The bike scene in Portland is a wonderfully dynamic thing. It never stops evolving and there are always new people, ideas, and events coming into it. As they do, they keep the scene healthy by forcing it to re-invent itself and absorb new perspectives.
Part of my job is to monitor this ecosystem and understand the role that each piece has on the greater whole. One such piece that I’ve recently heard about is the Rush Hour Alleycat.
Like many new things that appear on the Portland bike scene horizon, it starts with some tweets or maybe at text and email or two from the organizer. Then it might gain a Facebook page or website. The event might fizzle out. Or, if enough people link into it, it might sustain itself and build into something special.
(Side note: Have you noticed how big the weekly Thursday Night Ride has gotten? Organizer Nathan Jones (proprietor of Ride Yr Bike bike shop) started it as a way to keep the Pedalpalooza spirit strong. Now it attracts well over 100 people every week. It meets at 7:30 tonight at Salmon Street Fountain if you’re curious.)
Now, back to this Rush Hour Alleycat…
I was curious about it, so I contacted the organizer. His name is Michael and he’s lived in Portland for four years. He moved here from “between the suburbs” surrounding New York and Boston. Michael is currently looking for a job (in food service or sales) so he started creating and printing flyers to occupy himself and earn some extra income. That turned into Gorilla PDX, a business he calls a, “Bicycle powered, street level advertising firm.”
So, why did he start the Rush Hour Alleycat? I’ll let him explain:
“When I got to Portland, I resumed bicycling for the first time as an adult and found riding in the city center to be much less intimidating than I would have expected. I was still shy about riding around rush hour, but when forced to confront it, that too was easier than anticipated. I strangely felt more confident than at other hours.The cars which previously were passing me too close at 30+, were now stacked into neat little rows.
The bicycle is the most free a human being can be in the congestion of a city center. After learning about Lucas Brunelle on YouTube, I discovered Alleycat Races, and it clicked. Here was a way for me to celebrate my new found freedom, and find other people like me. With the same dumpster dive sourced printer, and my amateurish graphic arts skills, I set to work ripping off Disney cartoons and creating flyers.”
Michael told me his goal with the Alleycat is to find other people who like to ride confidently in rush-hour traffic — like we’ve all seen in those crazy Lucas Brunelle videos. It’s a riding style Michael says is “often maligned.”
While his Alleycats are a race, Michael wants everyone to know that it’s more about participation than competition and that all skill levels are welcome. He even gives out a “really awesome prize” for last place.
So far it appears he’s onto something. Tonight will be the third Rush Hour Alleycat. Just three people showed up for the first one and 12 showed up to the second one. Who knows how big it will be tonight.
Oh, and did I mention that after the Alleycat everyone rides together to the Thursday Night Ride?