Carfree Families — a new column on BikePortland.org

Editor’s note: I am excited to introduce Marion Rice (you might remember her from this story back in November). Marion is a mother of two (ages 5 and 2), is married to “the coolest guy ever who bikes as much as he can and is into Xtracycle dating”. She’s full of ideas and tips about how to be a confident and capable carfree mom or dad. She’ll be writing regular stories on everything from exploring family bike options, to cycling with babies and toddlers.

Take it away Marion!…


Marion and her 2 year-old daughter Gleneden on their daily commute down N. Interstate Ave.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Last summer I had an awakening; I became a carfree mom. I chose to ride my bike almost everywhere, almost all the time. On average, I ride between 15-20 miles a day Monday through Friday with my two kids (and sometimes four bags of groceries).

family_cycling-8.jpg

Marion’s daughter Gleneden.

One of the main reasons I woke up to biking as a viable way to get around with my family was because I feel it’s safer to be on a bike. With a growing critical mass of cyclists around town, I feel more confident that car drviers are seeing us on the roads and that they’re learning (albeit slowly) how to share the road. In fact, while the number of cyclists has grown, the crash rate has not kept pace, meaning it is actually getting safer to be on a bike in Portland.

And besides that, I just love it!

I never have to waste time looking for parking, my kids see me model a healthy lifestyle, and in turn they are invested in helping do our part to be carbon neutral. My son expects to go to school by bike even in the cold. He dons his “ninja bike stuff”, and my daughter routinely sings “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” all the way home, entertaining even the most ardent cyclists in the pack at stoplights.

Instead of driving by neighborhoods, we are really in neighborhoods, saying “hi” to our neighbors and noticing interesting things about the place we live in.

In the past year, I’ve met many parents who are on some point of the carfree continuum — some want to be car-free, others are on their way, and other still have already taken the plunge. Wherever you fit in that spectrum, I hope this column gives you great ideas and inspires you and your family to bike more and drive less.

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you, and those of other carfree moms and families, on a regular basis. Upcoming stories include profiles of carfree moms and dads, a rundown of good, family bike options, and much more.

If you have something on your mind, or have specific information you’d like to see covered, drop me a line at marionrice [at] mac [dot] com or just leave a comment below.

See you out there!

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Mark P.
Mark P.
14 years ago

This looks like it\’s going to be a great addition to the site. Good for you Marion, you are an inspiration!

Austin Ramsland
14 years ago

\”Instead of driving by neighborhoods, we are really in neighborhoods.\”

That is a great (and I think often overlooked) observation – you really do see the city differently by bike and if gives you a chance to see, to hear, and to connect in a way that you wouldn\’t normally be able to do.

Nice article Marion – I look forward to reading more of your stuff.

One of the clan
One of the clan
14 years ago

Way to go Marion! Car-free families are a growing part of bike culture and it\’s great to highlight the subject here. Thanks for sharing your experiences. More pictures?

Marion rice
Marion rice
14 years ago

Thanks All!
Yes, I hope there will be more pictures.. and speaking of pictures. If you have pictures of you and the kids out and about getting from point a to point b send them my way! You never know, we might use them in a post.

I hope to have the next post, Great Bikes for Being Carfree with Kids up soon. Am having a bit of knee surgery on Tuesday.. so might be out of bike commission for a bit, Ugggghh. I hate that!

girl on a bike
girl on a bike
14 years ago

This is great! I don\’t yet have kids, but we are thinking of starting a family in the next year, and my goal is to continue my daily (and pretty long — 18 miles roundtrip) bike commute to work for as long as I can while pregnant. We went to Holland last June and the sight of pregnant (and sometimes VERY pregnant) women on bikes is very common there, but I don\’t know if I\’ve ever seen it in the U.S. I\’d be really curious to read a story (someday in the future maybe, Marion?) about women who have kept up their biking habits while pregnant. I can see it becoming difficult at some point, but it seems doable at least in the early months. The biggest worry for me would be just interacting with traffic, which can get pretty hairy at some points in my ride … but I haven\’t been hit in the last four years I\’ve been doing it, so I\’m going on a little faith that my luck will hold out.

Alison
Alison
14 years ago

Thanks for the story, Marion. You represent an important and happily growing community of family riders.

For those who want a little help getting out there, this summer the Community Cycling Center will offer a Family Cycling class. It\’s five weekend sessions and scholarships are available.

The rides are a great complement to our Summer Bike Camp. Our website has more. http://www.CommunityCyclingCenter.org

Alison
Community Cycling Center

Stephanie
Stephanie
14 years ago

Thank you Marion!

I am a Mom to 2 boys, 18 months and 6 years old…yesterday I did some shopping at Fred Meyer by bike…while locking up my bike, I met a nice couple who commented on my set-up. Peddling home, I noticed them unloading their groceries, from their car…it turns out they are neighbors who live only a block from our house. We said hello again and I was reminded of how connected to the world I become while riding, often noticing subtle details of my surroundings.

I look forward to reading your stories!

Biking too
Biking too
14 years ago

This is great! Not only are you doing something fantastic for yourself but you\’re also showing the world that there are many types of cyclists. I\’m sure they, motorist in particular, see you as a \”mother\” verses a \”cyclist\” and that they should take some precaution. Maybe this precaution will eventually spread and help protect the rest of us.
(The quotations are to represent that these are preconceived titles.)

Mag
Mag
14 years ago

We\’ve been thinking to ride the bikes with our two-and-half year old boy for a while. We\’re new in the market and wonder if you can offer any suggestions for a family friendly bike?

Adams Carroll (News Intern)
14 years ago

as for photos… I\’ve got lots of family biking photos in my archives. I will put up a link on the Carfree Families Column Page (coming soon). I will also go through and \”tag\” all my previous articles on family biking.

I plan to work with Marion to develop her column into a regular place that not only has original articles but is a resource for Portland families to find information and inspiration (hey, where have I heard that before?)… stay tuned…

stumptown
stumptown
14 years ago

Yahoo!

What a great development for Bike Portland.org!

For the past four years our family has been car free, besides the occasional car rental for the out of town trips.

To Girl on a bike:

My wife was able to bike to work up to the last day before the delivery. It wasn\’t easy for her, I\’m sure I have no idea how really hard it was, but suffice it to say she credits her quick recovery to the exercise.

As for hauling the kid around, not to bad really.

Good gear helps, just the basics really, nothing to fancy required.

Clever Cycles has a ton of great gear and advice, (no purchase required), as the owners have kids themselves; they speak from practical experience. (No I am not an employee, just a big fan!)

Oh, and we always get the rock star parking spot. 😉

girl on a bike
girl on a bike
14 years ago

Thanks, Stumptown. That is awesome … hearing your wife\’s story makes me feel less crazy. I think too many people give up their ideals for convenience when kids come into the picture. But it\’s funny — you know how some people get all baby crazy when they see baby clothes and that kind of thing? I tend to get those feelings when I see parents out and about on bikes with their little ones in tow. Nothing makes me feel more optimistic or misty-eyed. And what a great set of values to introduce to kids at a young age.

Donald
Donald
14 years ago

Oh, man, Marion.

Until the Golf sprung a leak in the cooling system a few weeks back, we were having trouble becoming a one-car family: Cold, rainy 8ams sent me commuting by car most days December-January.

You go.

I\’m sure we\’ll see you around NoPo soon if we haven\’t already.

@girlonbike: everyone has their own tipping point. I think my wife\’s came at 6 months when she had a stand-still spill at an intersection and decided that thereafter the Subaru was a better option for her than the Gary Fisher. As always, trust your gut. so to speak.

Marion rice
Marion rice
14 years ago

Wow, What great comments! Thanks so much for your support and enthusiasm.
We have another article in the works.. Great Bikes for Being Carfree with Kids.. coming soon. I hope this helps folks.

I of course have some trepidation at times about biking with my kids. It was a tough fall/winter for all of us in the Portland bike scene with fatal crashes. But all in all, I usually am never freaked out on the roads when I have my daughter or son on the bike. In general people are so supportive and Biking too\’s comment about motorists is right on. My perception is that motorists are extra cautious around my daughter and I. I absolutely can say that the truckers on Interstate going into the train yard at Russell have been REALLY great, slowing down and staying behind us to let us get to the light before they make the right turn. It makes me feel really great that they \”get it\”. But don\’t ever underestimate my hawkish eye on the road.. I don\’t let my guard down for a minute, but I don\’t let it spoil my pleasure of being on the bike with my kids either.

Angela
Angela
14 years ago

Right on Marion!

Thanks for making such a great addition to BikePortland.

I love knowing there\’s more of us out there. Even though I\’ve had a couple of \’yucky\’ run-ins with cars, my experience is far and away very lovely getting from SE all over downtown most every day with my 5 year old. I especially enjoy the wonderful support other cyclists offer as they pass by!

Occasionally Libby complains about how her fanny hurts after the commute. I find what resonates with her is telling her that if the world could talk to us, it would tell us it was hurting right now, too. So that\’s why we bike… 🙂

BTW – the BTA has scheduled 4 Family Commuting workshops at locations throughout the city during May in conjunction with the Walk and Bike to School Challenge. Check out the website for more information and while you\’re there register your school or student!

Angela
Angela
14 years ago
Kevin
Kevin
14 years ago

Thanks for the column – such great inspiration! My wife and I will be selling our 1 car (civic hybrid) in the next couple of months once our son\’s head reaches helmet size and we can buy a Burley. It\’s funny (and somewhat depressing) how people react when you tell them you\’re selling a perfectly good car to ride a bike. Here\’s to a critical mass of not only cyclists, but car-free families as well! Looking forward to learning more about a car-free lifestyle…

Tarheeltreehugger

Anne
14 years ago

Marion – I\’m right there with you (up in Seattle. I look forward to reading about your travels. Good for you! http://carfreedays.wordpress.com

PoPo
PoPo
14 years ago

Excellent idea, looking forward to the column!

michael downes
michael downes
14 years ago

Great idea! As a car free family we thoroughly endorse this column. One of the notions that needs to be challenged is the idea that going car free is some kind of sacrifice or some kind of extreme aestheticism like being a vegan when in fact it enhances the quality of your life in so many ways.

Tricia
Tricia
14 years ago

Way to go! Everyone looks happy!

todd
todd
14 years ago

So inspiring! Power to you Marion!

Chris Sullivan
14 years ago

I pull my daughter around on a tag-a-long, and I love the way cycling transforms her personality. She waves and says hi to almost everyone we pass, and she also breaks into song like your daughter. I haven\’t yet gotten the thumbs-up from my wife to put our 7-month-old son into the Burley, but I hope soon to have the full family train in motion.

One recommendation I have for a column is to lay out some crosstown routes for parents hauling kids. I have not been so happy with my hit-and-miss approach because I get into some tricky and dangerous spots sometimes. I\’d like to see your suggestions for the best–and I suppose worst–ways to get around town with the kiddos.

Also, for your upcoming gear article, I\’d like to see some thoughts on getting around in bad weather.

Glad to see you are providing this column. Should be very useful.

Marion rice
Marion rice
14 years ago

Thanks Chris, your suggestions are super!
I do have some definite suggestions for tough weather gear. Amazingly enough the weather doesn\’t seem to daunt my kids desire to go by bike. However, this is not always true for other parents I meet. I will have a post specifically about rain gear/ tough weather gear ( don\’t get me started about mittens being dropped off the bike ) , but there are more pressing ones that will come before that. In any event.. I am pleased to say after a VERY wet winter.. my kids are still dry and I am sensible enough to have learned a thing or two about when it\’s probably best to take the car ( we do have one) or public transportation.

Sarah Bott
Sarah Bott
14 years ago

Marion! I love your story. Very inspirational! And it makes me want to be extra, extra careful when I\’m in my car. Kudos to you for being a Portland pioneer.

Jack Newlevant
14 years ago

Chris ((#23), for finding best routes have you looked at our online bicycle trip planner? http://tripplanner.bycycle.org/regions/portlandor and the Metro-published BikeThere! map, available for $6 at bookstores, bike shops & REI?

Bill Stites
Bill Stites
14 years ago

While I have been car-free for many years, I sincerely bow down before thee.

It\’s one thing to be single and carfree, but to have a family – with all the extras that kids entail – is very honorable.

Thanks to all of you for setting the ultimate example.

Marion rice
Marion rice
14 years ago

Hey Thanks Everyone for all the support. I am humbled by this. I have got to say, my inspiration comes from all the moms I see on the roads everyday, many of whom got into this long before me: Karyn Corwin, Martina Fahrner, Olivia Rebanal and the list goes on.
I am just lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time, met Jonathan and we struck up a conversation that led me here.
Look forward to the next post!! Thanks again Jonathan!

Chris Sullivan
14 years ago

Jack,

Yes, I use those tools. My favorite is the pocket map. But none of them are tuned specifically to families on bikes. I\’d find it helpful to hear what Marion has to say about the best routes vs. the worst.

-Chris

JayS.
JayS.
14 years ago

I\’m looking forward to this new and important slant on biking culture.

One thing I am often looking for in my route when I\’m with the kids is the least elevation change possible. I know the by cycle project is largely on hold now. In the future a way to pick routes based on least elevation change could help many families and newer riders.

jj
jj
14 years ago

I hear you JayS! I loved my SF bike/walk map that had elevation grades for all the streets. I know it\’s not nearly as much of an issue here, but I still wish there was something similar for Portland.

Ian Clemons
Ian Clemons
14 years ago

Your set up looks really familiar! My 2 girls and I have been on a similar Xtracycle set up for 2 years now. It works great and I\’d highly recommend it to anyone with 2 kids, want\’s to go care-free or car-light, and doesn\’t have the $3,000 for a Bakfeit. Just make sure your rear rider is about 5 or 6 years old.

In terms of ideas for future articles, it would be interesting to have a thorough review of bike product options for various sized families at various price levels. The pros and cons of Xtracycle vs. trailor vs. early riding for your oldest, vs. tandem, etc.

-Ian Clemons

Marion Rice
Marion Rice
14 years ago

Thanks Ian,
Solidarity!! Yes, I am pretty sure this is the next blog post. It includes different set ups and then my review of them. These are meant to be short and readable. It should be enough info to get folks started, but not the be all and end all. The community has a great deal to share as we have seen just with this article.
In my post I list price ranges for things new from a bike shop. Of course, if one is patient, you can find anything for less on Craig\’s List or E Bay and I really encourage folks to do that.
Marion

RIck
RIck
14 years ago

Looking forward to this as well!

Although not carfree, our family spends a lot of time in the saddle, usually on a tandem with our 5 year old stoking for me pulling our almost 2 year old in the trailer. I love how our boys have grown knowing that we don\’t have to jump in the car to go everywhere plus I get the added benefit of a great workout. Our latest is a triple bike which hasn\’t seen much action although my wife and I have managed a couple rides on it with trailer in tow.

olivia
14 years ago

Marian,

Great to see you on BikePortland.org! I am excited about this new venture and love the opportunity for it to be the ultimate resource for biking families. As you know, bike transit gets more complicated with more than one child and then as the kids go through different ages. So, it would be great to have some handy resources on the equipment choices for families of babies, toddlers, then older children (bike seats, trailers, trail-a-bikes, tandems, bakfiets {$$!}, xtracycles). I am personally interested in a conversation about when the best time is to start letting your child bike commute on his/her own. During a group commute ride, we once rode from N. Portland to downtown with an 11 yr old on her own bike, and she started commuting to MLC on her own bike at age 8.

So many other things to highlight about family riding!

Great to have you here, and see you out and about. Hey, I\’d love to have a family biking parade sometime. Maybe we should organize one for pedalpalooza 2008? When I went on 2 rides during last year\’s pedal fun, I was surprised that I was the only one with kids. Wouldn\’t it be fun to have a massive ride with tons of family Xtracycles, family tandems, and mamas & papas pulling trail-a-bikes & trailers?

Marion rice
Marion rice
14 years ago

Hey Olivia!
Thanks for the shout out and great idea!
It\’s on the list.
That sounds like a great idea for pedalpalooza.. count me in!

Shane
14 years ago

This is great! I look forward to using this as a resource and passing it onto folks who ask…\”but how?\”
There\’s a lot of great Family Cycling happening down here in Eugene and on April 18th we\’re having the first ever KIDICAL MASS ride!

http://www.kidicalmass.org

Stay tuned for more on that!

hau
hau
14 years ago

Marion: Here, here! It\’s been a long time coming, and I think carving out a piece of bikeportland.org to talk about family biking is much needed. I\’m looking forward to reading your posts, and really excited at the addition.

I\’ve seen you riding up Interstate a handful of times now. I\’m curious, where do you cut over to the sidewalk? I usually ride up the hill on the bike lane with my son but I know that some feel that the bike lane is not so safe when riding with kids.

Marion rice
Marion rice
14 years ago

Hey, Glad you are with us!
I cut over to the sidewalk at the bike light.. for bikes headed down Greely. I just continue up the hill on the sidewalk. I highly recommend using the sidewalk, especially with kids.. The truck traffic is too fast and too loud going up that hill. The sidewalk is not used very much by pedestrians. In fact, I have never bumped into anyone on that sidewalk when I have been biking!
All the best,
Marion

MaryBeth
14 years ago

I just found this site (and your column) and love it! I live in Boulder, CO, and am on my way to being (mostly) car-free. I\’m not quite there yet, but I usually only get in the car 1 or 2 days a week, for longer journeys.

I do have one question…how do NEW parents who want to be car-free continue to bike once that baby is born? I have friends who load the car-seat into the burley, but I\’m not very comfortable with that. Tips?

MaryBeth

http://www.dinkswithkids.com