Here are a couple of video stills from last night. It was my first experience riding in the San Jose Bike Party. I rode out from my place to El Camino, and after a minute was joined by a dozen people heading there. When I got to the parking lot, where the ride was to start, I had a pretty cool introduction to the Bike Party. There were food trucks, tailgaters, lots of stereos with music blasting, and literally thousands of bikes in all shapes and sizes, many covered in LEDs.
I rode around the parking lot getting some video and taking it all in. Then some whistles started going, a big firework was set off, and people started cheering. We all started moving toward the road, with bells and horns going, and surprisingly nothing negative going on that I could see.
These two pics are of the crowd forming and merging onto the road. I was in the top third, I would say. In the bottom image, the lights that stretch back to the left into the parking lot are all bikes.
After about a mile or two, the massive hoard spread out a bit, and it was a little more comfortable. We passed lots of people waiting to join in with their bikes, families with kids just watching, and lots of cops. The cops were giving out a few tickets to some of the young riders. Minors aren’t supposed to be allowed on the ride, so they might have been getting tickets for not wearing helmets, or being drunk; who knows, but there weren’t many.
I only did the first leg of the ride, which was under 10 miles. The whole ride was 27.5 miles and went on for hours. I think I will have to work up to doing that, and be willing to stay out all night. Next month, maybe.
During the ride, I was amazed with all the variety and diversity of people out there moving as one. It was mostly college students, but in that there were hipsters, nerds, partyers, and every subculture you can think of. There were also a bunch of older couples on recumbents and high end comfort bikes, a few families with trailers pulling kids, and groups of young tough looking kids on BMX bikes. There were low riders and tactical urban assault bikes. It was a joy to see, and nothing was out of place.
I guess, if you give people a reason to be out at night yelling and screaming with music, plus give them a chance to be creative and a bit rebellious, this is what you will get. There was a sense of “screw people in cars” running through the whole thing. Riders took up one lane and sometimes two (thought the Santa Clara Police didn’t like that much,) and generally pushed cars out of the way. We let them in an out as needed of course, but people driving cars knew to stay away.
I love bikes even though I don’t get a chance to ride them much anymore, and it seemed like everyone on the ride felt the same way. That was a cool feeling. Once in a while it’s nice to feel like part of a crowd. Over the last 170 years, bikes have had a powerful symbollogy attached to them, and there is a great history to all of it, which I might write about in the future, but there is an important underlying part of biking to remember. People just feel good when they ride. More so, I think, in this day and age where cars are so dominant.
Riding last night, I felt like both a kid and a grown-up. As much as the ride made me aware of the confinements of contemporary life, powering my machine down the road with all those people made me feel strong and free, and connected to the streets and people on them. That’s a good feeling to have in our boxed up, mediated lives.