Volunteer Spotlight: Melissa Kaganovich
By Randi Orth, Volunteer & Outreach Manager
Melissa is a mainstay in the alternative transportation scene; she’s connected, to say the least. For Community Cycling Center, Melissa represents creative volunteerism at its best. While you won’t see her in our most frequently visited shop and program opportunities, her role is just as important: advocating for our work to support new bikers and pathways to education for adults.
When first learning of a beginners commuter workshop pilot at our bike shop last year, Melissa hesitated for precisely zero seconds when signing on to support it. The class was an overwhelming success and eventually Melissa (and her co-lead Lisa!) plan to do more to educate the masses.
She brings unchallenged levels of positivity and enthusiasm to broadening access to bikes and we’re excited to learn more about her this month!
Why do you volunteer at the Community Cycling Center?
When I first moved to Portland, I stumbled upon the Community Cycling Center’s Understanding Barriers to Bicycling report and fell in awe of the inclusiveness and strides that the Cycling Center takes to be a community asset for all people. I just knew that I wanted to be involved somehow.
How did you start?
I started teaching bicycle education in 2011 for Bike New York around Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan. After moving to Portland, I learned more about the Community Cycling Center and the courses they provided for Portland, and knew that’s how I wanted to be involved. Later on I joined the Pedestrian Advisory Committee (PAC) and met Noel Mickelberry (Oregon Walks’ new Executive Director) for the first time. Noel introduced me to Randi Orth (Volunteer & Outreach Manager) who then introduced me to even more people, which led to me co-teaching the Commuter Workshop series with Lisa White.
My next ambition at the Community Cycling Center is to create a Learn to Ride class for adults. My master plan is to create new street riders and fill the streets of Portland with bicycles…mwahahahaHAHAHA. But, in all seriousness, I’d love to contribute to the start of someone’s bicycle journey, whether it leads to rides in the park with their kids, quick errands to the grocery store, or especially if it leads to someone’s primary means of transportation.
What sort of volunteer work do you do?
I teach folks how to ride on the streets. I also serve on the board of the PAC, and am involved with Better Block PDX, a group that makes temporary, low-cost street and infrastructure changes that showcase what can be done with street space.
What is your most memorable moment in your time volunteering with us?
Definitely the Holiday Bike Drive. It was my first event ever dealing with children, and there were a lot of kids!
Do you have a favorite Community Cycling Center program?
I am definitely biased about this one, so I’m going to say the Commuter Workshop. I love teaching folks how to ride; I like showing people that riding on the streets of Portland isn’t as intimidating as they might think. I also love it when a new riders’ eyes open and glitter as they realize “Ohhhhh! That’s why riders do that in the street. It makes so much sense.”
What does “community” mean to you? How would you define it, or what does it look like?
“Community” means getting off your butt and getting out there to meet your fellow citizens and work to make the place you live better. There are many ways to get there and the Community Cycling Center is one fine path to participate!
Describe your dream bike?
I have two dream bikes – the monster Pugsley in the photo of me, and a beautiful small wheel shopper, the Wren Bicycle with small cream tires (20” cream tires are, by the way, REALLY hard to find).
What is something that someone may not assume about you?
I don’t know if many people would assume that I am a former band geek turned hardcore karaoke singer and novice ukulele-builder.