Celebrations of community

Two of the organizations I follow and admire have annual holiday bike ride traditions. Rich City Rides does a Solstice Night Lights Ride, and the Scraper Bike Team runs a Grinch Stole The Bike Lane ride on RB’s birthday. I got to do both rides this year, and they got me thinking about what it means to celebrate the holidays in that way.

Rich City Rides Solstice LIghts

The rides themselves had very different vibes. With Rich City, we visited the Bike Shed, a new space on the Richmond Greenway that will become the location for bike repairs, then headed up to North Richmond Farm, an environmental education and permaculture farm on reclaimed industrial land up near the Carquinez Strait. Urban Tilth, the parent non-profit, was having their harvest celebration, and we sat around the campfire for a while enjoying food and drink. I think there was karaoke in the offices.

While we were there, one of the Rich City kids, maybe 15 years old, got in trouble because he hadn’t gotten permission from his folks to be on the ride. His auntie came up to the farm (riding her bike!), chewed him out and rode back to town with him.

I found the incident amusing. I loved the freedom the bicycle brought me when I was that age, and did plenty of transgressive things while out riding. And sitting around a fire at a permaculture garden during a community bike ride is pretty tame, as transgressive things go.

The Grinch ride was a little more explicitly Christmas-oriented, riding through two of the most festive spots in the East Bay: Picardy Drive in Maxwell Park, and Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda. It was interesting to the Scrapers with their stunt riders (some really amazing) take over these traditional holiday spaces where people had been just looking at the lights and enjoying hot chocolate and cookies. The vibe changes immediately, and fortunately, almost totally in a positive way. We had one person honk at us in Alameda, and I saw one guy in an orange vest thinking about telling us to leave, but deciding not to. Other than that people were happy to see the group spicing up their celebrations.

Christmas Tree Lane

Christmas Tree Lane

Holiday traditions are important to communities, and I think it’s interesting that both of these community groups have incorporated the bicycle into their own traditions.  I think it speaks to the way the bicycle has become part of the identity of the people associated with Rich City and the Scrapers. If you self-identify as a cyclist, riding becomes the way you mark events.

The reason I think the work of these two groups is really important is that they’re fostering that assumption of identity in disadvantaged communities, which will have long-term effects on cycling rates, and therefore health and wellness in those communities. And these kinds of rides can help brake down the barriers which separate East Oakland from Alameda.

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