Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On giving back

I got an email yesterday thanking me for volunteering at Bike Beaverton, reminding me that it is about community. While it can be frustrating to ride with kids and people new to cycling, I did have one woman tell me that she learned by watching me, so I explained the signs to her for stopping, turning, etc. She was an adorable older lady on a mountain bike and it was fun to see her manage the hills while she was still learning to shift gears on her bike!

Another Bridge Pedal is behind me, the second year I've volunteered and taken on the task of managing the Hawthorne Bridge crew. As a major fundraiser for our speedskating club, it involves a lot of time and hard work, and we had 2 crews to place & retrieve cones on the Macadam and McLoughlin portion of the course as well. After riding 50 miles in Hood River, we arrived at the load location & got to the bridge only to discover that the Bridgefest crew was still busy loading up the sod that had been placed on the center lanes for the "picnic on the bridge" event. It took about an hour for them to clear out so we could then close down one center lane and the southern eastbound lane. We placed the signs & cones and waited for the city crew to arrive with the plywood truck and forklift. It took us until 11:30pm to finish, and what an exhausting job it was. When we were about 20 feet from the west end of the bridge, we ran out of plywood and the city crew had to go to the warehouse to get more, causing a delay of almost an hour. I told several people to just go, we had it handled, but they all stayed, so 8 of us finished the job. No one was interested in going out for pizza as we were beyond hungry and it was too late. Driving to the east side of the bridge, I discovered that all 3 of our big road signs had been inadvertently picked up by the Bridgefest crew, so I called Rick & Brad to report it. Drove 2 of my ragged crew home & staggered home to bed.

Sunday morning by 7am I parked on the Madison's viaduct and ran to the bridge to replace the plywood on the 2 lift sections. City crew was already there to help out. Shortly the riders began to pour over the bridge in droves. On the east side, it appeared that Eileen, the volunteer from Providence, needed some help directing cyclists down the Water Avenue ramp, as there weren't enough cones to clearly mark the way. Some riders seemed confused as they looked around for direction, some came off the high curb a bit too abruptly, as they prefer the sidewalk to riding on the plywood. One woman went down and it took 2 of us to help her up and back onto her bike.

No major catastrophe. Sarah told me yesterday that one person had their tire stuck in a gap between the plywood but I didn't see it nor hear of it. I walked the length of the bridge a few times to check the plywood, keep people moving on the sidewalk and took a few group photos of people who stopped to admire the view.

Finally it was time to load up the plywood again. One of my volunteers showed up. One. I radioed that I needed bodies, and they were sent. The city crew pitched in to help out. We strained, sweated, lifted, stacked, wiped sand out of our eyes, snacked on energy bars and drank warm water. Finally, we reached the east end of the bridge. Time to stack and load the cones and signs into my car and head over to unload.

Home by 4pm with a chipotle burrito and lemonade on the couch, time to read the Sunday paper. Napped for two hours, then took a hot bath and went to bed.

Dear Portland, I gave you my weekend. I did my best to make the Hawthorne Bridge safe for cycling. I hope you enjoyed it.

I am grateful for the hundreds of people who thanked us for their hard work as they rode by. I am grateful for the volunteers who came out and sweated and suffered with me, just so my club could earn money so we can afford to pay the ice rink to skate. I am grateful for this wonderful city that shuts down its bridges once a year on an August Sunday so people can enjoy the view and imagine what it would be like to have little or no car traffic. I am grateful to the organizers of the Providence Bridge Pedal for the opportunity to contribute.

But mostly, my dear fellow Portland cyclists, thank you for your smiles, and for showing me what joy looks like.