While you wouldn’t guess it now based on my 20-mile round-trip commute, I haven’t always been an eager biker. I was lucky enough in my childhood to spend a lot of time on a bicycle, zooming up and down the hilly driveways of my neighborhood with my brother and sister. When high school began, however, my bike disappeared from my life in favor of my drivers’ permit, and the other priorities that fill a teenagers’ life.
When I finally got back on a bike in my late 20s, it was hard to remember that I was a kid who used to spend all day, every day in the summer biking. Thankfully, I had a great support system. I had a good friend who was also returning to biking for the first time in decades as well. The first day she and I rode 10 miles, we were ecstatic! She was my biking buddy for the entire time I lived in DC, and I tackled many miles with her, building my confidence. This was reinforced by my relationship with my stepfather, an avid biker and my first phone call when I have a bike-related question.
When I moved back to Portland in January of 2014, I knew that I wanted to commute in. Living in deep southeast, however, I was a bit reticent. After a couple of months of taking longer and longer trips on the Springwater (both west and east!), and a LOT of encouragement from my amazing coworkers, I finally biked into work in March of 2014. Minus being grounded from biking because of a shoulder surgery last summer, I haven’t looked back. Having a support system as you hit the roads for fun or for a commute is vital.
That is one of the biggest reasons I am excited to co-captain this year’s Bike More Challenge, put on by the Bike Transportation Alliance. Formerly known as the Bike Commute Challenge, the BTA moved the challenge to from September to May in hopes of increasing ridership throughout the summer, especially among new bikers and women.
To support that at Jama, we’ve had several events this month. We kicked it all off with a trip to Ruby Jewel’s, a local ice cream shop here in Portland, where a group of folks biked for a timeless summer treat! We also posted a Portland map in a central area of Jama, where bikers can volunteer to ride into work with those who might be nervous by posting their location on a map. Because the Bike More Challenge is not just about commuting, but actually biking MORE, we’re also encouraging Jamains to hop on one of our orange bikes and cruise around town, whether it’s to the grocery or the waterfront.
We’ll also have several events throughout the month of May. One of our biggest draws is our pancake breakfast, led by a couple of pancake chefs here at Jama. First feedback is that the strawberry and blueberry pancakes hit the spot after a ride in. We’ll keep track of our mileage, seeing how far across the United States we can get with our total miles biked. We’re also aiming to complete a 100% Jama bike day.
So far, we’ve logged in: 355 total trips, 247 commute trips, 4 new riders, 2,673 miles cycled, and 787 KG CO2 saved.
The Bike More Challenge cumulates with the BCC Spirit Award. This goes to a person who encompasses Jama AND bike spirit! Last year’s winner, Jeremy Haage, had a 100% commute rate and out-rode everyone at Jama with 400 miles total while getting his kiddos off to school AND volunteering as a soccer coach. Finding out who this person will be in 2016 is one of my favorite parts of being a captain. We hear so many cool stories about fellow Jamains who find creative ways to make biking work a part of their work day.
This year’s Bike More Challenge is near and dear to my heart. As anyone who has ever been a new biker knows, hitting the road on two wheels can be nerve-wracking. It’s hard to believe that I spent so many care-free days zooming up and down the hilly driveways in my parents’ neighborhood as a kid! When I finally got back on a bike in my 30s for the first time since I was at least 12, it took a lot of gut.