About Madi Carlson (Columnist)

Madi Carlson (Columnist)

Madi Carlson (aka @familyride) began writing our Family Biking column in February 2018. She's the author of Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living (Mountaineers Books).

In her former home of Seattle, Madi was the Board President of Familybike Seattle, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting bicycling as a means for moving towards sustainable lifestyles and communities. She founded Critical Lass Seattle, an easy social group ride for new and experienced bicyclists who identify as women and was the Director of Seattle's Kidical Mass organization, a monthly ride for families. While she primarily bikes for transportation, Madi also likes racing cyclocross, all-women alleycats, and the Disaster Relief Trials. She has been profiled in the Associated Press, Outdoors NW magazine, CoolMom, and ParentMap, and she contributed to Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue.


Madi Carlson (Columnist) Posts

Here’s why more Portlanders don’t bike with their kids

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Barbara and Ken Stedman’s 5-year-old daughter Helena opts for the sidewalk on SW Terwilliger.
(Photo: J. Maus)

A few weeks ago I wanted to know what prevents you from biking with your young children. I got a lot of feedback. Several themes emerged, the most prevalent of which, surprised me.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Strangely enough, one of the comments that stuck with me most was left by reader John Liu on a subsequent post. He wrote:

Rule 1: no matter the topic of the post, the comments are always about infrastructure.

I’d been lulled into complacency by the comparative awesomeness (compared to most the rest of the US, that is) of Portland’s bike infrastructure. I figured everyone was making-do and appreciative of what we have here, despite the obvious shortcomings. But apparently that’s my new-in-town, still-fresh-faced-and-rosy-cheeked bias showing. Turns out many of you are worried about infrastructure that does not make streets safe enough for you and your family.

But that’s not the only thing we heard. Here’s what else weighs on the minds of moms, dads, and the caregivers of Portland (as culled from our blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts)…
[Read more…]

My first Ladd’s 500

Monday, April 16th, 2018

This was my favorite tallbike — it has fenders!
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

Lessons learned: show up early, bring extra water, snack before riding.

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in quite a few Portland bike events during visits from Seattle — Fiets of Parenthood 2012, 2013, and 2014, Disaster Relief Trials 2013, one and a half TNRs, and a few smaller Pedalpalooza 2017 rides — but my experience at the 3rd 1st Annual Ladd’s 500 was the Portlandiest bikiest thing I’ve done yet! There were so many amazing bikes: tall bikes, swing bikes, cargo bikes, mini bikes, grill bikes, and a lot of skateboards.

The Ladd’s 500 is a biking relay race of 500 laps around Ladd Circle with a bunch of rules I didn’t notice until after I got home (they were pinned as the top post within the Facebook event so they weren’t exactly hidden):
[Read more…]

Humans, bike maps, and of course, Google: How to choose family-friendly routes

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

I like routes calm enough for kids to ride ahead of me.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

Call me crazy, but I have four different routes for each destination. In order of comfort, high to low:

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

  • me plus kids riding separately
  • me with kids attached via cargo bike/tandem
  • me alone
  • me alone running late

They sometimes have a bit of overlap, but they’re rarely entirely the same.

I’ve made a couple interesting discoveries about my route choices lately and it’s got me thinking about how I choose my family-friendly routes and why they’re better for more than just biking with kids.
[Read more…]

Come to the Kidical Mass planning meeting and help us build an all-ages bike network

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

Help us have a banner year.
(Photo: Madi Carlson)

Thank you for your responses to my question last week: What prevents you from biking with your young children?

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

It was eye-opening to read all the comments, Facebook posts, Twitter replies, and emails. I can’t wait to share them in a future column and dive into the barriers people face when they think of biking with kids.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I had assumed the responses would all be about the expense gear or uncertainty as to what to buy. I hadn’t anticipated anyone would write about bike infrastructure. Not that Portland’s infrastructure is incredibly better than what my boys and I left in Seattle (though it is better!) and there aren’t a lot of point-to-point routes that are suitable all ages abilities (aka “8 to 80”). It’s just that I see so many more families biking here in Portland than I have in any other city (except Dutch cities I’ve visited) that I didn’t realize there were so many of you who aren’t riding.[Read more…]

A big, all-ages turnout at annual Kidical Mass Easter ride

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

The group reconnected after the spiral ramps over N Going.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

First of all: next year there will be 1,000 eggs for the egg hunt at the end!
[Read more…]

What prevents you from biking with your young children?

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Not having access to a working bicycle keeps a lot of people from riding. Family bikers need a working bike and kid-carrying stuff, too!
(Photo: Madi Carlson)

I’m going to try something different this week. I’d love to hear from you:

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

If you don’t bike with your young children, why not?

I’ve often wondered what (or if) my family biking experience would have been like had I lived in Seattle before having kids. I moved to Seattle with an 18-month-old I’d already been biking with for six months on quiet Las Vegas trails and streets. Our Seattle house was one block from Green Lake and its lakeside multi-use path so it was easy to stick to routes that felt sufficiently safe as I explored our new neighborhood. I ever so gradually increased my range, not even discovering the Burke-Gilman Trail, a terrific multi-use path, for months. [Read more…]

Family Biking: An introduction to Kidical Mass in Portland

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Group shot at Overlook Park in north Portland during the Kidical Mass Easter Ride in 2017.
(Photo: Kidical Mass PDX)

Kidical Mass is one of my favorite things ever: riding bikes with my kids, hanging out with a bunch of fun families, and demonstrating the joy of biking for transportation. The first ride of the year is coming April 1st (no foolin’), and I’d love to see you out there.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

My first experience with Kidical Mass was nine years ago when I was new to Seattle and had up until that point only biked around my immediate neighborhood with just my toddler for company. I attended the inaugural Seattle Kidical Mass ride on May 15, 2009 — on my city bike with my two-year old in a front seat and my seven-month-pregnant belly wedged behind it — and was amazed to see so many other families biking with kids. I was intrigued by the many different types of family bikes and overjoyed at riding in a big pack. Each Kidical Mass ride was the highlight of my month and showed me new parts of town I wanted to revisit. I was motivated to figure out a bike route to the start of each ride and then experiencing these new areas with the big, safe group made me eager to return.
[Read more…]

Where to buy used kids’ bikes in Portland

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

This Lil’ Honey was new in 2012, but is ready for a new owner now.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

Six years ago I scored a free 12-inch kids bike from my neighborhood mom group. It was the start of a journey — not just of riding, but of figuring out how and where to get bikes that work and that fit my constantly growing boys.
[Read more…]

Biking with the family dog

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

Pixie at the helm.
(Photos by Madi Carlson)

What’s a family biker to do when the kids have graduated to riding their own bikes? One way to conquer the empty [bike] nest doldrums is by joining the #carrypupolympics.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

I was born into a household run by cats and didn’t know the love of a dog until I was nine and we got Mandy, a mid-sized Shepherd mix, from the animal shelter. Mandy and I logged many miles on foot, but I never thought to combine playing with the dog with biking or skateboarding.

When I left home I became a small dog person and ended up with Lyle the chihuahua. My boyfriend at the time had wanted a chihuahua ever since, having been attacked by what he mistook for a woman’s fur while working at a taco restaurant drive-thru. Fortunately, Lyle had a lovely personality and I was delighted by his portability. Back then I rode a hybrid bike with a backpack so I tucked Lyle in front, between my t-shirt and sweatshirt, and brought him to college classes with me. This system worked well except for one time when a friend hailed Lyle from the sidewalk and Lyle leapt out of my sweatshirt. He got a bit scratched up, but luckily didn’t hold it against me or the bike and we lived to ride another day.
[Read more…]

Tips for tackling toddler helmet hesitancy

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

Decorations — like these R2D2 stylings for a Star Wars themed ride — make wearing a helmet fun.
(Photos by Madi Carlson)

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

There’s no debate about helmet use for kids (heck, even most kids in Copenhagen wear them!). Opinions aside, it’s an Oregon law that everyone 15 years or younger has to wear one. But that doesn’t mean it’s as easy as snapping a buckle.

Getting a helmet on a kid is one of the toughest parts of family biking.

Over the years I’ve developed my own collection of tricks to take the hassle out of helmets. Today we’ll talk about where to buy them, choosing the right one, how to fit them — and of course, how to have fun while doing it.
[Read more…]