Shift is one of the mainstays of Portland’s bike scene. These days the non-profit is best known for their ride calendar, but there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. Their tagline says it best — Shift is “bringing people together for bike fun.” At a volunteer meet-up last week, leaders of the group said they need more help to keep the fun going.
Shift was founded after the first ‘Bike Summer’ in 2002 and has been a focal point of free, social “bike fun” rides ever since.
So, what is Shift? After Bike Summer moved onto other cities, Shift volunteers got together and kept the fun rolling. They created what eventually became known as Pedalpalooza, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year (and has since spun off from Shift). Shift is also the force behind Breakfast on the Bridges, the monthly events where kind folks show up to give away free coffee and donuts to whoever rolls by. In addition to their ride calendar and events, Shift also hosts an email list where people can communicate about bike issues in Portland. The Shift List was the communications channel back in days before BikePortland and social media, but it has quieted down a lot in recent years.
“Shift preceded social media, and it’ll be here after social media is gone,” said Emee Pumarega, a board member, at Wednesday night’s volunteer recruitment event. (This message is especially comforting as Twitter’s functionality seems to change by the hour.)
When a tool runs as seamlessly as the Shift calendar does, you might not realize that it requires upkeep and some human grunt work to keep it going. Right now, the non-profit has three board members, and they only have a couple other regular volunteers who chip in to help with social media and tech maintenance.
“It doesn’t run itself, even though it might seem like it does,” board member Josh Hetrick said.
Keeping Shift in order — and the gears of Portland’s bike scene greased up and turning — is a lot of work for just five people.
“It would be nice to have more people involved, to spread around the mental load,” Pumarega said. “And we could use a sustained PR push to let people know [what Shift is].”
Mostly, Pumarega said, Shift just serves as the “community underneath” the fun bike events and rides going on in Portland. They promote rides both on their website and on social media. Going forward, the current board members have plans to create initiatives like ride leader education and a grant program to help fund ride and event materials. They also want to add more functions to their calendar, like a search feature to sift through the hundreds of rides going on during Pedalpalooza.
In order to make these things happen, board member Logan Vickery said he wants to see the board expand to at least five people. He also wants to hand off his current position as the finance director and grow their social media team so they can do more ride promotion throughout the year.
But you don’t have to be on the board to help out at Shift. “You can create the volunteer job that you want to have,” Pumarega said. This could mean answering emails, helping lead ride workshops, doing tech fixes, tabling at the farmer’s market — or whatever you can think of.
Whether you’re a more casual bike fun participant or you’re a Pedalpalooza veteran, Shift has likely helped you have fun on your bike. Let’s show them some love in return by stepping up to volunteer and keep it going for years to come. Email email@example.com to find out how you can get involved.
Taylor has been BikePortland’s staff writer since November 2021. She has also written for Street Roots and Eugene Weekly. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org