Well this was a pretty shitty year for the world. In March, when NYC shut down, it was clear this pandemic was just getting started and with Trump in charge, we were going to be in serious trouble. I was prepared to rip up my OKRs and just try to survive. Like a lot of people, we adapted to the new normal and tried to make the best of the situation. But over the months I made a few revisions to my initial 2020 OKRs and in the final tally, I think it’s valuable to still evaluate them. So here goes…
I turned 40 in January! My wife set up an awesome surprise birthday cake that was delivered to the office and I was really truly surprised! And she even got my favorite comic, Matt Fulchiron (check out his podcast), to leave me a voicemail! This wasn’t an OKR, just noteworthy.
Here’s how I described our situation in March in NYC:
Real talk? We’re hunkered down in Harlem NYC — 2 working parents with 2 kids. My wife is a professor and needs to teach her classes online (Read: needs a quiet space for 1–2 hours) and is expected to do research she’s paid to do and prep classes. I’m at Classpass, driving a major pivot to support livestream classes. All of this is via Zoom meetings and Slack. Together, we have a 1st grader in public school who has tons of energy (like most kids) who is supposed to basically be homeschooled. He gets assignments and cannot possibly do them independently. In a non-pandemic world, this would take one adult about 6 hours to do with him 1-on-1 because he’s just not ready to focus by himself unsupervised. Additionally, we have a 2-year-old daughter who, you know, is a 2-year-old. She enjoys naps, eating and screaming at us for virtually every emotional response. She cannot exactly chill by herself for too long. We have no childcare (no nanny, no daycare, no family help). We are in a 2 -bedroom apartment. My wife and I actually have a morning standup meeting just to coordinate our schedules. Full transparency: I’m operating at 50% productivity on a good day. Obviously it’s great we have our health and jobs but it’s … challenging. Basically, you either have kids and “get it” or you don’t have kids and are blissfully unaware and can binge books and Netflix on off hours (no judgement). We call this “forced family time” and swear we will look back fondly, but right now I kind of want that fast-forward button Adam Sandler had in the terrible movie “Click”.
Though the year has been awfully challenging with children, we also got to spend a ton of quality time with them. Watching them grow and learn, especially Sloane who learned to talk while we were in quarantine, was a major unexpected benefit of spending virtually all our time with our kids. We got to experience all their milestones and while it wasn’t all roses, we decided that a third child would be in the cards. We had been toying with the idea for a while. Certainly the quarantine and pandemic didn’t help but we looked past that and decided it’s now or never, we might as well try, and we’d absolutely not regret it. We were already overwhelmed, why not add another child to the mix!
Broaden our family’s perspectives
- [*Added] Get pregnant with # 3: We did it! We didn’t exactly go into 2020 wanting to expand our family but we knew this would be the year we’d want to try if we committed to it. We are delighted to announce we are expecting a baby daughter in June 2021! 100%
- Spend 4 weeks in Europe: Whoops! Funny thing: When we went into lockdown in March, that’s when we booked our flights for a July trip, assuming — so so wrongly — that COVID could maybe be contained by then. We got several tickets refunded and I have a voucher good til 2022. 0%
- Host 30 dinners: COVID had other plans. 0%
- Make 3 new (family) friends: Socializing understandably became nearly impossible in NYC but we did manage to make friends with 3 new families! One is a Dutch family who was riding a Dutch cargo bike on Governors Island. I could not help but strike up a conversation and we quickly hit it off. We also met about 20 different people while we were on Fire Island. We got along great with two different families (who each live in NYC) and have kept in touch with play dates. 100%
- Visit 5 new places in NYC: Again, this was more of a stretch goal at the beginning of 2020, but because the pandemic shifted so many things around — we bike everywhere, the kids are more available for day trips, and museums/etc are on timed tickets which makes them easier to visit — we did more. We visited Governors Island (several times) by bike, Randall’s Island (by bike) and even went to the Empire State Building (it was totally empty! no lines! unreal). Maddy biked the kids multiple times to the Bronx Zoo (an awful bike ride thanks to awful bike infrastructure), a trip which seemed impossible to do last year but now she finds perfectly reasonable. 80%
- Have 15 child-free evenings: We were on a roll in January and February where my mom was taking the kids a bit, but then COVID changed those plans. Still we managed to get about 6 nights without at least one of our children! 6 of 15. 40%
- Ride 1,000 miles on Urban Arrow: In hindsight, this seems like a very sandbagged goal. We started the year with 300 miles on the odometer of our Urban Arrow cargo bike. With COVID, we went out more regularly just to bike around, visit other playgrounds or fields (not easy to find an empty spot in Central Park for the kids to run around not near anyone). We rode almost 1,500 miles this year, far exceeding this goal! 100%
Financial independence / peace of mind
- Complete estate planning: We meant to do this in 2019 but didn’t, so we committed to doing it in 2020. And when COVID hit, boy did we move quickly. Big thank you to Edward, our lawyer, for supporting us through the process. 100%
- Create a doc of things I’d like to do: I have a lot of ideas about stuff I’d like to do if I had more time and/or could pay people. I’d do an analysis of parked cars in NYC neighborhoods. I’d offer cargo bike delivery services (eg “man with a van”). So to keep track of things I care about today (which can change over time), I’m documenting ideas. Unsurprisingly, most things revolve around street projects. 100%
- Read 3 books: This was definitely a low bar but hey, I basically don’t read books. I thoroughly enjoyed: Shane Snow’s “Dream Teams”, David Epstein’s “Range”, Woodrow Phoenix’s graphic non-fiction novel “Crash Course” (recommended by The War On Cars podcast) and Angie Schmitt’s “Right of Way” (also recommended by TWOC). Add to this: Maddy got me a Kindle someone was giving away [she is a voracious reader] and loaded it with Erik Larson’s “Devil in the White City” which is a phenomenal book. 100%
- [*Added] Fix my carpal tunnel: In the beginning of the year, I noticed my wrists, hands and primarily my thumbs really started to hurt. I had been experiencing pain off and on for 6 months and finally went to a hand doctor, got cortisol shots (which gave temporary relief) and by May realized I really needed to get carpal tunnel surgery. Unfortunately, my insurance coverage would make the procedure (which would be on both hands) extremely expensive. So I’m going to wait until open enrollment and upgrade my insurance in the spring. At least now I have a plan and can manage until then. 30%
Get in the best shape of my life
- Attend 150 ClassPass classes: All studios shut down in March, but ClassPass pivoted to support livestream and video workouts. I was able to do 100: 26 in-person classes (the last one was on March 11 at Rowgatta), 13 livestream, 15 video-on-demand workouts, 46 runs logged in Strava (which I’m counting here). But this doesn’t count Peloton: we got it around Thanksgiving and I’ve done 24 workouts (strength and cycling) in 2020, and it’s easily the best decision we made in terms of personal fitness. 67%
- Complete 400 Citi Bike rides: One of the hardest parts of working from home was that I missed my daily bike commute to the office. Part exercise, part meditation, it was a way to put some physical and mental distance between my home and work life. Still, as a family we went on a ton of bike rides and I frequently just hopped on a Citi Bike to do the Central Park loop as a mini workout. Managed to get 334 rides in this year. 84%
- Run 6 miles in under 8min/mile (my own turkey trot): Yeah, no. I thought I’d be able to keep up enough running and cross training to stay relatively fast but there was no way. 0%
- Average 8+ hours of sleep each night: hahahaha. I use Sleep Cycle to measure my sleep. I’m using the “time in bed” charts. Like most, I don’t do well with little sleep. You can clearly see a decent increase over the years as I became more aware that I had a child, then children, and couldn’t simply go to sleep late anymore! In January 2020, after coming home from a trip to Copenhagen with our kids, I decided wouldn’t it be amazing to go to sleep at 9pm every night and just get huge amounts of sleep! That lasted for all of maybe a month. Then the lockdown started and… that plan went downhill for a variety of reasons. I was never really able to average 8 hours (actual time asleep is much less than this measure). 0%
- Decrease screen time: hahaha. Between pandemic doom-scrolling, news, the election… there was no way. Youtube (which I pay for to have ad-free videos) also shows how many hours of video I’ve watched and, well, I’m not going to share that. 0%
- Improve back posture: I have been extremely lucky to not only have a job but also be able to work from home. That said, our apartment simply doesn’t have room for a normal desk or chair (never needed it), so my work time was spent either sitting on our couch (terrible back support, but at least sitting) or standing at an Autonomous-designed cardboard box standing desk on top of our dresser, in the bedroom (which was great for meetings but the keyboard was way too high for my arms so it was not for typing). Early in the year I made this posture goal and got an Upright Go posture training device and began using it in the office (hence giving myself a 20% on this) but once I was homebound, it became hard to commit to using it with everything going on. 20%
- [*Added] Get a Peloton: As gyms all closed (and frankly, we weren’t able to get away from our homebound kids anyway) we finally decided to move our couch a bit, get rid of our sound system which took up space in the nook and make space for a Peloton. It arrived around Thanksgiving and our only regret was not getting it way way sooner. We are now obnoxious Peloton owners.
- Published the 2019 Year in review for Reported.
- Wrote an article for Streetsblog: Op-Ed: How Uber Could Get Its Drivers Out of the Bike Lanes (Uber reached out to me afterwards but it went nowhere. I also got threats by drivers on Uberpeople.net, a cesspool message board).
- I published 30 episodes of “Bike Talk”.
- I asked 2 NYPD officers to get 8 cars blocking the 6th Ave to move (the officers were friendly but ineffective). Then wrote a Streetsblog article about the experience. EYES ON THE STREET: Broken Bike-Lane Enforcement on Sixth Avenue
- I was almost run over by the reckless driver of an oil tanker.
- We hosted 2 Cargo Bike Meetups — Gov island (twitter recap) and Central park spooky Halloween ride (recap). Then we met Chris from Propel Bikes and we were interviewed on his channel.
- Maddy started her Instagram account cargobikemomma to document all her Urban Arrow adventures and it already has over 1,000 followers!
- I rode in Justice Ride IV with StreetridersNYC (the one where a driver threw firecrackers at us).
- My friend and former co-worker at Groundlink, Rabiah, interviewed me on her podcast “More Than Work”!
In the beginning of April, half of ClassPass employees were either let go or furloughed. It was a very dark, emotional time for the company. But those of us lucky to remain pressed on. We built an entire livestream product from nothing in a few weeks. We were able to bring back some furloughed employees. We continued to build a ton of value while our “plane was grounded” throughout the year. We also committed to DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging) initiatives. I’m really proud to work at such a great company with strong leadership and excited to be a part of the team as we go into 2021.
I thought it’d be helpful to give a quick rundown of how certain notable categories of expenses fared between 2019 and 2020. Normally we are very careful with money but this year more so. This is sorted in descending order by expense totals. Overall, our expenses were down 9% from 2019.
- Food +30%: This includes groceries, ordering in, restaurants, Soylent/Ample, and alcohol. This increase was fueled largely by a 49% increase in grocery expenses, with far more cooking and feeding the kids who normally would have eaten many meals at school or day care. Not surprisingly, alcohol expenses went up 38% because who wasn’t drinking more during quarantine! Restaurant expenses, which we rarely went to before, were down. But ordering in went up 450% (from $100 in 2019 to $550 in 2020, so, relatively small numbers).
- Vacation +57%: Normally, while we do travel internationally with children, we hack it by getting mostly free flights on points and free housing through HomeExchange. We couldn’t travel internationally (Europe was like “no thanks, America” and we can’t blame them), so you might assume vacation expenses during COVID would drop by a lot. We were so desperate to get out of our NYC apartment, and had naturally saved a bit from cutting a lot of expenses, that we spent 25 days on Fire Island, a car-free paradise just off of Long Island. It started as a 2 week vacation but ballooned when we found another vacancy across the street for another 10 days. Fire Island isn’t cheap but we got amazing deals. We only felt comfortable doing this when it was clear we weren’t losing our jobs.
- Babysitting/Daycare: -47% No surprise as daycare closed. We did not replace with any babysitting support until later in the year. Then we met Carly who is amazing.
- Amazon: +45% Probably no surprise here. Lots of ordering supplies.
- Kids activities -36%: We became members at the Bronx Zoo, Museum of Natural History and the Intrepid this year and focused on using those large, open spaces as places where the kids could enjoy running around.
- House cleaning -47%: We had a wonderful pair of house cleaners who came weekly and kept our place from turning into a disaster, but when COVID happened, we stopped having them come and just did all the cleaning on our own (our place immediately became, and still remains, a disaster). This was down at least 80% from what it would have been in a normal year.
- Gym -26%: Maddy was a member at her favorite MMA studio (where she was pursuing a black belt) even as it went on livestream. Then when it returned to in-person only (and she couldn’t attend), we decided to purchase a Peloton!
- Public transportation -77%: Not surprisingly, since March, we’ve ridden the subway or bus maybe 2 or 3 times total, opting instead for virtually every trip to be by bike.
- Citi Bike +263%: And because we were riding bikes way more often, further distances, I got caught not docking within the 45 min window a lot more frequently! I also snagged a lot more e-bike rides to try to keep up with Maddy’s e-cargo bike. (From $70 — the cost of a discounted annual membership — to $254, so again, small numbers, but that’s quite a lot in overage fees!)
- An older woman mistakenly left me the most delightful voicemail.
- Maddy was sort of in this CBS story that interviewed her friend Chelsea about “Buy nothing”.
- I discovered the “Silent E” song (it was assigned to my son’s 1st grade class and let’s just say I now know all the words and the dance moves):
Here’s a selection of some of my top tweets of 2020 (by likes). Maybe not so surprising, my most popular tweets were basically just direct shares of articles. Others were bike related, of course.
I have written quite a few tweets that I insisted — to my wife — were absolutely ready to go viral. They were gold! (Those got the least likes of all. I will not quit my day job.
- Buying a car is the single act that most increases the chance of your children dying. Motor vehicle crashes remain the *leading cause* of death for children of every age from 2 to 14 years old in the U.S.
- Electric vehicles receive rebates. Why don’t e-bikes?
Popular bike tweets
- What a gorgeous misuse of waterfront space.
- Here’s how I make left turn through awful multi lane streets. Learned this in Amsterdam bc duh their infra basically guides you to do this.
- Biking in Soho (spring st) today and just floored by the number of cyclists. I count 14 in 2 blocks. It was like a group ride (it wasn’t) bc they rolled that deep. when you come across cycle volume like this, it’s just ridiculous to have cars here.
- Cops driving SUVs on narrow paths inside a park. of course
- Can I get a ride?
New stuff I got and why it has been life changing.
- Google WiFi: With regular Zoom calls at home and lots of internet use, our TP-Link router was basically crapping out daily. hehe TP. I’d literally restart it manually every day. My friend Zak recommended Google Fi, a more sophisticated, updated, definitely way more expensive ($170) wifi router and it was absolutely worth the change. Our internet just works now.
- Roku Smart Soundbar: Our apartment had an in wall 5 speaker system (Bose Acoustimass 15 II Home Entertainment System, 5.1) set up when we moved in which was pretty cool. We have a projector, so making this all work is not as simple as plugging in a TV. But the subwoofer/connection unit is a giant box on the floor and it also required an AVR (Audio Video Receiver). We wanted to get rid of the Subwoofer to make room for a Peloton but I wasn’t sure about how the audio would work until I looked into the Roku Soundbar — which is a Roku built into a slick soundbar. I put that in the front of the room, routed a 25foot HDMI cable around to the back to plug into the project and voila, I could get rid of both the Bose system and the Denon receiver in one go! It feels like better sound, though not immersive. Best thing about the new Roku is voice search. You just say a movie and it searches against all the channels and lists where you can access the movie! Turns out “Short Circuit” is available for free on the Roku Channel! Amazing!
- Jabra 65T Earphones: These $100 earphones were recommended to me and wow they are versatile and awesome all around. My wife bought a pair too.
- JBL Clip 3 Bluetooth Speaker for the cargo bike: This was a great buy to give the kids music to listen to when riding them around in our Urban Arrow cargo bike.
- Snap Mounts: These are pretty amazing magnetic mounts for the GoPro that can instantly create a simple dash-cam or personal bodycam. With everything going on, it’s not a bad idea for more people to just have personal body cams in case something happens…