Friday, December 29, 2023

I don’t need a nonprofit to ride my bicycle for me.

For over fifty years, there’s been a New Year’s Day ride every January first in Portland.
(Photo: downtown Portland, January 2017; those are tights under my knickers — BRR)

I’ve participated in a number of them, and enjoyed them a lot. Most of the rides I participated in began at Waterfront Park, took a pleasant loop around Eastside Portland, and ended at Laurelhurst Park where we’d enjoy hot cider and cookies while ogling each other’s bikes and catching up with old friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. When the weather wasn’t horrible or icy, I looked forward to starting my year this way.

For most of my rides, the host was the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Portland’s grassroots bike advocacy and education organization, a group I was a longtime member and supporter of. 

When the BTA folded, as nonprofits sometimes do, the organization was reconstituted into another nonprofit and renamed the Street Trust. The emphasis became all about lobbying and rubbing shoulders with elected officials in Salem (Oregon’s capital), bicycle advocacy was watered down and combined with walking and public transit advocacy, and the education component was set aside almost completely. It became a very different organization, and not nearly as grassroots as before. So I opted not to become a member. I’ve never regretted my decision. (Photo: New Year’s Day, 2011)

I guess after that I felt I could just do my own ride on New Year’s and not trouble myself with Street Trust. And that’s what I’ve done most of the time, until I got sick in 2021. 

This year, Street Trust is hosting another NYD ride. This time, they’re requiring RSVP in advance and asking adults 18+ to pony up — get this — $40 each for admission and a year’s membership in the organization.

While they say no one will be turned away for lack of funds, there’s no provision for that on the RSVP form, so you have to tell them directly when you show up (and presumably, there’s no goodies for you at the end of the ride).


This is the same thing I struggle with in other circles in my life: if you want to participate it will cost you. If you can’t afford it, you have to say so out loud (likely in front of other people) and deal with whatever embarrassment and stigma may come from that.

I don’t need this sort of crap in my life anymore. 
I’m more unemployed than employed these days, and haven’t got forty bucks to spend on cookies and hot cider for an organization I’m not stoked about. I also no longer have the patience to deal with stigma, mine or anyone’s perception thereof. So I’ll have my own New Year’s ride and bring my own coffee and ts to enjoy along the way.
(Photo: on the Kogswell, Jan 2006)

May all your rides in 2024 be joyful ones.
Happy riding.

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