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Product review: The Islabikes Beinn 20 children’s bike

Product review: The Islabikes Beinn 20 children’s bike

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When a kid has the confidence to do little tricks, it’s a good sign they trust their bike.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

When he was finally ready, his bike was more than up to the task. That’s how I think about my five-year-old son Everett’s evolution to becoming a confident bike rider.

It wasn’t easy. He first learned to ride a regular pedal-bike (after learning on a balance bike) over two years ago. But for some reason he didn’t keep it up. He parked the bike and seemed afraid or nervous about it whenever we urged him to get back on the saddle. Even getting a shiny new red bike didn’t inspire him! I was completely at a loss. I was so frustrated that I just stepped back and stopped even talking about riding (absent dropping a few hints here and there).

Then one day while I was out of town, I got a text from Juli. It was a video of Everett riding his bike. “This just happened,” she wrote.

He got his bike out and just started riding it. All on his own. I guess he was finally ready.

And thankfully, his bike was too.

Since that day Everett has fallen in love with riding. And with his bike — a Beinn 20 model made by Islabikes.

Islabikes is a UK-based company with its US headquarters in southeast Portland that specializes in children’s bikes. That doesn’t mean they put cartoonish stickers and crappy plastic bits all over their bikes — that would be the children’s equivalent of the “shrink it and pink it” approach some bike companies have taken towards “women’s bikes”. Instead, Islabikes creates bikes for kids from the ground up. Their entire approach, from fitting to making their own components, is based around customers who have smaller-sized hands, legs, muscles and brains.

So, how does that approach translate into a good cycling experience for kids?

One of my issues with crappy kids bikes (the ones sold in toy stores and big box retailers across America, which are the only option for many people due to their price and availability) is because they often fail to deliver on the promise of cycling. To get someone hooked on biking, regardless of their age, their experience needs to be as simple and fun as possible, right from the get-go. That thrill of balancing on two wheels that only you control, while coasting effortlessly with the wind in your face: That’s the feeling that creates a lifelong love affair with cycling.

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Everett’s Islabike weighs just under 18 pounds. That means it has nimble handling and doesn’t take big muscles to speed up and slow down. It also has components that are easy for him to use and easy for us to adjust and service as needed. We’ve had a lot of kids bikes come through our household (I also have two older kids aged 11 and 13) and the cheap ones are nearly impossible to keep running smoothly. When I need to put my hands on the Beinn it feels like a mini version of one of my own bikes.

Over the weekend I installed a new set of fenders and it took me about five minutes. Everything was in the right place and they went on flawlessly. To me, that’s a sign of a quality bike.

It’s worth noting that the Beinn from Islabike costs $499.00. That’s about five times as much as a bike from Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer. Is it worth it? That’s up to each person to decide for themselves.

Our experience with Islabikes has value beyond the product. To get one, we went direct to the Portland showroom. (Islabikes are only sold direct, so if you can’t make it to Portland, you call and talk to a sales person to make sure you get the right bike for your kid.) After sizing up Everett, we decided on the 20-inch-wheeled Beinn. It’s got flat bars, an aluminum frame, and a 7-speed grip-shifter that’s easy to twist.

The company behind the bike is also first-rate. Not only are they local, they support our community in more ways than one. Islabikes is also behind an inspiring new initiative called the Imagine Project that aims to reduce waste and change the bike-buying paradigm.

But enough about all that: Everett loves this bike! He’s not old enough to really describe what he likes about it; but it’s easy to tell that being on it makes him happy. Whether it’s our daily ride to school (where there are half a dozen other Islabikes in the racks!) or weekend adventures, his bike is growing with him.

Everett’s not the daredevil type by any stretch; but I watch him gain confidence every time he goes out. We’ve been watching videos of the Red Bull Rampage (a famous downhill MTB event) lately and the other day while riding during his sister’s soccer game he came to a steep hill. Nervous, he paused at the top. Then he rolled forward, yelled, “Red Bull riding!!” at the top of his lungs and took the plunge.

Testing the Islabike Beinn 20-10.mp4

That’s all the evidence I need that this is the right bike for him.

Islabikes.com

Disclaimer: Islabikes provided me with a bike for Everett at no charge and with no expectation of editorial coverage.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.

The post Product review: The Islabikes Beinn 20 children’s bike appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Northeast community embraces bike safety fiesta hosted by Portland Police

Northeast community embraces bike safety fiesta hosted by Portland Police

Assistant Chief Chris Uehara was one of several officers who attended the annual bike safety fiesta.(Photos: Portland Police Bureau)

Assistant Chief Chris Uehara was one of several officers who attended the annual bike safety fiesta.
(Photos: Portland Police Bureau)

The power of bicycles to bring people together and break down barriers is truly awe-inspiring. We’ve seen this take many forms over the years and now we can add a recent event hosted by the Portland Police Bureau to the list.

Earlier this month at North Precinct (449 NE Emerson Street) the PPB’s Youth Services Division teamed up with the Fire Bureau, and the Blazer’s Boys and Girls Club to host a bike safety fiesta in northeast Portland. Despite sweltering temperatures that reached nearly 100 degrees, an estimated 350 people showed up and the event was a smashing success.

A statement from the PPB says that the crowd included everything from infants to grandparents and great-grandparents — and a true cross-section of the neighborhood.







At the event people were given free school supplies, backpacks, lunch, and free bike helmets (all thanks to donations from community partners). Beyond the lessons learned about biking, Sergeant Tim Sessions of the Youth Services Division pointed out that, “Friends were made with lasting impressions.”

Here are a few photos from the event (provided by the PPB):

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— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

BikePortland is supported by the community (that means you!). Please become a subscriber or make a donation today.

The post Northeast community embraces bike safety fiesta hosted by Portland Police appeared first on BikePortland.org.

This is what happens when you ask Portlanders to build balance bikes

This is what happens when you ask Portlanders to build balance bikes

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Balance bikes for bid. See more photos below.
(Photo: CCC)

From the Bike Mechanic Challenge back in June to their successful Transportation Trivia Nights, the northeast Portland based Community Cycling Center has a knack for dreaming up great ways to support their cause.

But this one might take the cake.

In the spirit of the season when little kids dream of their first bike, the CCC challenged five of its staffers to compete in a “Balance Bike Build-Off”. For the uninitiated, a balance bike is a tiny bike for toddlers without pedals or gears and a seat so low it can be powered by running instead of pedaling. They’re simply the best way to learn to how to balance, and ultimately ride, a bike.

In the Build-Off, the five entrants were given three weeks to design and build, “unique, handcrafted, and totally awesome balance bikes.”

The results are fantastic. Check out more photos of the bikes and a learn more about each one below (descriptions from the CCC, photos by Charles Edelson):

‘Pearl’s Bike’ by Timothy “TimTim” Weeks

'Pearl's Bike'

In making Pearl’s Bike, TimTim tried to work from things that inspired him about frame building. In particular, he looked to the work of Claude Butler – a renowned builder in the 30s – mid 50s. He was an early adopter of bi-laminate construction methods. This method allowed for strong joinery, while at the same time being very pretty. Both of these qualities attracted TimTim when it came time to build his balance bike.

'Pearl's Bike'

'Pearl's Bike'

‘Ollie’ by James Keating

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This bike is made completely out of skateboards. Even the steering bearings are made from skateboard wheels and bearings. James carefully shaped the rest of the bike from whole and partial skateboards using a band saw. No other kid on the block will have an Ollie like this one.

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‘Lil’ Schwinner’ by Evan Burgad

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Deconstructing a full sized Schwinn down to it’s bare components, Evan preserved much of the original Chicago Schwinn joinery in this balance bike. In reconstruction, Evan kept with Schwinn style, keeping all his new joints seamless and creating a miniature one-of-a-kind Ratrod. Original Schwinn parts include kickstand, handle bars, headset, and frame. The saddle is made from a cut down from a person’s banana seat – also from a Schwinn.

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‘Bird’s Nest’ by Forrest Scott

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Fascinated by the idea of using a non-traditional frame material and keeping things as natural as possible, Forrest built the body of his frame from bamboo while wrapping all of his joints with manilla rope fibers (from banana leaves) unwound one by one from the original rope. The result is semi-organic joinery that is way beyond cool, and, as far as we know, found on no other Balance Bike.

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‘MicroFat’ by Gram Shipley*

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The MicroFat has fully functional suspension, disc brakes, and 3 inch tires. Made from all up-cycled materials, the MicroFat’s wheels came off of a wrecked Schwinn electric scooter, the saddle is a carved down Brooks, and the suspension fork off of a bike that was too far gone for use in Holiday Bike Drive. The wheels proved as much of a challenge as inspiration; in order to make the wheel fit, he had to cut the fork up and make it wider.

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(*Shipley is one of my favorite local builders. I’ve previously profiled his scraper bike and his 4-x-4 urban hauler)

The best part is that all money raised from bids on all five bikes will go toward the CCC’s Holiday Bike Drive and other programs. Swing by the CCC retail shop at 1700 NE Alberta to take a closer look at the bikes. You can place a bid at the shop, by calling (503) 287-8786, or via email at balance.bike@communitycyclingcenter.org.

The post This is what happens when you ask Portlanders to build balance bikes appeared first on BikePortland.org.

LEED apartment building lacks cargo bike parking, so family rents an auto space

LEED apartment building lacks cargo bike parking, so family rents an auto space

cargo bike wide angle

The apartment building where the DeLaneys live was designed with lots of parking for small bikes but none for the sort that lets families with children live car-free.
(Photos: M.Andersen/BikePortland)

When their name came up this year on the waiting list for a rare below-market two-bedroom apartment in one of Williams Avenue’s new apartment buildings, the DeLaney family was thrilled.

It had enough room for their growing family — Bijou, their second daughter, is four months old — and was a short walk to the 35 bus that carries Chris DeLaney to his job at the Bike Gallery in Lake Oswego.

But it lacked something else: a place to park the cargo bike that lets them avoid car ownership and thus afford to live where they do. So, after some negotiation, the DeLaneys are paying $40 a month to park their cargo bike in one of the building’s auto parking spaces.

The standard price for a covered parking unit is $80 per space. But the space they use, right next to the garage exit, was already the building’s least popular for cars, and the DeLaneys think that two or more cargo bikes could fit in the space if a pair of low staples were installed.

As Portland discusses a reform of its bike parking code and the city grapples with the question of whether it can make car-free life a mainstream choice for young families as well as singles and seniors, the DeLaneys’ experience (not to mention the revenue being sacrificed by the underuse of the building’s garage space) is a lesson in the details of modern Portland architecture.

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whole family suiting up

The DeLaneys don’t feel wronged by the situation, and say their apartment management company has been helpful and understanding. Instead, they hope that talking about their situation might help green architects start thinking about the relatively minor changes that’d be required to design buildings for family biking.

“In older buildings there’s nothing,” Chris DeLaney said of bike parking in Portland’s multifamily units. “It’s such a first-world problem, you know. But if you’re choosing to be bike friendly, how are you going to get families on their bikes?”

Erin DeLaney said the cargo bike is the main way she can take her and their daughters Bijou and Octave, 2, to parks, friends’ houses and grocery stores.

“I feel like that’s our happy place where nobody’s screaming,” Erin DeLaney said. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘If we can just get to the bike, everything’s going to be OK.’”

delaneys on couch

But the building’s bike parking, designed to conform to the LEED Gold green building standard, doesn’t have any room for a cargo bike. All the horizontal bike parking is on an eight-inch curb, which is larger than the 100-pound cargo bike can easily be hauled onto by a smaller person. Even if the family did claim the one space at the end of the wave rack, their bakfiets would be blocking every other bike user in the parking area.

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As it is, because their bike parking space lacks staples, their bike is secured in the private garage only by being locked to itself.

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Parking is only one issue; it’s also hard to get the bike out of the building. Because the cargo bike isn’t large enough to activate the pressure pad that opens the garage exit, they have to either haul their cargo bike up this curb, load it with the children, and then somehow get it through the large swinging door…

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…or use their garage door opener to go out through the in door, hoping not to run into conflicts with cars that are entering.

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Another car-free family recently moved into the DeLaneys’ hallway and started building a long-tail cargo bike to move their child around. Chris DeLaney said Friday that he hopes that’ll persuade the apartment managers to install staples in the car parking space to permanently convert it to paid cargo bike parking.

Erin DeLaney, who with her husband moved the family from Wyoming to Portland last year in part because they wanted to live car-free in one of the country’s best cities for biking, said all the hassles of the problem have made her appreciate the simplicities of buying a car and living on the edge of the city instead.

“You totally see why that suburban dream has so much appeal,” she said. “And it’s not for me! I don’t want that. But maybe half those people don’t want to do that either.”

— The Real Estate Beat is a regular column. You can sign up to get an email of Real Estate Beat posts (and nothing else) here, or read past installments here. This sponsorship has opened up and we’re looking for our next partner. If interested, please call Jonathan at (503) 706-8804.

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PBOT’s new guide takes the guesswork out of family biking

PBOT’s new guide takes the guesswork out of family biking

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Even in Portland, riding with infants and small children on your bike often elicits stares, questions, and comments.

At what age can we start biking with our baby? Which bike set-ups work best for toddlers? Is it better to use a tag-along or encourage kids to ride their own bike? These are just some of the myriad questions anyone who bikes with kids is used to getting. Now there’s a helpful guide from the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) that aims to answer those questions.

Portland’s Family Biking Guide (PDF) is a new, 16-page booklet created by PBOT’s Active Transportation Division. The new guide will be distributed through the city’s “SmartTrips Welcome” marketing program that targets new residents and encourages them to bike, walk, and take transit.

According to PBOT’s Active Transportation Division Manager Linda Ginenthal, the new guide fills a gap in the city’s available suite of bicycling information. “We have a tremendous amount of bike information on our website and in printed materials,” she shared with us today, “but we had nothing for families.”

The guide covers all stages of biking with kids; from riding while pregnant and taking babies along, to biking to school. It even offers advice on how to navigate the decisions around when to let children ride alone. Ginenthal said the tone of the guide is open and friendly. “It’s instructive, but not pointed,” she said.

When it comes to biking with babies — a topic that can set off heated discussions — the youngest age the guide mentions is nine months. That’s when infants usually have the adequate neck strength required to hold their head up in an upright seat. Before that age, the guide urges people to ask friends or look up options and advice online.

In addition to an explanation of the myriad gear options available at different ages, the guide also offers insights like this one on getting your kid to wear a helmet:

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There’s also a nice endorsement of balance bikes (and from local company Islabikes no less) as the perfect first set of wheels (there’s even a smart suggestion to make your own balance bike by simply removing the pedals and lowering the seat of a standard bike):

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Abra McNair, the PBOT staffer who created and wrote most of the guide, says she modeled Portland’s guide after a similar guide created by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. McNair said as the city’s Safe Routes to School program has expanded into new areas, she hears from many people how aren’t even aware of child trailers and other options. “There are a lot of people that can use either an affirmation that it’s a safe thing to do or that there are options,” she said, “And that it doesn’t have to be an expensive option like a bakfiets. You can do it by buying a trailer off Craigslist.”

For Ginenthal, the new guide is simply the city’s response to a growing demand. “A lot of people really want to do biking, walking, and transit and if they have the tools and information, and feel confident, they’re going to make that choice… Nobody wants to drive everywhere they go… It’s a huge constituency that we, as a city government, have to serve.”

— PBOT says this is just the first draft and they’re open to feedback on potential changes to the next print run. Download a PDF of the guide here.

The post PBOT’s new guide takes the guesswork out of family biking appeared first on BikePortland.org.

Babies, brains and bikes

Babies, brains and bikes

(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

The other day our former Family Biking columnist Marion Rice shared an interesting link. It was to a blog post by Suzanne Zeedyk titled, “How buggies shape babies’ brain”. I expected the post to be about the common question of how young is too young when it comes to carrying babies around in things other than automobiles.

However it turns out the post was about something I hadn’t thought about in all my years of being a dad: How the position of the baby’s face in relation to mine (while we ride) might impact language development. Here’s a salient excerpt from the post:

“Primary teachers have been witnessing a steady decrease in children’s linguistic abilities upon starting school, and they had wondered if the fact that so many strollers are now designed to face outward, rather than toward the adult, might be one of a variety of possible factors contributing to that decrease.”

Family trip to Stub Stewart State Park-10-60

My boy in a trailer at four months, not looking
very stimulated.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

Put another way, compared to the classic prams of old, many strollers face babies away from their parents, which leads to less interaction and therefore, less brain development. “We found that simply turning the buggy around doubles the amount of conversation that babies experience,” wrote Zeedyk, referring to a study by the National Literacy Trust.

This got me thinking of how we carry around babies while biking. I have three kids, and we started biking around with my two youngest ones when they were only three-four months old. We carried them in their “car” seats in one of two main ways: Either mounted into the front cargo box of a bakfiets, or mounted into a cargo trailer we towed behind us. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve carried them via bicycle in almost every imaginable way: tag-along bikes, rear child seats, front child seats, front-facing in cargo box seats, in a rear bucket, and so on.

When I tweeted the link to that blog post yesterday, it got quite a bit of attention. Several women were already aware of the importance of face-to-face contact while biking.

Dena @bikemamadelphia shared a photo of her Yepp brand bike seat mounted in reverse in the front of her cargo box

And follower Ottawa Bicycle Lanes shared this photo of their set-up:

Baby in a Bakfiets, Ottawa

Now that I know more about this issue, I’ll recommend that people try to set up their bike so that baby can see their face. While the research might be debatable, the fun of having a chat and/or making sweet little faces with a little one while you ride around town is reason enough to do it.

The Ride: A north Portland loop that’s perfect for the whole family

The Ride: A north Portland loop that’s perfect for the whole family

Ultimate North Portland Family Loop-15

With half the mileage on paths completely separated from auto traffic, this nine mile north Portland/Columbia Slough loop could be the ultimate family ride.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

If you’ve been looking for a great loop ride in north Portland that’s perfect for novice riders and families, I’ve got an exciting route to share.

Thanks to the completion of a new, 1.2 mile section of the Columbia Slough Trail back in January, it’s now possible to ride a nine-mile loop with nearly half of the total mileage completely separated from auto traffic. Add about three miles of neighborhood greenways and over one mile of bike lanes and you’ve got a route where biking is both fun and safe for all ages.

Me and my three little ones (ages 3, 8, and 11) sampled this route on Saturday and it’s easily one of the best family rides we’ve ever had. Scroll down as I take you along with us…

The route starts at Peninsula Park (https://maps.google.com/maps?q=peninsula+park&hl=en&ll=45.576561,-122.654114&spn=0.309999,0.642014&sll=45.543408,-122.654422&sspn=0.310183,0.642014&t=h&hq=peninsula+park&z=11&iwloc=A) in the Piedmont Neighborhood and heads west on the nice, wide bike lanes of N Rosa Parks Way. In September 2011, PBOT put Rosa Parks on a “road diet” — which means they re-allocated space so there’s less room for driving and more room for biking. From there, you head north on the Michigan Avenue neighborhood greenway and onto the Bryant Bridge. (Note: For the next three miles, you’ll be guided along by big bike symbols — a.k.a. sharrows — in the street.)

Tucked away in a residential area, the Bryant Bridge is a gem. It provides a safe way across I-5 and it’s connected to neighborhood greenways on both sides. As a bonus, local artists (Brian Borrello and Tiago DeJerk) have added colorful touches, including a recent installation of mirrors to help discourage people from dumping trash and vandalizing the path…

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Following the sharrows, you’ll be directed over to N Dekum Ave, which is where you’ll cross N Interstate. Since Interstate is a large street that crosses a neighborhood greenway, PBOT has installed a special traffic signal that changes quickly and easily for bike riders. Simply roll onto the little bike symbol with a line through it and the light will change quickly.

Ultimate North Portland Family Loop-4

Eventually you’ll head back to the Bryant Street neighborhood greenway, which you’ll take west all the way to Wabash. On Bryant, you’ll pass by the first of many parks along this route: Arbor Lodge Park. If you’re ready for some fun and a little break, check out the fantastic playstructure known as Harper’s Playground.

Continuing west your next turn is N Wabash. On Wabash (another neighborhood greenway) you’ll head north toward Columbia Blvd. Just before Columbia, stop in at Trenton Park. It’s a favorite of our family because it’s never crowded and there’s a spring-loaded-car-teeter-totter thingy that we really enjoy playing on.

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Just north of Trenton Park Wabash dead-ends into the sidewalk/bike path on the south side of Columbia Blvd. This path is really great but I’m afraid most people don’t even know about it. Over lightly rolling hills and a few railroad crossings, the path takes you about one mile west before you cross Columbia with a traffic signal. We got lucky on Saturday and had a long train cross right in front of us. My three-year-old was thrilled to watch the cars go by just a few feet away from us!

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The little-known sidewalk/bike path adjacent to Columbia Blvd.
Ultimate North Portland Family Loop-9

At Portsmouth Avenue you cross Columbia Blvd and hop onto the Columbia Slough Trail. This is the highlight of the trip. There are tons of fun places to park the bikes and explore on this path. We usually take a spur of the path that heads up a hill overlooking the water sanitation facility (don’t worry, it doesn’t smell). There’s a rock sculpture to climb on and big grassy hills to kick a ball or practice off-road biking skills.

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The girls kick a soccer ball while their brother (tiny red dot in background) explores the grassy hills on his balance bike.
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Ultimate North Portland Family Loop-12

You know you’re away from traffic when a three-year-old demands to bike by himself.

Once you get to the Columbia Slough, I recommend stopping at the water access just before the bridge. There are nice big stairs that make for a perfect spot to take a break, have a snack, watch for birds, and soak up the surroundings.

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Ultimate North Portland Family Loop-14

Once you cross the bridge, you turn right and head back toward the east on the Columbia Slough Trail. The pavement in this section of the path is in really bad shape. It’s got some holes and lots of loose gravel. I like it because it has sort of an adventurous, rustic feel, but you should slow down and be ready for tricky spots — especially if you’ve got narrow tires.

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A bit further east along the Slough you’ll see Portland International Raceway. There’s almost always some type of racing going on and you get a great vantage point from the path. On Saturday we watched bike racers speed around the track on aerodynamic time trial bikes.

When the slough path comes to N Denver Avenue, head right and merge onto Schmeer Road. Be careful, this is the only part of the ride where you will share the road with people driving cars and trucks. It’s a very low-speed and low-volume area, but use caution. Also, keep in mind that this is the road where ODOT plans to prohibit auto use in the future when they create a new path from PIR to the slough.

Schmeer will take you under N Denver Avenue and lead you directly onto the newly paved portion of the Slough Trail. Enjoy views of the mountains, Portland Meadows race track, and lots of geese…

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Freshly paved and painted path with Portland Meadows in the background.

The new segment of path ends at N Vancouver Avenue, where my two girls took full advantage of the nice seating area ODOT designed into the new bridge.

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Just over the bridge we couldn’t resist one final stop at Farragut Park, where a grassy knoll full of daisies and beautiful big trees made for the perfect rest stop.

Ultimate North Portland Family Loop-21

On Vancouver, you’ll have a bike lane all the way south to N Bryant, where you’ll weave back through quiet neighborhood streets to Rosa Parks Way and eventually Peninsula Park.

The whole route has only about 200 feet of climbing and there are no significant hills. I mapped it out for your convenience at RidewithGPS.com.

Give this route a try next time you’ve got a few hours. It’s really great. And it shows why it’s so important to not just build good bike access into our infrastructure, but to connect it all together as well.

When a child rides alone: A test of our kids and our streets

When a child rides alone: A test of our kids and our streets

Eleni rides home alone-1

On her own: Would our streets — and my daughter — pass the
solo biking test?
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

I recently — and surreptitiously — followed my daughter Eleni as she rode home from soccer practice by herself. She’s almost 11 years old now and we’ve just recently started to let her do this. I followed her because I was curious to know how she would ride without me or her mom offering that perception of protection that our proximity provides.

If you have children (or even if you don’t), I’m sure you can relate to the mix of emotions that occur when you allow your own flesh and blood to become a full-fledged “vulnerable” road user.

We’ve been riding with Eleni ever since she was baby. She’s gone from a Burley trailer, to a rear-rack seat, to a tag-along, to her own bike all without much incident (besides a self-inflicted fall or two). Along the way I’ve always shared my tips, advice, and admonitions whenever we ride together: “Remember to always look and listen at intersections, whether you have a stop sign or not!”; “Never assume a car will stop for you!”; “Use your hand signals!”; “Watch for those car doors!” and so on and so forth.

With Eleni, I can never tell if I’m bugging her or if she’s actually absorbing the information. I figured secretly following her home was the perfect way to see if she’s been paying attention all these years.

When her practice ended, she mounted her bike (with her shin guards and soccer cleats still on). I was anxious as she rolled eastward from Arbor Lodge Park in north Portland. The first thing I noticed is that she was riding a bit too close to the curb (see lead photo). Then, her first stop-sign controlled intersection came up. It was a four-way stop, so I wasn’t too worried; but I still breathed a sigh of relief when she calmly came to a stop, looked both ways, looked both ways again, and then continued on…

Eleni rides home alone-2

(Note: These photos were taken with a telephoto lens, so I was further behind than it appears.)

Then, the first big test: She’d been hugging the curb too much (I thought) and a parked car was ahead of her. Just as she moved left to avoid it, another car started coming the other direction. Thankfully, the person driving the car saw her, slowed, and gave her plenty of room…

Eleni riding home

After another stop sign where cross traffic (which included a huge speeding truck!) didn’t stop, she was onto her first major intersection (N Dekum and Interstate). At this point, she was onto an official “neighborhood greenway” route, and I was happy to know that the traffic signal has been engineered specifically with bicycles in mind. Right on cue, the light sensor noticed her presence, changed to green, and she made her way across the MAX tracks and back into the neighborhood streets. From this point on, she followed sharrows all the way home, across the Bryant Street Bridge (which is only for walking and biking) over I-5, and then a few blocks on the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway…

Eleni rides home alone-4

Eleni rides home alone-5

Eleni rides home alone-6

Eleni rides home alone-7

Eleni rides home alone-8

This experience was just as much a test for Eleni as it was for me. In some respects, it was also a test for the City of Portland as to whether our streets are safe enough to be navigated without incident or fear by a 10-year-old. I’m happy to say that PBOT passed with flying colors. There are several neighborhood greenways that overlap in this area, which means there are speed bumps, new 20 mph speed limit signs, and a general expectation of bicycle traffic. The bike-timed light at Interstate is a huge bonus (although the green phase is a bit short in my opinion), as are the sharrow markings and the carfree crossing of I-5 via the Bryant Bridge.

But this was a very simple test and I recognize that not everyone in the city can ride from a park to their home in such tame conditions.

As I thought about this post, I wondered how this experiment would have played out in other parts of the city where large arterials are the norm and destinations are further apart. I’ll look for opportunities to do this again and will report back if I can.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from parents out there: Do you let your kids ride in the street alone? If so, how old are they and what has your experience been? If not, what holds you back?

When a child rides alone: A test of our kids and our streets

When a child rides alone: A test of our kids and our streets

Eleni rides home alone-1

On her own: Would our streets — and my daughter — pass the
solo biking test?
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

I recently — and surreptitiously — followed my daughter Eleni as she rode home from soccer practice by herself. She’s almost 11 years old now and we’ve just recently started to let her do this. I followed her because I was curious to know how she would ride without me or her mom offering that perception of protection that our proximity provides.

If you have children (or even if you don’t), I’m sure you can relate to the mix of emotions that occur when you allow your own flesh and blood to become a full-fledged “vulnerable” road user. I was also curious if our neighborhood streets would live up to their reputation as “family friendly.”

We’ve been riding with Eleni ever since she was baby. She’s gone from a Burley trailer, to a rear-rack seat, to a tag-along, to her own bike all without much incident (besides a self-inflicted fall or two). Along the way I’ve always shared my tips, advice, and admonitions whenever we ride together: “Remember to always look and listen at intersections, whether you have a stop sign or not!”; “Never assume a car will stop for you!”; “Use your hand signals!”; “Watch for those car doors!” and so on and so forth.

With Eleni, I can never tell if I’m bugging her or if she’s actually absorbing the information. I figured secretly following her home was the perfect way to see if she’s been paying attention all these years.

When her practice ended, she mounted her bike (with her shin guards and soccer cleats still on). I was anxious as she rolled eastward from Arbor Lodge Park in north Portland. The first thing I noticed is that she was riding a bit too close to the curb (see lead photo). Then, her first stop-sign controlled intersection came up. It was a four-way stop, so I wasn’t too worried; but I still breathed a sigh of relief when she calmly came to a stop, looked both ways, looked both ways again, and then continued on…

Eleni rides home alone-2

(Note: These photos were taken with a telephoto lens, so I was further behind than it appears.)

Then, the first big test: She’d been hugging the curb too much (I thought) and a parked car was ahead of her. Just as she moved left to avoid it, another car started coming the other direction. Thankfully, the person driving the car saw her, slowed, and gave her plenty of room…

Eleni riding home

After another stop sign where cross traffic (which included a huge speeding truck!) didn’t stop, she was onto her first major intersection (N Dekum and Interstate). At this point, she was onto an official “neighborhood greenway” route, and I was happy to know that the traffic signal has been engineered specifically with bicycles in mind. Right on cue, the light sensor noticed her presence, changed to green, and she made her way across the MAX tracks and back into the neighborhood streets. From this point on, she followed sharrows all the way home, across the Bryant Street Bridge (which is only for walking and biking) over I-5, and then a few blocks on the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway…

Eleni rides home alone-4

Eleni rides home alone-5

Eleni rides home alone-6

Eleni rides home alone-7

Eleni rides home alone-8

This experience was just as much a test for Eleni as it was for me. In some respects, it was also a test for the City of Portland as to whether our streets are safe enough to be navigated without incident or fear by a 10-year-old. I’m happy to say that PBOT passed with flying colors. There are several neighborhood greenways that overlap in this area, which means there are speed bumps, new 20 mph speed limit signs, and a general expectation of bicycle traffic. The bike-timed light at Interstate is a huge bonus (although the green phase is a bit short in my opinion), as are the sharrow markings and the carfree crossing of I-5 via the Bryant Bridge.

But this was a very simple test and I recognize that not everyone in the city can ride from a park to their home in such tame conditions.

As I thought about this post, I wondered how this experiment would have played out in other parts of the city where large arterials are the norm and destinations are further apart. I’ll look for opportunities to do this again and will report back if I can.

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from parents out there: Do you let your kids ride in the street alone? If so, how old are they and what has your experience been? If not, what holds you back?

Portlanders bike back to school (photos)

Portlanders bike back to school (photos)

Trillium Charter School on North Interstate.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Schools in Portland are back in session as of yesterday, and that means the biking to school season is upon us once again. (That, combined with the Bike Commute Challenge and the all the regular Portland bike traffic, often makes September feel like the busiest biking time of year.)

Yesterday we asked readers to tweet us photos of the bike racks at their kids’ schools with the hashtag #bikebacktoschool. Check out a few of the images below…

Reader Tony Jordan said the racks at Glencoe Elementary school in southeast Portland were at full capacity…

Sellwood resident Peter Koonce sent in these photos from Llewellyn Elementary…

And dudeluna shared this photo of full bike racks at his child’s school (but we don’t know exactly what school it is yet)…

And finally, I snapped a few shots at Trillium Charter School in north Portland…

This bike parking box was recently painted right at the front/main entrance. It’s an idea I stole from Amsterdam and it’s intended for drop-off/pick-up use only.

How do the bike racks look at the schools in your neighborhood? Hopefully we see continued growth of biking to school in Portland this year. With strong programs from PBOT and the BTA, we expect nothing less!