Family biking: What type of infrastructure is important to you?

We love this leaning rail with a footrest we found in Seattle.
(Photo: Madi Carlson)

Let’s talk infrastructure! When I think about infrastructure I think about everywhere we use our bikes; streets, bike lanes, trails, paths, sidewalks and even things like signals, signage, and bike racks.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

As you bike with your family around town, what’s your favorite “thing” for biking safely?

And of course while I’m calling this “family-friendly” bike infrastructure, remember the things that make it safer for my kids to bike, make it safer for everyone — and not just everyone on bikes, but people walking and driving, too.

So please weigh in even if you’re not a family biker. I’m going to give a bunch of examples to get the ball rolling.

I’m curious to hear about general favorites, like “protected bike lanes” and “neighborhood greenways,” but feel free to share a specific thing, too, à la Michael Andersen’s post last year about The Seven Bicycle Infrastructure Wonders of Portland. See the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide if you need some inspiration and vocabulary.

Here’s my incomplete list of things that would allow my kids (and everyone!) to bike safely all over Portland and beyond:

Painted crosswalks can be lifesavers when riding with little ones.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus)

Protected bike lanes. And not ones with mere flexipost protection or parked cars as the barrier, but with a proper separator that prevents people from parking their cars in them.

Diverters at least every four blocks on greenways. Diverters are things like medians and other obstacles that prevent people from turning or using a section of the street. I heard this metric at a BikeLoudPDX meeting and I like it.

I remain surprised how far from “All Ages & Abilities” Portland’s greenways are.

Controlled crossings for greenways at all busy streets. Ideally stop signs or stop lights, but I’ll grudingly admit those RRFBs (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon) push button pedestrian crossing blinking warning lights seem to work. I remain surprised how far from “All Ages & Abilities” Portland’s greenways are. I can’t imagine my kids (11 and nine years old) darting across arterials while using a greenway without me to first put myself in harm’s way.

Bike lanes downtown. Ideally protected bike lanes, but even regular painted bike lanes are great when car traffic is at a standstill. It defeats the whole purpose of biking when we have to wait in gridlock. My fingers are cross that we’ll get some of these soon through the Central City in Motion project.

Speed safety cameras. I love that I don’t have to include “20 mph speed limits” on this list, because we already have them! But enforcing our new safe speed limit by cameras (that don’t discriminate) more often would help make the 20 mph speed limits really happen.


Curb ramps at all sidewalk corners. And two of them, oriented in each direction rather than one in the middle facing diagonally across the street.

No right on red. Imagine how much safer we’d all be if people driving couldn’t turn right on red! No more pushing into crosswalks looking for an opening in traffic and instead waiting patiently at the stop line for a green light.

No center turn lanes. I haven’t seen any articles about these being bad, but a friend told me a visiting Canadian took one look at them, called them “suicide lanes,” and was flabbergasted we’d put them everywhere. It certainly would be safe to get rid of them, not to mention free up room for bike lanes!

What infrastructure do you think is most important? What should we build more of, or tear down?

(We’re looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to profile families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in being profiled. And as always, 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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