Shift needs help spreading bike fun in Portland

Shift helps get the word out about events like last summer’s “New to Portland” ride, plugging new people into Portland’s bike scene. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

“[Shift] doesn’t run itself, even though it might seem like it does.”

– Josh Hetrick, Shift volunteer

Shift is one of the mainstays of Portland’s bike scene. These days the non-profit is best known for their ride calendar, but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. Their tagline says it best — Shift is “bringing people together for bike fun.” At a volunteer meet-up last week, leaders of the group said they need more help to keep the fun going.

Shift was founded after the first ‘Bike Summer’ in 2002 and has been a focal point of free, social “bike fun” rides ever since.

So, what is Shift? After Bike Summer moved onto other cities, Shift volunteers got together and kept the fun rolling. They created what eventually became known as Pedalpalooza, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year (and has since spun off from Shift). Shift is also the force behind Breakfast on the Bridges, the monthly events where kind folks show up to give away free coffee and donuts to whoever rolls by. In addition to their ride calendar and events, Shift also hosts an email list where people can communicate about bike issues in Portland. The Shift List was the communications channel back in days before BikePortland and social media, but it has quieted down a lot in recent years.

Shift calendar

“Shift preceded social media, and it’ll be here after social media is gone,” said Emee Pumarega, a board member, at Wednesday night’s volunteer recruitment event. (This message is especially comforting as Twitter’s functionality seems to change by the hour.)

When a tool runs as seamlessly as the Shift calendar does, you might not realize that it requires upkeep and some human grunt work to keep it going. Right now, the non-profit has three board members, and they only have a couple other regular volunteers who chip in to help with social media and tech maintenance.

“It doesn’t run itself, even though it might seem like it does,” board member Josh Hetrick said.

Keeping Shift in order — and the gears of Portland’s bike scene greased up and turning — is a lot of work for just five people.

“It would be nice to have more people involved, to spread around the mental load,” Pumarega said. “And we could use a sustained PR push to let people know [what Shift is].”

Mostly, Pumarega said, Shift just serves as the “community underneath” the fun bike events and rides going on in Portland. They promote rides both on their website and on social media. Going forward, the current board members have plans to create initiatives like ride leader education and a grant program to help fund ride and event materials. They also want to add more functions to their calendar, like a search feature to sift through the hundreds of rides going on during Pedalpalooza.

In order to make these things happen, board member Logan Vickery said he wants to see the board expand to at least five people. He also wants to hand off his current position as the finance director and grow their social media team so they can do more ride promotion throughout the year.

But you don’t have to be on the board to help out at Shift. “You can create the volunteer job that you want to have,” Pumarega said. This could mean answering emails, helping lead ride workshops, doing tech fixes, tabling at the farmer’s market — or whatever you can think of.

Whether you’re a more casual bike fun participant or you’re a Pedalpalooza veteran, Shift has likely helped you have fun on your bike. Let’s show them some love in return by stepping up to volunteer and keep it going for years to come. Email board@shift2bikes.org to find out how you can get involved.

Taylor Griggs

Taylor Griggs

Taylor was BikePortland's staff writer from 2021 to 2023. She currently writes for the Portland Mercury. Contact her at taylorgriggswriter@gmail.com

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Brian
Brian
1 year ago

Thanks for posting this. Don’t know if i can help, but can at least reach out to see what i can do.

Sherri P
Sherri P
1 year ago

Wow, nice to see a Portland nonprofit dedicated to fun and bringing people together. Didn’t know those existed anymore.

Todd/Boulanger
Todd/Boulanger
1 year ago

Mahalo Shift-to-Bikes for your continued work!

“Shift preceded social media, and it’ll be here after social media is gone.” – Shift

Now then, I thought that the Portland Mercury weekly paper and web site WAS social media before there were social media apps?! 😉

[For the ‘kids” the MiniBike Summer & Pedal Palooza event calendars used to be printed on paper and inserted into the Mercury once per year…and extra paper copies handed out bi-state. Oh and yeah, the Mercury like the Willamette Week once had forged steel newspaper boxes on both sides of the ‘big river’. Almost like the days when The Columbian newspaper was an afternoon paper.]

Jayenne Owebalme
Jayenne Owebalme
1 year ago

We need to focus on fun enforcement. Any cyclists caught not pretending to smile should be named and shamed. Refusing to participate in the $50 / person Worst Day of the Year ride? Here’s a fine (and late fees). Not wearing enough face paint and tutus while distributing “mutual aid” to the tent dwellers blocking our bike lanes? Drawn and quartered at the Ladd’s 500. Disagreeing with the Street Trust about anything? Enjoy eating one of Sarah’s terrible cakes

Paul H
Paul H
1 year ago

Hey — you doing ok? Seems like you’ve created a lot of boogiemen to fear.

OGB
OGB
1 year ago

I’d love to see a return of Tutu Food Carts Ride but it hasn’t happened for many years AFAIK. Disagreeing with Street Trust is practically mainstream among bike-funnists and people I’ve known in Shift organizing. I don’t know WTH most of this is about.

OGB
OGB
1 year ago

I’d like to point out a correction to “Shift was founded after the first ‘Bike Summer’ in 2002.” Shift was created as a response to BikeSummer 2002, the first and only BikeSummer to happen in Portland. BikeSummer 2001 was in Vancouve, BC, and in 2003 it was in NYC. The concept began in SF in 1999, and died out after a few years (at least as far as association with the bikesummer.org website) when whichever-city neglected to hand off the festival and website domain to the next city. It has happened a several times sporadically though apart from the website. It has been organized in Japan (six times!), and surprisingly twice in Peoria, IL.

https://criticalmass.fandom.com/wiki/Bike_Summer!

Andrea
Andrea
1 year ago

Interesting article. Thanks for sharing this information.