Tree and bike lovers unite on Pedalpalooza ride

As we’ve learned firsthand recently, trees and plants make for very important additions to a bike route. Not only will a lush canopy help keep you cool riding around on a hot summer day, it’s also just pleasant to be able to look around while riding your bike and see the kind of greenery we are so lucky to have here.

It’s no surprise then, that crossover exists between bike and tree enthusiasts, and there are plenty of opportunities to experience both in tandem. One of these opportunities was at yesterday’s Sustainable Plants and Trees Pedalpalooza ride, where leaders from the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) and non-profit Friends of Trees (FOT) captured the harmonious relationship between bikes and trees by taking participants on a tour of north Portland’s unique plant landscape.

Unfortunately, FOT’s relationship with Portland has been anything but harmonious lately. Earlier this year, the City of Portland ended its contract with Friends of Trees in a bureaucratic conflict covered in detail by OPB this week. But while there has been plenty of drama, the discord wasn’t going to stop BES and Friends of Trees from teaming up to lead this Pedalpalooza ride.

I accompanied a group of about 10 people through north Portland neighborhoods and got a glimpse behind the scenes of some of elements of our urban forestry I have taken for granted.

We started at Denorval Unthank City Park in the Boise Neighborhood, where Chase Lansdale from BES pointed out a large rain garden planted a few years ago. Rain gardens contain wetland plants that help prevent flooding and contribute to a diverse ecosystem. Portland’s BES has done a lot of work figuring how to use all our rain for good, and rain gardens like this one are part of the answer.

Lansdale led us to a nearby hidden gem: the Boise Eliot Native Grove, tucked away right off of North Ivy Street and Gantenbein Ave. This little garden is a place for people to cohabitate with wildlife in the city, and even though it’s only a few blocks from I-5, it’s nice and quiet. Discovering places like this is a huge perk of going on Pedalpalooza rides!

Haley Miller, the Senior Neighborhood Trees Specialist at Friends of Trees, took over for the rest of the ride and brought the group to see a few special trees in the area. Two of these trees – a Ponderosa Pine named ‘Cindy’ in Arbor Lodge and a (sadly nameless) Oregon white oak in Overlook – have been officially designated Heritage Trees of Portland. This means they’re among the more than 300 trees that have been formally recognized by the city for their unique size, age, historical or horticultural significance.

Miller also showed us a maple in Boise, notable because it was one Friends of Trees’ early works. The non-profit planted it in 1997, and now it’s 25 years old and looking beautiful. Miller said she really values being a part of an organization that has had such a long-lasting impact.

There are other ways to experience Portland’s beautiful urban forestry and plant life, but a bike tour is the best I can think of. The moderate pace of a conversational group bike ride is perfect for taking a good look at everything around while still covering some ground. You could certainly take a walking tour, but you wouldn’t get as far. And forget about trying to stick your head out of a car window to check out the height of a Ponderosa Pine you’re passing. (The one we saw was 88 feet and still growing.)

“Biking allows you to slow down and really experience the benefits of trees,” Miller said when I asked why she thinks bike tours are the best method for tree gazing. “And I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but isn’t biking is the best method for doing anything?”

If you’re up for the trek, Friends of Trees will help lead another Pedalpalooza ride with the City of Vancouver Urban Forestry. Check out the details here, and remember to look way up every once in a while when you’re riding your bike around Portland!. There might be an 88 foot tall Heritage Ponderosa Pine right in front of you that you’d never noticed before.


Visit our Pedalpalooza Hub (sponsored by BIKETOWN, operated by Lyft) for more photos and ride recaps.

Portland’s tree and bike connection goes national

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward
Sharrows to Sparrows ride

New street tree on N Central Ave neighborhood greenway.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

For years now, local transportation agencies have embraced trees as a key component in street and path design. In Portland, there has also been a strong connection between people who ride bikes and those who care about street trees. Now a national non-profit, the Alliance for Community Trees (based in Maryland) is hosting a webinar about how tree advocates all over the country can make the bike-tree connection.

In the Portland region, trees have been part of the transportation conversation for years. The Oregon Department of Transportation has planted hundreds of trees as part of an effort to create an urban “forest” along the I-205 bike path. In 2008, Portland City Council adopted the “Grey to Green” initiative which set us on the path to planting 83,000 trees in the city — 50,000 of them in the public right of way. The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has made new street trees a big component of their neighborhood greenways program — offering free trees to residents along the low-stress, family-friendly bike routes.

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Guest article: Help local non-profit plant trees by bike

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Planting by bike. Looks like fun!
(Photo: Mary Kay Nitchie)

[The article below was sent in by Andy Meeks, volunteer and outreach manager with local non-profit group, Friends of Trees.]

A few years ago, Friends of Trees started organizing Plant By Bike events where one or more crews of trees planters was solely bike-powered. Our typical planting day is made up for anywhere between 10-25 crews of 8-10 people each and one pick-up truck that carries trees, tools and other materials for the planting crew. Each of these crews plants about 10 trees in a morning that lasts from 9:00 – 1:00pm.

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The tree and bike connection grows in Portland

A ‘Rider of Yule’ sets off on a delivery.
(Photo: Trees By Bike)

Like coffee, beer, food, and fashion, you can now add trees to the list of things with a strong connection to bicycling in Portland. This holiday season, a local non-profit that plants trees and a budding business that delivers them will both put the power of bicycles to work.

Trees By Bike is a local company that delivers “pedal-powered holiday cheer”. Powered by a collective of bike riders, the service allows you to order a tree online and then have it delivered to your door. The service was started last year by Portlander Max Kirchoff and he now has four other “Riders of Yule” working with him. Each rider donates 10% of the sale to a charity of their choice. New this year, Trees By Bike is also offering delivery of Hanukkah candles (until December 1st) for just $5 per box.

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