59 posts categorized "Biking"

Fun Routes to School

September 30, 2013

Many of us know (and love) Safe Routes to School, but what about FUN Routes to School?  There are plenty of ways to make walking, rolling, carpooling and taking transit fun for the kids:

  • Bike Fairies leave notes of encouragement and praise on the handlebars of students bikes.  Sometimes they also leave treats!
  • Bike Trains are safety in numbers, groups of students and adults who meet at a central location to ride to school together.  Many bike train conductors sport flashy signage, bells and whistles.
  • TriMet Trekkers are fearless transit riders where one adult might chaperon several students along the route and walk them safely to their school destination

We're always looking for great inspiration to make walking, rolling, carpooling and taking transit fun.  Among new ideas:

  • Carpool is cool!  We procured some great prizes for adult drivers.  Anyone dropping off three students per car is entered into a raffle to win: movie tickets, Chinook Books, gift certificates for gas or coffee.  Any other suggestions? 20130930225553793
  • Energizer stations: meet-up spots for middle school students (or even adult morning commuters) who walk & roll solo.  Weekly or monthly treats provided at a central location before the head out to school together, a la breakfast on the bridges.
  • Walking School Bus: it's an oldie but goodie.  Meet new friends on your street or nearby streets.  Sign up one adult to walk the route on a regular rotation, pick up kids along the way!  Bring music to make it a party bus.

What are other fun, outlandish, crazy happy ideas to encourage transit, walking, rolling and carpooling?  Some of our favorites include the musical harmonic swings at the bus stop and the keyboard that replaces the escalator.  Maybe small gift certificates for the local toy shop to students on a walking school bus?  Maybe expansion of the YouthPass program to younger students to provide free transit passes?

We'd love to hear how you roll at your school.

Northeast Sunday Parkways

June 20, 2013

PicFrameCome see us this Sunday, June 23rd, at Fernhill Park (near the playground) as a part of Sunday Parkways- an 8 mile loop that is closed off to cars and wide open to bicyclists, skateboarders, scooter riders, walkers, runners, hula hoopers...!

We have some yummy treats provided by Saint Cupcake and Dry Soda as well as fresh-off-the-press uM stickers and Stealing Time subscriptions, tattoos and stickers!

Be sure to drop off a business card in our raffle jar too- one lucky winner will be drawn at random to get a free month of advertising on uM! 

So... pump up those bike tires, grab your helmet and rally the kids! We cannot wait to meet you! Want to coordinate a group ride? Let's chat about it on our FB page!

Click here to view the NE Sunday Parkways map and highlights. The route opens at 11am and closes at 4pm.

International Walk & Bike to School Day - 2012

September 27, 2012

It is right around the corner, next week.  I thought I'd put a little plug out there to get us thinking about how we'll be getting to school next Wednesday.  It's International Walk & Bike to School Day.   20120927_100943

Last week at our local city council meeting, the mayor proclaimed October 3, 2012 "Walk and Roll to School Day 2012" in Alameda, and my family was there to acknowledge and receive the proclamation.  As part of my "thank you" comments, I highlighted the top three reasons I believe so whole-heartedly in walking and rolling to school.

  1. It creates community.  The moment we set foot out the door and head toward school, we see neighbors, wave "hellos", and exchange "good mornings."  In my 1+ year in my new neighborhood, I have never met as many families as I did in the first 5 days of walking to school.
  2. Increased physical activity can improve concentration.  Even when I have to sit through long meetings, leaving the room to do 10 jumping jacks can help me return with more focus.  A walk or bike ride to school can have the same effect on our kids.
  3. It reduces the number of vehicles at the school and reduces risk of accidents.  Cars, glare from the sun, kids walking (sometimes darting), opening doors: it all gives me the heebie-jeebies.  YIKES!

No doubt, many of our schools have traditions and ongoing walk & bike efforts.  But, what if we don't? Where to start?

Continue reading "International Walk & Bike to School Day - 2012" »

Helmet Usage & Kids: would you play cop to a stranger's child?

September 11, 2012

Riding in town yesterday, I noticed a pair of youth riding up ahead in the bike lane.  There was a boy, younger, maybe under age 10, based on his size and the size of his bike.  He wore his helmet and pedaled pretty hard to keep up with his companion.

The other child was probably in middle school, based on the size of her bike.  Maybe they were siblings?  Maybe she was tasked with picking him up after school and riding home with him?  I don't know.  I was heading someplace and didn't stop to converse.

As I approached, I noticed that the elder child, certainly not older than 16 years old, had a shiny Nutcase in her front basket as she pedaled along in the bike lane.  I was surprised, and I was sad.

While there is no federal law that requires children to wear helmets on bikes (or scooters, skateboards or inline skates), 22 states and hundreds of localities have laws and ordinances mostly requiring all children under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle or even as a passenger on a bicycle.

This info from the University of Michigan says that:

  • wearing a helmet while riding a bike reduces risk of death by over 50 percent
  • every 3 days, a child is killed in the US while riding a bike
  • about half of children riding a bike where no helmet laws exist never wear a helmet
  • helmet usage would prevent 40,000 head injuries and 50,000 scalp injuries in children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Much of children's helmet usage might have to do with observing their own parents.  Some of these parents cannot afford a helmet (one of every two children of polled families earning less than $30,000 never wear a helmet).  Even though 78% of polled parents ride a bike, 27% of them never wear helmets.

Beyond parents, there is also the fashion statement.  My own daughter said that three of her friends, all of whom ride their bikes to school every day, asked their parents to drive them to school on picture day, to avoid "helmet hair".  As children get older, like this middle school-aged girl I saw pedaling ahead of me, they might become more and more conscious about wearing a helmet.  They aren't cool and they don't make for the best 'dos.

As I came closer, I said, "What about your helmet?"  I slowed a little bit to see what reaction I would get.  She looked sheepish as she pulled over and stopped.  I think she might have put her helmet on, but I couldn't stop to see.  

Maybe I shouldn't have said anything.  Or, maybe, since I did decide to do something, I should have pulled over and given the whole story on why helmet usage is important.  Like wearing our seatbelts, it's a no-brainer: it saves lives.  I don't know.  What would you have done?  Pedaled on? Stopped to chat?  Do you see youth, especially teens and pre-teens, not wearing helmets while they bike?

Etiquette on Multi-Use Paths

June 22, 2012

Now that summer is out and outdoor recreating is in (not that it was ever "out"), we find multi-use paths packed with walkers, runners, bikers, starting-to-bikers, toddlers, roller-bladers, skateboarders, dogs, squirrels, birds, and many other users.  There are clusters of middle- and high-schoolers, there are amblers with headphones on, there are darting animals, children.  Bodies travel at different paces - fast, slow, medium, stopped.  On a warm weekend day, the multi-use path can be an obstacle course.

Even the widest of paths aren't as wide as a car lane (11-12 feet across).  More typically, the path might be 7 or 8 feet across, just enough for two way cross traffic in single file.  Collisions and brushes with others can be frequent if you are walking/riding/skuuting 2+ abreast.  Weaving in and out of bodies takes skill, whether on foot or wheels.

How do we encourage the kids to "share the path" responsibly, reasonable?  My tips include:

  • walk/ride to the right, always.
  • 2+ abreast is ok, so long as there is no oncoming traffic
  • "single file!" is what I utter loudly when we spot oncoming traffic, and my kids immediately pull ahead of me and I drop to the rear position, and we will go in single file to allow enough width for passing
  • use the bell!  whether on a scooter, bike, jogger: we ring, ring from a distance behind and call "on your left" as we pass
  • ride straight, as much as possible, unless you are on a super-wide path.  
  • for the learning pedalers, learning scooters: walk/ride behind, to be able to call out and ask the little ones ahead to stop, pull to the side, or ride as straight as possible.
  • be defensive.  as with driving, we have to anticipate the unexpected: a dog on a long leash speeding ahead crosswise along the path, leash obstructing; a toddler darting out from one side of the path to the other, maybe chasing a leaf, squirrel, bird; an early bike-rider swerving considerably as you try to overtake/pass.

With a few close calls in just the past couple of days, I thought I'd collect your thoughts on how we can manage the multi-use paths safely, responsibly, and teach our kids to do the same?

Walk and Bike to School: Know Your Way Around *and* Be Happy

May 20, 2012

A new study illuminates why pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets are so important, not just for the health and environmental impact of neighborhood residents but also for kids' fear and sense of overall well-being. As the post in The Atlantic points out, "Automobile collisions disproportionately kill kids, for starters. Heavy traffic also prevents them from playing on their neighborhood streets. And communities with limited opportunities for walking and playing outside have been shown to have higher rates of childhood obesity, which can lead to serious health complications in later life."

But the new study by Bruce Appleyard, a Portland-based urban planner and designer (and son of an urbanist who famously showed how heavy traffic in a neighborhood increases disconnection, disatisfaction and loneliness) talks about ground-level concerns, the ones I have a lot with my own kids: knowing their way around and being happy in the place where they live.

Bruce showed that kids in low-traffic, walkable neighborhoods remembered more features of their neighborhoods and remembered playing in more parts of their neighborhood than kids in high-traffic neighborhoods where they spent more time in cars. What's more, they simply liked their neighborhoods more and felt safer (according to the "cognitive mapping" techniques he used). He wrote, "In sum, as exposure to auto traffic volumes and speed decreases, a child’s sense of threat goes down, and his/her ability to establish a richer connection and appreciation for the community rises."

Later, he went back to the high-traffic neighborhood after it had undergone improvements in walkability and bike infrastructure. They knew more about their neighborhoods, and, he wrote, "Before the improvements were made in the heavy-traffic-exposure neighborhood, many children drew expressions of dislike and danger associated with automobiles and were unable to represent any detail of the surrounding environment -- possibly feeling overwhelmed by the threats posed by the automobiles. After the improvements alleviated the exposure to these threats, there were indeed fewer expressions of danger and dislike, indicating a greater sense of comfort and well-being."

I've thought about trying this experiment on my own kids, having them draw maps of the neighborhood (without scientific rigor, given that I know next to nothing about cognitive mapping). I think it would be a great way to celebrate Walk and Bike to School month.

Seeking 'tween/teen female cyclist to share her story

April 24, 2012

PhillyIt's no secret that the mamas behind this site love biking. We bike for utility and health, and most recently, we (maybe one of us) bike for competition (Shetha is our resident cyclocross enthusiast). So it was a no brainer for us to pair up with a number of local groups who support women riders - Women on Bikes, Women on Wheels, Portland Society, Sorella Forte, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance - to help bring the first CycloFemme Ride to Portland on May 13th (Mother's Day!) in conjunction with Sunday Parkways. Meet at 11 am at Woodlawn Park and join on us for a short bike parade. At the end, listen to a handful of women from different generations and backgrounds talk about their biking experience. While you've heard enough from us rant and rave about our biking experiences, we want to hear from a 'tween/teen-aged girl cyclist share her story at the ride. Do you have a daughter, or know of someone with a compelling story to share? Email us at urbanmamas@gmail.com.

This ride is intended to "HONOR THE PAST and the emancipation of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, for the freedom to choose and the chance to wear pants. CELEBRATE THE PRESENT and the riders who keep it rolling, bringing women's racing to the forefront, pushing the limits, breaking down barriers and sharing the love of the bike with everyone along the way. EMPOWER THE FUTURE of women in cycling and the opportunity for positive social change. Teach women to ride and they will change the world!" We hope to see you there.

Pedal-Friendly: only for the privileged?

September 29, 2011

Today I read an article in Bicycling Magazine, not because I subscribe to the publication but because friends tipped me off that they'd seen my picture in it.  The piece: all about cargo bikes, the lifestyle of those cycle-oriented that want to tread lightly on the earth.

Here on urbanMamas, we have often talked about our mamabikeoramama machines, hauling kids, their gear, our gear, all our wholesome foodstuffs, from this place to that, all on our two-wheelers.  Amazing, right?  In theory, this is all a low-cost venture when compared to the cost of gas, a car, insurance.  The $700 I spent to outfit an Xtracycle (done on a 'tight' budget) has paid for itself many times over in past years.

In reality, though, there are many, many factors why lower-income families can't pedal in suit, as much as I dream that they can.

There is affordable housing: often not located just a pedal away from school, daycare or work.   Many times, the housing isn't adjacent to safe infrastructure for biking.  And, the housing might not be well served by public transit.  So, when it comes down to it, that household is still going to need a car, and that $700 to outfit an Xtracycle suddenly becomes a luxury, not a necessity, not a primary mode of transportation.  Also, the housing: will it have bike-friendly accommodation - safe parking, easy access the like?  There are so many other factors that go into housing, it is likely bike-related needs are trumped for other priorities.

There are jobs: many times, hourly wage earning, at hours that don't allow for longer transit time or at times of day not conducive to biking (say, middle of night? graveyard shift?).  And, again, compare the affordable housing location of where the job epicenters might be.  Are they separated by miles and miles and miles?  Likely.  Are their accommodations for changing or showering? 

The thought of promoting bicycling as an earth-friendly and cost-effective means to transport our families is romantic.  It is a romantic story that I personally have the privilege to live.  I realize, though, that there are those out there that cannot.  That reality is painful for me; I like romantic stories.  There is an organization out there, the Community Cycling Center, that is working on these very issues that I often wonder about:  how can cycling really become accessible to all (and by "all" we mean *all*)?

We urbanMamas never mean to be righteous about our velo love.  While we want you all to join us in our pedal frenzy, we know that is not possible.  But really: how can cycling be accessible for all, across socioeconomic and ethnic divides?

Inspiration From Mama Feats at Fiets of Parenthood

August 22, 2011

I thought I was speedy and skilled on my mamabikeorama. Two of my boys and I careened around the course Shetha designed for this summer's Fiets of Parenthood PDX yesterday at Clever Cycles, sure with Everett's jousting skills (which earned him first place in the Kindercross race) and my well-honed riding ability, I'd be at least in the top three.

While my time wasn't that bad, my skill level was nothing near the top of the Portland heap. I had earlier been watching a mom test out a huge platform-style box bike. She had her husband and a bunch of kids in it; Monroe hopped in, too, and she gleefully steered the passel of kids around the blocked-off street. "Is there a weight limit on this?" she asked, peddling in her dress, one hand on the handlebars.

Other inspirational biking parents were there, like Katie, who biked to the birthing center to deliver her infant daughter Kestrel -- she and her husband were pedaled home with the baby in a Pedicab. Kestrel, tiny still, was there after a jaunt with big brother Jasper and her parents to and from North Portland. A mom who had just picked up her longtail mama bike on Saturday stopped by with her two children. Travis and his family -- three boys, mom in stripey knee socks -- had made themselves matching tees, because you know, they were bringing it, their all to the competition.

I went first in the competition, and was quickly knocked out in both speed and overall skill. With a 10-second bonus for each child aboard, Emily -- with six kids of her own aboard one bicycling contraption (for the record: Bakfiets with four littles in the box, one in a rear-mounted bike seat behind that looked like it was vintage or European, and one attached via a Follow-Me tandem coupling -- a neat import that allows a parent to hook the child's bike to the parent's rear wheel) -- had most of us beat. Here's how this looks:

It's proof that my competitive spirit can be easily quelled by the wow-factor of an inspirational mama feat or two. I'm so inspired that I want to tell everyone -- did you see the mom with the six kids bike jousting? -- but it's not a one-time sight. She's bicycling Southeast Portland every day with her family, and she's not the only inspiration on the streets. Keep an eye out, and prepare to find wow-factor every day. Smile and wave when you see them, and tell everyone about the ordinary, extraordinary, Fiets of Parenthood around us.

(For the record, Travis was one of those who tied for first thanks to his three boys and four rings jousted -- and blazing speed! And next year, I think we should give extra bonuses for parents who pedal their co-parent around -- I think our winning lineup may have been different if we did.)

Fiets of Parenthood - For biking families (and bike-curious families!)

August 17, 2011

We would like to invite you all to join us for a family biking extravaganza! This Sunday, August 21 from noon to 4 pm we will be hosting fiets (and feats!!) of family biking like you've never seen before! There will be kiddie and parent races, great prizes, and lots of friends of family biking. All this fun will be happening at Clever Cycles at SE Hawthorne and SE 9th. This year the event will be benefitting Kidical Mass PDX. For more information about the event you can read the event pagefollow parent_fiets on twitter, and read a little more about last year's event. If you feel like you'd like a little company on the way to the event, perhaps you'd like to join in the Kidical Mass Caravan. We hope to see you there!!!

How to get Mamas on the Saddle?

July 26, 2011

A recent Chicago Tribune article talks about transporation professionals targeting women when it comes to programming encouraging more cycling:

Women have been called the “the indicator species” in bike-friendly cities because when they pedal, there’s a trickledown effect, said Garrard, a senior lecturer in public health at Deakin University in Melbourne.

We urbanMamas are a bunch of bike-riding mamas, but we weren't always this bike.  At least, I wasn't.  It's been a journey and constant exploration of different bike configurations and different affordabilities to find the best way to transport our kids and our gear.  As a lot of you know, we have settled on the Xtracycle longtail as our family bike of choice.  We can haul up to 3 kids, plus all their gear, and all our gear -- all on one bike.  We love it so much that we now have two Xtracycles in our family.

There are many, many reasons why regular biking cannot work for some mamas.  It could be schedule, cost, cargo.  It could also be that a mama never learned to ride a bike.  It could be that one kid goes to school in one quadrant but the other goes to school in another quadrant and then work might be in an all-together different quadrant.  It could be that there really is not an extra few hundreds of dollars in the family budget to invest in a new bike set up.

Care to share?  What makes it hard/impossible for you as a mama to hop on that saddle?  If you are a biking mama, what makes it easy?

27% of PBOT budget to keep streets safe for our kids: Thank you, Sam

May 18, 2011

It's all in a headline, isn't it? That's something I've learned from my two decades as a journalism junkie. And then there's the old saying, "statistics lie." I worked on Wall Street and for a bank selling loans to other banks -- I know from long practice doing and analyzing other people doing so, you can get numbers to say whatever you want them to.

So the above is the headline I'd like to see on Oregonian writer Joseph Rose's piece on how Sam Adams and the Portland City Council decided to spend the "uncommitted budget" -- in other words, the part of budget that's discretionary. It's funded by gas taxes and parking revenue, and makes up about 25% of the overall transportation capital improvement projects funding. He went instead with "Portland Mayor Sam Adams boosts funding for bike projects, but now there's less for paving streets" as a headline and then, in the first few paragraphs, described Adams' statements about the funding (which, for bike projects, works out to 17% of discretionary funds, or 6% of overall CIP funds) at the Alice Awards as having "boasted about what he had done for bicycles." Rose's piece kept up the rabble-rousing bent: "Portland quietly boosted the amount of uncommitted transportation funding it spends on bike projects from just 1 percent to 17 percent – or $2.8 million – in the budget adopted last June. Meanwhile, it slashed the amount allocated to motor vehicle projects by 22 percent... Coming out of the recession, the budget is still bruised. Pothole complaints are up. Nearly 60 miles of the city's streets remain unpaved. By allocating 17 times more of that funding on building bikeways, Adams has left no doubt that he wants more commuters on bicycles."

There are many, many things on which I'd love to see Portland spend its money. And while I understand that Portland's roads are pot-hole filled and it's not nearly easy enough to drive 40 MPH everywhere you want to go, well, when it comes down to it I value the safety of our kids and older citizens more than I do speed. Spending 6% of our budget on bicycle projects (which improve traffic safety, speeds, pollution, noise, and long-term environmental costs for everyone who uses our roads and even those who don't) and another 21% for pedestrian projects (which make our communities more livable and make our citizens healthier and happier -- attracting businesses and invigorating the retail climate and wooing middle- and upper-class new residents), even though these funds come from gas taxes and parking revenue, seems like a sensible and worthwhile investment in a safe and sustainable transportation mix.

Continue reading "27% of PBOT budget to keep streets safe for our kids: Thank you, Sam" »

All aboard! Get on your local bike train

April 22, 2011

The entire month of May is Walk + Bike Month, all throughout Oregon.  So far, the official website shows tons of schools signed up to participate.  It's not too late; you can register here: http://www.walknbike.org/event/1009/register

While participation can range from the "Stop & Walk" (parking more than 4 blocks away from school & walking the rest of the way) or taking transit, we have always been fond of the bike trains. Our earliest bike trains, though, were very loose: pick a time and location, meet, ride into school together.  Recently,  Kiel Johnson has elevated the profile of bike trains, starting the website biketrainpdx.org where parents, students and teachers can find resources on how to safely gather and ride to school.  Beach School, in particular, has done an amazing job recruiting children and families to regularly get on the bike train to school.

Gleaning from experience and the website, we've cobbled together some tips for your Bike Train to School:

Continue reading "All aboard! Get on your local bike train" »

Do you talk & drive?

April 07, 2011

The cell phone law in Oregon was passed in 2009 and went into effect new year's day 2010:

The new law, a class D traffic violation with a minimum base fine of $142.00, is effective January 1, 2010 and is a primary offense, meaning that a police officer may stop a driver solely for using a cell phone without using a hands-free accessory.  For purposes of the new law, “mobile communication device” is defined as a text messaging device or a wireless, two-way communication device designed to receive and transmit voice or text communication.  

When I am walking, biking, and driving around town, I see countless individuals breaking the law. When the driver is being particularly mindless, I have shouted "get off the phone!", though I hate to be getting all up in everyone's business.  

As multi-tasking as I like to be, doing anything while fiddling on my phone is not good for me.  I can't walk while texting, I can't even dial while driving.  If I need to make a call, I have to be stopped, bluetooth installed and connected, while I dial.  Once on the call and en route, I feel pretty fine about driving with the hands-free unit.

Tell me: do you see it too?  Do you see drivers continuing to use their phones while driving?  Either held up to the ear or even on speakerphone with the phone held up to their mouth (which - to me - seems to be still the same as holding phone to ear)?  Do you think we shouldn't be on phones while driving period, whether we are on a hands-free unit or not?

Swagger Wagon: do you have one? want one?

March 21, 2011

When this video came out, I could not stop watching it.  It was hilarious.  My husband would watch it, show it to our kids, share it with family & friends.  We would all ROTFL (or what is the acronym?  roll on the floor laughing?).

We urbanMamas are bikeymamas, to be sure.  We love our Xtracycles (now, all the foundress urbanMamas have longtails now so we can haul our three kids).  Aside from Sarah/cafemama, we all have mulitiple cars.  When she printed out longtail stickers to put on our bikes, "one less minivan", she gave one to me anyway, even if I did have a minivan.


We inherited a minivan when we left NYC, knowing that we needed some kind of vehicle in our next city, ATL (thanks, mama in law!).   That minivan was awesome.  When we moved from our rental to become first-time homeowners, that minivan transported our queen-sized marital bed, intact, to our new home.  We transported couches, armoires, and countless other bulky furniture items.  Back in NY, before the van was even ours, we rolled deep in that ride, sliding open the doors and piling out to line up for the club.  Then, in PDX, we used the ride for transporting kids to the coast, gorge, mountain and more.  The sliding doors were convenient for when an emergency pee-stop was required.  A boy could merely stand at the door and do his thing.

One of my husband's best friends back in the east was looking for a car, an SUV.  Said of his wife, "she doesn't want a minivan; she doesn't want to be like a 'soccer mom'," even though the kids did, indeed, play soccer and she drove them everywhere she needed to go. 

Of late, I have noticed a few comments on Facebook, friends mentioning they were looking for a new ride, but "not a minivan".  For why?  Are minivans that uncool?  In my book, they are some of the most practical vehicles out there, and can get better gas mileage than the SUVs that seem to be more popular.

When we acquired our newer minivan almost 2 years ago, trading in our old minivan through the Cash for Clunkers program, I was not in support.  For as much as we drive, I always called our minivan our "storage unit", and I was not in support of a new payment for said storage unit.  One child and several road trips later, we have gotten more than enough use out of our storage unit.  At our maximum, we transported 8 bodies, 6 bikes, two bike trailers, two tents, a queen-size pillow-top Aerobed, bags of weekend apparel, food, coolers, and more for a weekend getaway.  All in our minivan.

So, I wonder: do you have a swagger wagon?  Are you in the market for a new ride and doing everything you can to avoid the swagger wagon?  What I really want to know is: why are minivans so uncool?

Proposed HB 2228, ban for kids on parent's bikes and trailers, thinks wrong

January 13, 2011

Update: Jules Bailey tells Bike Portland he and Greenlick have agreed to alter the proposed bill to instead call for a study of family biking. I've written asking Greenlick apologize for jumping into this conversation by demonizing parents who choose to put their children on bicycles (and comparing this to the seatbelt debate in the 1950s); I hope he does so.

Representative Mitch Greenlick has sponsored proposed House Bill 2228, which would make it illegal to carry children aged six and under on bicycles, including trailers and trail-a-bikes, punishable by a maximum fine of $90. He tells Bike Portland he did it to keep children safe; while he has no statistics on children's death, he does have a study on adult males, who often are injured when they crash on their bike. He said, "if it's true that it's unsafe [for a four-year-old to ride on his parent's bike], we have an obligation to protect people. If I thought a law would save one child's life, I would step in and do it. Wouldn't you?" His email address is rep.mitchgreenlick@state.or.us; his district office phone number is (503) 297-2416. (He represents NW Portland; Jules Koppel, (503) 986-1442, represents my SE neighborhood. Find your representative here. Katie wrote this letter, inviting Rep. Greenlick to Kidical Mass on Saturday. Here's another letter.)

The four of us who founded urbanMamas didn't all start out six or seven years ago as the things we are today: competitive and eager runners, whole food-conscious, green-minded, three-kid-having, family bike activists. It's happened, as much because of the place we lived and the people we live around -- we're co-inspirators, I've said -- than because of any special long-held personal conviction. The conviction, it's grown on us, and some of it grew like a weed, accidental, perhaps meant to be after all. Native to Portland, Oregon, we're sure.


Biking has become for all of us a personal freedom, an identity, a way of glorious life. It's frugal and emission-free and it changes the dynamic of risk for transportation; instead of putting everyone else on the road in danger, we're putting only ourselves and our children. Given the statistics -- the by-far-and-away-crazy leading cause of death for children is automotive accidents, over a thousand kids die each year and many more are badly injured -- our risk is miniscule. I've looked for statistics on death as bicycle passenger, and can't find them. Julian describes the data as "entirely without denominator." Surely, one day a child or even a dozen will die as passengers on bicycles, probably in a collision with an automobile. It is guaranteed that another thousand children will die next year, and the year after that, as passengers in cars.

Continue reading "Proposed HB 2228, ban for kids on parent's bikes and trailers, thinks wrong" »

Ethical child transport from the New York Times & me

December 12, 2010

I know many of us transport our kids by bike through much of the year; many of my closest mama friends (and I) have done such shocking things as bike-while-heavily pregnant, tote a small baby around, put our children between our handlebars in a baby seat, or expose our young offspring to rain, wind and even, rarely, sun (ha) through miles of commuting. Many of you can remember a dozen or a hundred times you've heard another citizen of this city opine on your transportation choices. My favorite (or something) is when a woman yelled at me, "get those babies baptized!" (I had.) I've also had any number of angry men and women shouting about how "that's not safe!" I've been reminded loudly how I forgot to put a helmet back on a youngster after a stop (we stopped and put the helmet back on right away, me shaking from the vitriole of the FYI); I've been asked who's going to take care of the kids when I DIE FROM NOT WEARING A HELMET (I had a hat on, and forgot my helmet, and by the time I remembered it we were too far away from home).

After one of these exchanges I often spend the next 10 or 15 minutes of my ride composing a undeliverable response to those who question my parental responsibility, exposing the kids to the elements and the possibility of death-by-vehicle. My thesis usually looks like this: I believe not only in the superiority of this method of transportation -- which emits zero pounds of carbon per mile and has no regular monthly cost nor incremental cost, saving me thousands each year, and has an infinitesimal chance of seriously injuring any other humans than those aboard by its use -- but I believe in the power and imperative of living one's values. If I am so worried about the health of the planet that I toss and turn many nights, wondering if my grandchildren's Portland will be overrun by refugees from an unlivable California, I can hardly put them into a single-family vehicle (that I can't afford anyway) for the 13-and-some miles of daily commute.

There's a lot more, involving my own vivid fear I'll run into a pedestrian or another car every time I get behind a wheel, and the nausea that I seem to always suffer after driving. But last night, I was thrilled to see on another mama's Facebook stream a link to an official ethical scholar's general agreement with my thesis. The questioner, a Portland, Maine bicyclist with children aged four and one, wondered, "Is it O.K. to take the kids by bike when our admittedly safer, albeit not risk-free, car is available?"

Randy Cohen's answer had its usual twists and turns of humor and extreme examples. ("Different parents tolerate different levels of risk for their children. Some allow their kids to go rock climbing while on fire; others forbid them to leave the house unless they’re swaddled in Bubble Wrap.") But here's the important bit: "There is no universal and immutable scale for your ethical obligation here. But there is a better way to describe your duty: seek prudent, not utopian, transportation...  If you forswear bikes and travel with them only by car, you teach them to do likewise, promoting the sedentary lifestyle that contributes to obesity and other health problems, and you express acceptance of the environmental damage cars inflict even on nondrivers — two disheartening lessons."

I thought it an excellent answer and with his usual non-judgmental acceptance of most of our parental choices. Don't text while driving or biking; don't do either under the influence; wear helmets. If you really believe in biking, work in your community to support better infrastructure for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Now I have a bigger question, though: how do you communicate this to someone shouting at you on the street? I've been composing a PSA video on the topic for some time; independent filmmakers are encouraged to contact me immediately. In the interim, perhaps my usual; a sigh and a deflating of the shoulders; is the best response.

Drive Less, Save more... Lives

September 02, 2010

Crash3 As it comes to a close, I'd like to bring up a subject that's come to the forefront for my family this summer. Not once but twice I've been in car-car collisions, one that involved my whole family.  Both times I was a passenger and not a driver.  Both times there was thousands of dollars of damage, but our health and lives were spared.  Both times, I saw it coming.  Some might think this was an advantage, but I sort of felt it was a curse.  You see, since I've started riding my bike to get around town more, I've become especially tuned in to what's going on around me.  

4718678460_57e37fe904_bAs of yesterday, the Bicycle Transportation Association's (BTA) Bike Commute Challenge has begun.  I'll be honest; I've been tracking my commute miles since last September, but this September I will definitely be coming up short.  Instead of biking the 25 mile round trip I will probably spend a short amount of time on the bike and most of it on the bus, getting out to Gresham and back.  I just can't make the trip in a reasonable amount of time, since I'm nearly 30 weeks pregnant (no lung capacity left!).  But I still feel the need to try and reduce car trips.  Is it because I want to drive less and save more?  Well, money may be part of the equation.  Reducing emissions is also important to me.  But in my mind, a much larger part is something you can't quite place a value on:  The lives of our children.  You can eliminate as much BPA from their immediate environments, avoid antibiotic and hormone injected foods, but the number one cause of death for children is not obesity or illness.  It's car crashes.

That's right, according to the CDC Car crashes are the number one cause of death for children and happen at an even higher rate for teens.  This came to my attention early last month when a fellow bicycle rider and parent pointed out this article: "Mom, are we there yet?"  Can you imagine it's safer to walk in NYC than in Portland?  OK, maybe you can, but it really is statistically apparent that fewer cars means fewer deaths by car.  Sure, there are risk factors you can influence, like using safety equipment (and using it properly:  See CDC website for more info).  You can buy a really "safe" car.  These things will improve your odds, if you're in a car.  But what if you are on foot, or on a bike? Only less automobile traffic will reduce the incidence of deaths from car crashes.

So when you think a trip by car is unavoidable, remember the potential price that we all pay in one way or another.  Is the risk truly acceptable?  Are we going to keep muttering "what a tragedy" every time someone dies from a car collision?  Or is it time to realize that we are extraordinarily lucky to have so many transportation infrastructure options here in Portland.  Is it time to learn to use the ones we have, and look into getting the ones we need?  Have you and your family re-evaluated how you get around these days?  Or is it just too overwhelming to even begin?  Even if it is overwhelming, what would it take to convince you to try?

Dear babysitter: do you drive, bike, bus, or walk?

July 20, 2010

Summer is here, and I have been screening many-a-babysitter to help even out our summer between camps, off-weeks, and vacations.  One of my standard questions is: "do you bike?" and "have you biked with kids alongside before?"

Recently, we had our neighbor-recommended sitter over.  She biked to the community center to fetch our two older kids, the biked home with them.  I relayed this to our neighbor, and she was surprised.  "Oh!  She always asks for a ride home, so we usually drive her home."  I speculated that it may be because I never did offer a ride home, and I explicitly asked her to pedal over to fetch our kids, who would also be riding their bikes home (it was in the neighborhood, on streets that our kids were very, very familiar with riding, about 1.5 miles away).

I thought about the many advertisements I have seen for babysitters that highlight "clean driving record" or "have valid driver's license and car".  While we do have a car, we have never felt comfortable letting a sitter drive our kids around.  We feel safer if they were to - in order of preference - walk, take the bus, or bike to outings (only if they are regular bikers).  I started to wonder: is that so unusual?  Do you typically ask your regular sitter to drive, bike, bus, or walk with the kids, when they are off to outings and activities?

Fiets of Parenthood on a !sunny! Saturday

June 10, 2010


When we planned the date for Fiets of Parenthood, the family bikextravaganza, I didn't realize that we conflicted with a number of things, such as the Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade (it's been on the first weekend in June for several years and... I assumed), and a family bike ride in conjunction with Cirque du Cycling. But I also didn't ever really believe that it would be... beautiful! Gorgeous! Sunny!

You're going to want to be outside Saturday after all this wet, wet, oh my goodnesslord, wetness. We hope you can fit in a bunch of extraordinarily fun things, and we hope Fiets of Parenthood will be one of them. It's possible! It's possible for us to plan an event in Portland, in June, with popsicles, and have it be 80 degrees and sunny -- so anything is possible!

Saturday, June 12th, 11-2. We have a Facebook event page if you want to connect there; a Twitter stream; and we have news: both Morrison Child & Family Services and Community Cycling Center will be in attendance, and benefit from sales of t-shirts, stickers, buttons and raffle tickets on the day of the event. Even if you don't think you're up for a friendly competition, there should be plenty to see & connect with. Hope you can come!

presenting fiets of parenthood, saturday, june 12

May 16, 2010


This event-to-be has had many names: "Mamabikeorama Xtracyclextravaganza" was one, but that was quite a mouthful and before we firmly decided to make it parent- and brand-neutral. We've been delightedly coming up with possible contests of skill and style, community builders and likely Youtube moments for years; but when Julian at Totcycle posted this fall that he was thinking about a very similar concept -- and with a great name, too (we love the fiets/feats wordplay)-- that we decided it was high time to start our planning engines.

So, working together with Julian, the fine folks at Clever Cycles, and Patrick and Holly of vélocouture and McGuire Barber Design, we're proud to announce that the inaugural Fiets of Parenthood event will be Saturday, June 12th, part of Pedalpalooza 2010. Full details (as they currently stand) are here at the event site; events will include a family biking obstacle course (on each team, at least one parent and child must be in some way connected via integrated bike or trailer hookup, etc.) with winners for both style and speed; a "kindercross" kids' cyclocross race which will award four- to 12-year-olds for fancy riding and lightning fastness; and a parent-child "figure cycling" event in which teams perform a two-to-three minute trick routine. Proceeds from sale of stickers, buttons and such will benefit the Community Cycling Center; donations will also be accepted; food carts like SolPops, Trailhead Coffee Roasters, and other more substantial fare will be on hand.

Saturday, June 12th
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
908 SE Hawthorne
bring your bikes, your kids, your fanciest duds and your skills

Let us know if you plan to come in the comments; and if you have any idea for events, skills or other agenda items that aren't already mentioned, please pass those along!

May is Walk & Bike Challenge Month: for our health and our community

May 02, 2010

A few years ago, a couple of us urbanMamas sat down with the BTA to talk about how families could be more engaged in active transportation programs.  The Bike Commute Challenge, which has been happening every September for almost fifteen years now, had proven successful in encouraging employees throughout the region to bike to work....  we suggested: why not apply the same challenge to students and their commutes to their respective schools?

I guess they loved the idea, for we are now approaching the third year of the School Walk & Bike Challenge.  So far, over 135 schools have registered to participate.  For the entire month of May, students from across the state engage in friendly competition that encourages students to walk and bike to school. 

I fully admit: the prospect of walking, biking, bussing, skipping, or getting to school withOUT the use of our family car - for the entire month - is daunting.  Won't we be late to school every day?  Then, won't I be late to work every day?  Won't we get home later than usual, have less time for homework and dinner?  Well, baby steps.  It's all about the baby steps.  Even just a day a week where we use active forms of transportation is a success.  It all counts, even the skipping and skating to school. 

With our school's system of choice, many families may attend schools that are too far to walk or bike to.  Perhaps a park and ride system could work?  At one charter school, we have heard the plan of a walking school bus that will meet several blocks from school.  Children can gather and walk to school together from a central meeting point.  Perhaps even consider organizing a bike train, also starting from a central meeting point, so families can ride en masse together to school.

What do you think?  Can you commit?  Maybe once a week for the month?  Or, maybe even more?  We'd love to hear how you think you'll participate in the Walk & Bike Challenge.

Car-free Peacock Lane tonight

December 14, 2009


The Peacock Lane lights display is a favorite from as far back in my childhood as I can remember. It's only the second year, however, that the event has had an official car-free night; the evening before "opening day" is reserved for pedestrians and bicyclists (and rollerbladers, skateboarders, or other modes of transport without engines).

This year, it won't be nearly as frigid as last year and I'm hoping I'll convince my boyfolk to go. It starts at 6 p.m. tonight and goes through 11 (as if any parents stay up that late on a school night! ;)... will you be there? My advice, if you go: bring a thermos of hot cocoa and perhaps a few home-baked cookies. And if you're not on bikes, Trimet is very convenient; one year we got off at one end, walked the length of the lane, and got back on the bus at the other end. Like a limo, but cheaper...

temperate parents, dealing with cold weather, whoa!

December 10, 2009

Tuesday was the first day I'd had to take the kids out on the bike in this cold, cold weather and I did a great job of bundling. Hats, scarves, double layers of pants and socks, mittens... I was so proud of myself! I sat Monroe and Truman on the back of my mamabikeorama and headed off to preschool. Luckily the road was open, because a few blocks away from school my load suddenly got much lighter and my bike wobbled. Monroe, trying to hold on with his fat slippery mittens, had fallen off.

So that was the first bloody face of the cold snap. His lip and chin were scraped, but he'd recovered enough to be put back on the bike (in the bike seat between my handlebars for good until the weather changes, I decided) after about 10 minutes. Our second bloody face came Wednesday, when Truman decided to check to see what his dad meant, exactly, by "that spot that looks wet is actually icy." He came home to me with the worst bloody nose I've seen in years.

It must be easier for parents of more regularly frozen climes; are they born with an innate knowledge of how to adjust to the cold? I feel so inept. I'm glad I've learned these lessons (no slippery mittens on the back of the Xtracycle, hold a kid's hand the first time he discovers an ice hazard) without permanent injury. I've been scouring thrift stores for snow boots and kids' ski pants and wishing I was more prepared. How have you been dealing with the cold weather? Are you finding any of your regular rhythms awkwardly (or delightfully) changed? Is there any gear you love and can't do without? Have you been surprised with any bloody lessons?

One thing I love is how thrilled the boys are every day when they go outside to ice crystals and frost in the shadows, it's magic to them and I confess to longing for last year's snowy quiet.

meditations on a family biking life

October 25, 2009

I pulled up to the alley behind Olivia's house around 8:15 last Wednesday night, my mamabikeorama loaded down with 15 pounds of pears and quinces (I couldn't help stopping at the People's Co-op farmer's market) and an armful or two of clothes for the spontaneous clothing swap she'd planned. I had to laugh as I clumsily maneuvered my bike among the half-dozen mama bikes + Xtracycle and a trailer or two. Only a few of the dozen or so mamas who'd come had driven; and this despite the fact we were all loaded down with the bounty of new clothing and whatever else we were carting around the city. At the end of the night, around 10 p.m., we all pulled out of the narrow spot on the side of the house, laughing as we counted the BoBike seats. Someone said: 'it's like a clown car!' It was a moment of unusual tired joy.

We've all come to this for different reasons and at different speeds. But we're all equally in love with biking (even most of the mamas who drove have family bike setups at home) and committed to spreading the family biking love. We have different levels of comfort with putting our kids on the road; differing budgets for new biking gear; different commutes, different neighborhoods, different alternatives to biking. I think of us as co-inspirators; we're all the inspiration for one another. And we all see the future of transportation as far, far different than it is today. Will we reach the goal of 25% of Portlanders commuting by bike by 2030? It's hard to say, but it won't happen unless mamas like us -- like you -- hop on their bikes and quietly inspire other mamas, papas and kids to shift to the two-wheel (or three) lifestyle, too.

Today, I'm leading another meditation about riding bikes with families (no, there's no yoga or spirituality: all you have to do is listen and breathe) to help kick off the Family Biking Solutions Workshop, part of Oregon Manifest's Family Bicycle Transportation Day. While the workshop itself isn't really kid-friendly due to the limitations of the facility (a "museum environment," someone said), we hope what comes out of it, really will expand the boundaries.

I've made a poster to go with my meditation [pdf link]. Consider it one more co-inspiration. I look forward to expanding my concept of what makes a more family-friendly transportation future --  more options, more unique bikes that work in tiny budgets, more infrastructure, more community, more joy.

Riding with a new solo bike rider

July 03, 2009

Oh bike-loving mamas!  So, there are bike trailers, bike seats, tag-alongs/trail-a-bikes, and - of course - the Xtracycles.  However, there will come a day when we will no longer be hauling our children on the bikes, for they will be riding their own!  Has your child made the hop from being hauled to pedaling on his/her own bike?  How have you handled riding on the roads with the newest of the biking batch?  An urbanMama recently emailed:

I am looking for tips about transitioning to biking alongside your child.  Our 5yo daughter has recently shed the training wheels, and so we're biking more places together, with her on her bike and me on mine.  She's very cautious, so I don't have to worry too much about her veering into traffic or bumping into anyone, but I still am unsure about some things.  I'm sort of afraid, e.g., to ride in the bike lane, but riding on the sidewalk when there aren't curb cuts is a huge pain.  Also, is it safer to ride with her in front of me, or to have her follow me?  I'm sure many of these things I'll just figure out with practice, but I was interested in tips from those who bike with their kids as a way of getting started.

Sunday Parkways 2009: How was it for you?

June 23, 2009

This year's Father's Day coincided with the second annual Sunday Parkways, the first of three.  We started the day by hosting a little pre-ride gathering where families from the neighborhood & beyond came by to check out one another's bike gear, test it out, and let the older kids ride solo on a one block stretch of the parkways near our house.  For me, the most magnificent aspect of this year's Sunday Parkways is how completely comfortable I felt letting our girls, ages 5 and 8, bike alongside their friends, aged 6 to 9, well ahead of us.  We had few worries about oncoming motor vehiclesIMG_1977.  They didn't want to stop!  They kept pedaling and pedaling and pedaling along.   The crowds were not too thick, so they were able to maneuver quite easily.  The route was relatively flat and intersected with just a few major intersections, where the kids knew to stop and wait for direction from the officers directing traffic.  Really - they would have ridden the entire 7.5 mile loop again if we'd've let them!  It was a great exercise in freedom and independence on our neighborhood streets.  It felt wonderful to see the community taking full advantage of the opportunity.

Apparently, with all our riding around, we missed plenty of action, from music and free tune-ups to bike play parks and more.  Check out the complete coverage on bikeportland.org.

Zinemama in a comment on another thread mused:

I'd love to hear other folks reactions to the Parkways. It felt a lot shorter than last year and a lot less crowded. It was fun, but for me some of the excitement about last year's event was missing. Maybe we were there at the wrong time of day (earlier in the day)?

Did you walk, bike, or play at last weekend's Sunday Parkways?  How was your experience?  If you weren't able to make it, there are still two more Sunday Parkways planned: one on July 19th in Northeast Portland and one on August 16th in Southeast Portland.  And, please, consider volunteering for Sunday Parkways.  The event's success relies on the contribution of many, many volunteers.

In which I drive a hybrid Ford for a weekend

June 16, 2009

Most of you know my family is fully car-free (we finally got rid of our three-years-lying-fallow car last month). And at least one of you expressed shock to hear I was test-driving a Ford Escape hybrid this past weekend. Was the world coming to an end? No, the people in Ford's social media group are working to create buzz about their hybrids by offering 'em to mama bloggers for test drives, and I was an eager participant. So was my husband, who, though he was weaned from his mother's chauffeur services on his 10-speed, and actually spent some time in the early '90s as a bike messenger, is a bit of a car addict.

One of the reasons I was eager to forgo our car was his nasty habit of driving to Trader Joe's... three blocks away. But when we found out he'd be going to Iraq this summer; changing our financial situation from just north of "desperate" to a few ticks shy of "flush," he began to sneak this phrase into conversation: "I've been thinking when I come back, we could use some of my money to get a hybrid..." Or this one: "If I get that job as a cop I could drive to work in a hybrid..."

"No!" I'd say, firmly. "No cars!" I love the money we save, $200-300 per month just in gas, insurance and tags; I love that we have to think carefully about all our bike trips, keeping us closer to home; I love my conscience, clean as the air around me as I bike. I've made a significant reduction in my workload so I can spend more time with the kids, in the garden, cooking food; we don't have room in that budget for even the barest car expense. I don't want that to change.

But. I'm all for a test drive. Just to see. Thursday morning, some nice people from Ford delivered us the sparkliest Escape Hybrid you've ever seen. I immediately hopped in with Truman and Monroe to pick up some film on the way to preschool (an impossible task on the bike; my fave film store is Citizen's Photo, about 4 miles from home). They leave us with a rundown on our car... $33,725 including "destination and delivery" for the model in our driveway. But "THIS VEHICLE NOT FOR SALE," said the page. At least there's that...

Continue reading "In which I drive a hybrid Ford for a weekend" »

Beyond the Burley: Front and Rear Bike Seats

June 07, 2009

We've had tons of suggestions here on urbanMamas on bike trailers or when to start babe in the trailer/bike seat,  but an urbanMama recently emailed to get your experience specifically on bike seats, both that attach to the rear or front of the bike:

My little guy just turned one - after a long bike hiatus, I'm itching to get back on the road, hopefully with baby in tow.  Bike trailers are the norm these days... however my 'sling baby' who I've worn since birth likes to be close to mama and tends to get cranky in his carseat and stroller. I seriously doubt he would enjoy being dragged along behind me on the street.

I am looking into options for riding with baby beyond the Burley such as the Ibert front bike seat, or a rear baby seat. I almost never see these around, and do not personally know of anyone that has used them.... I wonder why that is, and if any of your mama readers have any advice/experiences to share regarding baby bike seats?

Best place to practice riding a bike?

May 20, 2009

In a city like Portland, we cannot help but to be innundated with bike love.  We mamas are clearly bike lovers, and we are breeding the next batch of biking folks.  So, what is the best way to let our little ones practice new skills of riding a two-wheeler and practicing control of their bike?  A mama recently emailed:

I live in Hillsdale in SW Portland - which is a great neighborhood with sidewalks - and as the name suggests many hills. My question is where are some great places to take my daughter to learn and to practice riding a bike. Something flat, with some trails, safe, fun for all? Any suggestions?

For more tips on biking as a family, check out our "best of..." on the right-hand side bar or our index of biking conversations.

Take a deep breath and bike

February 23, 2009

Trees_park_bike_meditation I write on many ad-supported web sites to earn my family's keep, and sometimes I weary of the grind. The cheerful list of tips. The careful consideration of a topic from all sides. So when I got the opportunity to do a presentation at Ignite Portland 5 -- I'd pitched the title "hacking life with kids, and without a car" -- I decided to avoid the usual perky lists and helpful hints and top-10 lists and I wrote it as a meditation. "You are riding your bike. You are taking the bus, train, streetcar... You do not pray for change in the world. You are the world. You are the change."

As usual when I really get lost in something I'm writing, it got away from me and took on a life of its own. The line that was repeated the most after the presentation on Thursday night was this: "You are not en route. You are already here." As I've been thinking over the past few days of dealing with challenging children and my own need to take a deep breath so much in my life, it's a good reminder to myself: this is what I wanted, this life, with children who want nothing as much as to stand in the middle of a parking lot tracing the stenciled letters on the ground, or to take a 90-minute bath because they're just enjoying looking at the faucet, or to play and play and play at the park until the sun goes down. When I dreamed of having kids, it was not a dream of typing at my laptop in a coffee shop without them, no, it was the journey that was my dream, the struggle and the joy, the books read over and over and over. The video of my talk is after the jump; you can link to other Ignite talks here at Blip.tv (I love this one on chickens; this one on taking the bus; and this one on being a refugee).

Continue reading "Take a deep breath and bike" »

Tomorrow: Int'l Walk & Bike to School Day

October 07, 2008


International Walk and Bike to School day is coming up on October 8th, this Wednesday. This is a one-time, state-wide event in which many schools participate. 90 schools throughout Oregon are signed up to promote healthy lifestyles by walking and biking to school. For more information on the program, see the Walk + Bike web site.

Are you in?

Mamas on bikes: Dreaming of a Japanese future

September 24, 2008


I had just left Everett's school and was headed to a coffee shop to work for a few hours. The only way to get to where I was going without riding several blocks out of my way was to travel a few blocks on Division, from 71st to about 74th.

It was a lovely calm morning; there was little traffic, mostly just mamas on their way home from dropping kids off at school, people headed to work late, delivery trucks. The eastbound lanes were nearly empty. A minivan drove up in the left lane behind me; we were the only ones on the road for several blocks.

"Get off the road!" she said. The driver of the minivan, as clear as a bell, bitter and self-righteous. I didn't see her face, nor could I see her license plate (Everett broke my glasses last week and I haven't had the cash to replace them yet), so there was nothing to be done but yell back. I shouldn't have, but I was shaking with anger.

Continue reading "Mamas on bikes: Dreaming of a Japanese future" »

Kidical Mass: coming to a neighborhood near you

August 01, 2008


** updated with new ride locations ** check back for full route details **

photo credit: Jonathan Maus of bikeportland.org

Critial Mass started with a group of 45 people in San Francisco in 1992. Now, the ride is a monthly event in cities all around the world to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists’ right to the road.

Of course, We here at urbanMamas believe that kids and families are cyclists too! A very new effort to this end has started in Eugene, OR in August 2008.  Kidical Mass is a ride to help kids and families feel comfortable riding on our streets, especially as a larger group. Here in Portland, we’ve already had two successful Kidical Mass rides, both starting in the North Park Blocks in downtown Portland.  Rides are being organized in Tulsa, OK, Ashland, OR, Bend, OR, and Toronto, Canada.

We want to bring Kidical Mass to our neighborhoods.  urbanMamas is organizing Kidical Mass rides in N/NE Portland, SE Portland, and NW Portland (the original Portland Kidical Mass ride). 

What will you expect at Kidical Mass?

  • A safety talk before we start riding
  • A 3-4 mile guided ride on our neighborhood streets
  • No child left behind!  We will make sure we have a sweeper biker to bring up the rear
  • Tons of families and children riding with trailers, Xtracycles, tag-alongs/trail-a-bikes, bike seats, and kids riding on their own bikes
  • Maps, brochures, information, bike decor for the kids
  • A post-ride potluck picnic at the park where we can meet other urbanFamilies and chat about our summers, bike rides, and other Portland family fun

What should you bring?

  • Tricked out and decorated bikes.  Bring your bike bling!
  • Your helmets
  • A picnic for your family post-ride
  • Bring something to share, if you wish!

Mark your calendars now:

Kidical Mass in Portland's neighborhoods
Friday, August 15th

N/NE: Peninsula Park (meet at the NE corner of the park at N. Rosa Parks and N. Kerby).  The ride will run South on N. Kerby, west on N. Ainsworth, north on Delaware to Arbor Lodge Park, then loop back to Peninsula Park for potluck picnicking.

SE: Sunnyside School (meet at the playground near 35th and Taylor; here is the route map)

SE: Sellwood Park by the pool.  The ride will head north up the Springwater Corridor then back into North Sellwood. Perfect for those pulling trailers or bringing little ones on their micro bikes. Maps will be available for folks.

NW: North Park Blocks (meet by the playground)

SW: Meeting at Capitol Hill Elemenetary and ride a total of 1.4 miles to Gabriel Park.  At Gabriel Park there will be watermelon (and possibly a watermelon drop?) and a potluck.  Bring your bikes.  Bring some food and drink.  Oh, and bring your kids to KIDICAL MASS!

6:00PM gather
6:15PM Safety Talk & Ride!
7:00PM Post-Ride Potluck Picnic

Can't make it for the ride?  Bring out your family and feel free to join us for the post-ride potluck picnic.  It's open to all!  Planning to come?  RSVP in the comments for any of the rides.  We want to know how many bikey treats & swag to bring.  Want to help guide, plan, or organize a ride?  Shoot us an email at urbanMamas@gmail.com 

Cycling while pregnant: Have you?

July 12, 2008

There are mamas among us who love to bike, even while pregnant.  Shout outs to the urbanMama photographed here, at 8 months pregnant (photo credit to Jonathan Maus of bikeportland.org).  Colleen recently emailed, though, and would like to hear from all of you: Have you biked while pregnant?  Did you stop biking during pregnancy?


I bike to and from work each day (just under 6 miles each way) and it's a gift. I'm able to squeeze in some exercise without having to set aside time (read: w/o having to wake up even earlier than my two-year-old and/or sacrifice time spent with her) and by doing something that I have to do anyway (get to and from work). It also keeps me sane during the winter months.

We are now considering adding to our family, but I'm concerned about whether or not my daily bike ride would be ok while pregnant. Since finding time to exercise wasn't much of an issue pre-baby #1, and cycling to and from anywhere wasn't possible in the town in which we were living at the time, this is a new complication. And frankly, giving up this part of my life up, even for a short period of time, is potentially a real sanity breaker for me.

I expect this is something that I'd have to cover with my care provider, but I'm wondering what other cycling urbanMamas have done. If you continued to cycle, what was your experience like?  Did the shift in your center of gravity throw you off?  Did your belly get in the way of your legs while pedaling?  Did you get weird stares?

Sunday Parkways, a HIT!

June 24, 2008

*photo courtesy Jonathan Maus, www.bikeportland.org

For months we'd been waiting with bated breath for the day had 6 miles of neighborhood streets, car-free.  When the day finally came, we could hardly believe it was true.  We joined thousands of other bikers and walkers to take back our streets.  The streets were packed!  The feeling was overwhelming, and everyone on the street shared some healthy fun.  I felt wonderful with the feeling that my 7-year old could ride her bike freely in the streets, not having to worry about a car zooming past. 

Were you there?  Share thoughts?  Did you and your family have a great time?

When did babe start riding in the trailer/bike seat?

May 30, 2008

The urbanMamas are a biking bunch.  We come across mamas emailing often for advice and tips on biking as a family.  A recent email came in from a mama, anxious to get back to riding after babe was born.

We are a biking family.  Or were.  My husband and I used to love how bike friendly Portland is.  We could go anywhere without a car.  Now we have a five week old little baby and I feel tied to the carseat.  We already have a hand-me-down Burley trailer from a fellow bike loving family, but I am afraid it will be years before we are ok to use it.  I know all children have to wear helmets on bikes or in trailers, and the idea of finding a helmet small enough, let alone getting it on her, let alone having it do anything at all . . Obviously, we want to be as safe as possible.  Do you have any advice?

How early did your babe start riding while you biked?  What did you do to find a helmet that fit the littlest babes?

Our first week on the Walk & Bike Challenge

May 11, 2008

The first five days of the Walk & Bike Challenge are done.  Over 30 schools are signed up and I hear some school communities are starting out with a bang!  The month of May also coincides with PDOT-promoted Bike to Work month, with events throughout May like guided beginner level rides, fun events with free food, and commuting workshops.  The double motivation is working for us and - especially with the fair whether out last week - we are seeing so many more folks walking and biking.

With all this biking going on, it can be so daunting to start trying bike commuting, especially as a family.  While we've tried to chronicle some of our own experiences with family biking, another great resource are upcoming workshops (remaining dates May 12 in SE, May 15 in Downtown, May 22 outer SE) "Getting Started in Family Bike Commuting."

Nervous about mounting a bicycle with little ones? Confused by all the options for carrying kids on bicycles?  The BTA's Family Biking Commute Workshops discuss the common challenges that families face when considering bike commuting. They are also a place for seasoned bicyclists to learn more about commuting with kids and share what they know about commuting with new riders.

For our family, after such a loooooooong winter and lots of wet, we have been driving more than biking in past weeks.  Last week, however, we were motivated by the Walk & Bike Challenge and here was our play-by-play for our famiy of four:

  • Monday: we all biked
  • Tuesday: we all drove
  • Wednesday: one parent took the bus with one child; one parent biked with the other child
  • Thursday: we all biked
  • Friday: one parent biked with one child; one parent drove with the other child

How did you fare in the first week of the Walk & Bike Challenge?  Did you find many other families participating?  Is your school not signed up?  You can still sign up here!  What are some challenges that keeps you from walking, biking, or riding the bus to school?

Stimulate this! Great ideas for using your economic stimulus package

April 29, 2008

As soon as I heard about Bush's Economic Stimulus plan, I started in with the subversion. I'd use my stimulus check to buy things, but entirely not the things Bush and big retail corporations wanted me to. My debit card wouldn't be swiped at Target or Sears or Olive Garden; with the whopping $2,100 my family will get (we have three children) I wouldn't buy a single gallon of premium unleaded gas, nor sink a nickel into video poker machines (I'm scandalized and saddened that's where Oregon's kicker went). No. I'd buy things that would work gently against big government and big big oil.

I made a promise to myself that I would spend my economic stimulus money on things that would save me from spending future fossil fuels, future money and future greenhouse gases. I decided I would invest my stimulus package into my little urban homestead's soil, air, and food stores. I'd get off the grid, just a bit, I'd use it to live lighter. I made a list of ideas and (helped by a substantial tax rebate) I've already started in on it. Do you have any ideas to add to the list? Where will your stimulus package go?

Continue reading "Stimulate this! Great ideas for using your economic stimulus package" »

Take the Walk + Bike Challenge to Your School!

April 21, 2008

2289995925_40f4d85cf6_mWe know that all of the talks of bike and the Portland bike culture can be a bit alienating for some, but here's an opportunity to take the baby steps needed to bike and walk.  Need a little inspiration?  Sponsored by the BTA:

Oregon Walk + Bike to School has an exciting event happening in May. For the first time ever, we are extending the spirit of Walk + Bike Day into an entire month! In the style of the BTA's successful Bike Commute Challenge, all over the Portland area elementary students will be challenged to walk or bike to school as much as they can over the month of May. Once a week, a school champion will gather student scorecards and find out who's walking and biking! 

This event can be as robust or as simple as suits your school. Oregon Walk + Bike provides: posters, small incentive items, student scorecards, and tips on making your event successful.  Every student that walks or bikes at each registered school is eligible for raffle prizes. The winning school will receive a free class of the BTA's Award-Winning Bicycle Safety Education curriculum in the fall of 2008 (up to 32 students).

Continue reading "Take the Walk + Bike Challenge to Your School!" »

Sunday Parkways: Ciclovia Portland-Style

April 11, 2008

Rebsbike_2The city of Bogota ciclovia is inspiring. Every Sunday over 70 miles of city streets are opened up to promote and encourage biking, walking, skating and physical activity.  On June 22, 2008, Portland is hosting on it's own mini-ciclovia with 6 mile circuit in North Portland closed to traffic.  We'd love to try to organize some type of urbanMamas event in conjunction with Sunday Parkways.  Should it be a urbanFamily ride and parade?  Should we help to organize a demonstration of family-bike set ups?  What should we do?  What would help you to ride more as a family? We'd love to hear your ideas. And if you want to help us coordinate, that would be lovely as well!

[Photo Jonathan Maus, published under Creative Commons license]

Outfitting the Family Bike Setup On a Budget

March 27, 2008


We personally still often refer to Jonathan's post on bikeportland.org.  He's got some great pictures of trail-a-bike/trailer combos, Xtracycle, tandems, etc.  We've also talked about great lengths about bicycling on urbanMamas, and with the weather hopefully turning the corner, you will see more families biking around town.  Shayne is looking to start her family down this path.  Do have any advice for finding a good set up for the family on a budget?  She emails:

So we know Portland is the most bike friendly city in the US but how does a family get started?  We have a 2 year old and a 7 year old and are wanting to get the family bike setup on a budget.  We were thinking of looking on Craigslist or at a used bike shop but we don't really know what to look for. Things we should be wary of? Also, is it worth it to try and take the bikes places on your car? Any tips for the best ways to do that?  Great trails?

Bike Commuting with a reluctant child

October 09, 2007

It's wonderful to live in a city where biking and walking to school isn't just a one day affairSafe Routes for Schools is an ongoing, year-round program to offer support to parents and kids who bike and walk to school.  And, urbanMamas are teaming with the BTA right now to come up with even more ways we support our grassroots efforts to take alternative modes of transportation, as families, every day to school and work.

Even with these programs in play, we may not always have the children who want to come along for the ride.  Our family bikes to school probably 70% of the time (so far this year), and the bus or car days are real treats.  Some mornings, they beg to drive to school.  Janice is encountering similar resistance:

My husband bike commutes and I’m trying to bike more and drive less, but my eight-year-old is reluctant. And if you’ve ever biked with a reluctant kid, you understand the true meaning of “passive-aggressive”! Who knew pedals could ever turn that slowly?

Anyway, we already have a system where he earns a reward for every 10 cheerful rides, but now that’s not enough. I’m looking for tips on motivation and equipment (any knitting patterns for child-sized lobster-claw mittens out there?...and I'd also love to chat with other uMamas about safety, routes, and benefits.)

I have to go pick him up from school now (with the car, since he was “too tired” to bike this morning), but I’m really looking forward to some help from this great bike-friendly community!

Suggestions for motivation?  Getting the kids out on the bike lanes, especially when it's cold and sort of damp?  What's your best rainy-day outfit?  Best "I-don't-wanna" treat?

Will you Bike or Walk to School?

October 01, 2007

This Wednesday, October 3, is the 2007 Bike & Walk to School Day.  In an effort to get in our faces, grab our attention, and/or shame us into walking or biking, a Willy Week editorial reads, "Driving is Lazy".  With Portland Public Schools offering school choice wherein many families opt for schools beyond their neighborhood schools, it may not be as easy to just walk or bike to school.

There are 37 or so participating schools in Portland, both public and private.  Is your school on the list?  Even if it isn't, will you be able to walk or bike to school?  Carpool or take the bus/MAX? 

Will you be pedaling across the bridges?

August 08, 2007

It's the family bike event of the year, the Bridge Pedal is here!Bridge_pedal  With three route options - the 10 bridge (36 miles), the 8 bridge (24 miles) and the 6 bridge (14 miles), organizers estimate 20,000 participants to register.  And don't forget the stride (5 mile walk that includes crossing the Broadway and Steel Bridges)!   Start times begin at 7am (for the 10- or 8- bridge rides) and run until 9:30am (for the 6-bridge rides).

In previous years, the thousands and thousands of riders of all ages and levels have resulted in bottlenecks, accidents, and complaints.  I know some families who are discouraged and even afraid to ride the event, opting to leave their bike riding to their daily commutes with or without kids.  I know families (like ourselves) who keep coming back for more, even if the ride can be wrought with difficulties and some frustrations.  The views and the thrills from up top of the Marquam and Fremont bridges just can't be beat!

Will you be riding?  What are tips and tricks for the rest of the family riders?

Biker Chic

August 07, 2007

What with three other urbanMamas going low-car, I've been giving thought to switching to a bike commute, maybe once a week or so.  But it's one thing to commute from close-in to downtown and quite another to go from close-in to Gresham, so it's taking me a while to work out the kinks (especially with carrying a baby in a trailer!).  One thing that I don't have to consider too much is how to dress once I get there.  Luckily at work we have individual bathrooms with sink and mirror, so freshening up isn't too hard to do.  Along with spare clothes, I would pack a washrag, some soap, and a small hand towel.  To be honest at my workplace they probably wouldn't notice if I dressed in pajamas, so I don't have that much appearance to keep up.  In a pinch, after a run, I might use one of those instant facial soapy rags to wash up.  Suzame is about to jump back into the working mama pool and asks this question of other bike-commuting mamas:

After nearly a year off I'm returning to work full time (Yay! and Boo-hoo! all at the same time). My patience during the search resulted in me landing a job downtown, just slightly two miles from my house in NE. I'm excited (and nervous) about joining the ranks of Portland's bike commuters, and plan on finding a workshop to get tips on how to make the ride safe. (I'm a bit nervous about riding in traffic down Broadway and back, but it's the quickest route for me.)
But what I REALLY want to know is -- how you show up for work looking good? I already got my hair chopped off so that it'll always look stylishly mussed (at least, I hope so). It's a short ride (maybe 10 minutes) and most of it is flat, so I don't anticipate working up too much of a sweat. But I'm definitely showering at home and doing make-up before I leave, and hopefully either arriving at work with a quick change of clothes or wearing my work clothes during the ride. But that depends on me finding decent business casual clothes that I don't mind biking in. I'd love to hear from other mamas who ride their bikes to work -- how do you do it and manage to look pulled together all day?

Do you have any fashion tips for the biking working mama?

How to find a child's stolen bike?

August 06, 2007

How sad is this?  Any ideas for finding a child's stolen bike?

My 7-year-old daughter's bike was stolen from in front of our house today. I realized, too, late how "valuable" it is, at least to her. The bike isn't worth much money at all, is old, has a torn banana seat. It's vintage, I suppose, but battered, and its true value is in the fact that Eugenia learned to ride on it (in two hours flat! without training wheels!), loves it dearly, and rides it daily. While I think of myself as a pacifist, I find myself wishing karmic retribution on a massive scale for the person [I almost used a much, uh, earthier, word] who stole her beloved bike. But I'm trying to put my energies to more positive use. I've registered the bike as stolen on finetoothcog.com, which searches for stolen bikes on the internet, via Craigslist and eBay. Is there anything else I'm missing here? It seems unlikely that reporting it to the police will help, am I right? Or should I try? We don't have a serial number or anything like that.

In the meantime, if anyone sees a beat-up old child's red sparkly Schwinn Stingray with a torn banana seat, please alert this mama (who will do anything I can to find it). I know a heartbroken, tearstained little girl who would be very grateful for its return.

The Trials and Tribulations of Being Car Free

July 25, 2007

Dsc_0590 When fellow urbanMama Olivia and I signed up for the Low-Car Diet Challenge, I was really enthused.  I didn't think it through entirely, but reducing the use of our family car has been in the back of my mind for a long time.  When the challenge started a few weeks ago, it didn't feel so bad.  I was already commuting by bike and bus to work.  My husband and I just needed to integrate the bike into our childcare drop-off and pick-up routine; and social activities.  When he was around for week one, it worked beautifully sharing the load between the two of us.

Snafu 1: Reality hit with week 2 when the weather turned rainy, the week was jammed with early morning work engagements, and a husband / father that was 5000 miles away for work.  Mentally, I had to change gears and really focus and plan how I would it make through the next two weeks without an extra set of legs (that are made for pedaling) around to share in the hauling.  The main blip was the rain.  Cole stayed nice and dry in the trailer, and Carter in his nice waterproof breathable rain coat and pants, while I was a soaking mess.  When I retold my sob story, most recommended "You should get fenders."  Ahem, I do have fenders, but they certainly don't keep your lower body dry. Solution 1: It's only rain!  After I stopped pouting, I wiped myself dry in the bathroom and changed.  When I heard others complain about the traffic and their miserable commute into work, I realized that the rain only delayed me only a few minutes and I made it to my meeting on time.

Snafu 2: The other major issue?  The Eastside is hilly, you don't notice it quite as much from the comforts of your car.  It also finally occurred to me that my commute distance had doubled and that I was biking 10 miles each day, most of it hauling children.  No wonder why my legs were aching, and I was a sweaty mess when I arrived to work!   Solution 2: I made sure I was out of the door by 7:30 am on day I had to moderate an 8:30 am session.  I wiped myself dry with a towel, put on some deodorant, pulled my hair back and changed into work clothes. I hung up my wet clothes in the bathroom and left them there to dry.  Who would want to steal my stinky clothes?

Snafu 3: To top the whole experience off so far in week 3, I got a flat tire after dropping kid number two off.  I left my pump in the trailer left at kid number 1's daycare, and the my back up bikes had flats as well.  Solution 3: I walked the bike to the local bike shop (they're awesome!) and worked from home.

Should I give up?  Should I be discouraged?  The good comes with the bad, and practice makes perfect.  The more I bike, the easier it seems.  It's been a few weeks, and I've found that I've developed a biking rhythm.  And those pre-pre-pregnancy shorts that I kept around from 4 years ago?  I can now slide into them.

What are your tips for biking more and driving less?  How did you go about venturing into more biking activities?  If you're a casual biker, what are some of your fears?  We want to hear from you!

My first day on the Low Car Diet: Everyone loves the trail-a-bike

July 10, 2007

This morning, I was in a tizzy to get Philly to summer camp on time and in a tizzy to get to the Low Car Diet kick-off on time.  We set up the bikes in traditional train formation: my bike, connected to the trail-a-bike/tag-along, connected to the trailer.  In a rush, I heaved my way five miles from our N PDX home to NW Portland, to Philly's summer camp.

The problem of the morning: My girls fight over who rides the tag-along.  Now that the girls, ages 3.5 Trail_a_bikeand 6.5, are both happiest pedaling on tag-alongs; no one wants to sit in the trailer.  Sad, lonely trailer!  This morning, our biggest girl, 6.5 year old Philly, "let" her little sister have the privilege of pedaling, so I had the privilege of hauling around 45 pounds of Philly in the trailer the five miles from home to summer camp.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.  Sure the trailer can handle loads up to 100 pounds, but can ya handle pulling those 100 pounds??

Continue reading "My first day on the Low Car Diet: Everyone loves the trail-a-bike" »

Bike for uMamas & uPapas

June 14, 2007

When it comes to the family bike ride, there are bike trailers, there are bike tag-alongs, but - of course - there are also the adult bikes that pull them!  Can you give Meliah some tips on what sorts of bikes would be good for an urbanMama and urbanPapa?  Any advice on where to get them?
One of the things I love about living in Portland is the vast array of transportation options. I am fortunate enough to live in a great downtown location where we don't have to drive to much at all. With the summer setting in and our oldest one getting to that age where bike riding is a feasible thing for him on his own, we've been talking about purchasing bikes for the family.   Here's the thing: I am a total novice when it comes to this field! I sold my bike when I was 14 and haven't been on one since (not even the stationaries at the gym). I obviously have no interest in putting myself or my family at risk of any kind so I'm wondering if there are some urbanMamas out there who can help me out.
  • WHAT KIND OF BIKE/S AM I LOOKING FOR?  We are buying mostly for pleasure riding (along the waterfront/sauvies island/mt. hood trails, etc). I know NOTHING about bicycles and don't want to get ripped off or end up buying something inappropriate for what we need. Just something functional, basic and reliable.
  • BUYING.  When it comes to actually purchasing a bike, where can we go to get what we need for a bargain price? The pocketbook will dictate a lot of what we can and cannot do on this matter.