If you want to ride with the scraper bike king, you better wear a helmet. Tyrone “Baybe Champ” Stevenson Jr., known around Oakland as the “king” and creator of the scraper bike movement, announced his new rule of the road Saturday near Oakland City Hall.
“Everybody is riding without a helmet, but once they see us wearing them more frequently then it will be cool,” said Stevenson Jr., who now requires anyone who rides with him to wear a helmet. “They’re going to start pimping them out just like our bikes.”
About thirty riders showed up with their tricked-out bicycles as part of a bike ride and festival organized by Stevenson. After a safety talk from the Oakland Department of Traffic Safety, the group rode—with their bike helmets—to Arroyo Viejo Park for a day of food and music.
The event was the latest of about twenty over the past three years organized by Stevenson and his group, Original Scraper Bikes. Last year, hundreds of riders circled Lake Merritt to take a stand against gun violence. Saturday’s theme was bike safety, a mission that Stevenson is taking on with Oakland Parks and Recreation. With funding from the city, he has given out 250 free bike helmets at parks around Oakland. The helmets are white—all the better for riders to customize just like their bikes.
“These young men and women don’t have the appropriate safety equipment,” said Stacey Perry, of the Oakland Department of Traffic Safety. “They think helmets look kind of dorky. They’re beautiful bikes, so we came up with the idea of letting them decorate their helmets.”
Most riders Saturday agreed that if you have foil on your rims, there is little chance of seeing a helmet on your head.
“No one wears helmets in East Oakland,” said Jamesha Creer, Stevenson Jr.’s cousin. “They don’t want to because it cramps your style. It’s good that he’s promoting safety. They’ll follow what he does.”
Stevenson is credited with inventing the scraper bike: a customized bicycle decorated with cheap materials like aluminium foil and food wrappers. Riders at Saturday’s event showed up with foil, Cheetos bags and even beer cans on their spokes. Stevenson said he would love to see Oakland bikers channel their creativity from their rims to their helmets, but, he said, “They have to wear them, customized or not.”
All photos by Carl Nasman except for the third picture in the slideshow, which was taken by Teresa Chin.