Sunday Parkways is perfect for families: Here’s how to get the most out of it

Just a few of the 25,900 people who attended Sunday’s event.
(Photos: Greg Raisman)

Sunday Parkways is one of the best Portland events for kids who like biking. It’s also great for kids who like playgrounds, bounce houses, food of any sort, dancing, art, music, etc. This week I’ll share a bit about Sunday’s first event of the season. And because there are four more to come, I’ll also share some tricks I’ve learned to get the most out of them.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

Last weekend’s Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways was especially great for us as it was the first time my kids rode their own bikes at this event.

We attended last year’s “Sellwaukie” (Sellwood/Milwaukie) Sunday Parkways, but I carried both kids on my longtail cargo bike. And our very first Sunday Parkways was Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways 2016 with a bakfiets from the Clever Cycles rental fleet.

It’s liberating for kids and parents to let little ones loose on city streets without worrying about drivers.
(Photo: Madi Carlson)

A family picnicking near us checked the time and exclaimed they had to pedal home “ASAP!”, before the roads opened back up to cars.

Carrying kids around Sunday Parkways (via cargo bike, tandem bike, trailer bike, trailer, bike seat, etc) and letting them loose to check out the activity hubs and anything else interesting along the route is a wonderful way to partake. And having such a large area protected from car traffic provides a unique opportunity for kids to get around by their own power. I believe Sunday Parkways is for everyone, but it can be particularly life-changing for little kids on bikes.

I first realized this two years ago when we were hanging out at Colonel Summers Park as the event wound down. A family picnicking near us checked the time and exclaimed they had to pedal home “ASAP!”, before the roads opened back up to cars. Sunday Parkways is a way for families who aren’t able to bike everywhere the way I do to experience the three-way-magic of biking for transportation, recreation, and fun when the streets near their houses are “open.” I’m lucky in that I get to see this regularly during Kidical Mass rides: when little kids get to bike in the street from point-A to point-B (rather than just in front of their houses), the way their faces light up is amazing and their smiles are infectious. They exemplify the way biking makes me feel, as I tried to convey in my recent post about exhaustion: “capable, strong, and free!”

So please, encourage your friends with small kids to join you for an upcoming Sunday Parkways. Here’s my advice on how to get the most out of them

Plan your attack
There are so many interesting vendors and attractions that it’s easy to miss your favorites. We didn’t see everything on Sunday and I was kicking myself for not grabbing an official event brochure. Yes they have one of those (see it below)! It lists most of the main vendor and activities at each park. You can find it at the info booths or — if you’re really prepared — download it to your phone before you go via the event website.

Bring snacks
I fail you each time I write a post and don’t mention snacks. Bring snacks. We found food to purchase (on three occasions and it still wasn’t enough), but lines are long and vendors run out of food so make sure you have some sort of emergency snack along.

Bring/locate water
I said I was going to bring an extra water bottle with us, but I forgot. I also said I’d fill our water bottles at each stop, but I got distracted. Not all parks have drinking fountains (Ivon Park didn’t, but a booth had a big water dispenser) so in the future I’ll note what the water situation is ahead of time — either by checking out the park on my own (yes, hydrating is that important to me I’ll bike 10 miles ahead of time just to look for a drinking fountain!) or asking a friend in the neighborhood.

Some stuff ends early
The roads open to cars promptly at 4:00 pm so booths in the streets and parks often pack up before then. This was inconvenient as we were looking for food for the fourth time at twenty ’til. I’m glad we completed the loop and scored one of the last salmon hats, but it seems worth it to take a break in the middle of one of the bigger parks near the end to be far from the packing-up frenzy.

Riding towards home right at 4:00 is cool because you encounter a steady trickle of families biking away, all criss-crossing paths as they head in different directions from different parts of the loop. Some of the unofficial booths stay open past 4:00 to prolong the party — we saw some lemonade stands still going strong and paused at a huge karaoke party.

Here are some other highlights of our day, just to give you a sense of what’s out there…

Colonel Summers Park
Side-by-side parkour course and bounce house (the kids did both of these while I waited in line for food). The Audubon Society of Portland had a great-horned owl and turkey vulture. I wouldn’t have noticed these had we not been aimed at them in the restroom line! The Zumba was loud and festive. Watching three teens on stilts partake was amazing.

Ivon City Park had amazing putt putt golf! The bounce house was popular, too.

Putt putt golf at Ivon Park.

Laurelhurst Park, our last stop, had salmon hats. Don’t be afraid to ask people where they got their salmon hats or other cool swag. Once at the proper park we asked a salmon-hat wearer for detailed directions and made it just in time to get one.

Salmon hat with streamers!

Bonus stop: beignets! On the advice of friends we stopped at the kid-run beignet stand set up along the loop two years ago and knew to be on the lookout this year. $1 each or three for $2. Yum!

I want to close with a big thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who make Sunday Parkways possible. As we arrived to the loop we watched a person sneakily drive through a closed intersection that had no volunteer posted at it. Those Intersection Superheros are so important! Here’s where you sign up to volunteer.

And here are the remaining events:

North Portland Sunday Parkways
June 24, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (8.8 miles)

Green Loop (Downtown & Inner SE) Sunday Parkways
July 22, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (7 miles)

Outer Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways
August 19, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (7 miles)

Northeast Portland Sunday Parkways
September 23, 2018 – 11:00 am to 4:00 pm (8 miles)

Please share all your tricks and tips for having a successful Sunday Parkways experience, even if they’re not kid-specific! Thanks for reading. Feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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