Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on September 23rd, 2015 at 5:05 pm
I fell in love with Portland in 2004.
It didn’t happen when I decided to move here from California. It didn’t happen when we bought a house on North Michigan Avenue. It happened when I got on my bike, rolled around town and saw a creative, exciting, and vibrant bike culture unfolding on the streets right before my eyes. I started blogging about that culture just 14 months after I moved in and I’ve been doing it daily ever since.
A decade in a sub-culture is a long time and I’ve seen a lot of changes. Groups, clubs, and events have come and gone and people have cycled in and out of the scene as time, jobs, family and other commitments have tied down their once free-flowing lifestyles.
For example, I used to be a Sprockettes groupie. Today I get all sentimental when I think about where that core group is now, over 10 years after they first performed at Colonel Summers Park. Many of them have moved away, one’s an accountant at a big downtown law firm, one opened up a successful cafe and coffee shop, several (including my favorite ex-Sprockette Juli Maus) work amid the beautiful bureaucracy that is the City of Portland. And my favorite story is the guy I met at bike jousts and on Zoobomb who now operates a MAX light rail train on the same route he used to ride late at night with his mini-bike up into Washington Park.
Those stories are simply about the passage of time, which we always expect and — albeit with reluctance — we’re mentally equipped as humans to understand and deal with. It’s the natural order of things.
But these days the housing crisis seems to be sharpening that curve of change and I’m struggling to come to terms with what that means to myself, my work, and my city.
Put another way, I’ve been wondering lately if I’d fall in love with Portland all over again if I moved here today.
at the 2006 Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)
The reason I’ve finally felt compelled to write this post is because Carye Bye, one of my first bike fun crushes, just shared on Facebook that she’s leaving town. Her reason? After 15 years, she decided it’s getting too expensive to live here on an artist’s budget.
Carye was a big inspiration for me and BikePortland. She was one of the artists at our inaugural BikeCraft event in 2005 and her “Bunny on a Bike” was one of the first themed rides I took part in (I couldn’t believe people would actually dress up like bunnies and ride around on bikes ringing their bells on Easter Sunday!). An early volunteer and instigator with Shift (the folks behind Pedalpalooza and Breakfast on the Bridges among other things), Carye wasn’t just a participant in the culture I was so enamored with, she literally created it.
She has led countless themed rides (a tour of Tiny Museums, the Pretty Dress Ride, and so on) and makes her living selling letterpress art and other crafts under the Red Bat Press banner. Over the years I’ve bought several pieces of her work, which still adorn the walls of my office and home.
I’m not particularly creative, so I’ve always felt like one way I can contribute to Portland is to share the wonderful things other people — like Carye Bye — are doing. That’s why this has been bugging me so much. At some level I get worried when people like her — people whose presence defines the Portland I fell for 11 years ago — decide they can’t and/or don’t want to live here anymore.
There will always be plenty for us to cover here on BikePortland and many of you who read this site today don’t recall what the local bike culture was like 7, 8, or 10 years ago. That’s fine of course; but I can’t help but feel sad that much of the creative street culture that made me so enthused for this work back in the old days is slowing fading away.
I guess I’m just lucky I was around to experience it (and lucky for you, much of it is documented in our archives).
What does all this mean for Portland? For bicycling? I’m not sure. I’m hoping you can help me figure it out…