Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Is a car-free city top on your wishlist? Join the Ghost Christmas Ride

Posted by on December 22nd, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Winter Wonderland-Bike Night at PIR-10

Santa took to two wheels
at the Winter Wonderland bike
night at PIR.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Something happens to Portland sometimes, transforming it into a different city entirely — when it snows, or when the power goes out, or on major holidays, the city becomes strangely quiet but also wonderfully alive, with strangers greeting each other on the street, friends and family walking in groups to neighborhood businesses, and a general spirit of calm and good cheer.

It isn’t magic or rocket science: It’s just what happens when everyone lets their car sit in the driveway.

And it’s happening again on Friday. Work, school, and most stores are shut down for Christmas; and for a large percentage of Portlanders, the morning is reserved for drinking coffee and opening gifts in your pajamas. The streets will be empty, and at least one group of souls will be out there riding freely through them.

Story continues below


Last month over 20 riders braved the rain to enjoy a basically car-free city center on Thanksgiving morning. Light brunch was followed by an Appetite Enhancement Ride around town, after which riders went their separate ways for dinner and pie.

On Friday, December 25th, at 9:30am, regardless of weather, one and all are welcome to meet up in the parking lot of the Lucky Lab at 915 SE Hawthorne for a merry ride around town. Here’s how ride organizer Aaron Tarfman describes the festivities:

Just like the Thanksgiving ride, we’ll enjoy the ghost town that is Portland on Christmas morning. The early start time is to give us plenty of time to enjoy the peaceful and relaxing carfree streets. Actual departure time will be 9:45am. Be sure to come to the benches at the back of the pub for departure. We’ll circuit the parking garage, cross the Morrison Bridge, and generally have a rolling party through the city. Decorations aren’t required, but HIGHLY encouraged.

At BikePortland, we wish you all a happy and safe holiday, however you’ll be spending it.

UPDATE: And here are two other rides to consider in the coming days…

Joy of Sects — Christmas Eve Edition
Join the Bike Temple to learn about local religions and tour places of worship. Ride meets at 8:00pm. More details here.

Freaky Friday
On Christmas Day, North Freak bike club is doing a special Christmas edition of their Freak Friday ride. Meet at 10:00 at Irving Park in Northeast Portland for some freaky fun.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • John Lascurettes December 22, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    If I wasn’t headed up to the in-law’s near Seattle on Christmas morning, I’d do this. Sound fun. Meanwhile, I did rather enjoy my commute in this morning: very light traffic as many are on vacation already and no crazy parent-driver traffic near elementary schools.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • rev December 22, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    sweet! To the streets!

    I think the superbowl might be the most car free holiday.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • h December 22, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    wish i could attend but i will be visiting my sis in seattle. i go to cheer her up as she has ms.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • q`Ztal December 22, 2009 at 3:29 pm


    I have to work 🙁

    Double holiday pay 🙂

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Joe December 22, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    when one goes carfree one thinks outside the box.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • El Biciclero December 22, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    “I think the superbowl might be the most car free holiday.”

    Back when I belonged to a gym, I discovered that Superbowl Sunday was the day to get to use whatever equipment you wanted for as long as you wanted. I’ll have to have my own private Superbowl ride this year…

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Refunk December 22, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Would be there if I could. Have a great ride, Aaron & Co.

    Snow days are always the best, the deeper the better, since Portland drivers are afraid of snow! I always go out riding after the streets shut down. It’s so peaceful and beautiful and afterward, you are totally primed for holiday calories.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • peejay December 22, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Count me in! After a stress-filled couple of weeks, I need some bike lovin’

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Matt December 22, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Last Superbowl Sunday was the Easy Riders “Jaunt to St. Johns” ride, which had immeasurable grooviness. While far from car-free, it did have lots of people just standing on their porches drinking beer in the cold, with an occasional, “Whoa. . . dude. . .bikes!”

    Also, for the record, lots and lots of people work on the holidays most of us take for granted, so let’s raise a beer or turkey, or a bike to them.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • dutch December 22, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    the north freak ride is doing a christmas edition this friday as well. meets at 10:30pm at Irving park. dress seasonal

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • […] Ghost Christmas Ride. Ride your bike on nearly empty streets with your fellow bicycle merrymakers. Ride starts at 9:30am at the SE Lucky Lab (915 SE Hawthorne). […]

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • beth h December 23, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    December, 1978:

    As the only Jewish kid in my school, I always saw Christmas morning as a perfect time to enjoy a solo bike ride through town. My sophomore year of high school was no exception.

    I left the house at 6:30 am, timing a 15-mile loop through Troutdale, Gresham, Boring and a tiny bit of Sandy so that I’d get back to our Troutdale house in time for a nice quiet breakfast with the Sunday Times crossword while my family still slept. Towards the end of my ride, I roared down the hill towards downtown Gresham, weaving wildly across four empty traffic lanes on East Burnside . As I approached the intersection with N. Main Street, I saw flashing lights, and a policeman signalling at ME to pull over.

    In the K-Mart Parking lot, the officer wagged a stern finger at me for my wacky riding style. Then he stopped and asked, “What are you doing out here on Christmas morning? Why aren’t you home with your family opening gifts?”

    I smiled. “I’m Jewish. We exchanged gifts two weeks ago when it was Chanukah.”

    His eyebrows went up. Was I his first Jew? Very few of us lived in the area in those days.

    He took another tack. “Why are you riding like an idiot, weaving back and forth across all four lanes? You could get killed.”

    I smiled even harder. “With all due respect sir, by whom? There’s NO ONE ELSE out here.”

    We looked up and down the road together and sure enough, we were the only people there. It was as quiet as an empty gymnasium. He looked at me with a confused expression.

    I smiled again at the officer, and turned on the charm: “What other morning of the year could I ride like this and get away with it?”

    He grinned in spite of himself and let out an involuntary chuckle. I had him, and he knew it.

    He put his ticket book back in his coat pocket, wagged his figner at me again — but with a big smile this time — and said, “Point taken. But don’t let me catch you doing this on any other day of the year or I’ll impound your bicycle. Got me?”

    I nodded. “Thanks, officer, and Merry Christmas.”

    “Merry Chr…” he stopped, blinked, and shrugged. “Um, well, Yeah. Have a happy new year. And ride carefully!”

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • Sonya December 23, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    This will be my first Christmas in Portland and this ride sounds like the best way to enjoy the day. What will the route be?

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • justa December 24, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    i LOVE riding in abandoned streets more than almost anything, ever!!

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • peejay December 25, 2009 at 5:14 am

    Easy to have the streets to yourselves on a bike. Just hard to do it in daylight.

    Recommended Thumb up 0

  • lou December 26, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Did anyone post photos of this?

    Recommended Thumb up 0