5 Tips for Back To School Bike Commuting in Portland

Fitness Wednesday, September 4, 2013 Written by

As summer draws to a close and your kids gear up for the start of another school year, you’re faced with a very important question: Will you drop them off by car or by bike on their first day back? Obviously a lot depends on the distance and difficulty involved in getting from your house to the school, but according to a recent study out of Portland State University, opting for the two-wheeled transportation, when possible, might be your best bet. Researchers found that people who walked or biked to work were significantly happier than those who drove. Not to mention the cardiovascular and calorie-burning benefits that goes along with riding versus driving.

The good news is that here in Portland, you wouldn’t be taking the healthy route alone. Nationally, only about 13 percent of children walk or bike to school (according to the National Household Travel Survey), but in Portland, that number is bumped up to around 31 percent. An average weekday reportedly brings about 5,000 bike commuters across the Hawthorne Bridge alone (per a counter placed on the bridge by Cycle Oregon). The key is learning how to pedal around town, with your little ones in tow, safely and efficiently. For starters, follow these tips:

1. Plan your route wisely. Choose the most bike-friendly streets and bridges (ones with designated bike lanes) if possible, and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. You can find helpful maps and other smart route-planning resources at the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

2. Brush up on the basics. Knowing how to ride a bike and knowing how to safely coexist with traffic and pedestrians while on your bike are two completely different things. The Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) offers a one-hour introductory workshop that covers everything you need to know about what it takes to be a successful bike commuter—the actual rules of the road, proper hand signals, how to share lanes, choosing the right gear, etc.

3. Educate your kids. You’re not the only part of this equation. Your kids also need to know what it means to ride responsibly. The Bicycle Safety Program, created by the BTA and funded by the Oregon Department of Transportation, is an award-winning curriculum that teaches 4th to 7th grade students how to be safe on a bicycle. Download a full copy of the biking curriculum for more information.

4. Get in gear. When it comes to picking out a bike or accessories that will allow you to ride comfortably around town with your kids, there are plenty to choose from. Child trailers, trailercycles, stroller kits and tandem bikes are just a few of the options available to you. Visit a local family-friendly bike shop, such as Clever Cycles or Bike n’ Hike, to find out more and figure out what works best for you.

5. Stay up to date. Keep track of road closures, cycling events and other details that may affect or enhance your commute at bikeportland.org.

Have any other family-friendly commuting tips? Please share in the comment section below.