Do you remember when you were new here? New to this city, or maybe just new to this big amazing community of people who love bicycles? Perhaps both?
Since the dawn of the Bicycle Age in the late 19th century, the true power of bikes hasn’t just been in moving people from one place to another, it’s been in connecting people to each other and a better version of themselves. If bicycles are vehicles for social change, then group rides are high-speed trains. But not everyone is confident or extroverted enough to hop on board.
The idea behind Thursday night’s New to Portland ride was to help make it easier for folks to face a group of strangers and join our community.
Leaders Meghan Sinnott and William Hsu were the perfect duo to pull it off. Meghan has been around “Portland bike culture” nearly as long as those three words have been strung together and is the force behind Pedalpalooza, the World Naked Bike Ride, and more. William has only been in town a year or so and this was his first time leading a ride.
“It was through group rides that many of us gained the confidence and community we have today,” Meghan shared with me in an email after the ride. “We wanted to demystify group rides and empower people with the tools and information they need to feel confident in joining future rides. Everyone’s needs are different, but we wanted to address some common barriers we saw as a new-to-Portland rider (William) and an old-to-Portlander (me). “
Meghan said she’s particularly passionate about the new wave of Portland riders because of how many folks moved here with sky-high expectations of a cycling utopia. “I want them to feel empowered to make Portland the world-class bike city they dreamed about,” Meghan said.
Based on how the ride went, Meghan and William hit a home run.
As rain pelted the ground, several dozen folks huddled under trees at the meet-up spot (Salmon Springs Fountain) and filled out name tags with their name, pronouns, where they moved from and what year they arrived in Portland. One pair of friends were brand new to town and had never been on a group ride. They’d never even bike across the Willamette! They donned matching tie-dyed shirts and huge smiles the entire night.
The route went over the Burnside Bridge where I snapped rider portraits under the famous Portland sign (see the full gallery below!) and then wound over to inner southeast. As they made their way to Ladd Circle, the group experienced one of the best parts of slow group rides — other riders joined in and they passed another Pedalpalooza ride in progress.
At Colonel Summers Park, everyone wrote one interesting fact about themselves on a piece of paper, folded it airplane-style, then tossed it into the air. When folks picked up a plane they had to guess who made it. Meghan and William also gave out copies of the PDX By Bike zine (co-authored by Meghan!), Radical Adventure Riders Group Ride Guide, Pedalpalooza stickers (including extras to pass out at future rides), and other goodies.
Despite soaking rain, a whopping 45 people made it to the end spot at Schillings Cider House. People loved the experience so much they wanted it to happen more often. A few folks even said they wanted to lead a Pedalpalooza ride themselves! This is how we do it. Building community and a better city one ride at a time.
Check out the rider portrait gallery below (click to enlarge, then swipe or click to view more):
Thanks for leading Meghan and William!
Such a great idea! Props to Meghan and William — this is what community is all about.
This was also a fun ride as someone who’s been around for a while. It was great to meet some new folks, share some tips, laugh about the rain, and cork for the ride along with some other long-time bike-y folks. The first bike ride I attended in Portland was now over 10 years ago; I’m grateful that the community welcomes in new folks, then and now!