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National Bike to School Day not that a big a deal in Portland

Posted by on May 8th, 2013 at 10:52 am

Bike to School Day in NoPo-11

The scene this morning at Beach School in north Portland.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Today is National Walk and Bike to School Day. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, over 1,400 schools nationwide registered for the event and there was even a story about it on US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s blog.

I rolled out to two schools in north Portland this morning to check out the action (more photos below). When I got back to my office and went online, I searched for press releases, Twitter updates, and so on from the Portland Bureau of Transportation and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance; but there were none to be found.

Turns out that in Portland, National Walk and Bike to School Day isn’t a big deal. Biking and walking to school certainly is, but this particular national holiday doesn’t register. And you can’t blame PBOT and the BTA. They oversee some of the largest, most comprehensive, and most successful walking and biking to school programs in the country.

This collective yawn from local advocates and our transportation bureau reminds me of other national bike events that don’t really make much noise here. I’m thinking of critical mass, the New Belgium Tour de Fat, the Bicycle Film Festival, and so on. Each one of those still happen in other cities, but they’ve come and gone in Portland due to lack of interest and a local preference for home-grown versions and other pursuits.

Even so, there were still special celebrations at some local schools and, like everyday, there were tons of kids walking and biking to school in Portland today! Below are a few photos from Trillium Charter School and Beach School in North Portland…

Families make their way across N Ainsworth Street on their way to Trillium Charter School at Interstate and Killingsworth.

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Trillium Charter School parent volunteer Stephanie Turner had popcorn, lemonade, and prizes for kids who rode this morning…

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Like Xtracycles did before them, Yuba Mundos are starting to take over the streets of Portland. This one belongs to a new resident in my neighborhood who got it for his birthday a few days ago. Now he and his wife are thinking of selling their car…

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This happy family was rolling on the N. Concord neighborhood greenway en route to Beach School…

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Beach students have access to one of the largest bike parking facilities in the entire Portland school system…

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Bike to School Day in NoPo-11

Just another day at Beach School…

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Beach School parent Suzanne Veaudry Casaus (who also happens to be Chair of the PBOT Bicycle Advisory Committee) showed her Walk+Bike spirit.

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And of course another reason the BTA and PBOT aren’t doing big events today is that they’re busy with National Bike Month. For more info on all the great bike stuff planned this month, check out PBOT’s PDX Bike Month website.

UPDATE: Reader Greg Raisman sent in a photo from Bridger School in southeast Portland… He said 50 kids showed up on bikes this morning (about 12.5% of the student body). Not bad for their first time doing a bike to school day. And Greg added that Principal Brenda Fox still plans to dye her hair pink…

Photo of bulletin board at Bridger School.
Photo: Greg Raisman

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  • Ethan May 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

    I was pretty disappointed to find bike commuting a pretty white phenomenon at my son’s Title I school this morning.

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  • Steve B May 8, 2013 at 10:58 am

    I’d love to hear more about the difference between xtracycles and yuba mundos. Is there a reason the yubas are becoming more popular?

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    • LoveDoctor May 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

      The Yuba is quite possibly the most stable of all longtail designs out there. It’s quite inexpensive compared to other designs. I have a Surly Big Dummy, and it’s awesome for my needs, but the Yuba has it beat for big loads of youngin’s and overall stability. XtraCycle has a new design call the Edgerunner that will probably trump the Yuba, but it’s pretty new.

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      • Chris I May 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

        Nothing will ever replace the Big Dummy if you are a very tall or very short rider. I am 6’4″ and the 22″ BD is the best option for me. “One size fits all” does not work.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 8, 2013 at 11:10 am

      LoveDoctor makes some good points. I’ll also add that Yuba was a tiny start-up when they first came out and weren’t as easy to get as they are now. Also, they’ve made some small but important improvements over the years to refine the design. Perhaps a larger thing going on is that the Xtracycle was picked up by parents that were more experienced riders at the cusp of the family biking revolution. Now, with so many new riders giving longtails a try, the Mundo’s stability is especially appealing to folks who aren’t as confident in their riding yet… of course that being said I know several hardcore bike rider-types who prefer the Mundo simply because it’s bombproof.

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  • Ethan May 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

    On a budget the Yuba is still an unrivaled value and a great bike as well. I especially appreciate that the frame and hubs are disc-brake-ready, so you can upgrade the brakes without rebuilding the entire bike. We love our family’s Yuba Mundo.

    I’d say the platform advances of the Xtracycle Edgerunner give it an edge (no pun intended) if you have a slightly higher budget or plan (even down the road) to add eAssist. The smaller rear wheel size of the Edgerunner lowers the center of gravity and is a better wheel size for hub motors.

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  • Andrew K May 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Those pictures make me so happy.

    When I was a kid I used to ride my bike to and from school every single day. This was in a small town in California, not Portland. It was the highlight of my day. I felt so grown up and the bicycle was that one possession that was truly “mine”. A lot of kids rode in to school

    Now days when I go back to that town to visit family riding a bike is not possible for young children. The town has been turned into strip malls and the roads widened to the point where they are all nearly highways as opposed to city streets. It is incredibly sad to me.

    I’m glad to see that in a larger city like Portland kids can still enjoy the same benefits of biking into school that I did.

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  • LoveDoctor May 8, 2013 at 11:32 am

    The blah attitude towards biking to school may be the norm on the central east side, but unfortunately it hasn’t percolated quite as far west. Out here in the ‘burbs bordering Beaverville, most kids are still dropped off by SUV or smelly bus. Riding a bike certainly isn’t appropriate for every kid, but it is a far underutilized method over here. We just don’t have the same concept of sharing the road over here, and many parents just won’t let their kids hit the road themselves. And the lack of kids on bikes just perpetuates that attitudes of drivers to continue talking on the phone or put on makeup during their commute since they don’t “need” (said sarcastically) to pay attention.

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    • Mark Allyn May 9, 2013 at 12:54 pm

      Huh? What smelly bus? I commute from PDX to Hillsboro and get passed by school busses all the time here in BeaverHillTonBoro and I think they are clean. No problems with belching smoke.

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  • jeremy May 8, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Today was the 172nd bike to school day for my kid. (note smug smile…). However, I think there is an awful lot that can still be done. I take mine up to a school in the SW hills, where super close in kids walk, but most parents drive and park. I am the only bike as far as I can tell. Beach is an awesome example, but there is still work to be done at other schools!
    I am glad to see Trillium highlighted–as a charter, they draw from the whole city, without the benefit of a neighborhood area (although I know lots of students live in that neighborhood). Keep it up!

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  • Pfeif May 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Well I feel a bit out of touch, Today I opted to drive my son to school downtown instead of my usual routine of taking him to school in our Bakfiets just so I could ride my road bike into the shop and work on it during my free time. Way to go dad.

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  • Robert Ping May 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    2013 is only the second National Bike to School Day – ever! There has been International Walk to School Day since 2000, which happens on the first Wednesday of the first full week in October, and that event is very popular, even in Portland, along with millions of kids and at least 39 other countries around the world. It takes awhile for events to catch on, Bridge Pedal didn’t have 20,000 people participate the first two years, give this one a chance to shine and it will in time.

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  • Mark Allyn May 9, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Bike film festivals out of vogue here? What about Filmed by Bike? That’s still going strong, isnt it?

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  • Kirsten May 9, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    While Wednesday was Walk + Bike to School Day, many Portland-area schools are now participating in the Walk + Bike Challenge, which takes place during the ENTIRE month of May. This is similar to the BTA Bike to Work Challenge in September. Participating schools encourage families to use active transportation, then track and report their trips to help promote safe routes. Each school has their own interpretation of this challenge, which gives rise to community building around walking and biking. At our school, Llewellyn Elementary, we have held an assembly, given weekly prizes, organized bike trains, awarded extra recesses to classes with the greatest participation, and established a “park and walk” lot to reduce auto traffic around the school. Our bike racks are full to overflowing and we had more than 700 walkers and bikers in the first three days of the challenge! To see the list of schools that are registered — or to get your school involved — visit http://www.walknbike.org/event/2338/register

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  • Paolo May 9, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    My daughter goes to Bridger and she took the challenge from Principal Fox, now she wants to bike everyday!
    It has been great.

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