All great movements start with a few people who decide to show up and work together.
A movement is afoot to make bicycling better in Washington County and it was on full display in a parking lot across from the Beaverton Public Library on Sunday morning. I stood and watched as rider after rider rolled up and was greeted with smiles and fist-bumps from a very welcoming crew. It was the first ride of the 2023 season hosted by Ride Westside, a burgeoning new group of advocates that want to mix social rides with advocacy to start moving the wheels of progress.
According to one of Ride Westside’s founders, Tina Ricks (who you might recall from our video last summer), the group came together when her and a few other advocates wanted to help organize a ride they hoped would get a bike-friendly politician elected to the Beaverton City Council last year.
That politician, Kevin Teater, won his election. And fittingly, he also showed up for Sunday’s ride.
After the election, Ricks says they kept riding every month starting last summer. It went so well, they’ve decided to formalize things a bit this year. Now the group meets regularly, has a Slack channel to communicate, and, “This year we finally got a name and a logo,” Ricks shared with me on Sunday.
Ride Westside has members on key transportation advisory committees throughout Washington County and I expect them to have a greater influence on politics and decision-making as time goes on. For now, Ricks said the focus will remain on hosting monthly rides that are easy, close to MAX lines (to encourage folks from around the region to join in), and very welcoming to no matter who shows up.
Mick Orlosky moved to Beaverton from north Portland just last year. “When I moved, I had all these preconceived notions… I thought my riding days were over, that there was no riding out here,” he told me as we waited for the ride to start. “I was so wrong. I was so wrong! I just love riding in Beaverton. I love the west side and I like the these people and the community around here.”
Noah Langenwalter showed up with his family: his 2 year-old son Hugo and partner Stephanie Gerrish. As little Hugo ran around the park, Noah said, “We got an Urban Arrow [electric cargo bike] last year around Easter and we started biking all over Beaverton. We loved it. Then we started learning the routes that were safe around town, got a group of people together and ended up doing a bunch of rides.” Now, as one of the founders and leaders of Ride Westside, Noah wants to spread the urbanism gospel throughout Washington County and do more to make it possible for people to get around without a car.
People like Omar Ahmad, who moved to Beaverton from Houston, Texas in 2018. He said the bike infrastructure in his previous town was “terrible” and he was pleasantly surprised to find “all this cool stuff in the Portland ‘burbs.” For him, the group is a way to find better, safer bike routes.
Our 10-mile route for the day (below) would take us west of central Beaverton on a loop toward Aloha. Our leader for the day was Nate Sjol. As we pedaled through a neighborhood, he said, “We’re just trying to give people a way to find their way around town safely… the low-impact streets that connect to different routes in the bike infrastructure out here — and have a good time while doing it!”
It’s easy to have fun riding in Washington County if you know where to ride. Yes there are big, scary arterial highways; but there are also amazing little gems that are often hidden from plain sight and many places where you cannot go with a car. The thing about riding on the west side is that if you want to find the good stuff, you just have to get on your bike and start exploring.
That’s where groups like Ride Westside come in (and if you want a faster group, check out Westside Wednesday). With their help I rode through many places I would have never gone otherwise. We went off-road in Tualatin Hills Nature Park and through Nike Woods, we rolled through parks and a few sections of the Westside Trail. We hopped onto sidewalks in key places and found little cut-throughs you’d never find unless you knew where to look.
“A lot of them I just haven’t known they existed, even if I’ve been searching for them. I haven’t been able to find them until now,” quipped the aforementioned Beaverton City Councilor Kevin Teater, who learned a few new routes on Sunday. I caught up with Teater as we waited for a signal at an intersection he knows all too well: where SW 160th, Millikan Way, and Tualatin-Valley Highway converge. “This is a pretty great bike route into downtown Beaverton, but it’s also hectic, messy, and full of cars,” he said over the hum of traffic. “It’s a break in the infrastructure, so it’d be great to see this improve someday.”
Stephanie Gerrish would love to see safer intersections, especially since her 2-year-old son is riding with her. “It takes a bit of effort to figure out where you’re going to and feel safe,” she said while pedaling along Sunday, “But once you figure out what route works best for you, it’s really easy to get around whether it’s joy-riding in parks or grocery shopping.” When she comes to more stressful roads, she will often just roll up onto the sidewalk. Overall, she has fallen head-over-heels in love with her big white cargo bike. “We just hit 1,500 miles in the first year!” Gerrish shared at the end of the ride.
As the group gathered at BG Food Cartel for post-ride food and drinks, Ricks said they are eager to meet new people and grow the cycling constituency in Washington County. “Come out and join us. Come and have fun. Look on Shift… We’ll have all the rides posted throughout the summer.”