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.
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.
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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