By Beth Sethi
I have a secret to share: Tualatin is a great place to bike with kids! This must be a very well-kept secret, based on how few other families I see when we are out cycling. Summer is almost here, the time when we pump up our bike tires, strap on our helmets and leave our minivan in the garage! Tualatin’s streets have wide sidewalks, plenty of marked crosswalks, beautiful bike paths, and not too many big hills. And yet when we hop on our bikes to cycle to school, the library, the park or a friend’s house, we often wonder where all the other bikes are!
For me, biking with my kids is purely selfish. When my kids get in our minivan, they predictably begin to fight and/ or ask for snacks. When they hop on their bikes they are too distracted trying to keep up to fight or ask for food! Instead of begging for another granola bar they laugh, joke around, and check out the world around them. There is something rejuvenating about seeing the world from the seat of a bicycle rather than behind the glass of a car. When I asked my kids why they like to bike Grace (11) said “Biking gives us fresh air so we’re not stuck in the car and it’s good exercise!” David (6), our avid environmentalist, told me we should bike more “so we don’t waste pollution.” We save on gas and protect the earth, stay healthier, and the greatest parenting win is my kids getting along.
While most kids learn early on how to ride a bike, setting up kids with the competence to cycle for transportation is a lifetime skill you gift your children. Getting started biking places you normally drive involves some logistics up front. If you commit to the idea, with practice and planning biking with kids is truly a breeze. Here are a few recommendations that have helped make it easier for our family.
- We stair-stepped our way into cycling. Start out on quieter bike paths or parks to practice cycling skills before getting out on city sidewalks.
- Kids should always bike on the sidewalk, not the road. Oregon law allows cyclists to ride on sidewalks if they are riding safely at a slower speed and announce themselves to pedestrians (ORS 814.410). On side streets without sidewalks, of which there are a few in Tualatin, cyclists follow the same rules as cars (bike on the right, use arm turn signals). Teach kids to give parked cars wide berth in case a driver suddenly opens a door without checking.
- Light them up like Christmas trees. We wear bright clothing, obnoxious yellow vests (Ikea score!), colorful helmets, reflectors, and bike lights. A taller cyclist (in our family, either my 11-year old, husband or me) leads the pack for increased visibility.
- Practice defensive cycling. While motorists are at fault if they strike a cyclist (if the cyclist is following the laws), none of us want our kids to get hit. Our kids know to check every driveway before crossing it, especially those with limited visibility for drivers backing out (affectionately known as the Driveways of Danger). Our kids have also practiced looking in three directions before crossing a street – right, left plus over the shoulder facing traffic.
- Be polite to pedestrians! Use a bell or teach kids to announce themselves loudly (“Excuse me” or “On your left”).
Some of our favorite places to bike in Tualatin include to our school MITCH Charter, the library, shops at Nyberg Woods, Cook Park via the Ki-a-Kuts bridge, the Commons for summer activities, and Willowbrook Camp in Browns Ferry Park via the Tualatin Greenway. Tualatin is only going to get better for biking as the new Parks and Rec Master Plan includes adding additional paved trails in the years to come.
Tell your car you’ll see it in September! Break out the helmets, hop on your bikes, and give us a high-five as you pass us by on your own two-wheels.