In the year that I’ve been living and biking in Portland, my understanding of what a person can do with a bike has grown exponentially. I’ve taken my bike on big grocery runs, changed my perspective on how to accomplish scenic day trips and I never, ever want for a car. I know now bikes are the perfect tool to carry around a gaggle of kids or a couple of dogs, and that you can stay cool biking on a blazing hot day if you plan your route around tree canopy coverage.
But there was still one thing I wasn’t totally sure about. Can a person really move by bike? I knew other people had done it, but come on, me?With only a back rack and two panniers to my name? As you can see, I was brainwashed by the Portlandia depiction of two senseless bike movers ruining some woman’s precious belongings. In fact, moving by bike is easy and fun. And now that I’ve successfully done it, it seems like the only sensible way to handle the notoriously dreaded task of schlepping everything you own from one place to another – at least it certainly is when you have an skilled and willing crew of cargo bike owners to help you.
My transformation from a bike move skeptic to a full-throated advocate happened quickly. Last week, I signed a lease for a new house in Piedmont, a neighborhood in north Portland pretty far from the place in southeast’s Richmond neighborhood where I lived before. After telling people about my move, I immediately received offers from people who wanted to help haul my stuff on their bike trailers. (I think this kind of reaction has never happened to anyone moving in a U-Haul.)
So, okay! I was moving by bike. This meant I’d have to get organized: no more relying mostly on overflowing tote bags or loosely tossing my stuff on the passenger seat. I was pretty confident about my smaller stuff, but since I had no idea how many people would show up, I accepted the potential fate of leaving behind my big area rug or table.
I chuckle now to think of my ignorance.
When the time came to hit the road, I had so many helpers at my disposal that we ran out of stuff to carry. People tried to haggle with my housemate who’s staying put, practically begging him to hand over more furniture for us to add to the load. (Understandably, he didn’t want us to do that.)
Our motley crew consisted of almost 20 people and a diverse range of hauling devices, including several lengthy trailers, a couple dog carriers and a pedicab (operated by newly-certified pedicab operator Kiel Johnson, who not only carried all my books but also saved the day by picking up the pizza at the end.) Our youngest team member was Shawn Martinez’s six-year-old daughter, who had the special task of carrying the essential Portland cyclist-authored How to Move By Bike book in her backpack. I felt a little guilty that my panniers were bearing the tiniest load, but nobody gave me a hard time about it. All in all, I can honestly say it was the least stressful move I’ve ever experienced.
The bike ride itself was easy. Turns out, a group of cyclists carrying this much stuff is pretty visible to people driving cars, and except for a couple minor trailer mishaps, it was a breeze. I was very pleased we had the chance to anoint the new Blumenauer Bridge with what I believe to be its first bike move experience. Once we got to my new place, I was sure this would be the best housewarming party I’d ever have.
One thing I was slightly surprised by was the lack of attention we received from passersby, most of whom didn’t seem particularly impressed. But actually, I think this might be a good thing. While I do believe everyone who participates in bike moves should be given kudos and plenty of pizza and beer or LaCroix, it should also be said that moving by bike isn’t that hard. It’s no big deal to see a huge box moving truck taking up space on neighborhood streets, so why should a caravan of people hauling stuff on bikes make people bat an eyelash? I was also shocked to find out the majority of the participants were bike moving newbies – that should be even more of a testament to how feasible this is for just about anyone.
So, why move by bike? It’s not because I think the fossil fuel emissions I would generate from one U-Haul trip would be so egregious I’d have to spend the rest of my life feeling ashamed, and it’s only slightly for the novelty and to prove a point. Honestly, it’s because it’s fun, and I think if more people knew how fun it was, they might start to rethink their relationship to cars and to the people around them.
Thank you to everyone who participated in my first bike move! I hope I won’t move houses again for a while, but I will absolutely be there to help whoever needs it next – and I guarantee there will be others excitedly behind me.
Bike moves are wonderful!
It was very fun! Thanks for letting us help you move, Taylor. I think that might have been the highest percentage of bike move first-timers, too, I’ve ever seen on a move.
Wow, this is so encouraging! What a wonderful crew.
I am impressed. This is a really good example of old fashioned community where neighbors come out to help neighbors. Good show.
How was the mattress moved? I don’t see it in any pictures. I can imagine that being the most challenging, especially the floppy ones.
It definitely was one of the challenging things to move when we did Jay’s bike move last year but with a solid trailer and experienced bike movers, it shouldn’t be too hard.
I think the hardest things I’ve seen moved by bike was a gun cabinet (heavy) and a fridge. Mattresses are easy with a flatbed!
The hardest thing I ever saw moved by bike was an entire deconstructed house!
I’m glad that you have a good photo there of Aaron.
yes, mattresses are easy if you come prepared, a couple of used bike tubes wrapped around the mattress plus a good rope and you’re done.
Wait, what? Some people ride bikes AND own firearms?
Hilarious! This is ok if you’re moving out of a frat house, but not for most Americans with tonnes of stuff they don’t need.
I came to the conclusion that this kind of “drunken” bike culture stuff is a net negative for bike advocacy. I’m interested in cycling and micromobility, in general, becoming intensely boring and “normie”.
Woah. Did you read the article? I agree that it should become boring, which is why I said it should be treated as no big deal. Genuine question: what would you have preferred I do?
I think that was the point of the article.
How is moving things across town on bike trailers “drunken” bike culture? Nothing drunk or party like about it. More like a good old fashion barn raising. Most of the folks on the move were in our middle-age (except the 7 year old) and many of us don’t drink at all
My comment was based on the blurb for the “the essential Portland cyclist-authored How to Move By Bike book” as linked to by Taylor.
I find the drunken party culture of the bike fun movement to be exclusionary and to have been associated with problematic behavior so the “drunken party” description struck a dissonant chord for me.
I should note that I’m hardly a prude given that I believe that all voluntary behavior that does not harm others should be fully decriminalized. Even the worst forms of self-harm should not be approached from the standpoint of the legal system but rather from that of the (public) health system.
I would love to hear you expand on this specific critique of “drunken bike culture stuff” and how you feel it’s a net negative for advocacy.
Don’t let a little sunshine brighten your day
That’s why we try to lead the minimalist life. The things you own end up owning you.
More power to ya for moving by bike. As for moi, I was pleased to hire a couple of bully boys with a van to help me with my recent move.
I saw this on my bike commute home and it made me smile!