Pedalpalooza bike events return to Portland
How does a bike-centric city kick into high gear? For many people in Portland, Oregon, the answer is a mass bike ride organized by Pedalpalooza. Portlanders have probably heard of Pedalpalooza before, or at least their the most common events such as the big Kickoff Parade or the Naked Bike Ride. The organization, which organizes group bike rides, began its events this year in June and will continue through August with daily free bike rides led by volunteers.
Meghan Sinnott, one of the organizers of Pedalpalooza, said the workings of the organization started in 2002 when she was writing her thesis on cycling subcultures. She said their first breakout event at the time was called Bike Summer, and it became the template for future events.
“The first Bike Summer…was a traveling festival that traveled from town to town hosting these cycling events,” Sinnot said. “Portland loved it so much that we had a mini Bike Summer the following year, then we continued, then we expanded it and it turns out Portlanders love a good bike event.”
With the introduction of the Summer Bike Festival and the positive feedback from the community, Shift 2 Bikes was born. Shift Mission Statement States, “As an informal, casual group of bike lovers, we don’t ask for membership or dues, just a shared passion for the bike in all its glory: as a toy, as a means of transport, as a tool for social and environmental change.”
Portland was a blank canvas for Shift to color with collaboration and ways to connect with the community. Sinnott said that was part of the reason she got involved with bike organizations in the first place.
“I got involved [with Shift] mostly because I wasn’t really sure what I needed to learn about Portland’s bike subcultures, but I was fascinated at the time by this significant overlap with the bike world and DIY culture, like building their own bikes,” Sinnott said. “Then this bizarre connotation of clown antics and basically this idea of turning the world upside down, like men dressing like women and adults riding kiddie bikes. You know, just question everything and try new worlds for size.
The organization’s first events, Breakfast on the Bridges and Multnomah County Bike Ride, were major successes from the start. “Our early events were like… hosting breakfast on decks, which was like serving coffee to people on their way to work,” Sinnott said. “Things like the Multnomah County Bike Fair, which was a place where people could go and get free helmets or free bikes and watch people joust on bikes or do whatever people were doing then.”
Setting up a ride on the Shift calendar is simple and accessible. Anyone interested in participating can start and lead a ride with just a few clicks and consistent planning. Sinnott recommended anyone planning a ride to do their research beforehand to ensure an enjoyable event.
“Leading a race is free, and it’s incredibly easy to do, and honestly, you don’t even have to be on a bike to lead a race,” Sinnott said. “You don’t even have to be an avid cyclist or cyclist… the more diversity we have for entertainers, the more magical the rides will be.”
For people who don’t feel like the strongest riders, Meghan recommends rides called Family Friends. These rides are often looped, allowing individuals to go at their own pace and not feel intimidated.
Sinnott also talked about her goals and aspirations for what she wants Pedalpalooza to become in the future. “I hope Pedalpalooza will continue to expand to more remote areas of the Portland metro area,” she said. “We have great race leaders trying to get the event to Tigard or Beaverton. …I’m also actively working to diversify not just the participants, but also the race leaders, advertising in The Skanner and Asian Reporter, and liaison with the local BIPOC in the Pacific Northwest – that’s huge for me, and I also hope to lower the age in Pedalpalooza.
Sinnott said organizing a community event like Pedalpalooza that brings people together is essential during these trying times.
“Pedalpalooza not only brings good feelings and friendships, but for some people, Pedalpalooza is summer,” she said. “For them, summer isn’t here until Pedalpalooza kicks off. It’s a great way to meet people [and] discover your city. I sure hope this concept will be populated in other cities and especially with people who frequent PSU.