Shawne’s Adventures: Tigard to east Portland with a 6-year-old via bikes and TriMet

The view from the Tilikum Crossing.
(Photos: Shawne Martinez)

Traveling with two bikes by bus can present a concern, I’ll call it Bus Rack Capacity Anxiety.

We were sad to hear the news that Lumberyard Indoor Bike Park will be closing later this year so we wanted to go check it out before it’s gone.

Riding the e-cargo bike 17 miles each way from Tigard had made visiting less convenient for us, but still doable thanks to e-assist and the staff letting us charge up for the ride home. But with our trusty box bike in the shop for its 10,000 overhaul, we figured we’d try getting there using TriMet bus and light rail.

Our transit options have been limited in the past because our kids’ small bikes (14 and 16-inch wheels) didn’t fit on bus bike racks and are not allowed to be carried inside the bus. And TriMet doesn’t allow us to take our front-loading cargo bike onto MAX light rail (read TriMet’s bike policies here).

But recently our 6 year-old grew tall enough to ride a 20-inch bike. Having a 20-inch wheel size means we can now use the bike racks on the front of TriMet buses! This is huge step in being able to get around Portland for those of us with a with a low-car lifestyle. When families can’t bring their smaller kids’ bikes on the bus (or even bikes with child seats) this pushes more people to drive a car to bike venues which is the opposite of what we need to curb vehicle emissions.

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Using Trimet’s Hop FastPass app gave us several transit options. The route with no transfers and just three miles of bike riding was to take the Line 12 bus from northeast Tigard to the Roseway neighborhood. We rolled up to Pacific Highway on our bikes, but while waiting for the very long traffic light to change for two crossings, we watched the bus cruise by. (Noooo!) Luckily the 12 is a frequent service route so we would only be waiting 10 minutes or so for the next bus. (Yesss!)

Traveling with two bikes by bus can present a concern, I’ll call it Bus Rack Capacity Anxiety. If another bus rider is using one of the two bus bike rack spots, we can’t take the bus and will have to wait for the next. Not as big of a deal for frequent service routes or if you aren’t trying to make a transfer. With some bus routes only arriving hourly, this can be huge.

We spotted the bus coming up Pacific Highway among the sea of cars. The rack was empty! Now the big test: will the kid’s bike fit the bus rack? This was our first time trying it out. We waved at the bus driver, made sure that they knew we had bikes after they stopped, lowered the bike rack with a squeeze of the handle, put the front wheel of the bike in the clearly marked “FRONT WHEEL” slot, extended the spring-loaded arm out over the front wheel (close to the headset) and gave the bike a shake. It fit! No problem at all. I loaded my bike, boarded the bus, tapped my phone on the scanner and we took our seats. (Whew!)

See me putting the bikes on the rack and other parts of our journey in the video below…

It was a 1.5 hour bus ride to our stop on NE Sandy and 77th (about the same time it takes on our e-bike). We like to sit at the rear of the bus as the seats are elevated above the rear wheels giving the kid a better view. It was nice to be able to relax and enjoy the views of the city. Arriving at our stop revealed the PBOT greenways Unicorn bike lane symbol! Bonus! We had been wanting to find this one! A quick ride led us past the new Leodis McDaniel High School with many staple bike racks out front and a new traffic light to cross NE 82nd Ave. We made it!

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It had been months since we were at The Lumberyard. We purchased a new set of knee and elbow pads for the kid as she outgrew her previous set. I picked up a new hat as well to help support the business. We donned our helmets and headed to the green line (the easiest route). It was like we never left as our daughter made it look easy rolling over the wooden ramps, even on her new larger bike. “Dropping in!” she yelled and I followed her on my bike, zooming up, down and around all of the features of the park.

“I like this music!” she exclaimed as we bopped along to the beats. Exploring downstairs in “The Bunker” we found some new features. Those new pads came in handy as the kid had a few minor spills but was able to hop right back on the saddle. When our stomachs grumbled we headed back upstairs to enjoy fresh pizza at the pub. After lunch we did a few more laps then we played a few arcade games before heading out. It was so nice to visit again and support this local bike business.

Before we headed home, we had a second objective: visit Clackamas Steel Metals to view the selection of aluminum channel profiles for a cargo bike project (stay tuned). A quick two-mile bike ride to Gateway Transit Center and we were on the Green Line to Clackamas Town Center, the end of the line for the MAX. Riding South on the I-205 MUP links the the Sunrise Shared Use Path leading to sidewalks and painted bike lanes that took us to the steel yard. They have an excellent selection of new and used metals and we found exactly what we needed at used (per pound) aluminum prices. Not having the cargo bike to easily haul the two, four-foot pieces of aluminum presented another minor issue but we were only going one block to the bus stop to catch the 30 back to Clackamas Town Center so we walked the bikes.

Luckily the bus arrived with an empty bike rack and we made our connection with the Line 33. Missing the Orange Line MAX in Milwaukie by just seconds was a bummer, but frequent service meant just a 15-minute wait for the next train. A lack of weekend bus options meant our best route was the Orange Line MAX north to Portland State University then the 44 bus back to West Portland near Capitol Highway. The final leg was a quick one-mile downhill bike ride to northeast Tigard. We managed to find empty bike racks on every bus and train throughout the day! Ridership was mediocre even though the fleet was clean and safe.

Our long multimodal adventure was a success with no car required. Thank you for following along with us!

If you’re curious, below is our route and trip information.

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SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
8 months ago

It’s great to see that with enough patience one can get from one part of town to the other with TriMet.

Let's Active
Let's Active
8 months ago

Nicely done, Shawne and kid! Wow — 1.5-hour bus ride from N. Tigard to the Lumberyard area. That’s too much and says so much about travel options in the region.

EP
EP
8 months ago
Reply to  Let's Active

Looks like the bus portion of the trip is 63 minutes, with 66 (?!?!) stops. Google maps says that drive in a car takes 18 minutes, and biking is 107 minutes. If only our system had some express buses on the longer routes.

Thank you, Shawne for making these journeys and showing what is possible. I wish it was easier (faster) for people to ride transit.

Chris I
Chris I
8 months ago
Reply to  EP

One of the issues in Portland is that we have no HOV lanes on our interstates (outside of one short stretch on I-5 north). Because of this, rush-hour express busses just get stuck in traffic with everyone else. If we had HOV/Express lanes, it would be much more cost-effective to run express busses from Troutdale, Tigard, etc. They are really common up in Seattle.

ivan
ivan
8 months ago

Our transit options have been limited in the past because our kids’ small bikes (14 and 16-inch wheels) didn’t fit on bus bike racks and are not allowed to be carried inside the bus.

This seems like such an oversight. Do you know if the newer bike racks (the ones that hold 3 bikes on the newer buses) are any different?

If TriMet refuses to accommodate kids bikes on the bike racks, it seems like the least it could do is allow them to be held on the inside responsibly, especially since children’s bikes are probably smaller than a lot of suitcases people regularly lug onto a bus.