As someone who didn’t really come to appreciate biking until I was in high school, my mind is sometimes blown by thinking about people born into biking life here in modern Portland.
A comment Wednesday morning from BikePortland reader Katherine, beneath Jonathan’s ride-along with a dad and his four-year-old daughter, conveys it better than I ever could.
My son and I ride to school from SE to NW 8th and Couch on the north park blocks (through Old Town) every day. He used to ride on the back of my XtraCycle but at age 7, when he started second grade last fall, he began riding his own bike every day, back and forth. I have so much to say on this topic, all of it positive.
He loves the ride–we love the ride. He has become a confident and aware cyclist. He participated in a bike camp at the Community Cycling Center last summer which was a bonus. We have found a route we like and he has distinct preferences of which bridges we cross and I honor those. He actually loves the Burnside bridge even though the bike lane isn’t separated form cars. There is a strong cycling community at The Emerson School, where he goes so there are always a kids and their parents arriving at school by bike, from all over town. Some have much longer commutes that we do (ours is only 3 miles one way). And some kids have started biking on their own in first grade, at age 6.
The people we’ve met, smells we smell, birds we see, conversations we have are all thanks to biking. He also always seems ready for school when we arrive (worked out an cranky’s he might have had) and same on the way home–any school angst or exhaustion seems gone by the time we get home. We never have to look for a parking spot (though the bike racks are full up these days:) and just yesterday he said: “I love biking in the rain–it’s not bad at all!”
How many young Portlanders will grow up like Katherine’s son? What will they ride? What will they value? How many things will they have a chance to enjoy?
I can’t think of any better illustration of the multi-decade promise of Safe Routes to School programs, or of the need to make our city’s bike-friendly neighborhoods affordable to as many young families as possible.
Yes, we pay for good comments. We’ll be mailing $5 to Katherine in thanks for this great one. Check your email!
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.