Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bike Paaaaaaarty!

This was my first ride as an official BIRD and I can say that this was my least and most favorite Bike Party. I got cussed at, thanked, slammed into, and patted on the back, all in one evening.

For the first part of the ride I ended up hanging back helping someone fix a flat at the start and then sped up to catch up with the group turning into Japantown. Riders weren't stopping at the light and there were several cars that were blocked by the riders or confused by the state of the road. I stopped and waved cars through or past the Japantown entrance until the end of the party came through, when I took off down 1st to try and catch up with the ride.

Once I caught up to the riders, they were all over the road. People were riding with open containers, running red lights, in the left lane, and were cussing out anyone that was trying to get them to ride by the law.

About half way down 1st I came upon a little old lady in a mini van trying to make it down the right lane. Imagine the most stereotypical frightened old lady you can. That was this woman. Bikers were swerving around her, yelling at her and then cutting her off. I used my whistle to try and help clear a lane for her, but she had had enough. She started flooring her engine to come mere inches from riders before slamming on her brakes. I got her to the left lane where she just dropped the pedal, barely slowing as I raced behind her wailing on the whistle for people to get out of her way. People were STILL ignoring me, flipping her off until she was just a foot or so from her bumper. By the time I got her to Trimble where she flipped a U-turn, I had had enough. I was going to find my friends and leave the drunken morons to fend for themselves.

I ended up running into another BIRD at the 1st and Plumeria turn and took over the corner for him. I stood at the corner and waved riders to turn right and this was when my night started going good. Several riders thanked me for the directions, cheered me on and gave me the positive energy boost I needed right then. The majority of Bike Partiers ride with the ideals of Bike Party in mind and they're the people that make these events fun for volunteers like myself. When I'm trying to keep people safe from angry old ladies and getting cussed out for the effort, it really kills the mood. Thank you all you riders who thank the BIRDs at corners. I never realized how much that meant until I was a BIRD myself.

The rest of my evening was just as overwhelming, stressful, and exciting. I decided to skip the first regroup and ride on to try and catch up with my friends. A group of college kids looking to escape the chaos of the main ride ended up following behind me once they realized I had the route. They were a great group and we ended up riding together for the last 18 miles of the ride. They helped me stop other riders at lights, keep people in the right lane, and lead the group of riders we picked up along the way. By the end of the ride they were all shouting out "car back", "red light", and "right lane" just as much as I was. It was their first bike party and they loved it. We talked the whole ride and they'll definitely be coming to next month's ride. They were even wanting to know about the test rides.

Me and my little group of riders were the first to arrive at the 2nd regroup. I took the chance to sit down and eat my dinner when I was interrupted by a young man looking for directions home. He was extremely polite and extremely drunk, something he willingly admitted to. The ride was running too late for him and he had no idea how to get back downtown. I tried to give him the most direct route possible but he was so drunk he couldn't remember if I had told him to turn right or left onto Wolfe, let alone the rest of the way. Finally I asked if he had a phone and I typed out the 5 lines of directions for him. He was a really nice kid.. but still. I hope he made it home safely.

When I tucked back into my sandwich I noticed something that worried me. The stacks of chairs sitting under the awning weren't locked up.. and people were starting to pull them down. I stepped up pretty quick and made a deal with the guys that already had seats that they could stay in the chairs, so long as they didn't let anyone else grab one. With their verbal agreement I set out to try and find some other volunteers to help keep an eye on the chairs, only to find the Home Depot manager looking very angry. I talked to him and together we found a more experienced BIRD whose name I can't remember atm. The other BIRD was very helpful and between the two of us we got the manager to calm down. He ended up being a really reasonable guy, he was just worried about the unlocked products outside the store. He supported the motives of Bike Party and thought that what we were doing was really awesome, he just wished that he had had some warning and someone "in-charge" to talk with about his concerns.

As for accidents along the ride, I was only aware of the one at Fair Oaks and Evelyn. I talked with one of the cops about the rider and then spent a couple of minutes getting riders to move along. Once the ambulance and fire truck showed up I took off with my group, who had waited patiently for me. According to eye-witnesses at the scene and the officer, the kid ran a red light, along with his friends, and ended up being the unlucky one. He had neither bike lights nor a helmet and was riding with a group of similarly outfitted riders that were lost on the way to the 2nd regroup. He was stable, just scrapped up and terrified. I know that my group left the regroup early, but I wish that some more riders could have seen the aftermath of riding dangerously. Most the people that saw the accident were riders that were leaving the main party behind in an attempt to escape riders like this one, this only confirming to them that Bike Party isn't what it used to be.

What my post really comes down to is that there just aren't enough volunteers and good riders. Last night's route was confusing and cramped and there was probably 1 volunteer for every 100 riders. When you separate the "good" from the "bad", I think it's safe to say the volunteer to drunk ratio was 1:30, maybe higher. More riders need to have the route with them, not just figure they'll find a bird and follow. I came across several groups that had no idea where they were going.. they just kept riding in circles. Some of them even told me I was going the wrong way and tried to argue with me about the fact I was a volunteer.

Overall I love Bike Party and I'm definitely going to keep getting more involved. Last night was something I'm not going to forget for a long time, both because of the highs and lows of the evening. I made a new group of friends and shared Bike Party with some of my old ones. The majority of them agreed with me that last night, in the end, the pros out weighed the cons, but sadly a couple of them have told me they won't be participating again. Honestly, I can't blame them.