After seeing several social media posts by people on bikes doing personal challenges to ride every day of a particular month, I decided to roll out with my own challenge: Ride every day of the year in 2021.
365 days in a row. And somehow, as you might have seen on my daily Twitter thread, we did it!
Here’s why we (my six-year-old daughter and I) did it and what we learned…
Do I really need a giant pickup truck to haul most of the things I was transporting? No.
Early inspiration came from watching the Motherload movie at the Clinton Street Theater back in 2019. Liz Canning, the film’s director, promoted the hashtag #RideThePandemic in 2020 and we jumped on board. More motivation came from Meghan Sinnott and everyone involved with keeping Pedalpalooza moving forward in 2020, which really helped to prepare us for our 2021 challenge.
More inspiration came from watching Madi Carlson haul huge loads of stuff, including kids and their bikes! That made me think: Do I really need a giant pickup truck to haul most of the things I was transporting? No.
When we met Sarah Iannarone a couple of years ago with members of Bike Loud in southwest Portland for a group ride I was introduced to the concept of multi-modal transportation, which made it even easier to use my bike more. I remember being in awe that Sarah came to West Portland Park (in far southwest) from the Mount Scott-Arleta neighborhood by bike and bus. It was amazing!
Then our six-year-old started school in 2021, which is 2.5 miles away with some big hills in between. No sidewalks or bike infrastructure in our neighborhood pushed us to try the school bus for the first few days. Wild schedule fluctuations were understandable, but challenging. Our bus driver knocked over our neighbor’s mailbox and hit a parked car. (Yikes!) That was the end of our school bus commuting and the beginning of riding bikes. Our kindergartener has biked to school almost every day and gets into the cargo bike for the big climb home while we tow her bike (bag-and-drag style).
We zip past lines of idling cars every morning, although we still have to breathe the exhaust. Yuck!
We can actually do this!
Soon an eight-mile trip to the library wasn’t so far.
When we first got our cargo bike, a five-mile ride to the grocery store and back was a big deal. Slowly our distances increased as we discovered lower stress (but more indirect) routes. Exploring side streets and finding walk/roll only neighborhood connectors was key. Often I would scroll through maps looking for tiny green lines indicating a path or trail then go find it by bike. Neighborhood geo-caching also showed us some interesting streets. Soon an eight-mile trip to the library wasn’t so far. Then 12 miles to Eichler Park to ride bikes on the dirt track was actually a fun day.
A big challenge came the day we decided to try to ride the 20 miles to OMSI and back. Luckily the free public e-bike charging there relieved some of my range anxiety and made this trip possible. With more experience riding the e-bike I became a more efficient rider, regulating the amount of e-assist to extend our range. Keeping an eye out for public power outlets became part of every ride. As some of our trips grew to 30+ miles, a charging session became mandatory.
What we learned
We push our bike hard and things break.
All those miles riding a bicycle around the Portland metro area exposed the lack of connectivity within our walk/roll/bike/transit systems. This led me to get involved with organizations like Bike Loud and The Street Trust, and attend advocacy and city meetings, rides and events. (And again, three whole months of Pedalpalooza in 2021 was a huge part of helping me plug into the community. There so many great rides!) I also completed the Portland Traffic and Transportation Class at PSU.
Since I live in Tigard (on the southern border of Portland), I applied for and secured a position on the City of Tigard Transportation Advisory Committee hoping to help guide decisions about walk and roll infrastructure in our community. With our complaint-based system of fixing things, I hope to familiarize more people with reporting issues to pdxreporter.org and other local government websites. Please get involved!
Health benefits outweigh the financial benefits as we are more active by not sitting in a car for hundreds of hours a year. Weather has not been a problem with awesome gear. Layering and a good raincoat with vents and armpit zips helped a lot. Waterproof boots were a must. I found that wearing a hood over my helmet was a good idea and wearing a mask while riding kept my face warm! When asked “What do you do when it rains?” well, sometimes you get wet. No biggie.
With support from our bike shop we navigated through some equipment failures but the products have always been replaced/repaired under warranty with no questions asked. We push our bike hard and things break. Having a great local bike shop is a huge asset and bike repair will almost always be cheaper than car repair.
What we saved, what we gained
We saved 500 gallons of diesel from being burned in 2021 by getting rid of our stinky diesel truck and completing almost all errands by bicycle. Even trips to the home improvement store to purchase dimensional lumber and concrete were made by bike!
I hope people that followed our adventures will be motivated to replace as many car trips as possible by walking, rolling or taking transit. E-Micro-mobility is key and there are so many options including e-skateboards, e-unicycles, e-scooters and e-bikes. As well as analog versions of all of these. Have a great 2022 and please start your own transportation challenge!