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Sunday Parkways review: speaking for my family of cyclists

We spent much of Saturday getting ready for Sunday Parkways, a 6-hour, 6-mile carfree "temporary parkway" set up in North Portland, an exercise in community building and um, well, outdoor exercise. Packing snacks, filling water bottles, collecting the mass of gear (bike locks, helmets, gloves, clothing layers) that go with our family on any given bike ride. Currently my husband rides with our 6-year-old on a tag-along; they do well when she balances and doesn't flop around and actually pedals. She's not learned to ride without training wheels yet on her own bike, which is a goal for this summer. I ride with our almost 4-year-old on a Co-Pilot. It's a squeeze. My bike is small (me being short), so there's not enough room for her growing-longer lets and my, er, (hopefully not) growing, but not petite, behind. She does well when she can dig snacks out of the back of my biking jersey every 10 minutes. The hope is that she will soon be tall enough to ride the tag-along, and our older daughter will gain the necessary balance to ride her own bike beside us.

Sunday Parkways was wonderful. Despite a drizzly morning, we got going early. Two families/friends, who said they planned to go, bailed Sunday morning. Yet I'm so glad we went. We struggled with the idea of taking Trimet to the route, but the website kept crapping out on me and wouldn't bring me up any bus route results. I could have called Trimet, but didn't. I guess I didn't want to take Trimet that bad. It was too far and hilly for our family to ride to the route and back. Our family felt participating in Sunday Parkways was more important that letting driving to/from become an obstacle.

There's this wonderful scene in a Kaiser-Permanente ad where you see bike riders filling up a freeway. It wasn't quite like that, since we weren't on freeways, but it was lovely to be surrounded by walkers, bikers, strollers, and rollerskaters of all ages, different kinds of conveyances, etc. The volunteers were incredible, making sure intersections and turns were safe. Great chalk markings on upcoming turns, or areas to slow down and walk. Police kept the traffic flowing at busy intersections. The route was so flat and enjoyable (I think I only changed gears twice), which is such a nice change from my home neighborhood of hilly SW Portland where it seems I'm either in "granny gear" slogging slowly up a hill, or riding the brakes speeding down the backside of the hill. The family friendly events in the four parks linking the Parkway made for great rest stops. We particularly liked the bike valets, dancing and hula-hoop demonstrations, and the kids were delighted to try the monkey bars and Clif bar samples at each park/playground.

We arrived early (about 9am) right after the route opened at 8am, with few on the parkway and residents of the neighborhood asking us what was going on. By the time we left (1:30pm), Peninsula Park was rocking, the streets were fairly jammed and I was a bit sad to leave this lovely, special parkway. But the CSA share at the farmers' market in SW Portland beckoned... Had to get there by 2pm.

Who knows if Portland will do the parkway again. My 2 cents? It was a lovely and successful experiment and my wish is that they find the sponsors to foot the $150,000 bill to do it over at least once a year. We'll be back if they do. The only constructive criticism I'll offer is that the bridge/freeway crossings made it tough to walk a bike with a tag-along, bike trailer or an off-balance Co-pilot. Kudos for: all the wonderful bubble-making, sidewalk-chalk artsy, cheerful volunteers; and the friendliness and good bike manners of the participants. Great outdoor exercise and community building was enjoyed by this EnviroFamily, and from what I saw -- many, many more.

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