? Love, Hope, A Future ? Sorry, I’m an optimist, but I live in a city where good friends tell you: “You really shouldn’t go downtown and ride your bike in those neighborhoods”. They are right, you know, we have just experienced a spike in shootings and murders. Baltimore and we Baltimoreans seem to casually accept our place in the urban competition of gun and gang homicide statistics. We even had a popular eponymous show; Homicide: Life On The Streets (airing from 1993-1990). Averaging 300 murders per year we seem to look the other way. The toll this year is up to 116 already. Just since last Friday, still counting at 32 shootings with 8 fatalities; young and old, men women and children targeted or caught in the crossfire. Why would I want to go there on a Friday night after work?
Though I hate to spread fear and bad news, I don’t want anyone to think I don’t calculate my actions. I was a home care PT for 6 months in these and worse areas. The families had a universally warm reception, and lived in safe warm nests like your own. They do face a different reality outside their door though. It is not so comforting to check out the statistics:
But, there we were. Hoping for nothing more than a good time. A couple thousand of us strolling into a battlefield?
Cue: BALTIMORE BIKE PARTY! BIKE PAARTAY! baltimorebikeparty.com
Our path went into and around areas that have seen better days, but perhaps our presence gives hope for better days to come?
Believe it or not the joy on wheels was astounding. Neighbor’s reception was astounding! Smiling people in the gritty, half-bombed-out houses line the streets to watch us roll. They stood in joy, children at side and in arms. They lined up as gleeful as we riders. Smartphones capturing us. Tablets tracking our wheels. Videographers turning slowly to create their “movies of us” as we passed through their streets. IT WAS AN AWESOME SPECTACLE OF ACCEPTANCE AND CELEBRATION OF HUMANITY. Bikes are love. Bikes are Glee. Bikes change people, at least in the moment. Do you remember the first time you rode a bike?
The Baltimore Bike Party grew from a movement called Critical Mass. I don’t know the history well, but part of their mission was to draw awareness to the needs of cyclists on the streets. Trying to be visible and supported in urban centers, add bike lanes and safety. This couldn’t be more needed still today. A wonderful, sparkling co-worker was struck by an SUV on her way to work at Sinai Hospital last Wednesday. She was on her way to help and work with victims of just such accidents. I rode Friday with her in mind. Bike Parties are the last Friday of each month, meet at 7, roll at 7:30 end with a party. Simple enough. We even hear our Mayor attended this month.
The ride began at the Washington Monument at Mt Vernon. Themed as an “Eighties” spectacle, many of these riders were conceived during that decade, some not even born yet. Some of us were out partying then, some were growing families those years. The children we were having are counting on us to give them a safe world. I won’t go too far in my diatribe because surprises are everywhere. If you “stay home to stay safe”, if you live the life protected, you may miss a few things. If we live the life protected, don’t we accept the unacceptable norm that spreads as the plague? The indoor world offers a level, entertainment and televised view of life and the World. If you just sit by to watch, you may miss the truest spectacles. There we were on streets that probably had shell casings or yellow crime scene tape within days or hours ago and then…A RAINBOW GREETED US AT THE MID-STOP AT Robert C Marshall Park! The neighbors again came out and laughed at us in our bike-costume-foolery. Once again, Whimsy Struck its POWERFUL BLOW!
Everyone wants a safe home. Everyone wants their kids to sing and dance and play. Everyone wants to get along. I believe even gangs grew from wanting to get along, to belong to something. I want to keep planting seeds even where they may not grow. (In the near future, you are likely to see this blog/forum as an early connection for social action of my dreams)
I may suffer or die in my own pursuits and endeavors, but I won’t wonder “what’s going on out there?” I’m just living each day…
How do you follow an amazing ride where we stopped traffic at every intersection for several minutes as ~1700 bikes rolled through? Only a very, very few cars (Pardon me, drivers), could be seen with any sign of impatience. I only saw 2 or 3 cars all night turning around to avoid our spectacle. Most just parked at the lights, leaning out the window smiling, video-ing, and probably gawking in memory of 1980-something?
Oh yeah, there was an “after party”: The Lexington Market was a scene of more “getting along”. Again, black and white, tan and pale people laughed into lines to get food and beer. The Lexington Market after dark! Bikes have taken over the World! Even the revelry letting out of an Orioles game was no match for a bike party. There we were. Ever question the estimates of people provided by news reports. I counted an average of 15 bikes per rack on rows of 31 racks on the parking lot: 465 bikes. Thing is, half the riders had gone home by then. thing is, those rows were DWARFED by the incredible rows and piles and piles of bikes, OUTSIDE of the parking area. There were SO many more bikes Outside of the parking area….I think 1700 is a way low estimate. So thousands of people smile Friday night in the city. And our presence made thousands more smile. And younger kids grabbed their bikes to join us. Impressing all with their wheelies, rolling in an around our ranks they became us as we became them. Baltimore Bike Party.
Bikes are accessible, here are a few links: