Cycling Family Style

Cycling Family Style, Portland Family Magazine
By: Brooke Strickland

You probably remember the excitement you felt when you got to pick out your first bike. It’s almost a rite of passage into childhood. You pick out a shiny new bike, learn to ride with training wheels, and then, when you’ve mastered the basics and begin riding on two wheels, you pedal with reckless abandon. Maybe the excitement you had as a kid has dwindled, but once you get back out there, we’re sure it’ll ignite again. It’s time to head out to the garage and dust off the bikes that have been sitting neglected. The spring weather is perfect for a brisk bike ride. But don’t go alone. Make it a family event.

Why bike as a family?
We spoke with Todd Fahrner, one of the partners of the local Clever Cycles bike shop, who gave us some great advice on how to make family cycling a must-do. He says, “Just do it. Most parents interested in biking with their kids already have bicycling in their past, whether for recreation or transportation. It’s the same, only slower. If it’s been a few years since you felt comfortable on the street, take it slow.” So grab your kids and use it as a time to bond. Farhner says, “I have yet to meet a child who doesn’t prefer to go by bike than to be strapped down and driven someplace.” Your kids will be able to experience the city in a whole new way. Conversations while biking with your kids will also be different. We imagine there will be lots of laughing, telling stories, and pointing out the sights with a memory or a bit of history associated with them.

Benefits of family cycling:
There are many benefits to biking as a family. Not only does it get you outside and physically active, but it can also do many other things for your family. Farhrer suggests that it helps instill confidence, frugality, and respectful negotiation of the public right-of-way. It also provides valuable quality time with your kids, exploring parts of the city that you may miss while traveling by car.

Community resources:
There are some totally cool biking clubs and camps for kids as well as adults in the Portland area. We checked out the Community Cycling Center (www.communitycyclingcenter.org) and found that there are free after-school bike clubs for low-income children ages nine to twelve. The programs teach safe riding skills, basic bike maintenance, and building confidence as bike riders. The Center also hosts weeklong bike camps for several age groups. For adults, there are bicycle maintenance classes, a “Create a Commuter” program, and a bike-safety promotion that offers free bike lights to unlit cyclists.

Important biking tips:
Fahrer suggests, “Start in your neighborhood, at your own door. Explore pleasant routes from there, on the street instead of the sidewalk. Choose quiet side streets instead of routes you’d drive, regardless of whether there’s a bike lane. Set modest goals and work in steps: a trip to a friend’s house, to school, to the store or farmer’s market, downtown, up Mt. Tabor, or to the Zoo. [And] after all that, you might just be ready to brave the Springwater Corridor Speedway.” He goes on torn say that having your children aboard your bike as passengers is pleasant and safe. Just because your eight year old can ride a bike doesn’t mean you want him or her crossing a busy street. And when you’re riding, be sure to sit upright enough to be seen over the tops of cars and make sure you follow rules of the road.

Biking trails:
After you’ve explored your neighborhood, you might be ready to explore other parts of Portland. Portland is one of the friendliest bike towns in the country, with lots of family-friendly trails. We’ve compiled a list of some easy-to-moderate trails you might want to try.

  • Sauvie Island (easy): This loop is a 12-mile ride through fields and wildlife areas.
  • Blue Lake (moderate): This is a popular trail not only for bike riders, but also walkers, in-line skaters, and runners. It’s a perfect ride along the river.
  • Mount Tabor and Rocky Butte (moderate): This ride takes you through some of Portland’s Eastside neighborhoods and into two city parks that are built on extinct volcanoes. It’s a hilly ride that makes for a great workout.
  • Springwater Corridor/Eastbank Esplanade (easy): This trail, which can be as long as 33 miles, is a perfect place to bring younger riders and teach them bike safety.

So go ahead, get out there and get active. Get the family together, strap on helmets, and start pedaling.

A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Brooke Strickland is a freelance writer and editor. When she’s not writing, Brooke can be found in a comfortable chair with a book, or on the Oregon coast with her newborn daughter, husband, and two dogs.

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