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Organizers call inaugural Native and Indigenous Bike Ride a success

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 This story and photos by Jarrette Werk originally appeared on Underscore News

Pedalpalooza’s first ride geared exclusively toward Native and Indigenous riders drew attendees from as far away as Arizona. Forty Native and Indigenous community members, ranging from young children to elders, plus a dog named Ocho, attended Pedalpalooza’s inaugural Native and Indigenous Bike Ride on Saturday, August 27, 2022.

“Imagine what we could do if we made it an every year thing. It could just get bigger and bigger.”

– Nanette Beyale, organizer

Organizers Alexis Vazquez and Nanette Beyale say they’re pleased.

“So many people came together for this,” said Beyale. “Imagine what we could do if we made it an every year thing. It could just get bigger and bigger.”

The 7-mile, party-paced ride rolled out at 3 p.m. from the Hampton Opera Center on the east side of the Willamette River. Riders headed to Colonel Summers Park, then crossed the river to breeze along the scenic South Waterfront. The finale was a celebration at Portland State University’s Native American Student and Community Center with fry bread, music and vendors.

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Nanette Beyale, Navajo Nation, explains the expectations and rules to the 40 attendees of Pedalpalooza’s inaugural Native and Indigenous Bike Ride. Beyale, a Portland State University architecture student, says she organized the ride with Alexis Vazquez to build community and create a safe, fun space on bikes for Native American and Indigenous community members in the Portland metro area. “So many people came together for this, even in the first little bit — just imagine what we could do if we made it an every year thing,” Beyale said. “It could just get bigger and bigger.”
Elisha Bishop, right, delivered three bags of Blue Bird Flour to event organizers, Alexis Vazquez and Nanette Beyale, and community member Lisa Graham. Bishop, a member of the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona, is an avid cyclist and a 2022 rider for Ride For Racial Justice, a nonprofit on a mission to dismantle systemic racism in cycling and ensure access to resources, education and community for BIPOC cyclists. “I work for the Gila River Indian Community in the Community Manager’s Office as a data analyst, but outside of work I organize community bike rides,” he said. In February of this year, Bishop organized the Gila River Bike Tour, a three-day, 60-mile bike ride across the reservation, and he also organizes family-focused community rides, ranging between 4 and 8 miles. Bishop planned a stop in Portland to attend the Native and Indigenous Bike Ride while on his trip from Arizona to Seattle to visit family. He said he wanted to attend to show his support, but also to learn how he could hold a similar event in Phoenix or Tucson, Arizona.
Reigning University of Oregon Miss Indigenous, Angela Noah, and another student traveled up from Eugene to attend the event. “My favorite thing about the event is I felt excited to see Portland and walked away with new networks and friends who share the same passion of biking and centering healing in the community,” Noah said. Noah, who is White Mountain Apache and Choctaw, and uses she/they pronouns, is a planning, public policy and nonprofit management major and co-director of the Native American Student Union at UO. Noah is inspired to bring the Native community in Eugene together through similar events and looks forward to the Native and Indigenous bike ride becoming an annual event. “I’ll for sure be riding again next year,” Noah said.
Ocho, a three-year-old Maltese Shih Tzu crossbreed, poses for a photo while sitting quietly in the basket of her owner’s bicycle.
River City Bicycles, a Portland-based bike shop, provided free pre-ride checks for any services riders needed. One rider needed help adjusting the seat of their new bike, and others needed tire pressure adjustments.
A young girl with a unicorn helmet sits in a makeshift basket on the back of her father’s bike and looks at the unique windows of the OHSU Robertson Life Sciences Building on South Porter Street in Portland.
Alexis Vazquez, who identifies as Taino, a group of people Indigenous to what is now Puerto Rico, and uses they/them pronouns, keeps an eye out for broken glass and other hazards as they lead the riders eastbound on Salmon Street toward the first stop at Colonel Summers Park.
Ocho (in bicycle basket) and her owner follow the group to Colonel Summers Park for the first scheduled break of the 7-mile Native and Indigenous Bike Ride on Aug. 27, 2022.
A cyclist tends to the wounds of a fellow rider who fell from their bike and scraped their elbow at the beginning of the event.
While looking for a place to take a group photo that could fit all 40 attendees, the Colonel Summers Park’s water fountain sprayed unsuspecting riders.
Gregory Topete, 34, is a first-generation Mexican American. His mother emigrated from Jalisco, Mexico to California in 1979, nearly a decade before he was born. Topete moved to Portland in 2016 and is actively involved with BikePOC, a Portland-based BIPOC cycling community. “The whole genesis of me participating in this ride was because of an ask from Alexis,” Topete said. “They asked if I could help scope the route out and be a corker as well.” A corker places one’s bicycle and body in an intersection in front of crossing road users so that a large group of people can go through without stopping at signals and stop signs. “The corker is there to ensure a driver doesn’t try to sneak by a gap in the group,” he said. “It allows all the riders to stay and ride together, rather than splintering off into smaller groups.”
UO Miss Indigenous Angela Noah, left, traveled from Eugene to attend the event. Noah used the $50 BIKETOWN credit offered to all riders in order to participate.
Corkers wait for the light to turn green so they can ride ahead and stop traffic at a busy intersection in downtown Portland.
With a stalled train blocking the bicycle route, riders improvised, carrying or walking their bicycles up the stairs of a nearby overcrossing bridge. There was also an elevator big enough to squeeze in four riders and their bikes.
Nanette Beyale helps Alexis Vazquez push their heavy electric bike up the stairs of an overpass bridge.
After all riders safely crossed the overpass bridge, they headed to Portland State University’s Native American Student and Community Center.
Forty riders ranging from young children to elders, plus a dog named Ocho.