I’ve never been a summer person, and have historically gritted my teeth to get through July and August and return to the coziness of winter. But this year, I embraced the sweat and mosquitos and general fatigue that comes with summer for the first time in my life. If I was feeling low-energy, guess what? There was a Pedalpalooza ride starting in 30 minutes, and if I went, I could instantly feel better.
One thing I think is especially impressive about Pedalpalooza is its sheer range. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Portland Bureau of Transportation-led tour of active transportation infrastructure, a ride to learn about unhoused Portlanders, one led by Native and Indigenous riders, a prom-themed ride with lube wrestling or an all-day trip to Multnomah Falls: it all has a place on the Pedalpalooza calendar.
During a big, exciting Pedalpalooza ride, it can feel like the majority of Portlanders are in on the secret that riding bikes is one of life’s greatest joys; that ride leaders and people who cork on MLK Blvd have as much political and social power as the mayor himself. This celebration of fun and togetherness is an obvious social good, and its energy is contagious.
But then a car driver revs their engine at you while you’re biking at a crosswalk – or you hear news of yet another tragic and needless death from traffic violence on our streets – and you snap back to reality.
Even so, Pedalpalooza changed the way I think about the city I live in. I feel more optimistic about the future after seeing people from all across Portland experience so much joy from riding bikes, and now there are so many more people to wave to when I see them biking out in the wild.
In my recap of this year’s Pedalpalooza kick-off ride, I added a disclaimer to my enthusiasm, writing that “I won’t evangelize bicycling as the fix to all of the world’s woes.” But three months later, I’m not sure I stand by that. It’s not just the bicycling – it’s the sense of community and joy that comes out of riding across the Burnside Bridge with hundreds of other people on a summer evening as the sun sets over the Willamette River. It’s the knowledge that if you need people to help you move across town by bike, they’ll show up to help you.
“Join us!” you’ll hear Pedalpalooza riders call out to people standing on the street watching the group of cyclists pass. The invitation is sincere. And they might not join right then, but they’ll know they’re welcome to in the future – and the next time they’re bored or uninspired on a hot summer afternoon, perhaps they’ll check the ride calendar and turn their day around.
So… what were your favorite rides this summer? Any big ideas for next year?