41 posts categorized "Transit"

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.

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" »

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.

"Distracted Driving is an Epidemic": What to say to a distracted driver?

April 16, 2012

Do you talk & drive?  April is National Distracted Driving Month.  A recent survey (*pdf here) tells us that almost all passengers in vehicles where the driver is texting or emailing felt "very unsafe". The survey also shows us that younger passengers (between ages of 18 and 25) are less likely to speak up to their drivers than older counterparts.

I have been a passenger in a cab when I have felt uncomfortable speaking up, even though I know full well "one text or call could wreck it all".  I feel like I am less often a passenger in a vehicle where I feel unsafe, although my husband does have a habit of checking the phone (or iPod, more often) at the stop light.

If you were a passenger where the driver was on the phone, what have you said?  What can we do to encourage more drivers to lose the distractions?  For those of you with children approaching driving age, how to you advise them to drive without distraction?

For more great info: see www.distraction.gov

TriMet Fare Proposal Forces Families on the Road

February 08, 2012

When I first clicked on a link to TriMet's fare increase survey, I looked over the options with growing fear. Where was the choice that would give TriMet more revenue -- but not make my daily riding vastly more expensive? I'd be happy to pay, say, 40 cents more per ticket for my own ride, especially if I could get more (a longer transfer, maybe), or even buy day tickets if I had a great option for my family -- wouldn't it be great if an $8 ticket would allow one adult and all her children to ride for a whole day? This weekend, for instance, I had made plans to pick up one of Everett's friends, who lives more than six miles from us -- neither family has a car. We were going to meet at the intersection of our bus line and theirs, and I was going to return with four kids. This sort of time-consuming trip would be ok, I thought, if I didn't have to pay so much to bring her back home ($1.50 for each kid under today's rates = a lot for one four-mile bus ride. Each way).

Continue reading "TriMet Fare Proposal Forces Families on the Road" »

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?

Unaccompanied Minors in Transit

July 14, 2011

We have long taken transit throughout the city as a means to get to school, work, activities, and recreation.  Our TriMet Trekker group at school has further instilled confidence and familiarity of our transit system.  We have coordinated to have another school parent, who lives further out on our bus line, collect our kids as we deposit them onto the bus, unaccompanied, and that chaperoning parent has walked them the four blocks to their school.

Now, we have started to experiment with the kids taking the bus without an accompanying adult.  A few weeks ago, at the start of summer break, we sent three kids – ages 14 (a visiting relative, a non-Portlander), 10, and 7 – on the bus from our house to go to Powell’s Books.  This is a familiar bus line, as we work and go to school blocks from Powell’s.  They know where to get off (NW Davis) and where to walk so there would be crosswalks at lighted intersections.  They made it to Powell’s, bought a couple of books each with their saved allowance, then also had lunch at a restaurant, funded also by their allowance.

Yesterday, our eldest (the 10 year-old) and her friend (an 8 year-old) took the bus home from their summer camp.  It was one bus line (no transfers) and I met them at the stop where they de-boarded, as that stop is almost a mile from our house.   Once I was sure they were off the bus and across a busy intersection, I went ahead home on my bike and had them walk the rest of the way home alone.

I have some guidelines:

  • Go in groups; stay together.  Go to the bathroom together.  (In fact, try not to use the bathroom when you’re out!)
  • Sit in the front of the bus near the driver. 
  • Don’t jaywalk (even if mama might do so every now and then)

I repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat to them to be vigilant and cautious.  I have once mentioned to them the possibility that they could just be snatched up in a second and taken to a bad place.  There is a fine line between scaring the kids and letting them know that independence is very serious.  I catch myself when I start to rattle off scary stories.  The last thing are grown children who are so afraid to leave the house if I scare them so.

These are very, very big steps for us.  I recall the day when I first let the toddler out of my sight.  It was so scary; it was in the supermarket.  And, now, not only is she out of my sight, she is way out of my sight, possibly miles away.  I don’t deny that I have pangs of anxiety when I think about the what-ifs (there could be so, so many).  At times, I wonder if it is too early for this sort of independence.  Other times, I feel that it is the right time to learn this level of self-sufficiency.  We know families whose kids have started bussing on their own at this age (perhaps even slightly younger than 10) due to necessity - working parents unable to drop off/pick up at school made it a requirement for kids to get themselves to and fro on their own.  It's a bit of a luxury for us to be able to control when the kids start to transit solo, how far, and how frequently.

Are you there yet with your kids?  Have they gone out to take a walk to the store or park on their own?  Have they taken the bus or MAX or biked solo across miles to get to their desintation?  What are your guidelines for them as they venture out?

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" »

A Stroller on TriMet MAX: Please Park Here

April 25, 2011


For the past several years, we have used the urbanMamas community to discuss, collect, and share feedback on the TriMet system and how it has (and how it hasn't) worked for parents taking transit with their children.  There was that great conversation "Is TriMet family friendly?"  One question many parents have wondered: where should I park my stroller when I board the MAX?  I don't take MAX with a stroller often, but - when I do - I will often just roll on and lock my wheels in the middle of the car because it can so hard to try to maneuver anywhere else.  There was the instance, too, when the MAX once screeched to a halt and my sleeping babe strapped-in-stroller was toppled and chucked a few feet down the car.

As an extension of our online conversations, we have had ongoing conversations with TriMet management and staff, in person, to discuss ways that we can make the system more family-friendly, more family-welcoming.

Well, they have taken some steps.  While arguably not the biggest institutional update, they added a visual that lets us know where we should roll with our babes in strollers.  Previously, the area near the bike hooks displayed a visual that only invited bikes to hang in that area.  Now, apparently, bikes, luggage, and strollers are all eligible occupants of the area.

I like it.  I think I will feel a little less ambiguous or aimless when I board MAX when I see signage that tells me where I might like to situate.  There is hearty conversation over at bikeportland.org regarding the new signs.

What do you think?  Do the signs make a difference?  Are they a good attempt to promote more riding among families?  Do these new visuals matter to you?

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?

TriMet Trekkers: our newest, youngest commuters

March 29, 2011

Our kids' public charter school is in central Portland, drawing students from all quadrants of the city.  Part of its charter is to be located in that part of the city to be accessible to transit lines. Families commute to school using a variety of transportation options: personal vehicle, carpools, bike, foot, bus, train. 

Our school was one of 25 schools nationwide to be awarded a mini-grant from the National Center for Safe Routes to School.  Our $1,000 award would be used toward safety gear (reflective vests or blinky lights or first aid kids for groups of families walking or biking to school).  But, a large portion of our grant would fund - what we coined - the "TriMet Trekkers".

The intent would be to gather children in convenient clusters, who lived near one another, and have one adult chaperon a group of children on the bus or train together.  Our grant would pay for the transit tickets for the adult leader and any children in the group.  The idea was similar to "bike trains" or a walking school bus: traveling in groups can be safer and funner.

We launched our TriMet Trekker groups a couple of months ago, and my husband leads the one from our neighborhood.  Every Friday morning, at a specified intersection at a specified time, there are usually 7 children that he corals onto the bus, off the bus, and walks in to school.  Parents love being able to walk/drop off their kids down the street; the kids love being able to ride the bus to school with friends.  It's a small thing, but I love that there are 7 less mamas & papas having to drive their kids into school.  I love that the kids all clump in the back of the bus and chatter about schoolmates.  I love that the kids become confident getting on the bus and walking four blocks to their school.  

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" »

Do you travel by transit with kids? Do tell.

November 16, 2010

Bus-sign425ah060910 A few years ago, we talked extensively about what it's like to ride the bus and the train 'round here with the kids in tow (and we aren't the only ones).  Some stories were positive, some not so much

As a result of our lively online conversations, we actually sat down with the good folks at Tri-Met to talk about riding with kids  - and how to make that process a little smoother.  We were pleased that they created a 'riding with kids' web page to offer up advice and explain the rules to those of us trying or having to make a go of it (thinking they should make a brochure of it and post it on the buses, where riders are more liekly to see it - you?).

Of course, there are many other types of riders with unique needs and challenges, ranging from people using wheelchairs to bikers and folks with canes, dogs, and grocery walkers (among many others) - some rightly protected by law. 

I now ride Tri-Met a whole lot less (had another kid, attend 2 schools, got a bike), but I'm curious: how goes it for you?  If you were to constructively suggest a change or two that would make riding public transit more appealing for us kid caregivers, what would they be? And if you have experiences or examples from other cities (in the US or abroad) that you think Tri-Met should consider, bring 'em on.  We just might share 'em with Tri-Met -- again!

Mine are:

  • SEATING. Add a sticker in the priority seating area to suggest that riders make seats available for pregnant women and caregivers with young children who may have trouble standing on a moving bus/train.
  • STROLLERS. Don't make us fold our strollers; yes, it's tidier and takes less space for others, but often it involves waking a sleeping infant, unpacking the groceries/laundry/work folders/younameit, and then some -- usually with one hand! And if you want me to fold it, please provide a space to put it besides shoved under the seats.

[Thanks to conbon33 & Flickr for image of what could be...]

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?

On TriMet: bus-riding is "active transportation" too

May 06, 2010

As we prepared for the start of Walk & Bike Challenge Month, I looked at the weather.  Rain is not a stranger to us.  As it started to pour on cue on Monday morning at 8am, I was glad that riding the bus is considered active transportation too.  Recently, I went back to my oldest daughter's baby book (at almost 10 years old, she's hardly a baby anymore!), where I wrote of fond moments of the two of us riding the bus:

[August 13, 2006] ....  some of our greatest moments are our afternoons on transit heading back home.  When I pick you up from aftercare, you say, "Are we taking the #19 [Glisan] or #20 [Burnside] today, mama?"  Either bus line is up a *steep* hill from your school, and I drag you up the hill running, and you pant "I. can't. do. it. mama..."  Most times, we make our bus and we settle into our seats (your favorite spot is the row on the mezzanine level toward the back) where we eat snacks [admittedly not allowed on buses], talk, knit or write notes.  I really cherish this time with you.  It's our quality time together.  We both slept yesterday on the bus, leaning on one another's shoulders.  It was so restful, so delicious, to sleep cozily on the warm bus.  When I woke you up, you were only discombobulated for a few moments.  You quickly acclimated to being awake, and we skipped down the street to your sister's school, where you told everyone, "I fell asleep on the bus.  It felt like I was sleeping for a whole hour!"

I thought I would share the excerpt.  I have such fond, fond moments, intimate moments even, from riding the bus with the kids.

Are you a jay-mama/jay-papa?

December 11, 2008

Walk signalI'm in a hurry.  Always in a hurry.  The other day, when I was trying to rush around running errands during my lunch break, I dashed across busy Burnside, even though I was facing a blaring blinking red hand, signaling me to stay where I was.  I wasn't through crossing the street when the cross traffic was given their green, and car almost clipped my heels as I scurried across to the other side.

It occurred to me that I think I am a chronic jaywalker.  I pay little attention to the flashing red hand, but for to somewhat gauge whether I can make it across in a nick of time or not.  I can't say that my habits are any better when I'm with my kids.  And, I know it's awful.

I must not be the only mama-culprit to jaywalk.  Do you walk, even if you're told: "Don't"?

A ride to PDX Int'l: Taxis with Carseats?

November 24, 2008

Gearing up for holiday travel, urbanMamas want to know: how do you get to PDX airport without having to check-in the carseat?

My husband and I are taking our 6+ month old daughter to Connecticut for Christmas and are hoping to avoid having to bring a car seat along.  We have one waiting for us at the other end (thanks grandma!).  Our plan was to take either a taxi or shuttle to the airport.  Does anyone know of a good company that will provide one?  From about half an hour of Google searches nothing comes up.  If we did have to bring out own, anyone have any experience with storing things in a locker at the airport?  Good/bad?

TriMet: The Update

November 22, 2008

Remember way back in early '08 when we talked a lot about riding Tri-Met with kids?  The joys, the challenges, the frustrations?  Well there's an update.  Not a massive one, not a wholesale overhaul (like on the London Tube), but progress.  Check it out on Activistas.  And thanks, mamas, for weighing in, because without everyone's thoughtful, experience-based comments, we'd have never landed at a table with 12+ Tri-Met staffers.  You go! 

Teensy-tiny cars: Squeezing the Family In

June 08, 2008

Ccc1964 My kids and I have been chuckling recently over those teeny three-wheeled cars - they're so, well, cute.  And pretty awkward to look at if the only three-wheeled vehicle you're ever seen is a tricycle!  But I read with interest the recent issue of the O's Drive Time, which highlighted the teeniest cars ever.  And, just to really hammer it home for me, I keep driving by Ecomotion, Portland's very own teeny electric car dealership, on NE Sandy (@ 16th) - in my HUGE and totally inefficient 4-door sedan.  Thing is, we're a family of four!  How to pack us in one of these lean, green machines is beyond me.  But I want to.  Biking is great and all, and I dream often of Sarah's Xtracyle, but for many of us reality = car.  But the old 20-miles/gallon beast with huge (needed?) trunk is looking pretty BIG these days.  Anyone else wonder how we families can get in on this tiny trend? 

The high cost of gas

May 29, 2008

Gas_5 Our family took a nice little road trip for the recent three-day weekend.  On our way home, when we stopped for gas, I was aghast to see what we were paying at the pump (in a town just north of Seattle, WA): $4.09 for regular unleaded.  It's happened  We’ve broken through another dollar point.  I thought to myself, “Are we the only family taking a road trip this weekend?  Are people staying home because of the high cost of gas?”

When we got home to a close-to-zero bank balance, it feels so urgent now: we are going to take the bus and bike more than ever!  It is time to reprogram Trimet’s transit tracker on my phone's speed dial and commit our favorite stop ID’s to memory. 

What about you?  With gas prices up around $4 per gallon, are you forced to make different transit arrangements?  Aside from biking, walking, or bussing, are there any other suggestions you have for being less car-reliant?  Do you have a way of connecting with other families at your school for carpool arrangements?  Have you given use of your personal car, opting for Zipcar or car rentals instead?

Our second week on the Walk & Bike Challenge

May 20, 2008

Last week, on the second week in the Walk & Bike Challenge, we learned to go multi-modal.  We were a one-parent family and felt the logistic challenge of getting two children to two different schools on the bus, foot, or bike.  We have a location near the school where we can store the bike safely.  Therefore, our week last week went like this:

  • Monday: we drove
  • Tuesday: we took the bus to the bike, biked to the schools.  After school we biked back the the bus, stored the bike, and took the bus home.
  • Wednesday: we took the bus to the bike, biked to the schools.  After school we biked to the bus, stored the bik, and took the bus to piano lessons, then took the bus home.
  • Thursday: we drove
  • Friday: we biked

This is the part of the year when we start to bike/bus more than we drive, which feels pretty gratifying.  Most of the wet and cold parts of the year, we only aim for one car-free day a week, and we are feeling really successful if we are able to have two, three, or even four (!) car-free days.

How are you doing with the Walk & Bike Challenge?  Have you gone multimodal with the family, piecing together walk, bus, and bike in one trip?  Are you noticing more families than week one participating at your school?

When Did (Would) You Let Your Kid Take Transit Solo?

May 13, 2008

When I ride the Max or the bus, I often times see kids riding on their way to or from school.  I've been curious as to when they started riding seeing as how public transit is also a form of busing kids to school, definitely much different than my suburbia experience back in the day.  I've been meaning to broach this topic on urbanMamas, and what better time than now especially in light of Lenore Iskenazy's fairly recent post on "Why I Let My 9-Year-Old Ride the Subway Alone"; where her son successfully navigates his first solo trip on the New York City Subway.  At what age did your kids venture out solo?  At what age would you let your kids venture out solo?  Is there a right age for allowing solo trips to school and/or their friends homes?

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?

Is Tri-Met Family-Friendly?

March 20, 2008

Bus So we've griped a wee bit about Tri-Met before.  And raved.  They do a lot of great things, can't deny it.  But... are they family-friendly?  We're talking a lot these days about how family-friendly P-town is...or isn't.  So why not hone in on one critical aspect that has a lot to do with family-friendliness - not to mention global warming, socio-economic status, and traffic, for starters.

Yes, mamas, I'm talking about public transportation.  Rachele wrote us recently about a bus riding experience that sounds all too familiar: think overloaded stroller, heavy kid(s), no space.  Head over to Activistas and read her letter to (and from!) Tri-Met.  Is this a non-issue, or something that should be changed?  Both bikes and strollers are large (even we can see that!), but both enable more folks to ride.  Gas is eeking ever closer to $4/gallon, so the bus is looking like a more important option for many.  What's a big-strollered mama to do?

Giving up the car

December 04, 2007

With the rain and winds and cold here, we have converted from a biking/mass transit family to a driving family.  Obsessed with how much direct and other social costs we were now incurring, I found the website The True Cost of Driving, which estimates that it costs about $1.19 per mile in a whole host of direct driver expenses as well as societal costs, such as costs of infrastructure or accidents.  For our 3.5 mile commute, this cost equates to just a little over two 2-zone TriMet tickets.  And, with our daughter now at 7 years of age, she also has to pay her bus fare, therefore making it cheaper to all drive together.  I suppose I am trying to rationalize that driving, in some cases, could cost about the same as taking mass transit?

Mardi is a mama who is not deterred by the thought of going car-free this winter.  She recently emailed:

I am currently obsessed about selling our two cars and am extremely interested in other families that have done so.

My husband wants to keep one car - just in case. I'm pregnant with my second child and I'd love to hear how families manage to go carless with kids. What do they do if they need a car, say if a child gets sick. Renting a car isn't really all that cheap, neither is Flexcar at $10 an hour.  Is bicycling around really practical in Portland when it rains so much?

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? 

The car-free family: Getting to the beach on the Amtrak bus

August 29, 2007

Walking_beach As you may have read (or heard on KBOO), my family has given up our car, preferring to ride the TriMet bus, walk, or bike with the kids. We love how connected we are to the community, we love that we save money on gas & insurance & maintenance, we love that we're being good to the earth! But it's really hard to, say, go to the beach. Or come back from the beach during Hood-to-Coast -- Jonathan and I were both delivered at the finish line by our respective vans, and the boys were delivered by their grandma. Umm... now what?

Martin and Larissa were in the same boat, more or less, as their family car went kaput. So we all put our Google fingers to work and discovered the Amtrak bus. (Yes! Amtrak has a bus!) Every evening, the bus leaves Union Station in downtown Portland at 6:20 p.m. and travels down Hwy 26, arriving in Astoria at 8:50 p.m., including stops in Cannon Beach, Seaside, and Astoria. You can request stops at Elsie, Manning, Necanicum Junction, Gearhart, and Warrenton, as well. The bus turns around the next morning, leaving Astoria at 8:30 a.m. and arriving in Portland's Union Station at 11:00 a.m.

We picked the bus up at 9 a.m. at Del's Chevron in Seaside, quickly loaded our two families' considerable gear, and took our comfy seats aboard the bus. Though the legroom wasn't amazing and the other passengers didn't seem entirely pleased when I had to pry a screaming Truman's hands off the steering wheel, the boys soon quieted down and we enjoyed a lovely ride back to Portland -- arriving on time! -- and then hopped the #17 bus home. A one-way ticket for an adult is $16, while children ages 2-16 are $8. Other bus lines go all over Oregon, from Salem to Corvallis to Bend to Newport. If you, too, are car-free by choice or by necessity, it's a good option for travelling with your family. Best of all, children under two are free and, on this trip at least, there was plenty of room to seat them beside us. I'd love to hear other stories about getting outside of the metropolitan area without a car!

"Name That Train"!

August 21, 2007

Fresh off the TriMet website:

Get on board now! Create a nickname for the new commuter rail in Washington County that opens fall 2008 and runs 14.7 miles between Beaverton and Wilsonville.

Enter TriMet's train-naming contest and you could win an annual TriMet transit pass valued at $836 and a preview ride next year on a commuter rail train, along with the everlasting glow of seeing your winning name on the rail vehicles and marketing materials for years to come. Remember, the winning name will be simple, fun and memorable.

Don't forget to read all the contest fine print!

Riding the Rails

August 08, 2007

urbanMama Heather is looking for more rails to ride for her three year old kiddo:

My three year old LOVES trains, streetcars and the like.  I am always looking for different train-type themed activities for us to do?  Anyone have any suggestions for train rides they loved, train themed parks, trains museums, etc. that might be more unknown or usual?  We have made our fair share of Amtrak, Max and Portland Streetcar rides.

There are several other events that come to mind.  First, after visiting the zoo this weekend, we should not forget the zoo train.  Occasionally the Oregon Heritage Rail Foundation has special events with our very cool steam and diesel engines.  Their ultimate goal in their events is to have a rail museum here in Portland sooner than later.  If you don't mind heading north across the Columbia River, then you could try the SP&S Railway Museum.  If you think he'd like to observe some miniature trains in action there are sometimes shows at the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad Club.  If you drive east you could catch a ride on the Mt Hood Rail Road.  Any moms have additional train-related event/activity suggestions for a three year old? 

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?

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!

Babes in Transit

July 12, 2007

After a crazy Day One of the Low Car Diet, we decided that Day Two should be on TriMet.  Since I am juggling working-from-home and spending quality time with our 3.5 yr old (her school is closed this week), we had a playdate at our house in the morning, which allowed enough diversion for me to get a few important things done.  After lunch and after our playdate left, we chose to walk the extra 15 minutes in the heat to the MAX, even though our bus line in a block away.

Why choose the MAX over the bus, when the MAX stop is further away and the MAX ride is longer?

  • (Almost) Guaranteed AIR CONDITIONING.  Not all buses have air-conditioning.  I learned the lesson one hot day last year, I made the mistake of thinking that all buses would be cool and decided to take an hour-long trip from our North Portland neighborhood to Kenilworth Park in the Southeast. The bus did not have air-conditioning, and we were sweltering.  Ugh.  So, the other day, when it broke 100 in Portland, we opted for the MAX.  The ride to downtown Portland is 20 or 25 minutes versus the 10 minutes on the bus.
  • Stroller Access.  Part of the goal of the walk to the train was to get my li'l nap-fighter down for a rest. It worked like a charm, and I can easily wheel up into the MAX train. On the buses, you're required to fold up the stroller.Babes_in_transit

So, we moseyed over to pick up our older daughter and her friend, and we played patty-cakes and "Miss Mary Mack" at the back of the bus. Good times, fun moments.

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" »

One uM & her Bike To Work Day 2007

May 16, 2007

...  psst ... head on over to the Activistas site to read more about One uM & her Bike To Work Day 2007 ....

Traffic Safety First

October 03, 2006

Now that our family has chosen bike/MAX/bus and walk as our major modes of transport, we're constantly irked by cars zooming and exceeding speed limits on our neighborhood streets, vehicles creeping up and blocking a crosswalk, careless drivers zipping out of driveways without even checking for pedestrians on the sidewalk first. We received an email from an editor Child Health Online, who is writing "Making Streets Safer For Our Children: 5 Ways To Get Your Traffic Safety Project Going."

Whether they are heading to school, walking to the park or just playing outside, children are at serious risk from speeding cars. Being hit by cars is the number one cause of death among kids 5-14 years old in many major cities. Some suggestions to address these issues include:

  1. Form a group or organizations to tackle the issue. Local governments are more apt to act quickly when being confronted by a group rather than individual
  2. Find out what type of traffic-calming programs your city currently has in place and apply for all appropriate programs. Even if you do not qualify, applying for them can provide necessary ammunition required for alternative actions.
  3. Learn about government grants for traffic calming projects in your area.
  4. Learn about the various traffic calming solutions available and choose the one best for your needs. A quick review of old and new methods for slowing traffic.
  5. Combine your efforts with other organizations looking to meet similar goals: school boards, bicycle safety clubs, neighborhood groups etc. There is power in numbers.

Mamas, what do you think childcares or preschools can specifically do to collaborate with neighborhoods or traffic safety groups to address these issues?

Get on Your Bike And Ride! (with the kids, of course . . .)

July 26, 2006

Portland, being the generally bike-friendly city that it is, has an amazing number of cyclists hitting the road with kids in tow.  Being left without a car and not having a bike meant getting around on Tri-met for about 6 months, but then the days got nicer and I started dreaming of feeling the wind in my hair.  Oh yeah, and our daughter was finally big enough to don a helmet and sit up straight for long stretches of time!  As she neared that 1-year milestone Jeremy and I got anxious to get on our bikes so I started looking around in earnest for a bike for myself and a way to haul our little bundle of joy. 

I ended up deciding on a hybrid bike (not a road or a mountain bike, but something with features of both) because sitting higher up makes it easier for me to glance behind and keep an eye on baby.  I'm sure I'll get comments from at least one hardcore road bike enthusiast who loves her steed, but after test riding lots of bikes over a few weeks I went with a KHS and have been more than satisfied.  A smooth ride for not a terrible lot of money.

As far as child-carrying devices go, there's a whole slew of options to choose from.  I grew up riding in a rear-mounted child seat on my mom's bike, as I'm sure many of you did, and there are still plenty of people using those.  They're nice because the child is close to you, but the main disadvantages are that the height make your center of gravity go way up, which can mean it's harder to maneuver at slow speeds, and in the (unthinkable) event of an accident, your baby will fall from a considerable height. 

An interesting variation on the rear-mounted bike is the front-mounted version, which is, apparently, quite popular in Europe.  I saw one on Woodstock the other day, so I'm sure they'll soon start popping up all over the place.  The advantages are that you can keep an eye on your child at all times, and in turn, they get to check out the view.  If you fall, chances are that you'll be able to cushion the impact for them, since they sit perched between your legs.  The down sides seems to be that the seats might interfere with long-legged parents' ability to pedal comfortably, and that the shorter people among us might have trouble seeing over and around baby's helmeted head.  A few different designs include the Safe-T-Seat, and the Bike Tutor.  Have you used one?  How do you like it?

After some discussion we decided to go with a bike trailer.  There seems to be consensus that they're the safest way to carry kids, since they're designed not to flip even if you and your bike do.  Plus, the better ones have roll bars and 5-point harnesses for the off chance that your little one goes for an unexpected spin.  Oh yeah, we also wanted one with a screen small enough to avoid spraying baby with road grit, as well as a sun shade so she wouldn't bake in the heat.  One of our other considerations, besides safety, was that, without a car, we'd need to pick up groceries, etc. while on our bikes.  Our trailer is rated to carry up to 100 lbs.  As it turns out, it also came in really handy when Jeremy was teaching a cooking class at a school in Gresham.  He would bike the Springwater Corridor to the Fred Meyer closest to the school, load up groceries for 15 kids, (they each received a grocery bag full of stuff to be able to try the recipes at home) and then ride to his class.  Keep in mind, he was doing this in the middle of winter.  So yeah, our Burley trailer is a champ. 

To choose a trailer we did a lot of research and essentially everyone said the same thing:  Burley's are the best.  Of course, they also happen to be three or four times as expensive as the kind you can pick up at Toys R Us.  We lucked out and had a couple relatives chip in to buy it for us as a (very generous) gift.  You can also find them used on craigslist or eBay since they're built to last a lifetime (though, of course the warranty is non-transferable).  We also decided to go for the model that can hold two kids, even though we're not exactly planning another yet, and now it means that I can go out biking with other mamas and carry one other kid. 

When I wrote about Tri-Met there were quite a few of you that commented about how much more complicated reality gets when you have more than one child.  If your kids are a little bigger, yet can't handle a long ride, I really like the Adams Trail-a-Bike option.  It's like a tandem attachment for an adult bike, but it's designed so that the child (age 4-7) can stop pedaling whenever s/he wants and just enjoy the ride.  If you buy this product second-hand keep in mind that there was a recall issued in October 2004 and you should make sure the bike comes with the appropriate new parts.   

Finally, here comes the probably unnecessary reminder that kids under age 12 are all required to wear helmets, regardless of the method of bike travel you choose.  Unfortunately, I've yet to find a helmet that goes on easily on a squirmy toddler.  Maya loathes having her helmet on.  She likes playing with it, she loves pointing out when other people are wearing "hats", but she shrieks cries of terror every third time we put it on her.  Granted, this seems to coincide with return trips when she's already tired and cranky, but it drives me nuts.  Why can't they design a helmet with the latch on the side of the child's face?  Babies and toddlers often have cute little double chins and pudgy necks that can easily get caught in their so-called PinchGuard (tm) fasteners.   Seriously, I'm going to start working on my own design and sell it to Bell or Giro for a million dollars some day.  If anyone has a solution, please, please let me know! 

In spite of helmet trauma, Maya has really been enjoying the bike outings we've taken.    After one particularly grueling ride across town and up Terwilliger I nixed any all day outings until baby is a bit older, but she will literally coo and whee! all around SE Portland--until she conks out, that is.   It's a rare ride where she doesn't decide to nap until we reach our destination.   Must be all that fresh air. 

PS- One big recommendation I have is for everyone to check out the Metro bike maps available for $6 at most bike shops or online here.  Also, the folks at ByCycle have a good tool to help you plan your routes.  Yay!

Trimet adventures (with babe in arms)

July 01, 2006

Our car broke down this January, when our daughter was six-months old, and my partner, Jeremy,  had just started a new job across town in Hillsdale.  We could have fixed the car, but we decided that we'd try being a bit more environmentally friendly for a while, so we put it off indefinitely.  Suddenly, we found ourselves travelling exclusively by bike and bus -- that is, Jeremy would bike 14 miles a day (uphill both ways!) and I would maneuver around town with the baby on the bus. 

Full disclosure:  I'm a public transit veteran. Having grown up in big cities, and spending the past 8 years living without a car in Chicago, I know my way around bus routes and schedules and waiting at inadequate shelters during blizzards and sleet and all sorts of terrible weather we're usually spared in Portland.  Nevertheless, I wasn't fully prepared for the adventures that awaited us while taking Maya on the bus.  Six months later we've persevered and even learned to love our bus time.  We've also heard from some of our urbanMama friends who feel intimidated by the prospect of getting on the bus with strollers, diaper bags and, of course, baby.  So for all of you who might otherwise feel stuck at home, or would rather redirect some of that $3 per gallon to college savings accounts, here are some tips we've picked up along the way:

Google Transit!  Check out Google's new feature available only for the Portland metro area!  It uses  Trimet schedules to plan your trip, but it also calculates whether it's more cost effective to drive or take public transit, and it uses Google's awesome maps to make sure you understand the route.

Take the baby into the bus while still in the stroller, but be prepared to hold baby throughout the bus ride.
  Some bus drivers are extremely patient and courteous, waiting until you have baby securely on your lap before they begin driving.  Others will slam on the gas, oblivious to the fact that you and baby might go flying down the aisle.  I like to get on the bus, get situated, and pay the fare once I'm settled and the bus stops to pick up more people.  Bus drivers seem to like this too since it means they can keep closer to their schedule. 

Travel light!  This is advice I don't often follow myself, but that doesn't mean we all shouldn't try.  It's especially hard if you're going to be out all day not to carry a blanket, extra clothes, hats, sunscreen, bibs, food, in addition to diapers, wallet, phone, keys, sunglasses, etc.   Try leaving extraneous toys at home.  One major benefit of public transit is that baby gets to look at other people and be in your arms.  No toy is that engaging.  There are lots of very friendly people, especially seniors, who are dying to play peek-a-boo and tell you just how precious your little tyke is.  In fact, you're practically doing the community a service just by sharing your babe.

If possible, wear your baby.  Slings and front- or backpacks will make your life a lot easier, especially when baby is small.  I usually bring our Ergopack even if we have the stroller just because it's easier to board the bus with your hands free.  If you decide to skip the stroller, then packing a light diaper bag is extra important, of course.

Practice baby sign language.  Sure you can't read or listen to music to pass time on the bus anymore, but that doesn't mean you can't be putting your commute to good use.  There are tons of songs to sing and things to point out as the world zooms by.  Our daughter signed "tree" for the first time today while we were on the bus.

Have fun!  Remember that time spent on the bus or MAX with your little one is different than time being stuck in traffic when you're driving.  In a very literal sense, the journey is more important than the destination.  Plus, if you start walking and running to catch those buses you'll lose that baby weight in no time!

I'll keep chiming in with other tidbits and stories involving our trips on the bus and with our bike trailer.  Share your transit secrets and stories with the rest of us!