As Ladds 500 grows, organizer feels pinch of expenses

When David Robinson launched the Ladds 500 in 2016, he had no idea it would become a phenomenon. I mean, who would want to ride 500 laps (about 100 miles) around Ladd Circle Park? Even Robinson’s self-deprecating slogan, “Let’s do something stupid!” didn’t seem like the best way to attract the masses.

But over the years, this event has become a favorite on Portland’s bike fun calendar. As the first big event of the year, it’s much more than a ride and it has blossomed into a community gathering where friends are eager to meet after a long, dark winter. Last year about 400 people crowded into the park (a planted roundabout where eight streets come together) and now Robinson is feeling the growing pains of success.

Organizer David Robinson at last year’s Ladds 500. (Jonathan Maus – BikePortland)

As an all-volunteer event, costs for things like porta-potties and the permit have traditionally been offset by a few community sponsors and from sales of commemorative patches and stickers. As crowd have swelled, however, so too have expenses. More people means more sanitation facilities are needed and the cost of the event permit has tripled since 2020 and now sets him back about $1,200 — about a quarter of the total event budget.

“Demands have continued to scale from a financial perspective,” Robinson shared in a conversation with BikePortland Thursday. “I keep getting more [porta-potties] every year and then the lines are still halfway across the circle. I’ll need about 6-8 this year at $250 each. It adds up and the big hole in my pocket was scary going into this year.”

Thankfully, as word spread in the community, a fundraising effort has been “wildly successful so far” and Robinson says the event will survive for at least another year. “Community support allows me to make decisions regarding event logistics without having to worry about whether I (as an individual) will be reimbursed,” Robinson said.

So mark your calendar for April 13th, grab some friends, make a team, and get ready for what Robinson calls, “A celebration of the inane, and bikes, and spring.” And remember it’s not a race, it’s a relay.

Follow @ladds500 on Instagram for updates. Find a PayPal donation link here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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Brighton West
Brighton West
24 days ago

There is a church on the north side of the circle that I worked with for a “gathering in the greenway” a few years back. It was like breakfast on the bridges, but along different greenways in SE (before the pandemic.)

Portland Parks wanted an expensive permit to allow us to give out donuts and coffee inside the circle for a couple hours, so we contacted the church and they were eager to support the community and host our event.

I suggest reaching out to them as they were much more helpful than Parks. They may even be willing to provide bathrooms and cut down on portapotty costs 🙂

Just an idea for next year…

Chris I
Chris I
24 days ago

LADD-flation?

Beth H
24 days ago

Here’s a suggestion: if you plan on going to ride or watch, bring a couple bucks with you. Go to the middle of the circle, ask around for David (there’ll be a few hundred people crammed in there) and press the cash into his hand to help defray his out of pocket expenses and start a nest egg for next year.
See you on the 13th.

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
24 days ago

How is the city justifying a tripling of the permit fees? That seems outrageous.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
24 days ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

Exactly! How dare citizens, as a group, try and use public spaces for their events!

Vans
Vans
24 days ago
Reply to  Jay Cee

We’re The City, we don’t have to justify anything because we say so.

The Mt. Tabor race series has had to weather the same.

Looks like its back on for this year.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
24 days ago

Sounds like the perfect PCEF grant opportunity, tapping into the Portland nonprofit industrial complex…

OregonRainstorm87
OregonRainstorm87
24 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

the second part of your snarky comment is totally misguided and incorrect (City of Portland isn’t a non profit and PCEF gets money from taxing the top 1% of corporations which was voted in by a majority of Portland voters) but I do agree with the first part, this would be a cool use of PCEF money, they’re swimming in it but I do appreciate that it goes to more serious things, like buying AC units for low income people so they don’t die in the next heat wave

donel courtney
donel courtney
24 days ago

The PCEF was promoted and benefits directly an interconnected array of non-profits in Portland who both promoted it initially, and are lobbying to maintain its current form which is essentially a fund to make grants to non-profits.

Thus the argument goes (I will not argue it either way, personally) the argument that is becoming more widely expressed goes like this:

Why does buying A/C units for low income people require the setting up and maintenance of a non-profit with all its attendant salary expenses? Further why so many non-profits, each with managment that costs hundreds of thousands yearly.

It seems redundant, innefficient and rife with opportunities for nepotism. Taking a deeper look into the networked world of portland non-profits, its easy to get the idea that grants are made to those with connections.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
23 days ago
Reply to  donel courtney

It seems redundant, innefficient and rife with opportunities for nepotism. Taking a deeper look into the networked world of portland non-profits, its easy to get the idea that grants are made to those with connections.

There’s plenty of nepotism and corruption under city government too, not to mention with other public agencies and the giant multi-national corporations the city contracts out with. It really boils down to what kind of corruption you are willing to tolerate rather than the amount of it – corruption is a “necessary evil” for the efficient processing of government with so many complicated and contradictory civil codes – and Portland’s civil codes are among the most complicated that I’ve ever seen.

Art
Art
22 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

The agency heads most involved are DOT related. ODOT, PBOT, WashDOT, Tri-met and Metro for years land-use planning which turns out abject failures. CRC fiasco ongoing, RoseQ ‘widening’ of I-5 bad traffic made more dangerous! Likewise SW Corridor ‘widening’ of Pacific Hwy 99W all hazards made worse, worse air pollution, worse water runoff impacts. It –was — a — land — grab. damnit!! “Curbside stops” best. Put the FX2 fleet on the #12 to Tigard. Put the #4 back on the Hawthorne. Route the #9 Powell across the Tilikum.

There is I believe sufficient evidence to support a legal case that “harmful outcomes committed” due to “mistakes not corrected” can be considered reckless endangerment and negligent homicide. The IBRP (pronounced I – burp) stills has flaws in new designs to reject, or, build and accident rates worsen both in number and severity I am not lying. Never build housing next to freeway access ramps! nor along 45mph+ boulevards! I don’t totally approve the Burnside build plan. I’d leave both bascules standing, build cable-stayed up to old bascule lifts. In future decades, replace them. Build a temporary roadway u-shaped bridge to remove last.

I appreciate the candor from bikeportland hosts. You say “induced demand” – I say “Human safety. Human health. Environmental health” the #s 1 2 & 3 on my What to do first list.
Last on the list is the money thuh munny.
Wheeler knew from the get go, an I-5 under the Willamette is neither possible nor advisable if it were. Developers pulling strings that put people in harm’s way. Strickler, Peterson, Wheeler poorly directed many big projects. Thank God voters rejected the 2020 SW Corridor debacle, yet… still in the planning at Capitol Hwy on Barbur speedway low-income housing for whoever doesn’t get run over. Terrible traffic by design – is – reckless endangerment.

donel courtney
donel courtney
22 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

You make some good points, regarding the inevitability of corruption and nepotism, and it may be that i disagree with the politics of most of these non-profit heads which is coloring my perspective.

But i seriously wonder how qualified many of these non-profit leaders are to be executing what are traditionally government roles of administration.

Why is a person with an activist background put in charge of distributing A/C units?

And also why are there so many top heavy orgs, at least with government there is, notionally at least, a pyramidal structure of management rather than tens or hundreds of management structures.

Also what auditing is in place, no one as far as i can tell is regularly reviewing how much these orgs are accomplishing and whether the overall expenditure from the fund is being reasonably spent to accomplish its (admittedly vague) goals.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
23 days ago

I disagree. As long as David Robinson is applying for at least $20 million with say PBOT and SEUL as community partners, under the rubric of “Transportation Decarbonization”, the Ladds 500 could be part of a monthly (or even weekly) set of CicLAvia events citywide, but under the management of a community nonprofit rather then under the whims (and sudden cutbacks) of PBOT management, community events that could also for example include Sunday Parkways.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
23 days ago

From the City PCEF Website:

People with low income and people of color are priority populations for grants that address clean energy, green infrastructure, and regenerative agriculture.

Green infrastructure and clean energy certainly includes community events that close off city streets for cyclovia events. Doing the events citywide gets everyone to bike and walk more.

If you want a more practical solution, form a grand coalition that includes BikePortland, BikeLoudPDX (for bike event expertise), at least one long-standing politically-savvy neighborhood association in Cully or East Portland (for example Hazelwood or Cully, for the 501c3 status among priority populations), the East Portland Action Plan (for organizing ability and getting other agencies onboard), PBOT (for city government inclusion and expertise), plus others including health care providers, realtors and business associations (to make it easier to close down major streets). Create a program and give it a name – “Portland Community Cyclovia” for example – and in your Letter of Interest (LOI) include how you’ll be doing open streets events citywide all year long, needing funds to pay for personnel, stipends, vehicles and rent of offices and vehicle storage, leveraging thousands of hours of volunteer time, helping marginal populations of color and low-income bicyclists. Figure out a budget, ask for everything you need, don’t be stingy.

Art
Art
22 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Here’s an idea for an experimental traffic calming device: It involves stoplight changes at 3 intersections, one is a 3-way intersection between the two 4-way stoplights. What we do change them to “flashing red” light (with proper signage to politely inform motorists) the stop is necessary, get used to it. I’ll bet some here already see where this experiment would occur. I’m just wondering if the Flashing Red experiment could work for others sites as well.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
22 days ago
Reply to  Art

I’ve seen such intersections here in Greensboro NC, particularly at night. The main road would have flashing yellow all night long and the relatively minor street intersecting it has flashing red, no stop signs at any intersections – we have them on several intersections near our main hospital. Apparently it can be programmed into the light cycle. I’ve also seen it at daytime intersections, but with stop signs on all four corners and flashing red in every direction. I can ask our city traffic engineers how effective they are at our next local quarterly BiPed meeting in June.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
21 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Thanks for the feedback. Too many motorists see a Green light ahead and speed up to “beat the light” and not slow down even when the signal changes to yellow adding only a few seconds. A flashing red would signal a required stop from blocks away. The setting in my example is NW Portland on the Lovejoy Street traffic corridor leading to the Broadway Bridge. The 3-way light is where the Lovejoy ramp meets the Broadway ramp. On the west side, the stoplight at NW 9th Ave is most dangerous of the three. Stoplights are also at closely spaced 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th & 14th, all with busy pedestrian crosswalks. I’d say a 20mph posted speed limit is exceeded by motorists doing 30mph all day. At NW 9th, rows of westbound motorists make right turns through the busy crosswalk there at speed. Westbound motorists there making a left turn onto 9th, risk major collision.

Jan P
Jan P
20 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

Riding around in a circle all day seems like it’s a waste of energy, and ultimately a waste of global resources. The riders (and spectators) consume many calories, most of which are processed in factories hundreds or thousands of miles away and trucked to Portland. Same for the decorations, party favors, signs, awards, etc. Sewage generated needs to be treated and processed. Wrappers, beverage containers, silverware, etc. all ends up in a landfill. Tubes, grips, saddles and other consumables are worn out. And let’s not forget the cloud of microplastics and aerosolized oils that bicycle riding generates, especially at this scale. Characterizing it as beneficial for the environment is wildly disingenuous; those who are truly concerned about climate change know that unnecessary travel must be discouraged to avoid the worst case scenario for our planet’s future. While it might be on a smaller scale than boarding a dinosaur-burning jet plane to a Spring Break destination, you can’t argue in good faith that the Ladd’s 500 doesn’t have a detrimental imapact on Gaia.

Bobby
Bobby
7 days ago
Reply to  Jan P

Alright? Whats your point.

bjorn
bjorn
22 days ago

Ladd’s is one of the 5 busiest bike routes in the city according to a recent article I saw somewhere. Seems like a park along such a popular bike route would be a great place for the city to install a couple Portland loo’s. We need more public bathrooms!

Lady Max
Lady Max
21 days ago

Thanks for reporting, Jonathan! The $250 expense of one porta-potty for one day is crazy!…. but highly appreciated by all!!! And grateful to David and the volunteers for ALL their efforts to put on a fun day! I hope our donations cover their costs this year.

We need more real creative pre-event funding-raising ideas!