Scraper Bike Halloween ride

I got to spend Halloween with the Original Scraper Bike Team, and it reminded me of why I enjoy riding with them and supporting them, and also, why it’s important.

Schwag table

First, it’s fun. When they take over the street with music and bike stunts, they demonstrate the joy that cycling can bring. Everyone who rides a bike can share that joy, which helps create connections across social barriers. This ride included people from almost every cycling sub-culture in Oakland: Scraper Bike Team members, of course, along with leaders from Bike East Bay, organizers from East Bay Bike Party, the folks from Bike Rescue, Scott from Pacific E-Bike, and one MAMIL who was so archetypical that I thought it might be someone doing a Halloween character. And of course I was there representing the unicycle crowd.

Scraper Bike Team Halloween ride

There are few places where such a diverse group of Oaklanders can share space as peers. And aside from the Scraper Bike members themselves, most of the participants only get this far east for bike rides like this one. The work that the Scrapers do to break down those barriers and build new connections is really admirable.

While we were getting ready for the ride, we heard automatic rifle fire, maybe 20 shots, coming from a few blocks away. Shootings are up substantially in Oakland this year, predominantly in East Oakland. The park where we were meeting had a memorial with a bunch of veladoras for two people who’d been killed in broad daylight a block away last week. (They were Jorge Martinez, 19, and Juan Diaz-Ochoa, 21.)

Hearing the shots, the locals immediately pulled out phones to check out their police scanner apps, and RB changed our route plan to avoid the activity on International Boulevard.

I enjoy the privilege of not having the police scanner app on my phone. II don’t think I’ve ever heard automatic weapons fire. I’ve never changed my plan for a bike ride out of fear of personal safety.

And that’s another part of why the Scraper Bike Team is important. Simply by doing what they do, and inviting others to share in it, they they give folks like me a small glimpse into the racialized trauma that East Oakland cyclists regularly experience. Mainstream cycling advocacy still struggles to engage with that reality. It’s not that infrastructure doesn’t matter in East Oakland, but factors like whether a bike facility has bollards or not, whether it’s in the middle of the road or not, whether it’s painted green or orange, are not what determines whether a street in East Oakland feels safe.

What would it take for an East Oakland parent to let their kids play in the street on Plymouth Avenue the same way they do on Shafter? I don’t know. But I know it’d take a lot more than a “NO THRU TRAFFIC” sign.

When we got rolling, we took the Scraper Bikeway up 90th Avenue, which is a pretty good piece of infrastructure, now mostly complete (still waiting on signage). I really think the center-running lane is a great context-specific solution, and the design would work better than a lot of what we’re building elsewhere in Oakland. And, it’s fun.

Ride on the Scraper Bikeway

We connected with International down below where the shooting occurred, and rode the new BRT lane towards the lake. The new configuration worked pretty well for a group ride, definitely better than it was before, but we didn’t encounter any buses and I’m not sure whether that would have gone well.

When we got to the lake we met up with some other bike folks and revelers at the amphitheater, and they had some fun trying out the tall bikes and other setups people were riding. One kid even wanted to try the uni. We hung out for half an hour, listening to music and playing around. And that’s the other reason I really appreciate the Scraper Bike Team; despite being born of trauma, what they bring to the city is joy.

Gathering at the amphitheater

And, I don’t want to forget the other side of it. I want to celebrate the Scraper art and music and riding skills. And I want to do what little I can to change the conditions which make their streets unsafe. It will take a lot more than paint and plastic.

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