Sunday Parkways is perfect for families: Here’s how to get the most out of it

Posted by on May 22nd, 2018 at 11:05 am

Just a few of the 25,900 people who attended Sunday’s event.
(Photos: Greg Raisman)

Sunday Parkways is one of the best Portland events for kids who like biking. It’s also great for kids who like playgrounds, bounce houses, food of any sort, dancing, art, music, etc. This week I’ll share a bit about Sunday’s first event of the season. And because there are four more to come, I’ll also share some tricks I’ve learned to get the most out of them.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Last weekend’s Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways was especially great for us as it was the first time my kids rode their own bikes at this event.

We attended last year’s “Sellwaukie” (Sellwood/Milwaukie) Sunday Parkways, but I carried both kids on my longtail cargo bike. And our very first Sunday Parkways was Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways 2016 with a bakfiets from the Clever Cycles rental fleet.

It’s liberating for kids and parents to let little ones loose on city streets without worrying about drivers.
(Photo: Madi Carlson)

A family picnicking near us checked the time and exclaimed they had to pedal home “ASAP!”, before the roads opened back up to cars.

Carrying kids around Sunday Parkways (via cargo bike, tandem bike, trailer bike, trailer, bike seat, etc) and letting them loose to check out the activity hubs and anything else interesting along the route is a wonderful way to partake. And having such a large area protected from car traffic provides a unique opportunity for kids to get around by their own power. I believe Sunday Parkways is for everyone, but it can be particularly life-changing for little kids on bikes.

I first realized this two years ago when we were hanging out at Colonel Summers Park as the event wound down. A family picnicking near us checked the time and exclaimed they had to pedal home “ASAP!”, before the roads opened back up to cars. Sunday Parkways is a way for families who aren’t able to bike everywhere the way I do to experience the three-way-magic of biking for transportation, recreation, and fun when the streets near their houses are “open.” I’m lucky in that I get to see this regularly during Kidical Mass rides: when little kids get to bike in the street from point-A to point-B (rather than just in front of their houses), the way their faces light up is amazing and their smiles are infectious. They exemplify the way biking makes me feel, as I tried to convey in my recent post about exhaustion: “capable, strong, and free!”

So please, encourage your friends with small kids to join you for an upcoming Sunday Parkways. Here’s my advice on how to get the most out of them


Plan your attack
There are so many interesting vendors and attractions that it’s easy to miss your favorites. We didn’t see everything on Sunday and I was kicking myself for not grabbing an official event brochure. Yes they have one of those (see it below)! It lists most of the main vendor and activities at each park. You can find it at the info booths or — if you’re really prepared — download it to your phone before you go via the event website.

Bring snacks
I fail you each time I write a post and don’t mention snacks. Bring snacks. We found food to purchase (on three occasions and it still wasn’t enough), but lines are long and vendors run out of food so make sure you have some sort of emergency snack along.

Bring/locate water
I said I was going to bring an extra water bottle with us, but I forgot. I also said I’d fill our water bottles at each stop, but I got distracted. Not all parks have drinking fountains (Ivon Park didn’t, but a booth had a big water dispenser) so in the future I’ll note what the water situation is ahead of time — either by checking out the park on my own (yes, hydrating is that important to me I’ll bike 10 miles ahead of time just to look for a drinking fountain!) or asking a friend in the neighborhood.

Some stuff ends early
The roads open to cars promptly at 4:00 pm so booths in the streets and parks often pack up before then. This was inconvenient as we were looking for food for the fourth time at twenty ’til. I’m glad we completed the loop and scored one of the last salmon hats, but it seems worth it to take a break in the middle of one of the bigger parks near the end to be far from the packing-up frenzy.

Riding towards home right at 4:00 is cool because you encounter a steady trickle of families biking away, all criss-crossing paths as they head in different directions from different parts of the loop. Some of the unofficial booths stay open past 4:00 to prolong the party — we saw some lemonade stands still going strong and paused at a huge karaoke party.

Here are some other highlights of our day, just to give you a sense of what’s out there…

Colonel Summers Park
Side-by-side parkour course and bounce house (the kids did both of these while I waited in line for food). The Audubon Society of Portland had a great-horned owl and turkey vulture. I wouldn’t have noticed these had we not been aimed at them in the restroom line! The Zumba was loud and festive. Watching three teens on stilts partake was amazing.

Ivon City Park had amazing putt putt golf! The bounce house was popular, too.

Putt putt golf at Ivon Park.

Laurelhurst Park, our last stop, had salmon hats. Don’t be afraid to ask people where they got their salmon hats or other cool swag. Once at the proper park we asked a salmon-hat wearer for detailed directions and made it just in time to get one.

Salmon hat with streamers!

Bonus stop: beignets! On the advice of friends we stopped at the kid-run beignet stand set up along the loop two years ago and knew to be on the lookout this year. $1 each or three for $2. Yum!

I want to close with a big thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who make Sunday Parkways possible. As we arrived to the loop we watched a person sneakily drive through a closed intersection that had no volunteer posted at it. Those Intersection Superheros are so important! Here’s where you sign up to volunteer.

And here are the remaining events:

North Portland Sunday Parkways
June 24, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (8.8 miles)

Green Loop (Downtown & Inner SE) Sunday Parkways
July 22, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (7 miles)

Outer Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways
August 19, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (7 miles)

Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways
September 23, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (8 miles)

Please share all your tricks and tips for having a successful Sunday Parkways experience, even if they’re not kid-specific! 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.

Get this and other BikePortland posts delivered directly to your inbox.

BikePortland needs your support.

NOTE: Thanks for sharing and reading our comments. To ensure this is a welcoming and productive space, all comments are manually approved by staff. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for meanness, discrimination or harassment. Comments with expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia will be deleted and authors will be banned.

Leave a Reply

7 Comment threads
14 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
16 Comment authors
El Biciclero9wattsAnnemhSpiffy Recent comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

Great day again for a fun Sunday Parkways.
Thanks to all the volunteers that make it possible.
One comment I have is that they were a lot of cars parked on the route, it made for some narrow roads with all the people riding at different speed and level. It seems that previous years it was better as far as I remember.


we had a blast… it was the first time my kid had ridden by himself with me on Sunday Parkways…

it was 2 dads and 2 kids and even without stopping for food it took us 2 hours to make the loop…

Some Stuff Starts Late! you saw the end, we saw the beginning… they were still setting up tents at Ivon after 11:00 and there was no bounce house there… the mini gold was going strong though…

be prepared to walk at least 10 blocks… the food carts are parked in the street… the lines are in the street… all the people participating are in the street… there is nowhere to bike… at least they have signs now stating WALK YOUR BIKE… however, as somebody participating as a cyclist these park areas soon became the worst parts of the whole route… which is sad because I was really looking forward to them… luckily 3 of 4 were on corners so you could cut through the park faster than you could proceed along the designated route…

they need to get the vendor carts out of the street…

they also need to prohibit parking along the ENTIRE ROUTE and not just the vendor areas or the couple blocks of greenway leading to the event… there were a lot of one-lane streets that were barely wide enough for new riders to go single file each way without hitting parked cars or oncoming riders…

they need to PROHIBIT motor vehicles on the route… residents can cope… a driver was trying to exit the course (on one of those single lane streets) and almost squished a rider… mass confusion ensued as the local volunteer tried to facilitate and the driver continually did whatever they wanted, contrary to what they told the volunteer they were doing and where they were going… nobody was happy…

Lester Burnham
Lester Burnham

“residents can cope”. Well there’s the problem right there. Last year parts of the outer east Portland ride made it a nightmare for many trying to leave or get back to their homes.

I think it was poorly communicated to the area the event was even taking place and people were very confused once it had taken over.


“a nightmare for many trying to leave or get back to their homes”

I had no problem accessing all the homes along the route…

oh, you mean via motor vehicle? yes, probably… I didn’t realize we we guaranteed motor vehicle access to our homes…

when I lived close to a route they emailed notices to everybody well in advance… it allowed time to move your car out of the boundary if you needed to use it…

there is no reason to allow any motor vehicles on the route at all, unless they have a disabled parking permit… residents can cope for a day… they can cope for an entire weekend… I just went a week without motor vehicle access to my property and I managed, even having to move my car to a different street every 24 hours… I live in a city… I cope…


This was our third year riding the SE route and the first year our 2 and 4 year old rode their balance bikes. They were both BEYOND thrilled to be riding their bikes in the street, though the 2 year old isn’t great at holding a line and the narrow streets with the parked cars made it a bit stressful on my husband and I. Like the other commenters I wish they would prohibit street parking during the event. Amazing experience though and really shows how great life could be if we had more dedicated cycle space in town.


the Sunday Parkways events are so fun. My kids and I roll around (slowly) on a KidzTandem with a weehoo trailer and just enjoy it so much. The parks are fun, the ride is fun, getting off to walk near the vendors isn’t necessarily a bad thing in my opinion – kind of slows the even down, makes you check out stuff you may have missed if you were riding by.

The bounce-house-obstacle-course was definitely the highlight for my kids on sunday.

We look forward to these events every year. Also, as we live in Beaverton, it gives us a chance to check out different parts of Portland.

And 1,000 thank yous to the volunteers!


Another westsider here who has also enjoyed seeing more of the city I normally wouldn’t have without these events. My kids have graduated to their own bikes now. We make it when we can. Kids like it so much that they like to play “Sunday Parkways” in our cul-de-sac with the neighborhood kids.


The only reason to know the route is to check where to start. Once you’re on it, the event is so well organized and typically well attended that everyone just goes with the flow.

Make sure you plan extra time for your kids to enjoy each park. It has taken us the entire 5 hours to ride events in the past.

Finally, look for the Umpqua Ice Cream Van! That’s Umpqua the bank, and not the ice cream but they have quality ice cream they hand out for free.


This was our first Sunday parkways with our new cargo bike for my toddler. We had a great time! We didn’t start until after nap time, around 2pm, but the late start had the benefit of getting to see the route a little less crowded than I remember from previous years. It would be cool if they could somehow get the vendors in the parks so that the party part could continue past 4pm, but I understand that the fun has to end sometime.
My best tip is to remember to bring cash! I meant to but forgot, so had to pass up all the kids’ lemonade stands and wasn’t sure about trying my luck with some of the vendors.
I do wish that I had looked at the brochure to prioritize our time, but it was also kind of serendipitous to wander into a tent with puppets even if it meant we missed the circus and mini golf.


I was surprised to see a AAA booth at a prominent point on the route through Laurelhurst Park.
Seemed incongruous.

Here’s the unedited list of goals from 2008:
“The primary Sunday Parkways goals were to:
• Reduce auto trips and improve air quality
• Increase the health and activity of residents
• Increase awareness of global warming and the role transportation plays
• Increase neighborhood awareness and raise acceptability of bicycling and walking as modes of travel
• Increase trips by walking and biking
• Increase neighborhood mobility and livability
• Create community within neighborhoods
• Provide residents an opportunity to discover and appreciate neighborhood Parks

Andrea Brown
Andrea Brown

It does seem incongruous, but the fact remains that most cyclists do own a car, and a AAA membership includes service to bicycles, at least in Oregon. So at the end of my work day when I discovered a flat tire on my folding bike, I called AAA and they sent a flatbed tow truck large enough to carry a Dodge Ram king cab pickup with accompanying jet ski trailer and maybe room leftover for a Cooper Mini. A laughable bit of overkill for a bike that I ended up folding and tucking behind the passenger seat in the cab. I would have preferred that they could have just fixed the flat, or at least just sent a minivan, but hey, I got home.


They are almost guaranteed to be incapable of fixing a flat bike tire, unless the driver happens to be a cyclist and you happen to be carrying a patch kit.

El Biciclero
El Biciclero

Maybe they could change their name to the AVA, or maybe the ATA, (‘T’ for ‘Transportation’), then next time MAX breaks down, members could call for rides. Oh, wait, that’s Uber, I guess.


Also on the plus side, the AAA both handed out free patch kits and seat covers (not bad for leather Brooks in the rain). They’ve done this for several years now.


Sometimes it’s because that company is a sponsor. And they give away cool swag. Maybe you can thank them next time, hmm?


A sponsor? Even worse than I imagined.
Why should I thank them?
What is next? The Oath Keepers sponsoring Black Lives Matter events?