Last night after 10 PM, while I was fading out via Netflix, unusual sounds from outdoors raised my awareness beyond the flickering screen. I heard many people and music, whooping and joy yelling. I thought I detected Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyries.” Off of the couch, slipped on my shoes and out onto 45th Street looking towards Horton Street. I saw a continuous flow of bicyclists with fabulous lights on their wheels, on their bodies, and multiple overlapping soundtracks emanating from sound systems mounted on racks. The music now had a beat and people were yelling “bike party!” In my 34 years in Emeryville I have never seen or heard anything quite like this. People on bicycles just kept coming, hundreds upon hundreds of them.
During the procession a car came down 45th St. and at the stop sign the parade of cyclists prevented this car from turning left. After about a dozen bicyclists blew through the stop sign as if they were a stampeding herd, a young woman chose to stop, a few more cyclists flew by her and then another cyclist stopped, then another. The entire following procession came to a halt and the car turned left! This was not The Critical Mass that I have seen and experienced in San Francisco but rather a new attitude of civility towards drivers.
Who Were These People ?
They were adults, youngish mostly, hardly any spandex and appeared of mixed ethnicity. The flow of people continued for at least 10 minutes and there seemed to be some cultural clustering around certain types of music: some BMX cyclists jumped on and off the sidewalk with their athletic tiny bicycles within the audio ambience of Oaklandesque rap music with a good beat. Bringing up the end of the procession were gray-haired stragglers with cool flashing lights and lots of color riding big tired bikes.
I fantasized that these people were celebrating the just-removed yellow zone that has blocked the bike lane on Horton Street for a decade. But in fact it was the third annual East Bay Bike Party Ride. The start this year was the Richmond BART station and the official ending was Lake Merritt Oakland. These rides will happen every Friday night this month.
Scott Donahue, 1420 45th St., studio 49, Emeryville
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