On Saturday afternoon, thousands of people from around the Bay Area walked, ran, and pedaled their way over to the 2nd Annual Pedalfest bicycle celebration at Jack London Square. Hosted by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, the festival featured a variety of events for all ages to enjoy including BMX stunt jumps, bicycle dances performed on a tight rope by clowns and bike races inside Jack London Square.
Everything from helmets, lights and new mountain bicycles to custom made, brightly colored “scraper” bikes were available for purchase as people enjoyed music from Paul Freedman, also known as Fossil Fool the Rapper and his “Rock the Bike” group. Rock the Bike Riders use stationary bikes to generate electricity through pedal power for the sound stages. In addition to keeping the music going, attendees were invited to pedal on bikes to make their own ice cream and smoothies. The blenders were attached to the bike’s chain which would generate electricity whenever the bike was pedaled.
“I started Rock the Bike because I was interested in integrating music systems and sustainable energy,” said Freedman. “We’ve been working in the Bay Area for six years promoting pedal power and encourage people to get on a bike keep the electricity going.”
The smell of grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken, and crepes wafted through the air from the food vendors at the festival, attracting large crowds eager to taste the dishes. The lines were particularly long for Bombzies Barbeque, who had two large grills cooking fresh chicken.
There was also a children’s rodeo in which the kids were able to compete in races on their bikes, raffle giveaways, face-painting, and bikers rolling around the 30-foot Whiskey Drome, a homage to the 20th century velodromes such as Keith’s Bicycle Track of 1901. The velodrome is shaped like coffee filter with wooden panels evenly placed in a circular fashion. Riders would enter the velodrome from a side opening that would close behind them to allow bikers to ride around. The Whiskey Drome was created with the help of dedicated bikers from businesses Barndt’s Welding and North Bay Bavarian, a BMW specialty service shop in Santa Rosa.
“It’s cool to see so many people that are as enthusiastic about biking as I am,” said Charles Perkins, an Oakland resident and avid cyclist who was walking around admiring some of the new mountain bikes on sale. “Not only does biking promote exercise, it helps reduce our carbon footprint.”
The festival was sponsored in part by New Belgium Beer, the East Bay Express, and the city of Oakland. Non-profit organizations like Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) encouraged those in attendance to improve Oakland’s quality of life through environmentally-friendly alternatives to driving. The organization’s goal is to increase the city’s number of safe bikeways and parklets, which are parking spaces that are converted into mini-urban parks open to the public.
“We want to make it safer to bike in all parts of Oakland, and combat childhood obesity rates by promoting community health and exercise,” said Autumn Bernstein, a WOBO board member, who was there working at the booth. “Our parklets program is about taking back public space which promotes city pride and expression.”
The festival concluded with performances from the Clayton Bikes Stunt Team, which had set up a BMX obstacle course on the pier consisting of ramps and small hurdles. Clayton Bikes Stunt Team is a non-profit organization based out of San Francisco that provides BMX bicycle shows while promoting the wearing of safety gear and obeying traffic laws.
“I’m still amazed at how crazy some of these stunts are,” said resident Jesus Ibn El as he watched the BMX riders do backflips off a ramp. “It’s festivals like this that make it exciting to be in Oakland.”