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Organizers pull plug on Portland Electric Bike Expo due to “eclipse mania”

Posted by on August 10th, 2017 at 9:28 am

Portland Electric Bike Expo-5.jpg

A scene from the 2016 event.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Hysteria around the total solar eclipse that will make its way through Oregon two weekends from now has caused a major bike event to cancel its plans.

Organizers of the Electric Bike Expo had planned to bring their event to Portland on August 18th through the 20th. But when they started calling around for essential services like tents, fencing, port-a-potties, and backup power generators, they quickly noticed something was wrong. With concerns over historic levels of traffic and camping due to the millions of people expected to flood Oregon for Monday’s celestial show, providers were unable to guarantee availability of the aforementioned services.

This realization sent Ray Verhelst and Bill Sell of the Electric Bike Assocation scrambling. They tried to reschedule the event for the following week — a move that also meant they had to find a different venue because the planned location at Portland Meadows Racetrack wouldn’t be available. They then considered moving the event to October but worries about bad weather tanked that idea.

But with such late notice and with many of their vendors and customers having already made travel plans, Sell and Verhelst announced this morning that they’ve cancelled the event.

Advertise with BikePortland.

“It’s a huge blow for us,” Verhelst shared with me on the phone this morning. “The manufacturers and the retailers involved were very excited about being there. We had a lot of people who planned to make the trip from Seattle and Idaho for the event. We thought it was going to be great.”

The Las Vegas-based Electric Bike Association first brought this event to Portland last year. The event was held in the Lloyd District and was a major success, with over 100 exhibitors and several hundred attendees eager to try the latest and greatest e-bikes. We filed two dispatches from the event.

Verhelst said they plan to bring the event back to Portland in 2018.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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56 Comments
  • bikeninja August 10, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Kind of ironic, since an electric bike might be the only way the non-cyclists are going to get back to the airport from central Oregon when all the gas east of the mountains runs out on monday , and replenishment takes many, many days.

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  • Lester Burnham August 10, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Far worse than this is how much pollution and garbage is going to be brought to our state for a dumb 2 minute event.

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    • SilkySlim August 10, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Throwing some shade on the eclipse (pun absolutely intended)!!

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      • dan August 10, 2017 at 10:34 am

        It’s a shame they had to turn off the lights; this kind of event only rolls around once in a blue moon.

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        • John Lascurettes August 10, 2017 at 11:04 am

          Far less often than a blue moon, technically. 🙂

          Well, there’s a totality somewhere in the world about every 18 months, but they’re often difficult to get to. As far as them being in your backyard, yeah, that’s about a twice or thrice in a lifetime thing.

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  • rick August 10, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Tough week for bicycle and walking news in Oregon.

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  • pdx2wheeler August 10, 2017 at 9:53 am

    The revolution has been delayed.

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    • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 9:55 am

      With the roads being particularly disastrous, I’d think it an especially good time to ride a bike

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      • bikeninja August 10, 2017 at 10:00 am

        replace your panniers with Jerry Cans and it could be a profitable weekend for the industrious cyclist.

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  • Matthew in Portsmouth August 10, 2017 at 10:04 am

    I am most definitely planning to bike commute for the eclipse induced carmageddon.

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  • bikeninja August 10, 2017 at 10:34 am

    Think we could get ODOT to close off all the southbound exits from I5 and 205 and 405 for the weekend to keep the eclipse zombies from trying to use side streets to get around the gridlock on the freeways? Maybe we could just hire the antifas to do it with burning tires and scrap wood in case ODOT doesn’t see the wisdom in this approach.

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    • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 1:36 pm

      Make it so no one could exit the highway? Sounds very practical. I’m sure no one actually needs to get off to where they live, buy fuel, or do anything like deliver goods, move people in by bus, etc.

      That would have to solve the congestion problem. No way that would simply result in enormous number of people filtering through side roads from further up or have any other side effects.

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      • bikeninja August 10, 2017 at 3:56 pm

        Lets do the math. 1 million visitors are expected, portland airport can handle 120,000 over that time period so almost 900,000 will be driving in. Assume half will arrive from the south gives us 450,000 from the North. Assume 3 per car gives us 150,000 cars. A three lane hwy like I5 can carry 3500 cars per hour if everything is flowing perfectly. So if we assume i5 and 205 are half full on average, then it would take 42 hours for all these cars to pass through. But as we know much of the time both these hwys are at capacity so I don’ think any locals are going to be doing any useful travel on these highways over the weekend and certainly won’t miss the exits.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 4:20 pm

          Right. Because no one who is actually on the highway will need to turn around or get gas, food, or water. Nor would people decide to take side roads if they knew the exits are closed (with the interwebz and cellular communication, they might figure out).

          I can’t imagine any disadvantages to trapping that many inadequately prepared people on a long stretch they can’t get out of in high temps. What could go wrong?

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          • Bikeninja August 10, 2017 at 6:05 pm

            If we start at the bridges so they couldn’t cheat and we could open all the exits again at capital highway so they could get food and water in Tigard. Problem solved.

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            • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 8:30 pm

              That’s not where they’re going to have problems — it’s going to be 50 mIles further south when they’re out many more hours than they anticipated

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    • CaptainKarma August 11, 2017 at 3:01 am

      Antifas have more important things to do.

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  • Bjorn August 10, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I am a little confused at how event planners who had lined up and likely taken deposits from over 100 exhibitors for an outdoor expo didn’t bother lining up basic logistical items like tents and port-a-potties until such a late date. Cancelling barely a week before the event likely cost many of their exhibitors considerable amounts of money. I wonder how many of them will be eager to sign up for the risk again next year.

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    • Chris I August 10, 2017 at 12:16 pm

      Seriously. Did they not look at a calendar? Terrible event management.

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    • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      It does strike me as sloppy even if failing to anticipate a run on portapotties and tents isn’t exactly negligent.

      As someone who’s organized large scale events, part of the process involves securing resources you need way in advance — specifically because getting these things can be tough. The bigger the event, the more lead time you need. Not knowing you lack basic stuff until a week before is really bad. If I were a vendor that had committed resources to this, I would not be happy and it would affect future participation.

      But all we can do is move forward.

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  • Paul August 10, 2017 at 11:01 am

    What’s with all the anti-eclipse sentiment? Anyone not excited is nuts in my opinion. Take the day off and bike south! An article on bike routes toward Salem would be cool.

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    • bikeninja August 10, 2017 at 11:27 am

      Nothing wrong the eclipse, But the thing that many of us are dreading is the same thing we dread every day here in Portland, Too many people trying to go places in too many cars. Imagine , in an alternative universe, visitors arriving in the valley by high speed train,extra cars and trains transferred in from other parts of the country by the National Railroad Service. Eclipse fans could then ride out in to the countryside on the numerous bike shares, or have brought their bikes with them on the trains “bike car”. This is fun and easy as private automobiles have been outlawed so the roads are clear and safe. Those not able to cycle would board buses at the many rail stations to their eclipse watching destination. No traffic jams, little pollution, no noise, very little capacity to carry litter etc. just a joyful event for all. Dare to dream of a better future.

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      • I wear many hats August 10, 2017 at 12:19 pm

        I went to the World Cyclocross Championships in Koksijide in Belgium years ago. Almost ALL 70,000 attendees took the train. Buses and team cars were the only vehicles at the venue. It worked seamlessly, and I was able to catch a flight 200 miles away after the event w/o issue. This hysteria re: cars and traffic is just plain crazy and dumb. Other options exist.

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        • Chris I August 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm

          We have two trains a day to Salem from Portland. Had ODOT worked with Amtrak to add additional trains? No. Have they looked at using spare trains from WES or Sound Transit? No. Have they looked at created dedicated HOV lanes on I-5 that could be filled with express busses? No.

          The traffic jams are going to be terrible, precisely because we have no other good options.

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          • adventure! August 10, 2017 at 5:13 pm

            ODOT did work with Amtrak to get an additional run or two from Portland to the Salem fairgrounds. I believe it sold out in less time than the totality will be…

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            • Chris I August 11, 2017 at 8:01 am

              I only see one “eclipse train” on the schedule, that is indeed sold out. They have enough spare equipment up in Seattle to run 4 or 5 trains, and the demand is clearly there.

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              • Matthew in Portsmouth August 11, 2017 at 9:18 am

                Unfortunately, it’s not just the equipment, it’s getting access to the tracks, which are owned by UP and/or BNSF, both of which dislike having passenger trains of any description on their tracks.

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              • adventure! August 11, 2017 at 4:58 pm

                Yeah, UP is generally not friendly to adding more passenger rail capacity on its mainline through the Willamette Valley (or anywhere else, for the most part). That Amtrak/ODOT got an extra train was a surprise, frankly. And that extra equipment in Seattle may be the trainsets co-owned with WSDOT, so they may not be that amenable to loaning it out for Oregon.

                Not saying that extra trains are a bad idea, and I don’t know how proactive ODOT was in getting extra trains (they are not as good with passenger rail as Washington.) In a perfect world, we’d have plenty of trains running around the eclipse to get the people to see it.

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              • Chris I August 13, 2017 at 7:27 am

                Agreed. I’m sure that was a big roadblock. WSDOT is much more proactive and I think BNSF is more amenable. Sound Transit ran special trains north to Bellingham when the bridge collapse occurred a few years ago on I-5. They also run special trains to the state fair.

                Given the amount of time that ODOT had to plan for this, we should have been able to coordinate:
                1. Several additional Amtrak trains to Salem. With a round trip time of about 2 hours, even a single trainset could have done multiple runs Saturday through Tuesday
                2. WES trains to from Beaverton to Salem along the PNWR right of way. Given that very few people are going to work on Monday, they could have suspended regular service and used 3 trains to run 30-minute service to Salem from Beaverton
                3. Oregon Rail Heritage train to Madras from Portland. They recently ran the SP4449 train on a trip to Bend. This would have been a great opportunity for a Sunday/Monday excursion to Madras.
                4. Tour busses on surface roads, with dedicated lanes as required.

                We’ll see how this event turns out, but I have a feeling that ODOT will be taking some flack after this is all said and done.

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      • KTaylor August 10, 2017 at 6:46 pm

        I think you need to add issuing a limited number of permits to people to come to Oregon for the eclipse – and a permit, not unlike a hunting or fishing license, to camp that you can’t get unless you can demonstrate you know how to handle fire. I mean, just think of it – almost TWICE as many people as Portland’s whole population. A quarter of the whole state’s population, all arriving at the same time, slurping up resources and trampling the natural areas. There’s no amount of good urban planning that makes that ok. I’m reminded of the scene in Little House on the Prairie when the locusts arrive and lay waste to the place.

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        • KTaylor August 10, 2017 at 6:47 pm

          Uh – I guess that happened in the Bible too. But more people know Little House on the Prairie, right? 🙂

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          • rachel b August 10, 2017 at 10:53 pm

            LHOP IS THE BIBLE!

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            • rachel b August 10, 2017 at 10:55 pm

              I’m most terrified about the people creeping into wilderness areas and pitching tents and campfires–wildfires, ahoy. And I’m almost certain that–like Occupy–there are are going to be quite a few who’ve come here to camp for good.

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              • Kyle Banerjee August 11, 2017 at 5:14 am

                I’m most concerned about the fires myself — this couldn’t come at a worse time. Super dangerous to humans, nature, and property.

                We’ll see what people actually do. As someone who does quite a bit of backcountry camping, I would observe that even at peak times, I typically see nobody whatsoever even in great weather in absolutely primo areas if there’s any trouble involved in getting to the site.

                The normally good options will be severely overrun, and what’s left will be harder than people think. Heat, access to water, and ability to schlep gear are going to be limiting factors for many people. Hopefully that will keep them near their cars.

                I anticipate a bazillion RVs which will slow/stop traffic and keep people on the roads. I suspect many people won’t make adequate advance preparations for their fuel needs. Getting home may well be worse than getting out there. Those who cycle will be glad they did.

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    • Chris I August 10, 2017 at 12:19 pm

      Most Americans are ignorant about most things, but scientific things especially, and can’t seem to be bothered to think outside of the activities of their daily lives for more than a few seconds.

      I have a coworker who said she won’t even bother walking outside to see it. When I mentioned that it was a “once or twice in a lifetime event” she responded that she wasn’t worried, because she would have multiple lifetimes. I had no response.

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    • rick August 10, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      For bike rides from Portland to Salem: check here but it might be better to ride on the adjacent multi-use path alongside the Salem Parkway (highway 99E) https://ridewithgps.com/routes/21843619

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      • Kyle Banerjee August 11, 2017 at 6:55 am

        I did 99E some years back. Unless it has improved, I’d recommend another route as it was gnarlier than alternatives.

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    • Doug August 11, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Look here Sonny. How old are you and how long have you lived in the Pacific Northwest?

      In Longview where I’ll be working that day at 1000 it is extremely likely to be cloudy. I’m in my late 50’s and I am well aware of this. 3 out of 10 cloudy that time of day, any day, looking at the weather 10 days out, plus the smoke from the myriad fires around it’s looking less likely than that. What on earth is there to get excited about. Watching it on TV? Non event doesn’t even come close to coming far enough. Heck it barely rates turning on the dvr. 2 minutes of darkness Yippee!!! I was around in 1979 and have no recollection of the event; because it was probably cloudy.

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      • Kyle Banerjee August 12, 2017 at 1:16 pm

        Easy way to improve odds is to get to high desert….

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  • rh August 10, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Think I’ll just watch the eclipse from the front porch of the house in Portland. 99.4% totality is good enough for me! Fingers crossed the sky is clear!

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    • Chris I August 10, 2017 at 12:23 pm

      Yes, it will still be amazing in Portland, but keep in mind that the sun is over 100,000 brighter at 99% obscured than it is at 100% obscured.

      Be sure to use eclipse glasses for the entire event. You will not be able to safely take them off unless you are in the totality.

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      • Sigma August 10, 2017 at 3:33 pm

        That’s only true if you are staring at the sun. Just experiencing the world at 99.4% sounds pretty cool to me.

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    • BradWagon August 10, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Would be somewhat comical if the haze sticks around and we all get to enjoy a matte darkening of haze instead.

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  • mran1984 August 10, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Mopeds, bicycles do not have motors. Renaming something does not actually make it something else.

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    • pdx2wheeler August 10, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      My bike has a motor, it’s pretty damn good looking too! haha

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  • resopmok August 10, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    The apoc-eclpise is real folks! Glad I am riding my human powered bicycle to Salem for the event. I anticipate the return trip will take me less than half as long as if I had driven.

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    • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 1:39 pm

      Agreed. Out of curiosity, have you decided on routing yet?

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      • resopmok August 10, 2017 at 5:38 pm

        Not too sure yet, this looked okay, but then how do I get to Champoeg from NE Portland: http://rideoregonride.com/road-routes/champoeg-state-park-to-salem/

        Destination is West Salem (meaning I have to cross the river downtown), so I thought 221 out of Dayton might work, and take 99W to Dayton (is that a terrible idea? I’m not too scared of shoulder riding if the shoulder doesn’t have too many long chokepoints). Figured I’d come over Terwilliger and pick up 210, then South Roy Rogers, then catch 99W from Sherwood. Heading out on Saturday and planning to come back Monday.. Sort of hoping that any standstills can be ridden past.

        Any good ideas?

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 8:35 pm

          I’ve ridden 99 all the way to Eugene. There are a few dodgy sections but overall it’s not bad. However I would expect especially heavy traffic on 99 and where shoulders and space are lacking, it won’t be fun. I really do think I-5 will be easier/safer.

          Sight lines from Champoeg are terrible if memory serves me right. The highway is actually a good viewpoint.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 10, 2017 at 8:41 pm

          I missed you were headed out Saturday. I-5 will be full throttle. If you want west salem, why not take 99 to 22? Both roads have great shoulders and fast riding.

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        • Kyle Banerjee August 11, 2017 at 5:18 am

          Doh! I just realized what you were trying to say. Your proposed routing will work fine. My experience on 221 out of Salem has been good.

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  • Spiffy August 10, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    providers were unable to guarantee availability of the aforementioned services.

    can we get a list of these providers? I want to make sure I never use them… either you have the equipment or you don’t… if you have it then full payment in advance should always reserve it…

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  • Hello, Kitty
    Hello, Kitty August 10, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    This is a real bummer. I was planning to grab one of their electric cycles to help me escape the hordes driven to eating brains by the eclipse. Now I’ll need to find another way.

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  • rachel b August 10, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    I just hope that all the choking wildfire smoke dissipates in time for all the choking diesel and other exhaust. I don’t like to mix my lung wizeners.

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  • Mike Quigley August 11, 2017 at 5:42 am

    A perfect time for the Big One. Are you paying attention, Mother Nature?

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  • chris August 12, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    that’s too bad, i’d like to learn more about them, especially when will they become more affordable?

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