Family Biking with Madi Carlson

Each week Madi Carlson shares insights and adventures gleaned from raising two kids on two wheels.

This content is made possible by Clever Cycles, a family-oriented bike shop located on SE Hawthorne at 9th.


Finding a family-friendly Pedalpalooza

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on June 13th, 2018 at 10:06 am

We had a great group for the Kidical Mass ride to Cargo Bike Roll Call on Sunday.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

I’m incredibly excited to be experiencing my first June as a Portlander, which means my first Pedalpalooza!

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Organized by the all-volunteer Shift, Pedalpalooza is a month-long festival filled with hundreds of bike events, organized by anyone who wants to lead a ride. There’s hopefully something for everyone. Most events are bike rides and most have a fun theme, but anything goes (like Bladepacking, “like bike packing but on BLADES SKATES AND BOARDS. This is an overnight”).

There are so many rides, it can feel overwhelming. Here’s how to navigate it all and find rides that are fun for families.[Read more…]

Family Biking: Taking kids and bikes on MAX light rail

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on June 5th, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Plenty of room for kids and bikes on a weekend train.
(Photos by Madi Carlson)

[Read more…]

Family biking profile: Ali Reis and her daughter Lark

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on May 29th, 2018 at 11:12 am

Ali and Lark Reis.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

This week on the column we’re going to share a profile of one of our readers.

You may remember Ali Reis from the “Ride Along” post Jonathan did with her three years ago. Fast-forward three years to Ali with a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a different commute.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Tell me a little about yourself and your family.

I am a 33-year-old social worker; originally from the suburbs of NYC, I have lived in Portland for about 10 years. My husband Colin, and my daughter Lark and I live in the Overlook neighborhood. Colin was diagnosed with terminal cancer about 18 months ago, so it is just Lark and me on bikes these days. Hopefully, he will be feeling well enough to hop back on in the near future.[Read more…]

Sunday Parkways is perfect for families: Here’s how to get the most out of it

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on May 22nd, 2018 at 11:05 am

Just a few of the 25,900 people who attended Sunday’s event.
(Photos: Greg Raisman)

Sunday Parkways is one of the best Portland events for kids who like biking. It’s also great for kids who like playgrounds, bounce houses, food of any sort, dancing, art, music, etc. This week I’ll share a bit about Sunday’s first event of the season. And because there are four more to come, I’ll also share some tricks I’ve learned to get the most out of them.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Last weekend’s Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways was especially great for us as it was the first time my kids rode their own bikes at this event.

We attended last year’s “Sellwaukie” (Sellwood/Milwaukie) Sunday Parkways, but I carried both kids on my longtail cargo bike. And our very first Sunday Parkways was Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways 2016 with a bakfiets from the Clever Cycles rental fleet.
[Read more…]

Talking about family biking (and why I want to share your stories)

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on May 15th, 2018 at 11:24 am

I want to learn something from everybunny out there!
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

Do you remember the first time you saw a family biking together?

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

For me, it was while visiting family in the Netherlands as a teenager. I knew then and there I would someday bike with my babies and the rest is history. A lot of people have had similar experiences — they saw family biking in action in a bike-friendly city like Amsterdam or Copenhagen and found a way to replicate it back home. Nowadays you don’t have to leave the country to see kids on parents’ bikes and kids on their own bikes at a young age, and a lot of people have their “a-ha moment” when they spy their first bike seat or cargo bike right here in Portland.[Read more…]

On the exhaustion of motherhood and why I want to bike with other families on Mother’s Day

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on May 8th, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Resting a mere 2.5 miles into a big day.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

Ah, motherhood!

What’s that saying again? “The toughest job you’ll ever feel too guilty to complain about because everyone else makes it look so easy, but they’re probably silently struggling, too.”

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

I’m exhausted, and have been for 11 years and 21 days. Not quite as much these days now that my kids are older and more independent, but I vividly remember the days we were together nonstop, day-in and day-out (actually, day-out and day-out as we spent most of our time outside). And while I didn’t appreciate it at the time, my bike saved me. Being able to carry myself, my kids, and our stuff far from home to places of peace and to do it via my own pedal power — versus the expense and hassle of using car or bus — made me feel capable, strong, and free![Read more…]

Snacks, shade and seven other ways to make this your best spring ever

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on May 1st, 2018 at 9:16 am

No sleeves, no problem.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

The sun is back! The bike racks at our elementary school have gone from almost empty to overflowing; area parks have unlocked their bathrooms and turned on the drinking fountains; hearty, year-round bike commuters are noticing (and possibly complaining about) the return of their fair-weather cohorts.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Just as we (or I, anyway) forget everything we know about rain by the end of summer and it takes a couple dousings to reassemble our fall wardrobe, the sun catches many of us off-guard and we suffer through sunburns and dehydration while we remember how to cope with that blinding ball in the sky.

So here’s a list of things to make it your best spring ever…
[Read more…]

Bluetooth speakers and a “Rolling Jackass”: These are a few of my favorite things

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on April 24th, 2018 at 12:16 pm

I adore my Rolling Jackass centerstand.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

There are so many terrific bike products — big and small, ready-made and DIY — that make life easier for me.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Of the many bike parts and accessories I’ve had and loved over the years, my favorite has to be my double kickstand. My cargo bike sports a Rolling Jackass centerstand that makes it possible for the kids to clamber on and off the bike with no worry of tipping, I can load heavy cargo one side at a time with the bike staying upright, and we can even stand on the deck to reach high-up things.

Do you have a favorite accessory or a beloved piece of bike gear?

[Read more…]

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

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on April 17th, 2018 at 9:59 am

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…]

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

Madi Carlson (Family Biking Columnist) by on April 10th, 2018 at 12:44 pm

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…]