The last time I rode a bike was the last time I was in the the city of San Francisco. Shad, Chuck, and I had to get from the Moscone Center to the pedi cab shop under the Oakland Bay Bridge, with two bikes. One being Shad's, and the other being a city bike.
Chuck rode on Shad's bike, and Shad peddled the city bike while my butt clenched onto the seat, and my legs stuck straight out. Flying through the unfamiliar city without a clue to which direction we were headed felt thrilling. This was the last time I rode a bike, and I technically didn't even do anything but add my weight to the ride.
Shad being one of my favorite people in the bay area, and most likely in the world, invited us over to stay with him and his girlfriend, Meredith, at their house while we were in town.
Last time I was in San Francisco, Shad took me and Chuck Manley through the city on his pedi cab, and invited us out to a party. I admit I flaked, because I was staying at another friends house, and it seemed inconvenient. This time, he was adamant I come out to the East Bay Bike Party, which is an event every second Friday of the month.
Shad went all out and grabbed two extra bikes for me and Chuck to ride, and told me not to flake. Of course when an awesome person like Shad goes to all that effort, and tells me not to flake, I won't. However, I did have a high amount anxiety in my system before the party. So much, that I was trying to hold back tears from the hour drive it was going to take us to get to Oakland.
Shad said don't flake, and I cried. I didn't want to disappoint anyone, or myself, but I also was scared on going on a 15 mile bike ride. My anxiety was flying through the roof on this one.
When we arrived at the Berkeley BART station, we parked Thelma, walked around to see the scene and then we met up with Shad and Meredith in the parking lot. We tossed a few beers back, got our coats and gloves on, and peddled our way onto the streets of Oakland with the crowd, and it was time to ride.
This was my first time in Oakland, and here I was riding a bike with a huge crowd through the city streets. There were costumes, lights, music and fun to be had. Each month has a different theme, and the theme of the night was Zombies. The goal of the bike party is to fill the streets with a community of bike riders for the evening. The party would be stopping in a few pre-determined undisclosed locations to hang out, rest, chat, drink, and dance and socialize.
The bike party is compared to another type of event called Critical Mass. Same deal, just more organized. For instance, the bike party wants to be more synchronized so they can continue this tradition without the police, residents, motor vehicle drivers, or anyone in the community getting frustrated with the traditional event.
In the front of the pack was rider who had a glowing neon green flag attached to his bike. At the back there was a a rider with a broom sticking out of his bike. He was called the sweeper.
There are riders that volunteer to “work a turn”, meaning they would be there before the crowd shows up, so they can show the riders where they need to take a left or a right turn safely.
Riders will shout out “stay to the right” on a two way street, so the cars can continue on their route without worry.
To make it more communal, and safe, the riders would shout “RED LIGHT PARTYYY” at a red light as a sign to brake, along with “GREEN LIGHT PARTYYY” to start peddling. This goes for turning left or a right at an intersection.
When there was a burst of excitement, the riders would shout “BIKE PARTYYY” in glee. Once one person shouts Bike Party, it goes in waves through the crowd. From the sidewalk, pedestrians would be taking photos from their phones and smiling with confusion.
Overall, this is an event that is used for celebration, not confrontation.
At the end of the night, my legs were so sore. When I couldn't ride up the last hill, I got off the bike, and nearly collapsed from my weight without even thinking about it before I touched ground. Even with the sore knees and thighs I had I would definitely do it again. I hope whoever is afraid of riding in the bike party will muster up the courage to try it. I got over my anxiety and it was well worth the experience.
I thank my friend Shad, who kept me accountable in holding my word, brought out his extra bikes, rode with me when I fell behind, and encouraged me with jokes when I was wearing down. If he hadn't pushed me into this event I wouldn't have had the opportunity to get over another hurdle of anxiety. Plus – Once Shad told me there were TWO corgis that loved attention back at the house, I had something to peddle towards. I like to think that was my ultimate reward.
“Do something that scares you everyday”
I like to think of how I would incorporate this quote into my life on most days , and this day was one of them.