Oakland cyclists celebrate Bike to Work Day
on May 10, 2013
Extremely tall pink bikes, decorated beach cruisers, twin bikes and even a Scandinavian model took over the streets of Old Oakland Wednesday evening and clustered at the Happy Hour Bike Party as Oaklanders celebrated the end of the 20th East Bay Bike to Work Day, organized by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC).
“With Bike to Work Day, we want to get more people to bike and improve the quality of biking in the East Bay,” said Renee Rivera, director of the coalition. Many of people from the East Bay already bike for the obvious reasons, she pointed out —it’s fun, healthy, often faster, easier and cheaper than public transport and it’s better for the environment. At the top of the group’s agenda for bettering resources for bikers is the creation of separate bike lanes. “The more people we encourage to cycle, the better. We need statistics in order to lobby for improvements for bikers,” Rivera said.
Bike to Work day is an annual event held in the spring across the United States and Canada. In the East Bay, 13 mayors participated in the event, supporting bicycles as an option for commuting to work.
This year, dozens of Alameda County schools also participated in Bike to School Day, through which schools encourage children to cycle to school, sometimes accompanied by their parents and EBBC volunteers. The EBBC estimates that on Friday 2,322 students biked to 44 schools in the county.
At over 100 “energizer stations,” volunteers from the EBBC handed out free goodie bags and refreshments to cyclists on their way to work and school.
In Oakland, the day ended with a happy hour outdoors in the streets of Old Oakland. More and more people—both bikers and non-bikers—streamed into the party as the beats of DJ Olga T start to sound louder. There were food trucks, a New Belgium beer garden, and a game of Bicycle Bingo. As a cyclist turned the pedals of a stationary bike, it mixed a bowl of numbered Bingo balls, which the host drew as he called the game. For people who didn’t want to cycle, dance, eat or drink, there was Berlin Style Ping-Pong, which is played with as many players as possible at the same time.
Others gathered to talk about their bikes. Svante Rodegard, originally from Sweden and a volunteer for the EBBC, attracted a crowd of curious people around his Scandinavian bike, which was made in Freetown Christiania, a hippie community in Copenhagen. It has simple straight lines and a seat as high as the handlebars. Structural tubes come together to form a truss that carries the saddle. The result: a bike that looks futuristic, even though it was invented more than 100 years ago, in 1894.
Coming from a country where cycling has been an important means of transportation for generations already, Rodegard looked at all the people around him and started laughing. “Americans, they pretend like they’ve invented cycling here today. Some of them still think cycling is like the Tour de France: They think you need special clothes, a helmet and good shoes to bike,” he said. “For the 30-year-olds of today, bikes were toys, not a means of transportation.”
But Rodegard thinks Bike to Work Day is important. “As the Americans have no bike history, cities are not planned around people riding bikes. It can be dangerous and uncomfortable to get around on the bike at some places in the East Bay,” he said.
Jennifer West and her daughter Clara, an elementary school student, attended the party; they bike to work and school every day and Clara participated in the morning’s Bike to School tour. “I really like the bike movement that is going on here today. Cycling could be better in Oakland. I bike along San Pablo every day and I have to share the road with cars and there is often broken glass on the asphalt,” Jennifer West said.
Rivera is happy with turnout for Bike to Work Day this year. “Hopefully the people who cycled for the first time today will keep on doing it!” she said.
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