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This Week's Curator: Madi Carlson, Family Biking Advocate

This Week's Curator: Madi Carlson, Family Biking Advocate


Madi Carlson is a car-free single mom of two and has only lived in Portland for a year, but she finally feels at home after a lifetime of moving up and down the west coast. Previously, Madi and her family lived in Seattle for eight years, so it was easy to visit Portland often and she was an honorary Portlander before becoming a real one. Madi has been enamored with the Pacific Northwest since she was a kid when her family camped their way from California to Canada to visit relatives in the summers.

Madi is a family biking advocate and loves to bike around Portland with her kids. She’s the Co-Director of Kidical Mass PDX, an organization that strives to promote biking with kids in the Portland area, with an eye to underserved areas and populations. The Kidical Mass PDX folks love riding bikes for transportation, for an active lifestyle, and mostly for fun! They work to help people feel safe riding their bikes, especially if they don’t already feel that way.

When Madi is not biking around Portland with her kids (on weekdays that's 20 miles a day, escorting one to elementary school and then the other to middle school) she spends her time writing about family biking.

Tell us about your neighborhood. What are the ups and downs of it?

We live a mile east of Woodstock, but as we're zoned for Woodstock Elementary School, I consider us Woodstock residents. I love the walkability and bikeability of Woodstock, though I wish Woodstock Boulevard west of 52nd had a bike lane. The neighborhood is peppered with unimproved roadways which are a pain to drive a car on, but terrific for biking with kids on--most kids love off-roading and there's very little car traffic. We make use of these gravel streets daily. We've got groceries stores, kid-friendly restaurants (Primal Burger is my kids' favorite), a seasonal farmers market, thrift stores, and a library all extremely close to home.

What are your favorite East Portland things to do and places to go?

We love swimming and roller skating at the Mt. Scott Community Center, rooting for the Portland Pickles at Lents Park during baseball season, and eating at Portland Mercado and Cartlandia--food truck pods are excellent for dining with kids, bikes, and dogs.

Having moved here from a hilly neighborhood in Seattle, I love the relative flatness of East Portland. We can travel much farther more easily. Multi-use paths are great for everyone, but especially families, since there's much less interaction with people driving cars than when biking on roads. We're so lucky to live close to both the Springwater Corridor Trail and the I-205 Multi-Use Path. We use the former to explore the parks along Johnson Creek and visit pumpkin farms all the way out in Boring and the latter to go to Gateway Green bike park and Ikea.

What do you think people don’t know about East Portland that they should know?

There's a lot of very cool stuff only in East Portland: the aforementioned Pickles baseball team is in Lents and extremely fun to watch, Fubonn is the biggest Asian mall in all of Oregon, Portland Mercado has foods from all over Latin America together in one indoor/outdoor space, and the mountain bike trails and skills park at Gateway Green are amazing--an in-city mountain bike park accessible by bike trail and public transit is pretty unique. I know I'm only scratching the surface and there's a lot I intend to discover still.

What do you think would be most helpful for people in East Portland?

I'd love to see safer streets here in East Portland. These are general fixes, the likes of which would save people from road violence wherever they're installed in Portland, but wouldn't it be cool for things to start out here for a change! I'd love to see accessible curb ramps on all street corners--I'm not used to living in a city with so few ramps. Wheelchair users, stroller pushers, people with shopping carts, skateboarders, people biking alongside too-busy streets, even regular walkers--curb cuts would help so many transportation modes. I'm also still getting used to how few of our quieter streets have stop lights or stop signs for crossing busy streets. We go out of our way to use the light at 67th to cross Foster, but we have no such option for crossing Woodstock--there's no light or stop sign between 52nd and 72nd and those are both streets I don't like biking on with my kids, so we end up waiting for a clearing in traffic somewhere in between. I wish more greenways had controlled crossings. It breaks my heart to watch people on foot run across the street, fearful that people driving won't slow or stop for them to cross, even when they're in the crosswalk of a greenway, a street on which they're supposedly given priority.

How do you think your Portland matches up with the Portland you’ve seen in media?

Well I love quirky stuff so I appreciate Portlandiaand notice particularly Portlandia-esque things when I see them, like goat yoga and small batch artisanal anything. However, Portlandiais an awfully white-washed version of Portland…though of course Portland is still rebounding from having been such a white-washed version of America to begin with. The real Portland that I see in practice and read about daily is one that's striving to repair its racist past so it would be nice if Portland-as-a-skit acknowledged that, too.

What keeps you up at night worrying?

The current and worsening state of our environment haunts me. I despair at the world I'm leaving for my children and the declining conditions our more vulnerable houseless neighbors will have to cope with sooner than everyone else.

What gives you hope?

Frankly, the east pdx project does! On a national scale it's heartening to see typically marginalized people all around the country stepping up and becoming involved in politics, and it's just as amazing and inspiring to see the good things being accomplished by people in our own little community.

Why did you agree to participate in this project?

I want to showcase biking with and without kids around East Portland and beyond. It's good for the environment, it's extremely fun, and Portland is one of the most wonderful places in America to bike for transportation. 

You can find Madi on Twitter and Instagram at @familyride and she writes a weekly (Tuesdays) column about family biking on Please shout hello if you see her pedaling around on her big, pink bike!

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This Week's Curator: Rachelle Dixon, Multnomah County Democrats Vice Chair

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