Last night’s kickoff ride was my first-ever Pedalpalooza event
There are a lot of good reasons to ride a bike, but I think there’s one we don’t talk about enough, and it may be the best reason of all: it’s extremely fun! As I headed west across the Burnside Bridge with hundreds of people on bikes at the Pedalpalooza Kickoff Ride last night, watching the late spring golden hour glow settling over the Willamette River, the joy was abundant.
Last night’s kickoff ride was my first-ever Pedalpalooza event, and it was the perfect entry point into what I anticipate will be a glorious ‘Bike Summer.’ Although many people at the ride were Pedalpalooza vets, the fun was open to all. At the beginning rendezvous under the lush tree canopy at Laurelhurst Park, Bike Loud PDX members were handing out bike maps and sharing info on how to get more involved in the bike scene, and that welcoming attitude continued throughout the ride.
For people who are newer to biking around Portland – and even to those who aren’t – riding with a big group like this provides a feeling of security that is hard to come by on solo rides. Thanks to the people (colloquially known as ‘corkers’) who eagerly volunteered to serve as makeshift traffic barricades at stoplights, we could easily maneuver the streets and bridges as a collective. It was powerful to see this spirit of community in action. Everyone’s looking out for each other, no matter if this is your first or 600th Pedalpalooza ride.
(Check out our video recap below.)
Ride leaders and attendees were hesitant to provide solid estimates on how many people showed up to the ride, but I feel comfortable saying there were at least 1,500 at the busiest point. After we left Laurelhurst, we headed west on the Ankeny Greenway toward the Burnside Bridge before heading north to The Fields Park. After about an hour or so, the crowd dwindled a bit, but was still strong crossing the Hawthorne Bridge back into southeast to end the night at Colonel Summers Park.
“There’s nothing like the kickoff ride at Pedalpalooza. It’s my favorite day of the year,” Portland urbanist booster Tim Davis told me as the night finished up with a dance party at Colonel Summers. (Shout out to DJ Lo, whose disco playlist really solidified the impeccable vibes!)
“There are bigger rides than the kickoff, but they don’t have the same sense of anticipation and energy. We’re all so ready for it on so many levels,” Davis said.
I must make mention of the bottomless bubble machines that made my job as a photographer very easy. I think we should be seeing more soap bubbles out in the world. It’s the simple things, right?
One of the coolest things about the ride was seeing how onlookers reacted. Most everyone we passed on the street was all smiles. At least one new person joined in the fun after running into the group unexpectedly, a testament to the welcoming spirit Pedalpalooza emanates. The Pedalpalooza message is: come one, come all! Let’s be in this together! And how can you turn that down?
You don’t need me to say it: things are hard out here. I won’t evangelize bicycling as the fix to all of the world’s woes. But the palpable camaraderie and hope I felt during a beautiful night biking and dancing in clouds of bubbles made me certain it’s a good place to start.
This was only the very beginning of Bike Summer 2022. There will be hundreds more rides through the end of August for you to join, so keep checking the official Pedalpalooza calendar for opportunities to get into it.