If you love cycling and great cities, The Big Float is a much bigger deal than it first appears.
On the surface, the event that celebrates its 10th birthday on Sunday in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, is just a big party where everyone hops into the Willamette River. But if you look deeper, you see that the event was launched by a public space activist who wanted to change the narrative about how and where we access our beloved river.
For Human Access Project Founder Willie Levenson, being able to easily go for a swim in the Willamette says a lot about Portland. “To me,” he said in a phone call a few days ago, “the test of a truly green city is that you can bike to a river and swim.”
And if you think Levenson is just shilling for his big event this weekend, you don’t know him very well. As leader of HAP he’s pushed for bike racks at Duckworth Dock on the Esplanade and more recently spearheaded an effort to create an entirely new park off the Burnside Bridge that would be accessible by a bike ramp (not a horrible elevator like Multnomah County wanted).
So it should come as no surprise that at Sunday’s Big Float, HAP wants to make sure as many people arrive by bike as possible.
HAP has partnered up with Bike Loud PDX and The Street Trust to plan two rides that will gather floatie-adorned cyclists from northeast and southeast to make a grand, mass entrance to Waterfront Park. The groups have free tickets available and Levenson says they’ll have an air compressor on-hand to make it easier for folks to carry inner tubes and other flotation devices by-bike. There will also be a bike valet with secure parking for your precious steed.
And there’s no party ride without music, so if you can show up with a mobile sound system and help out with some tunes, you’ll receive a free drink ticket and t-shirt.
You can just roll over to Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Sunday or join one of these rides: 10:30 am at Irving Park (hosted by Bike Loud PDX) or 10:00 am at Lents Town Center (hosted by The Street Trust).
See you on the river.