August 11, 2017

By John Rezell, Editor, OutdoorsNW

In one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions on a summer’s day in high school back in Wisconsin, we turned a little spin around the neighborhood on our bikes into one of the most memorable rides of my life.

I lived in Brookfield, a western suburb of Milwaukee, where my friends and I often hopped on our 10-speeds to try to cool off in sweltering heat nearing triple digits with humidity to match.

Then one day, I said, “Let’s ride to the lake.”

My buddies fired me a double take with eyes as wide as silver dollars.

In Milwaukee, the lake is Lake Michigan, some 15 miles away. The distance wasn’t the sticking point; it was the route that would take us smack down Wisconsin Avenue, through the heart of downtown Milwaukee.

Who knows how many car trips I had made downtown at that point in my life? Riding my bike through the towering buildings offered a breathtaking new perspective as we made it to the lake and back in time for dinner.

Many years later those memories flooded back as I watched parents leading their kids — the children’s eyes sparkling — through the car-less streets of downtown Portland on a beautiful Sunday afternoon as part of a local initiative called Portland Sunday Parkways.

Helmets slid back as the youngsters tilted their heads backward to look up at the buildings and soak in the view. Ooohs and ahhhs.

The tradition of closing off streets to cyclists and pedestrians began as Ciclovías in Bogotá, Colombia some 40 years ago.

Today, cycling havens like Seattle, Portland and Eugene have programs to allow cyclists to see their city on safe routes closed to cars. These are wonderful opportunities for children to see their hometowns, creating memories that might last a lifetime.

Community Closed-Street Cycling Events

Washington

Seattle Bicycle Sundays, Aug. 20, 27; Sept. 3, 17: www.parkways.seattle.gov/tag/bicycle-sundays/

Oregon

Portland Sunday Parkways, Aug. 30, Sept. 24: www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/58929
Eugene Sunday Streets, July 30, Sept. 17: www.eugene-or.gov/655/Eugene-Sunday-Streets
Open Streets Salem, Sept. 17: www.facebook.com/openstreetssalem/?fref=mentions