About Becky Jo (Columnist)

Becky Jo (Columnist)

Becky Jo lives in North Portland with her husbeast, four children, two cats, and has packed more fabric into their modest house than anyone will ever know. While she knows her way around a sewing machine, cycling is new, filling her with great wonder, confusion, and occasionally panic.


Becky Jo (Columnist) Posts

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Cats and Quarantine

Tuesday, April 7th, 2020

How do you do pet care without a car?

Being carfree with pets has its own set of challenges. (Photo: Becky Jo)

My cat is freaking out.
[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: But did you name it?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
Adult and child’s bike on grass

Spring bike rides with Miata and the mini-me’s bike yet to be named (photos by Becky Jo)

When I started this car-free adventure at the beginning of winter, I thought for sure my bike was not going to cut it. I thought it was a matter of time when I’d have to admit my little road bike just wasn’t the right bike for hauling groceries or getting me around town. I was 99% convinced I’d have to trade it in when I first started my daughter behind me on her little tag-a-long, and her lack of experience balancing nearly caused us a few bike dumps.

I had been looking up more “upright” and heavier/sturdier bikes, what I came to find out are called “mixte” bikes, when to my surprise, we all adapted rather quickly. My daughter started riding on her own, I got into a cadence with groceries, and I do really love having a super light and maneuverable bike when I want to go from North Portland to Montavilla.[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Deep Dive 2 – Fenders and Pedals

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020
dirty high top Vans

Becky Jo’s Vans after 4 months.
(Photos: Becky Jo)

In the Pacific Northwest it looks like we’ve hit that time in spring when we alternate sunny weeks with rainy weeks, which gets me thinking about what changes are in store for biking in spring. Does anything even need to change?

For example, you’ve helped me join the biking community in winter, arguably the worst time of year to commit to being car-free. I took your advice and got a bike rack, water-resistant panniers, better suited clothing, and bike fenders. It took me a bit to figure out the wet-pedal situation. I was thiiiiis close to replacing my pedals, when for my birthday in January I got myself a pair of the snazzy all-weather Vans. These have been a life-saver. They have enough tread grip I no longer noticed my stock-pedals being slippery, and the water resistance and high-top saved my feet and ankles. As you can see, in less than 4 months, they look like they’ve been around. I found out later the Bike Shop Girl in Colorado recommends them too for winter cycling, which made me feel like I’m getting this bike thing down.[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Biking as a barrier-busting identity

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
shot of bikes on a rainy day at University of Portland

This bike rack at University of Portland is more empty than usual.
(Photos by Becky Jo)

I imagine most of you bike because it’s just what you do and who you are. But what about folks who aren’t there yet?

Last week when we discussed freight intermodal transportation and compared it to multimodal human transportation, I left out some of my conversation with Clint Culpepper, the Transportation Options Manager at Portland State University. He left me with some choice phrases that brought up more questions for me.

Clint said PSU surveys show a decline in biking among students and staff. He suggested students are like an indicator species: When housing is less affordable and/or available around campus, fewer students bike to school. In Clint’s PSU transportation surveys, the bike-commute threshold was at about three miles, and as students are forced to live farther out, biking to school is less of an option for them.[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Going intermodal

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

There’s a practice bus rack at PSU and it helped calm my bus/bike fears.
(Photos: Becky Jo)

About 20 years ago I worked for Greenbrier, the corporate headquarters for Gunderson Rail and Marine on NW Front Ave here in Portland. I learned about — and loved — the concept of intermodal transportation. A steel box container can go from ocean barge to rail to truck, creating the most efficient mode of global transportation. Instead of specialized modes, intermodal always seemed more efficient to me.

So it just made sense that eventually I’d get to the point of traveling with my bike on public transit, thus making myself intermodal.[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Traveler Seeks Cyclists

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020
biking around El Ángel

Biking around El Ángel
(Photos: Robert Wagner)

Our Pacific Northwest Fake-out February sure was glorious. There were a few days I ditched the coat and I’m missing it already. Looking ahead to summer, I’m so excited about this Pedalpalooza stuff. I’ve never heard of these things in my own city, and after last week’s talk about arm signals and bike camps for kids, all of this got me thinking about travel and vacations. Due to our payment plan, we will not be taking any extravagant vacations this year, but we do have an inexpensive and short trip to the Southwest planned.

I’m curious: Do you seek out bike adventures when you travel? Do you look for organized rides? Are you an adventure seeker and travel just for biking new places? If so, do you look for bikes to rent? Or do you ship your own bike? I only know of this last option because there are vans parked within a couple miles of me that advertise a service that will pack your bike for you and ship it. I had no idea that was a thing.
[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Teach The Children Well

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

A confident rider these days.
(Photos by Becky Jo)

Humans are so weird. We pop out all clean and looking like fresh, blank slates, but really, there’s a lot already going on in there. I love when humans are surprising, and that’s probably the best thing about being a parent. Just watching them become whatever seed was already planted inside.

Let’s take the youngest here. She’s that kid that while you teach her things, you might think, “This isn’t ever going to take.” Then one day she decides that she’s got it completely down. One day she decided she was potty trained, and she was. That was that. Same with swimming, reading, and now biking. It took me four years and one day to teach her to ride a bike. Alternatively, it was four years of me confused and trying to re-word and explain the same concepts over and over — then a single day of her deciding she was a bike rider.[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Getting deeper into community activism

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

Parental unit on school drop-off duty.
(Photos by Becky Jo)

Communities revolving around shared interests are a funny thing, aren’t they? Online communities more so.

I come to you, wide-eyed, and with the joy of learning something new. You know that feeling. It’s almost like a teen-spring crush. It’s thrilling, exciting, full of awkward moments, triumphs, and failures. I have that annoying energy and “whywhywhy” of a toddler. You are an established community with well-worn hats. Many of you have seen it all, and have seen people like me come and go. People like me haven’t yet proven our mettle, and some of you may be wary of sharing your precious good energy. I get you. I do. I’m a more seasoned person in sewing communities, and while I love nothing more than to bring new people to the fold, it can be exhausting, and at times even soul-crushing.

So I just want to say:

I owe you a thank you. Thank you for giving me your time, energy, and kindness. Thank you to those of you that have reached out and invited me to be social. Time is your most precious resource and I am grateful on behalf of both myself and any other new cyclists lurking in here with me
[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Locking Habits and Etiquette

Tuesday, February 11th, 2020

“I chose safety and my burrito.”

I was sitting outside a taqueria, waiting for my to-go order as we do, and I saw, or rather mostly heard, a kerfuffle over bike locks. I wasn’t quite close enough to see exactly what the scenario was for myself, and as it was two people getting a bit heated, I wasn’t about to physically insert myself to get details, but the scene was:

Guy One comes out. Goes to get his bike, and finds another bike is locked to it. Stands confused.

Guy Two comes out, says something about Guy One being a jackass and not leaving any space on the rack for anyone else, so he locked his bike to Guy One’s bike.

Guy One says things.

Guy Two says things back.

They part ways grumbling.[Read more…]

Becky Jo’s Carfree Life: Strava Struggles and Stats

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020
north portland bike ride

Data is fun.

A couple summers ago, our family would go on big bike outings down and around the Smith & Bybee Wetlands area (it’s fun, you should try it!). My tweens and husbeast would go speeding up ahead of me, while I struggled behind, pulling the hard-bottom Burley trailer, our picnic stuff, and our kindergartner. It was easily over a hundred pounds.

I’d get home afterwards and my husbeast and I would compare notes and it would just irk me that Strava recorded me having a leisurely bike ride with minimal effort while it recorded him, half as sweaty, as having a vigorous one. I looked all over the app trying to find a way to change some sort of effort or cargo-pulling settings, but there was no such thing.

I have no plans on going pro. I realize I am privileged to say I don’t diet or track much of anything health-related in any earnest effort, but data sure is fun. Why is it that just because the data is there to observe, we need it? Or we need it to be correct? It’s not like I was going to change anything in my life if the data was accurate. I just wanted my little gold star, dammit
[Read more…]