Long before there was Portlandia or Pedalpalooza, Portland’s bike culture flourished. Far from a recent fad, the vibrant culture that exists around bicycling in this town is now at least a decade old.
A few years ago I was given a CD with the words, “PDX Bike Culture Photos” scribbled onto it. The woman who gave it to me is Ayleen Crotty. Ayleen is one of the people who helped build Portland’s “bike fun” movement into the amazing thing that it is today (she’s also the founder of Filmed By Bike, the Midnight Mystery Rides, and more).
Long before I moved to Portland in 2004, folks like Ayleen, Amy Stork (who took some of these photos), Ethan Jewett, Timo Forsberg, Carie Folz, and many others, were already out there on their bikes. They were celebrating urban bicycling in a way that wasn’t being done in many other places: They were giving away free breakfast to bikers on the bridges; they were dressing up and putting on zany, bike-inspired events like tall-bike jousts and themed, costume rides; they were riding their bikes to mystery destinations at midnight; and sharing what they love from the seat of their bikes with anyone who wanted to come along for the ride.
Ayleen’s CD got lost in stacks of paper in my office and I just recently stumbled across it. And I’m glad I did. The photos in this post were taken by Ayleen and her friend Amy Stork. They offer a glimpse into the beginnings of the bike fun culture many of us enjoy today. In 2002, BikeSummer was an annual event that moved from city to city. After it came to Portland, Ayleen and her friends didn’t want the fun to end, so they decided to keep it going (it was called “Mini BikeSummer” in 2003 and then assumed the Pedalpalooza moniker one year later).
I asked Ayleen about those formative years. “BikeSummer was a success because Portland was hungry for it,” she said.
Back then, she says, the focus was to let people share their skills and interests by leading bike rides — which is pretty much how Pedalpalooza remains. After BikeSummer was over in 2002, Ayleen and others got together for a wrap-up meeting. “The rallying cry at our meeting was, ‘what’s next!?’ as in, ‘where do we go from here?’ Words alone cannot adequately capture how that room was buzzing with eager energy.”
That energy remains. Many people who were around during BikeSummer 2002 are still showing up to Pedalpalooza rides today and the spirit of bike fun is stronger than ever. We all owe a debt of gratitude to Ayleen, Timo, Amy, and all the passionate and bike-minded folks who came before us.
To me, there’s something very comforting in these images. They’re an anchor to a shared history and a validation that we’re doing it right. In Portland, coming together to ride bikes and creating community on the streets enjoys a long and proud tradition that we’re all a part of.
Here’s to the next decade of bike fun!