Bend Freedom Ride: Celebration, some frustration

Thousands enjoy; drivers delayed; park district cleans up

Bend's Freedom Ride draws 1,000s

BEND, Ore. - Thousands of bikes, beers and flags filled Pioneer Park on the Fourth of July for the annual Freedom Ride celebration.  But as usual, what started as bicyclists riding for freedom quickly turned into a loud, star-spangled party.

"We're celebrating our freedom sir! We're celebrating our freedom!" said Jacob Fritz and Peyton Hill, two of the many young, loud- and proud citizens bleeding red, white and blue.

But as they celebrated, others look ahead to July 5th, when Independence Day turns to cleanup day.

"Our staff will need to go in and do a real thorough cleaning the next, day to make sure that the parks are available to the general public," said Bend Parks and Recreation Community Manager Jan Taylor.

And paying for that cleanup? Well, just about every taxpaying American celebrating Independence Day in Bend.  

But Taylor appreciates the spirit, regardless.

"That does cost the taxpayers some money, to have people come in to clean it," she said. "But we do realize that the freedom riders are just having a really fun Fourth of July day."

Drivers may have been less appreciative -- in fact, many have moaned and groaned as well about the inevitable traffic delays caused by thousands of cyclists converging on the area.

Bend police Lt. Ken Mannix said they would work to stop cyclists who stray from the road rules.

"If you're involved with this, obey the rules of the road," Mannix said the day before. "We will have people monitoring it."

One motorist who contacted NewsChannel 21 by e-mail voiced frustration with motorists "trapped in their cars," often with families, due to the cycling event and wishing more police were on scene to help keep traffic moving.

"They had to break some laws to get us moving," he wrote.

Still, as Independence Day unfolded, the upbeat spirit remained among the hundreds if not thousands of Freedom Riders, joining in an event that has no formal organization (and thus, no city permits).

"I don't know anyone down here right now," said Stephanie Howe, a Bend runner who recently won the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Race. "But I feel like we're all here together -- to celebrate America."

This year, as if to prove the point of Independence Day, there was even an Anti-Freedom Ride Freedom Ride, sharing many of the same goals but in an attempt to be less disruptive, and a smaller event called the Independence Ride also has emerged.

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