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Oakland Art Ride

For Oakland cyclists seeking art, it’s all about the journey

on November 19, 2021

As they do every month, a dozen or so Oakland cyclists will strap on helmets for a casual ride through the city streets on Sunday, pausing along the way to look and learn about the art that others walk, drive or pedal past.

“It’s all around us if we take the time to slow down and appreciate it,” said Tamara Sherman, a writer and Art Ride regular. “You might not see it whizzing by in your car.” 

The Oakland Art Ride is organized by the Rock Paper Scissors Collective, a nonprofit that hosts communal art workshops, exhibitions and youth involvement programs. Combining cycling and art viewing, this weekend’s ride will take the group to the new Huey P. Newton sculpture in West Oakland. 

Lionel McNeely, a veteran cyclist with more than 12,000 miles logged since 2013, will lead the way as he has since January.

Art Ride

Art Ride

When: 10 a.m. to noon Sunday

Where: 2120 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Cost: Free

(Photo courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors Collective)

“I was a little skeptical at first because I go on a lot of group rides, and it can be intimidating, you know. It’s a lot of people and you’ve got a lot of personalities and a lot of riding styles,” he said.

McNeely’s apprehension faded after the first ride. Two others attended, and the trio biked 5 or 6 miles together, stopping at various murals along the way. Since then, six to 12 riders typically join, as McNeely leads them to new destinations: from window galleries with elegant sculptures in the Jack London District to dynamic enamel-painted figures of everyday people under Interstate 80 in Emeryville. For many, the rides offered a way to shake the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The art rides combine so many things that I enjoy: being outside with friends, seeing art, and learning history,” said Pamela Ybanez, an artist and Rock Paper Scissors member. “These are all saving graces in difficult times.”

Riders of all ages and experience levels are invited to the meetups. Cyclists gather at 9:30 am. on the third Sunday of each month at the Rock Paper Scissors Collective, 2120 Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland. Some come on their own bikes, others borrow or rent from a bike shop or bike share program. At 10 a.m., they set out on what the group defines as “a leisurely ride” that ends at noon.

McNeely is mapping the city’s art as it turns up at intersections, on street corners, in windows, on walls and along winding paths. And into each ride, he weaves a bit of Oakland history.

Art Ride
Lionel McNeely leads the monthly Art Ride in Oakland. (Kristie Song)

The Art Ride isn’t McNeely’s first experience leading groups of eager cyclists. As a child in Oakland, McNeely taught himself to ride a bike in fifth grade and would ride around his neighborhood with other children on week nights. 

“And then on Saturday, we’d go on a long bike ride,” McNeely said. “And I was able to show them other parts of Oakland that they hadn’t heard about. I didn’t realize that at the time, but I did come to realize later, that I was helping people to understand more about the city.”

As the year comes to a close, McNeely’s vision for the Art Ride is expanding. He hopes to create a “self-guided tour” pamphlet and is looking to extend the rides outside the city.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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