in 1992. It’s through her efforts that Bryant Street became a Bicycle Boulevard in 1982. Ellen still actively promotes cycling in Palo Alto through her citizen activism, volunteering at Bike To Work Day by handing out schwag at Palo Alto City Hall, and organizing volunteers for Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition valet bike parking at Stanford games and other events along the Peninsula.

Ellen has told me a little about cycling to her work in World War II London. As a young teen, she biked to her factory job. Until recently, I had no idea that she was among 10,000 Jewish children who were evacuated out of Nazi Germany through Kindertransport. She’s among the very very few who reunited with her parents after the war, eight years after she left them in Germany.

Ms Fletcher was invited to speak at a Jewish school on Friday. At 82 years old, she still rides her Breezer Villager to get around, and she rode her bike to the school in spite of the cold rain yesterday.

You can read about part of her story in todays Mercury News: “A Holocaust kid shares story of escape with students.”

It takes more than sporadic showers to stop Ellen Fletcher from riding her bike around Palo Alto. So when a Jewish school in town asked her to speak about her escape from Nazi Germany as a kid, she showed up on a rainy Friday ready to go.

England offered safety, but the Jewish children still were classified as “enemy aliens” and not refugees. At school and play, English children teased Fletcher because she was German. “To them, I was a Nazi!” she said. “They called me Nazi!”

Props to Carlos.

Ellen Fletcher and her Breezer villager

Update: The original story at the San Jose Mercury News has expired. A copy is available here.

Bicycle for my daughter

My daughter grew out of her old 20″ wheel bike a while ago. It’s a real stretch for her to ride any bike with 26″ tires (including my son’s old 13″ Gary Fisher frame), so I need something with 24″ wheels.

She definitely wants a step through frame, which eliminates Specialized’s and Raleigh’s entire line of 24″ kids bikes. We live in a mountain town so gears and a reasonably lightweight bike are good — no clunky hi ten balloon tire cruisers, please. The only two candidates I’ve found so far that fit the bill are Trek’s “Zara” girls’ bike and the Electra Townie 21D with 24″ wheels.

Trek Zara girl's bike pink 24" wheel step through frame.

Update: I visited Sprockets in Santa Cruz (very nice people there!) and learned the Zara is a 26″ wheel bike. My daughter selected the Trek MT220 (24″ wheels, 21 speed “girl” model) and she loves this bike. Thanks, all, for the feedback in the comments!

I think overall I like the Zara over the Townie 21D. First of all, it’s $100 less expensive, which always appeals to the cheapskate in me. There’s no front derailleur on the Trek and I like the chainguard. I’m not a fan of Electra’s flat footed frame geometry (though if my daughter prefers it that’s what will be important), and the Townie handlebars look uncomfortably high. I’m a sucker for the sportier look of the Trek.

On the other hand, the Local Bike Shop I almost always use carries Electra, but not Trek. Trek dealers are few and far between in my part of California (I’m a mere 40 miles from the International Domination Headquarters for Specialized Bicycles). Trek calls the color of the bike “Coral,” but it’s clearly pink, and my daughter is all done with pink and Disney princesses in her life. Finally, the bike shop owner is my neighbor and a super nice kid so I can maybe get a bro deal from him.

We’ll look for a Trek dealer this week that carries the Zara, I think, to try the bike out.

Do you know of other bikes that meet our qualifications?

  • 24″ wheels.
  • Step through frame.
  • Reasonably light weight (no gas pipe tubing, please)
  • Gears, but not too many gears.
  • Price is a factor, so custom built is probably out.