The bike bus became the “strike bus” this morning as hundreds of Portland Public School students and their families from five schools joined a ride to show support for teachers who’ve been on strike since November 1st.
While the massive, moving picket line stretched many city blocks and bolstered weary strikers at schools along the way, it was also for the kids. As schools across Portland have started bike buses to get kids to school, many of them have had to do without that fun, active, and social outlet for the past 10 school days.
“I miss my friends. PPS, do the right thing!” read a sign taped to the back of a bike trailer.
This morning’s ride started at Richmond Elementary School in southeast Portland. Richmond PTA President Oom Marquardt told BikePortland it was part of their efforts to make sure kids have some sort of structured activity every day (today is the tenth day schools have been closed). “Usually we have the bike bus in the mornings, so we joined with other schools to join forces and have more impact,” said a beaming Marquardt as she surveyed the huge crowd that had assembled in front of the school.
Glencoe Elementary School PTA President Rob Galanakis organized the ride. “Seeing hundreds of people of all stripes and backgrounds showing up to support our teachers, schools, and communities — it was moving and inspiring for me,” he shared with BikePortland. “And more importantly, for our striking teachers.”
At the start of the ride in front of Richmond School, there was a band playing (a version of Johnny Cash’s “I walk the line”), boxes of free donuts and coffee, pro-teacher signs attached to bikes and backs (one young girl’s sign read, “Hot! Cold! Rats! Mold! This is getting really old!”), and Portland’s favorite clowns Olive & Dingo were on hand to make balloons and keep things cheery.
Once the ride shoved off, the size of the group became evident. I estimated about 500 people on bikes as the group spread across the entire street for many blocks on a four-mile loop. The route stopped at four schools along the way, picking up dozens of riders at each one. As the group passed Franklin High School, cheers erupted from picketers standing on the sidewalk.
As music blared from bike-mounted speakers, the joy emanating from riders was impossible to miss. “Joy is a form of resistance,” Alameda Elementary School Physical Education Teacher and bike bus organizer Sam Balto shared. “PPS management and the district will not steal our joy.”
For event organizer Rob Galanakis, he wants the big crowd to get noticed by PPS and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “I hope PPS takes note of the turnout and will offer our educators a better package, and I hope PBOT takes note of how many parents and kids will bike when the atmosphere is safe and supportive — so many families biking today told me they don’t ride nearly as often as they want because they don’t feel safe or confident on our streets.”
The ride was also a clear illustration of the renaissance of kids riding bikes to school — and how the proliferation of bike buses in Portland has made our community stronger.
— Want to start a bike bus at your school? Email Ride@BikeBusPDX.org for info and encouragement. Scroll down for more photos.