Family cycling: The next Big Thing?

Busy bike racks at Trillium School
in North Portland.
(Photos © Jonathan Maus)

Two recent experiences have left me thinking that more and more Portland families are ditching the family car and replacing it with the family bike.

Yesterday morning, when I pulled up to the bike parking area in front of my daughter’s preschool, it was bursting-at-the-seams full.

It was the morning rush and the bike racks bustled with activity. As I took in the moment, I was struck by how many families and family bikes there were. Among the 35-40 or so bikes in the two ribbon racks, I counted three Xtracycle conversions (the new trend, more on that later), four trail-a-bikes, and a smattering of baby carriers.

“Carfree mom” Marion
Rice and her daughter

Before I left I met Marion Rice and her 17 month-old daughter Gleneden. A self-titled, “carfree mom” since July, Marion has two daughters, and says her daily biking amounts to 16 miles a day.

Rice lives in the Overlook neighborhood and drops off Gleneden at day-care on NW 21st. She said all that biking has left her body feeling great. With a smile, she recounted her daily haul, “Four trips over the Broadway Bridge and twice up Interstate!”

She was also eager to show me her Xtracycle-converted bike. Marion has happened upon the same bike set-up that my family, and many others have; an Xtracycle-child seat combo. “I can carry both my kids and four bags of groceries,” she said.

Like many of us, Marion was intrigued with family cycling when she saw her first bakfiets. She checked them out at Clever Cycles, but found that the Xtracycle just “felt better”. She also thought her five year-old son, “might feel dorky” riding in the cargo bin.

As I pedaled downtown with Marion and Gleneden we talked about safety (ironically we passed by Interstate and Greeley about 20 minutes after yesterday’s collision). Marion said, “Some people in cars do look at me like I’m crazy…but it just seemed like there was a critical mass of people riding, and that made me feel safer.”

The same enthusiasm for cycling I felt from Marion is spreading throughout the city.

Another Overlook resident (and recent Xtracycle convert), Olivia Rebanal recently took it upon herself to organize a “bike-to-school morning” with other parents of her daughter’s school (which is near the North Park Blocks). She wanted to ride with others and encourage more families to bike, so she planned a time and a place to meet.

Ten parents showed up for a recent
“bike-to-school morning” organized by
a North Portland mom.
(Photo: Olivia Rebanal)

Olivia was thrilled when ten parents showed up. “They were pulling tag-alongs and one kid (an 8 year-old) was even on her very own bike!” she said.

After meeting at Dawson Park in North Portland, the whole crew rolled downtown. Olivia said, “It felt great to see all those families in the bike lane together.”

Olivia hopes to make her bike-to-school ride “bigger and bigger each month”. She also wants to make it a regular event, “Maybe the last Friday of each month to coincide with Breakfast on the Bridges.” That would, she says, “just make it all the more festive.”

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