Come to the Kidical Mass planning meeting and help us build an all-ages bike network

Help us have a banner year.
(Photo: Madi Carlson)

Thank you for your responses to my question last week: What prevents you from biking with your young children?

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

It was eye-opening to read all the comments, Facebook posts, Twitter replies, and emails. I can’t wait to share them in a future column and dive into the barriers people face when they think of biking with kids.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I had assumed the responses would all be about the expense gear or uncertainty as to what to buy. I hadn’t anticipated anyone would write about bike infrastructure. Not that Portland’s infrastructure is incredibly better than what my boys and I left in Seattle (though it is better!) and there aren’t a lot of point-to-point routes that are suitable all ages abilities (aka “8 to 80”). It’s just that I see so many more families biking here in Portland than I have in any other city (except Dutch cities I’ve visited) that I didn’t realize there were so many of you who aren’t riding.


I want to use future posts to talk about bike infrastructure that works well — or doesn’t ‚ for people who bike with little ones, identify particularly good spots to ride with kids, and share community action we can take — especially if there are events and meetings easy to attend with kids in tow. Today’s post is a bit about all those things: helping Kidical Mass PDX thrive and continue to serve the community.

These smiling faces could use your help.

Two things make it safe to bike in any city: All Ages and Abilities infrastructure and more people biking, no matter the infrastructure. Kidical Mass rides are terrific practice for getting out there with in a big, safe group to experience biking in the street with kids and build confidence for biking more without the group.

Just like I assumed no one felt challenged by our streets, I had mistakenly thought Kidical Mass in Portland was shrinking because so many people were already biking with kids. But it turns out we need to maintain and grow Kidical Mass! Kidical Mass relies on volunteers and there’s a planning meeting coming up this Friday April 6th. No experience is necessary and anyone interested in helping in any capacity should come. I hope to see you there!

Here are the details:

Kidical Mass 2018 Planning Meeting
Friday April 6th at 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Books with Pictures (1100 SE Division St, Portland, OR 97202)

Planning Meeting for the 2018 ride calendar. Former leaders, future leaders, the leader-curious, interested parties, community stakeholders, and friends of KM all welcome.

Bring: YOUR 2018 events calendar. A laptop or other internet-connected device. Ideas, dreams, and wishes for Portland’s Family Biking Community. Your best can-do attitude.

1) Visioning: What do we want Kidical Mass to be in 2018 and beyond?
2) Brainstorming: What COULD we do for each month’s ride?
2.5) Collaboration: How can we work with Go By Bike Shop, with Timo’s Portland By Cycle rides, with Portland Sunday Parkways, and others?
3) Planning: What WILL we do for each month? Who will own the event? What are next steps?

* A kid-friendly event, but no dedicated childcare will be provided.*

Event listing on BP Calendar

If you want to get involved but can’t make the meeting, or if you have any Kidical Mass questions, please contact Kidical Mass PDX Director Sara Davidson at scowling [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks for reading. Feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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Madi Carlson

Madi Carlson

Madi Carlson (@familyride on Twitter) wrote our Family Biking column from February 2018 to November 2019. She's the author of Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living (Mountaineers Books). In her former home of Seattle, Madi was the Board President of Familybike Seattle, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting bicycling as a means for moving towards sustainable lifestyles and communities. She founded Critical Lass Seattle, an easy social group ride for new and experienced bicyclists who identify as women and was the Director of Seattle's Kidical Mass organization, a monthly ride for families. While she primarily bikes for transportation, Madi also likes racing cyclocross, all-women alleycats, and the Disaster Relief Trials. She has been profiled in the Associated Press, Outdoors NW magazine, CoolMom, and ParentMap, and she contributed to Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue.

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6 years ago

Madi — I wrote a blog post last year about riding with older kids. It might be relevant to revisit:

B. Carfree
B. Carfree
6 years ago

When I choose to drive (not often, but it happens), I can get to any place I want and don’t need to have any real local knowledge or spend much time studying source material to find a decent way to get there. It’s basically a process of pointing myself in the correct direction and heading off because pert-near every road is designed for easy driving.

If I’m heading out with the grandkids, it’s a different story entirely. Part of the problem, imo, is our determination to settle for a small sub-network of the road system for nonmotorists. I feel like every roadway’s default design/build/striping should be such that non-motorists can easily and safely make use of it, even if that means motorists find it difficult/slow/inconvenient. Inside that web, a small subset should be designed to also facilitate driving, but not at the expense of other modes.

Oddly, that’s more or less Portland’s official position, but it has so internalized active transportation sub-networks that it isn’t ever going to get there.

And that’s a very long-winded way of saying that an all-ages network will not function as dreamed. It will always have the gaps discussed in Carrie’s post unless much more is demanded of the gate-keepers at PBoT and ODOT.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
6 years ago
Reply to  B. Carfree

Perhaps it’s not that we have settled for such a sub-network but that society, drivers, enforcement, and engineering have assumed that we should be satisfied with staying off of busy and fast roads (they can’t see the invisible sharrows, which are everywhere and have the same legal meaning as painted ones.). As a practical matter, vehicular cycling in such locations is just too stressful with kids in tow and drivers have no fear of enforcement or retribution for bad, or even mean behavior. But yes, the car network should be the less connected one, since it takes nearly zero effort to go around the block in a car.

John Liu
John Liu
6 years ago

Rule 1: no matter the topic of the post, the comments are always about infrastructure.

Michael Andersen
6 years ago

Thanks for doing this, Madi (and Sara). I hope to finally cross paths with you soon, probably at a KM event.

And for the record, the biggest thing that keeps me from riding with my kid (who’s still on board) the amount of hill-climbing required to get around on a bike in our part of town. That’s both an equipment barrier and an infrastructure barrier, since we’ve deliberately avoided making a lot of our flat streets (usually also our former streetcar streets, and therefore the direct ones with all the destinations) bikeable.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
6 years ago

Riding a laden bike gives you incentive to find flatter routes around the hills. In southwest, of course that leads you to Barbur and ODOT knows.

An electric bike will pay for itself within a year if you’re driving kids around the neighborhood.

just one skip remount
just one skip remount
6 years ago

The rain is the only thing that holds my fam back. Not the traffic, the hills or the infrastructure. Just that rain.
Without shame, I look forward to the sun shine!