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.
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org