Bike Party! - Page 2

San Francisco's newest group ride marks a less confrontational, more booty-shaking phase in the city's bike movement

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Put your hands up San Francisco: SF Bike Partiers get down on a dance break at the Palace of Fine Arts.
PHOTO BY SAM DOSICK

But he and other regular riders often grew tired of the regular confrontations with angry motorists, the police presence, and the often circular routes through car-clogged downtown during rush hour that the leaderless Critical Mass ride would take.

"I love how it's a planned ride and you get out to other parts of the city, like the recent ride out to Candlestick Point," Fraser said. "Bike Party avoids lots of Critical Mass' conflicts by stopping at lights, getting out of downtown, and starting later."

Amandeep "Deep" Jawa, another longtime bike culture leader whose "Trikeasaurus," a three-wheeler tricked out with a booming sound system, is a familiar sight to many SF riders, has also warmly embraced Bike Party and volunteered his time to helping establish it here.

"I'm not sure whether it's an evolution or just something different," Jawa said, comparing Bike Party to Critical Mass. "I love both of them for different reasons. I don't think Bike Party is ever going to have that agit-prop element to it."

Indeed, Critical Mass was founded as an agitation-propaganda event to directly challenge the dominance of car culture, something Jawa says is still relevant and attractive to him. But Bike Party is a deliberate effort to broaden the appeal of group bike rides to larger audiences, which organizers say still has a political impact.

"Anytime you put bicycles on the road en masse, it's an inherently political act," says McCarthy. In an e-mail to the Guardian, the San Francisco Bike Party collective backed up her sentiment. "While SFBP doesn't specifically advocate for any politics or policies, by simply showing how many regular folks want to party on their bikes each month, we're showing that there is a need for a public space for people who ride bikes."

 

FIXIES AND FAMILIES

Contrary to much of the Bike Party's recent coverage by anti-Critical Mass media sources, which tend to represent it as the antithesis to the decades-old ride, the two events started with similar traffic policies and work to many of the same ends.

Like Mass, Bike Party practiced "corking" in its early stages in San Jose, assigning volunteers (or "birds," in the group's parlance) to post up in intersections to block cars for other riders as a safety precaution.

In 1997, Critical Mass experimented with stopping at red lights but soon eschewed the practice — it was considered too dangerous with the 5,000 to 8,000 people who were then riders. "It just meant a very long, slow-moving traffic jam," said Hugh D'Andrade, who has been involved with Critical Mass almost since shortly after its first ride in 1992 and created a website devoted to the San Francisco ride.

It wasn't until 2008 that Bike Party organizers decided to switch to the ride's current system of stopping at lights and sharing the road. "We thought it would be safer for our riders," said McCarthy. D'Andrade and friends rode in the San Jose Bike Party in early 2010, a ride he recalls was "so thoughtfully laid out, super celebratory, ethnically diverse."

That ethos seems to appeal to bikers at all levels of commitment and many walks of life. The San Jose rides now attract "mountain bikes, fixies, roadies — we have a cruiser bike gang that comes, even families," said McCarthy. San Francisco's ride, which officially kicked off Jan. 7 with a "happy birthday" theme, has yet to draw the thousands of people that Critical Mass or its San Jose counterpart do. But some bike activists we interviewed for this article felt like it was only a matter of time before it does.

D'Andrade now rides both events every month. He designed SF Bike Party's logo and now is a member of the group's planning collective, or "hub" as Bike Partiers refer to themselves. He said he feels the same vibe riding in both events.

Comments

We here at the SF Weekly Chronicle are thrilled that the Guardian has joined us in taking gratuitous swipes at Critical Mass when writing about Bike Party, since the folks at Bike Party aren't doing it. And just in time for Bike To Work Day, too! Thanks for helping us prop up our narrative.

Posted by Matier & Smith on May. 11, 2011 @ 6:32 am

get outta here! no one at the Guardian is "taking gratuitous swipes at Critical Mass", and especially not in this article! This writer is simply speaking factually of CM, not negatively. I would be shocked if you really understood the underlying meaning/importance of critical mass and still had the audacity to knock it.

Posted by not quite, weekly on May. 11, 2011 @ 9:34 am

Happy to see this positive press on SF bike culture or whatever one calls it. Shout out to SFBC, CM, RTB, and other groups and rides doing great things for bicycling around the Bay Area.

For the record, in case there's any confusion, SFBP doesn't oppose SFCM.

Also, SFBP isn't a "chapter" of SJ. They're separate groups, organized by different people. There's no SJ hub members on the SF hub or centralized planning between the BPs. There is a great deal of camaraderie and cross pollination of riders and ideas. However, primarily SFBP is by design and necessity as unique in how it rides and the routes it takes as SF's unique culture, infrastructure, and topography.

SFBP does have volunteers, stop at lights, and have planned routes, which shapes the overall ride experience. Those are the main distinctions with CM, and similarities with other BP. However, music, art and partying on bikes and using public spaces goes back to the 90's and earlier, so this is a new variation on an old theme.

Comparing different rides is a bit like comparing different types of bikes by different makers. It's "Different Spokes for Different Folks." The ideal number of bikes is "current number + 1" and maybe the same can be said about bikers and rides.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

Read the article, willya? It was written to celebrate the fact that SF is at a moment when we can have two mass rides that mean different things (sometimes), but are both serving the same end: bike visibility, bike fun, bike community. At its most simple level, it means there's more bikers out there. Fractious insults (though I do have to give you props for creativity) = unnecessary.

And dang, if you think "causing confrontations" is an insult at the Guardian, you probably haven't been reading our paper very long.

Posted by caitlin on May. 11, 2011 @ 7:56 am

would be nice if you'd linked to this discussion of the relationship between the two rides and the larger political issues... http://www.sfcriticalmass.org/2011/01/29/protest-or-celebration-or-somet...
thanks!
--cc

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2011 @ 8:32 am

This is the web version of a print article (a media that links don't work that well with). But thanks for contributing it -- its notes on the significance of CM are really pertinent to its role in the SF bike movement.

Posted by caitlin on May. 11, 2011 @ 9:15 am
Posted by A on May. 11, 2011 @ 10:30 am

AVANTE ALCALDE AVALOS !!!

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on May. 11, 2011 @ 9:57 am

Evidently Hugh D'Andrade is a pre-Mass cyclist as am I. However, I must challenge his statement "To ride through San Francisco in the early '90s was to take your life into your hands and be subject to harassment. Bicycling was not a mainstream transportation option."

I think Mass and the SFBC politicized cycling that induced harassment because I don't recall confrontations or reports thereof with vehicles during the pre-Mass era in San Francisco. If Mass never materialized, I think the SFBC would have been a better-respected organization and would have been much more progressive to accommodate the increasing number of cyclists.

Mass was/is a parasite to the SFBC as it seems the SFBC cannot and does not disassociate itself with Mass. Bicycle critics often equate riders with Mass and that's real tough for bicyclists and the SFBC to make strides in the community. And that's not even including Rob Anderson in the equation who single-handedly robbed the SFBC of three years of progress.

Overall, the pre-politics days of cycling were more enjoyable, irrespective of the lack of bicycle lanes and shallows. Cyclists and autos truly shared the road because we were forced to and the California Vehicle Code mandated that we legally do that. Mass ruined cycling and we'll never know how much more effective the SFBC would be sans Mass.

Posted by eezz-rider on May. 11, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

Bzzzt to "mass mess". Check in with this article and get back to us.

http://www.sfcriticalmass.org/2010/05/25/is-critical-mass-bad-or-good/

Posted by TVK on May. 11, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

Happy to see this positive press on SF bike culture or whatever one calls it. Shout out to SFBC, CM, RTB, and other groups and rides doing great things for bicycling around the Bay Area.

For the record, in case there's any confusion, SFBP doesn't oppose SFCM.

Also, SFBP isn't a "chapter" of SJBP. They're separate groups, run by different people. There's no SJ hub members on the SF hub or centralized planning between the BPs. There is a great deal of camaraderie and cross pollination of riders and ideas. SFBP is by design and necessity as unique in how it rides and the routes it takes as SF's unique culture, infrastructure, and topography.

SFBP does have volunteers, stop at lights, and have planned routes, which shapes the overall ride experience. Those are the main distinctions with CM, and similarities with other BP. However, music, art and partying on bikes and using public spaces goes back to the 90's and earlier, so this is a new variation on an old theme.

Comparing different rides is a bit like comparing different types of bikes by different makers. It's "Different Spokes for Different Folks." The ideal number of bikes is "current number + 1" and maybe the same can be said about bikers and rides.

Posted by ~NA on May. 11, 2011 @ 1:21 pm
Posted by Guest Carina on Jul. 23, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

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