The Thursday Night Ride survived Covid and is ready for summer

Posted by on May 19th, 2021 at 2:54 pm

Ride leader TJ (right) and 7-year-old Zander at the front of the crowd Thursday night.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Portland’s Thursday Night Ride celebrated its sixth birthday in April. This plucky, weekly social ride leaves every Thursday from Salmon Street Springs at around 7:30. It has survived wildfires and a coronavirus and looks to be as healthy as ever.

When I joined last week, the CDC’s new mask guidelines had just been announced and there was a bit of extra buzz in the air. Friends hugged and there were lots of smiles. I saw someone I knew and went to fist bump them — only to smile and stick out my hand with fingers fully outstretched.

Large group rides like TRN perform an essential function in a healthy urban cycling ecosystem: They are invaluable base camps for new riders and new residents because all one has to do is show up and it’s easy to get plugged-into new people and new ideas. Even if you’re too shy to talk to people at the pre-ride meet-up, the spinning of legs and tunes that happens once the bikes get rolling tends to loosen everyone up and conversation comes easy.

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I decided to check out TNR again after a multi-year hiatus to see how it was holding up. I had heard concerns (and serious allegations) from some folks in the local bike scene that TNR leaders were not doing enough to root out unwelcome behaviors by some riders. When they had a fire at the end of a ride last fall during a county-wide burn ban was in effect, local bike fun group Shift took the ride off their calendar. Current ride leader TJ Baxter is well-aware of the concerns and has worked hard to get back into Shift’s good graces. Part of that is a four-page plan he’s submitted to Shift leadership that details how he and other volunteers are working to create safe and welcome spaces for everyone that shows up.

“Only touch a person or property with their permission,” an organizer yelled into loudspeaker before we rolled out. “If they say no, leave them alone. Don’t keep bugging people. No means no. Consent matters.”

The ride attracts an impressive array of bodies, ages, styles, and orientations. I saw older people, very young people (including 7-year-old Zander who you can see in the video), at least one blind person on the back of a tandem, and several hearing-impaired riders. One of them, Bre David Peterson, directed me their phone to read a message. “I am one of several people on the ride who uses ASL,” it read. “And more of us are joining.”

Another person I met told me she bought a bike (a cruiser which she has dubbed “Big Bertha”) to ride during the lockdown and her friends told her about TNR. “This has been awesome,” she said.

It seems like word is spreading fast and most of the reviews are good. There were several hundred people on Thursday and we stretched for several blocks once we hit the streets of downtown. It was like a massive billboard for cycling, safely, in the city while having a great time together.

Check out TNR any Thursday at Salmon Street Springs. Ride meets at 7:00 and rollout is 7:30. Learn more at @PUBPDX on Instagram or Portland Urban Bike on Facebook.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Jon CasselnetteLocal shredderJonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)pdxbusmanMike Quigley Recent comment authors
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ricochet
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ricochet

the most frustrating thing about TNR is the cult of toxic positivity which surrounds it, and which leads to a certain subset of it’s most dedicated attendees to elevate it to some sort of spiritual happening— which in turn often leads to a cognitive dissonance that prevents them from seeing some of the event’s actual flaws. Perhaps, in this, the leader has succeeded in making more aspects of life more like Burning Man.

Jon Casselnette
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Jon Casselnette

cult of toxic positivity

Oh man, I’m going to steal that phrase, it’s perfect. It’s what keeps me from joining any number of Pedalpalooza rides, or social rides in general. What’s the appeal of a forced-fun atmosphere? You’re pressured to look and act the way the organizers want, and it’s usually some labored, overworked variety of attention seeking that involves blaring music, blinding lights and clown costumes. Isn’t just being out there on a bike with others enough? Why is there the obligation to taunt / jeer the rest of the world? It’s like telling someone to “smile more”, and that’s gross.

Local shredder
Guest
Local shredder

I don’t know how this ride lasted this long but if you’re going to it be very careful. I’ve heard from friends and people that the ride leader and many other attend (not all) are toxic, creeps and not the best people to be riding with when our drunk. the ride is basically a party ride where you drink and make more stops then ride. I’ve heard from people & friends fellow riders follow them to the bathroom or home when they’re intoxicated, friends had their ass or body parts grouped. The list can go on, people have tried to correct this but it fell on deaf ears.

I wouldn’t recommend going to this ride but if you’re going to this ride be careful and watch your self & friends

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

“heard from friends?’ If you’re not speaking from personal experience then you are pulling some sort of PDX passive-aggressive BS. If you go on this or any other similar ride, including the larger Pedalpalooza events, know your limits and set your boundaries, how hard is that???

Gary B
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Gary B

I mean the article literally says the organizer announced “Only touch a person or property with their permission” over a bullhorn. I’m going to assume there’s a reason they needed to announce that.

Local shredder
Guest
Local shredder

This ain’t no Portland passive aggressive bullshit my guy, I’m speaking from first hand experience and experiences directly from the victim that felt comfortable sharing with me. I’ve seen TJ give random people drugs without them even knowing what it was, had to kick 3 people out for groping one of my friends, Some people don’t share those experience because they’re probably scared or don’t say nothing because no one believes them. You can set your limits but some guys don’t respect it.

Cory P
Guest
Cory P

Wow, I’m really shocked to hear these allegations. I’m sure some of them are true but I’ve been riding with this group for years and I’ve never seen any bad behavior that didn’t get immediately addressed by the organizers. Of course, any time a ride is widely known and open to all it’s possible to get some bad behavior but I’d say it’s far from the norm.
I hope that the current push to address past concerns will bring some people back.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

This sounds like a great time, and one I’ve been meaning to check out. Sorry to hear about some past problems, but I hope they’re in the past. Can anyone give some insight into what the ride is like (routes, distance, stops)? Sounds like a party on wheels, I gather that much, just curious to know a bit more before I show up.

FDUP
Guest
FDUP

Something like this, possibly with variations: starts downtown, crosses the Morrison Bridge, goes east on Belmont to 39th, south on 39th to Hawthorne, west on Hawthorne back down to the river, after party somewhere on the Esplanade or Springwater.

Mike Quigley
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Mike Quigley

Never understood how folks can actually enjoy these mob scene rides.

pdxbusman
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pdxbusman

I saw the group snaking through downtown! Looked like a great time. I wish they would bring back the “Prince vs Bowie” ride. One of our favorites for sure.