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Family Biking: How was the first day of school?

Posted by on August 28th, 2018 at 10:02 am

Obligatory first day of school photo.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

This question is for everyone! Portland Public Schools started back up this week and this affects many more people than just biking parents like myself. Did you see anyone biking to school and get a warm, fuzzy feeling? Did you bike to school or bike with a kid to school?

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

We had a great first day of biking to school, despite my not doing a heck of a lot of planning and figuring out how long things would take. One of the things I like about biking for transportation is being able to just wheel my bike outside, hop on it, and go…versus walking to a bus stop at an appointed time. This works fine for making a trip to the grocery store in the evening or using Google maps’ time estimate when I’m riding somewhere alone using the most direct route, but getting kids to school on time for the first day ideally gets some practicing and number crunching.

While I’m not excited about the extra chunk taken out of my workday biking to two different schools with start times staggered by an hour, I’m jazzed about the new, longer commute. We’ll see more people on bikes, hopefully experience more street improvements, and find more free bookshelves on the side of the road.


This first day my middle schooler came along to the elementary schooler’s drop off (1 mile) so we could continue straight to middle school (3 more miles). This got us to middle school much too early so we killed time at the closest bakery, which is much better than rushing and worrying about being late.

Full bike racks at Woodstock Elementary School on the first day is a good sign.

I thought the drizzle would prevent many classmates from biking, but we were in good company — the racks were completely full at Woodstock Elementary and we arrived to cheers for biking to Hosford Middle School, where we joined many other bikes at the racks. We saw several families biking in the opposite direction as we traveled between the two schools and we dinged our bells hello.

Arriving early to each school (I didn’t realize elementary school starts 15 minutes later than it did last year, oops) meant we didn’t experience the full effect of car drop-off traffic, but we got the brunt of it at pick-up time. I think the first day probably had more parents picking up by car than the average day will have and I’m eager to experience less packed streets.

We’d love to hear what you experienced on the streets yesterday.

Please share any first-day-of-school thoughts and stories in the comments! Thanks for reading.

Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch if it sounds like fun to you. I’d especially like to feature families of color so please get in touch or ask friends of color who bike with their kids if they’re interested in sharing their stories. 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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    John Lascurettes August 28, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Today was blissfully uneventful. Yesterday I rode my son to his first day of high school and he got dangerously close to being t-boned. It was nearly all his fault and a huge learning experience, but this father’s heart jumped out of his chest.

    We were crossing NE Knott at 16th going southbound. When we got to Knott, the intersection was corked by people waiting for the red light at 15th. I creeped out into the near lane between in front of a car and a landscaping truck (who was the one doing the corking) to check traffic in the opposite lane. As I could hear a car approaching from my right (but couldn’t see it), and as I said out loud, “hold up!” my son shot by me without looking or checking. We had a nice little passionate chat about what he did and then continued on. I caught the whole thing on GoPro and showed it to him after school just how close he got to getting creamed. I told him that even if he thinks I said “okay” (he didn’t), he should still always check himself. It’s his own body to protect. Never trust someone else’s assessment (including the driver facing us that was trying to wave us through!).

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      Phil Richman August 28, 2018 at 10:30 am

      Glad to hear your Son is OK! Near-misses are traumatic and sometimes life altering. We need more safe spaces for people, especially kids just trying to get to/from school. My middle-schooler cannot safely get to his school by bike, but walking to/from the school bus works just fine. Kudos to kids and their parents who are dedicated to riding.

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    • Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist)
      Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) August 28, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Oof! I’m glad he’s OK. And as a parent of younger kids it’s good warning to keep up with the incessant safety conversations. Happy new school year!

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        Austin August 29, 2018 at 12:16 pm

        I was riding home with my 6-year old daughter on our tandem after picking her up from school yesterday and a driver pulled over to the right and stopped (this is a very quiet residential street) so we went around to their left. As we got parallel with her, she started driving again, getting in front of us. She then slowed down in front of us again and then pulled a U-turn.

        All of this was very slow, we weren’t in danger, but the whole time, I felt like a nature documentary narrator – “You see, she doesn’t see us. She’s pulling ahead of us again, we’re in her rearview mirror, but you can see she isn’t using it. She has no idea we’re here. Now, see she’s turning in the middle of the street right in front of us? That’s a u-turn and technically illegal – she still hasn’t seen us.”

        After we passed, my six-year old said, “Hey! She works at the school, she’s the crossing guard!”

        haha, oh geez… at least her heart seems to be in the right place – wanting to help kids cross streets safely…

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    • TonyT
      TonyT August 28, 2018 at 5:15 pm

      “even if he thinks I said “okay” (he didn’t), he should still always check himself. It’s his own body to protect. Never trust someone else’s assessment (including the driver facing us that was trying to wave us through!”

      I’m struggling getting this through my 8-year-olds head. He’s started a new school that’s much further than his previous school and soon we’ll be riding the 1-1/2 mile to the bus stop. He got a ton of bike commute time riding to work and back with me this summer, so I’m hoping it goes well. Winter will be a challenge since he’s always been a fair weather rider. Just have to get him dialed with lights.

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        John Lascurettes August 28, 2018 at 5:35 pm

        That’s rough. I have the advantage that my son’s high school is directly on my commute path to work.

        It’s a little ironic that I’m getting to work earlier now even though I’m riding much slower and taking the safer transitions (especially through the Lloyd area and over I-84) because he’s getting me out the door earlier. We transition to slow sidewalk riding for the last few blocks to school because riding as a vehicular cyclist in this area and over I-84 is not for the timid or easily distracted. Not to mention that drivers almost never heed the 20 MPH school zone just south of here. I have so many videos of drivers passing me swiftly while I’m doing 18-22 MPH directly in front of Benson High.

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      Greg Spencer August 29, 2018 at 12:45 pm

      Of course, we have to teach our kids to look out for themselves and the lecture you gave your kid is one I’ve given to mine. However, the person who caused this situation was the landscaper who corked the intersection. Illegal move that nearly resulted in someone getting hurt.

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    Stephan Lindner August 28, 2018 at 10:53 am

    Our first days were good but also super easy, because we are only a couple of blocks away from our elementary school and there are no difficult roads to cross.

    I actually have a question: is there a minimum age for children to use the road in Oregon? I assumed that not to be the case but was not sure when a friend asked me.

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    Champs August 28, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Whether you’ve got kids there or not, Tubman is a hot mess at the bookends of the day so far.

    So far, the response to these backups is driving/biking into oncoming lanes to get around the backups. This makes me nervous about bypassing Flint at Tillamook.

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    Tom Hardy August 28, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    I rode my bike too and from school when I was a kid. 4 blocks each way in 2nd, 3rd grade and 6 blocks in 4th through 8. When I started at Benson I rode in fair weather from the vicinity of Lombard and Greeley. when the weather turned in October it was by bus. I also had an evening paper route that I delivered by bike in the 3rd through 8th grade. Finished that in 1958. BTW from home I always took Greeley, Interstate, Broadway and 16th while LLoyd center was being built. I went up Williams, Ainsworth,Greeley going home.

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    Greg Spencer August 29, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    We biked over to Madison High this morning and noticed the bike racks were fuller than I’ve ever seen them. Can’t say right now whether it’s anything more than the the magnificent weather, but I hope so. Disappointingly, my youngest’s new elementary school, Rose City Park, had very few bikes in its racks. Could be an opportunity for some Safe Routes to School programming.

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