After years of terrible national headlines that (inaccurately and unfairly in my opinion) portrayed Portland as a dysfunctional war-zone wasteland, last night there was a story that will help shift that narrative.
The mighty Alameda Elementary School bike bus that Portlander Sam Balto launched back in April, was featured on NBC Nightly News, one of the top news shows in America.
I hope what they said about the bike bus broke through to the 7 million viewers of this show. Here’s the text of the segment:
“Remember being in a bike gang you were a kid? Well, every Wednesday morning in the Portland Public School District, a small trickle of bikes forms around 8:00 am. They call it the bike bus and as it begins to flow through the neighborhood it gathers strength. Teacher Sam Balto is out front. Soon, a massive river of riders has formed. And that is when the feelings begin to overflow. On Wednesdays, the normal bus is mostly empty.
How do you convince parents that it’s possible to go from one bus to a bike? [he asks Sam]
We underestimate how much children love being social. Rain or shine. They’re motivated to see their buddies.
The effect on them is clear.
I could tell you here about the emissions saved by the bike bus, that it takes hundreds of cars off the road, and that it is very Portland. But the thing that sticks after so much stress and sorrow and loneliness the last few years, is watching all these kids floating to school on a vast ocean of joy.”
I hope this reminds folks that Portland isn’t “dying.” In these past few years we’ve embraced challenges, evolved, matured, and most importantly, planted seeds. We shouldn’t ignore what has happened and what we are still going through. But we should also acknowledge that the Sam Baltos of Portland and these bike bus riders have always been there. Some of us just chose to stop seeing them.
Portland’s “vast ocean of joy” is big enough for everyone. All you have to do is open your eyes.
Thanks Coach Balto and NBC News for helping us see again!
And this is just one of many national news stories about the bike bus. The Washington Post also featured the ride this week!
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I live in Binghamton, New York and have family in Portland. I totally support your cause of biking. I remember my young years of biking with my friends and it was FUN.
Wow. I was moved to tears by this. I knew the bike bus was happening. I know Portland is awesome. I know bikes are rad. I know kids are cool. Add it all up and it’s just JOYFUL. Thank you to all involved.
Really sad thing is this shouldn’t be a big deal. It should be normal for kids to head out on their own, on foot or bicycle, to meet their friends or head to school. American culture’s painted a picture of a dog-eat-dog world where even the biggest, healthiest grown man needs a giant pickup and a gun to be safe and protect “what’s his”. Instead, the truth is that we all need each other as much as we need anything else, and everything about this country–from so much of the music we listen to, to so many of the commercials we see, to (statistically speaking) ALL of the infrastructure and housing we build–fights so hard to hide that fact from us. And in the wake of that, is wasted money, wasted time…and wasted lives. I hope I can see it all change in my lifetime, but I’m afraid it’s a hope in vain.
#Comment of the week
“Vast ocean of joy”
Let’s see the numbers when the rain comes back. This is hardly a normal autumn. But I guess Climate Change is good now?
There are a lot of families in Portland who choose to be car free year round. Our kids grow up that way and with good gear, riding year round is an easy thing to do.
And now it’s in The Washington Post! https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2022/10/11/bike-bus-school-sam-balto/
Thanks Sam for being a massive influence in other Portland schools … Rigler is on its way, following Alameda school’s lead
Circa 1983 and beyond Generation X did this.
We called it riding your bike to school.
Our parents pushed us out the door smiling ear to ear, gripping their hot cup of instant coffee. The instructions were simple… and get to school and don’t be late.
We peddled with a group of friends picking up another buddy as we passed their house.
We didn’t use helmets then and our mommies and daddies didn’t have helicopters available back then so the hovering over and around us along the way was not even a thought. They sent us out to do what we needed to get done and it was expected it would get done.
Every day we simply managed to get our backsides to school on our primary means of transportation. If someone didn’t have a bike available it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see a kid riding on someone’s handlebars (still not helmet, and you learned quickly to keep your feet away from the spokes of the wheel). You might even see one kid on the seat and the other standing up peddling furiously. It was like a free two wheeled Uber.
Mom & dad had a car we had a bikes.
Here’s another new idea for the parents of these youngsters.
We also used those bikes after school and on weekends as a means to gather socially, outdoors, on our own without a parental playdate on the calendar.
** WAIT FOR THIS ** It’s a huge one!
Some of even used those bikes as part of our employment at 10 or 11 or slightly older age – to deliver the local newspaper to any where from 15 to 300 customers on a 1/4 to 3 mile paper route. If the paper route interfered with our self appointed play schedule (we were always home when the street lights came on – that was the universal rule for all bike riding kids).
We saved for college ~ there was no one bailing us out of our future financial burdens like the cost of college (if we could afford to attend or got the grades to get scholarships AFTER HIGHSCHOOL). Basically we STARTED WORKING to buy penny candy and sock a bit of cash away for the summer.
I can’t believe this is news, its life experience of every 40 – 50 something.
The fact that it is new is a poor reflection on how our society has digressed.
Even more concerning the children of 90’s and 2000’s think this is something original.
What’s next the new invention of the Walkman, Stretch Armstrong or Rubik’s Cube? No wait !!! I got it… Saturday Morning Cartoons.
Did you give your own kids that same freedom? It seems that the baby boomer generation started the cycle of bubble-wrapping kids in the suburbs.
My wife and I gave both our kids that freedom, provided they earned it through their actions and behaviors. Freedom of choice (age appropriate of course) in our house was earned from toddler age through high school.
Our older son (20) is a 2nd year honors student in college in an accelerated 3 year Bachelors and 1 year MBA program, 4 year varsity athlete, 2x state champion, was captain of his hockey team and is heading to law school after he completes is MBA.
The younger son (17) and a national honor society scholar, 4 year varsity athlete, volunteer call firefighter and elite club (juniors level) hockey player.
Both work full time in the summer and are responsible to keep and maintain their own life schedules. We do not and never had (teen years of course) a curfew in this house.
The rule is simple have same courtesy as your parents have for each other. The household needs to be aware of what your status is and where you will be by 10:30. The interior hard-lock is put on the door at 10:30 PM. No call, they have to sleep …. well wherever.
We provide some level of financial support on the bigger ticket items (car insurance, vehicle, cell phone). This is mostly because of their academic and athletic activity schedules. They are like fulltime jobs.
There is not enough time in day for them to work after the summer break because of the rigor of their scheduled. So we offset their expenses and help with some of their expenses during the academic and athletic seasons (they use their savings from the summer to cover their portion).
When home they contribute to the household. We DO NOT have chores. We expect everyone in this house to take care of their own things (laundry, dishes, bedroom etc). Yes they have been doing their own laundry since they were 10 years old.
Everyone is also expected to take on contributing to the common tasks too (trash, vacuuming, dusting, refilling the water cooler etc), general rule is do not leave your task partially finished for someone else to deal with. I do 99% of the cooking, regardless he or she who does not cook sets and clears the table, and cleans up after dinner. We do not debate this – it is simply the expectation period.
We raised our young men to be out of the house and on their own 1 year after they complete their early life academic journey, period. There is no exceptions to this rule.
Wherever they decide their early life education journey ends after high school they have 3 choices:
(1) Go to college or trade school. For up to a first Master Degree (6-years max and bachelors is 4-years max) they have a bed and meals to to come home to during school breaks. After college, they have one 1 year to live with us rent free and get established and their own place, period. No exceptions.
(2) Join the beloved Marine Corp or any another branch of the military and let Uncle Sam worry about their cot, hot and job.
(3) Immediately join the workforce full-time and live with us rent free for one year. After one year if they are not in the military, college or some sort of trade training the are out of the house on their own period. No exceptions or excuses.
There is no room for a grown man living in my house after 25 years of age period. I look forward to their visits but my house has permanent room for only two after their college years.
We raised our children to be highly independent (it’s very scary to give them this), functional, empathetic, thoughtful and resilient god fearing gentlemen.
We raised our kids with a purpose in design of child raising. It was not to treat them like to two adorable little pets. It was raise two men up who are capable of not only taking care of themselves but leading others and their future family as well.
We did not lie, coddle or shelter. They were given age appropriate truths on everything and anything that was happening in the world. We shared our world views and opinions with them and allowed them to explore their own and question ours.
We were staunch on our value system and enforced it without exception with fairness and firmness. Their mistakes were course corrected swiftly, definitively and with compassion but they were held very accountable for their choices and decisions. They experienced consequence … and they both understand their decisions today could have unavoidable consequences … the older one thought long an hard before signing his first $43,000 student loan but he does have a functional plan to make that an investment that will have a return.
So in short you bet your bottom dollar we gave our kids as much room to do as they earned and if they didn’t earn it they understood very well there were real consequences in the loss of freedom just like the there is in the real word.
Have a great weekend 🙂
Gee whiz, what a walking disaster of a parent I am. My parents too! Oh shoot, I’m probably not good at being a wife either … I’m going to have to go overeat.
We all have our own views, styles and such. I bet you rock it as parent and wife. Now as far as the eating party … LoL
I admittedly have what is seemingly becoming an unhealthy habitual late night relationship with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups quite a bit lately.
Maybe it’s pre-empty nester syndrome ….
I knew you had a weakness! I share it, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my favorite cheap chocolate.
I’m a bit of a hard ass as a parent, probably got it from my mom (who could control the children by raising her left eyebrow). When our son was a toddler in Queens, the ice cream truck used to park in front of our house for about 15-20 minutes, every day, music blaring. Of course, my two-year-old wanted an ice cream, everyday.
I finally decided he could have one if he would go out an buy it himself. That’s a tough assignment for a toddler, but I remember the first time he did it, running down the sidewalk waving his dollars in the air. The popsicle man nearly had a heart attack to see such a young child, seemingly all alone. Anyway, they both survived, and that’s how my kid got used to buying things by himself at stores.
Even better – it made Saturday Night Live!