Carol encounters Bike life

Carol is a local bike activist, and she’s been working with MoveSanMateo to promote bike lanes in North Central, our old neighborhood in San Mateo (which we got priced out of when our landlord sold the building we lived in).

So when she heard that bo2focused was organizing a bike ride in North Central, the neighborhood where he grew up, she got other MoveSanMateo bicyclists to go and join their ride.

It wasn’t just a bike ride, it was Bike life. What is Bike life? It’s a subculture. It’s a bunch of young bike riders popping wheelies on city streets. Bike life sometimes puts together big rides, not unlike Critical Mass or Bike Party put together big rides. Just like Critical Mass, Bike life sometimes annoys motorists by filling up the public right of way with so many bicycles that cars and trucks have to slow down.

bo2focused posted some videos of Saturday’s ride, and Carol appears at the beginning of one of the videos, talking to one of the vendors who showed up.

Carol’s brief appearance in a Bike life Instagram video

Carol says she was probably the only bicyclist there who was over 40. She was also one of the few women, and one of the few white people. The Bike life people drifted in over next next couple of hours, and at last they started riding through North Central. Wheelies that last five or ten minutes, and bicyclists weaving around one another, are characteristic of Bike life. Carol decided to drop to the back of the pack, and then at a traffic light she lost the Bike life group. So she rode over to Wursthaus, where some of her MoveSanMateo bicyclist friends were hanging out and eating lunch to celebrate City Council approving the North Central bike lanes.

Bike life is not known for being cautious. After Carol left the ride, Bike life kind of took over the intersection at Delaware and Fourth. The police were called out, including a motorcycle cop who attempted to follow one of the bicyclists….

Click on the screen grab above to see the video on Instagram

Embarrassingly for the police officer, his motorcycle fell down. The Bike life group rode off down Delaware.

Later on in the afternoon, some of the Bike life riders went out on Highway 101, taking up three of the four lanes, riding among the slow-moving traffic:

Bike life on Highway 101 northbound near the Anza Blvd. exit

Yes, riding a bike on Highway 101 is illegal. Yes, riding your bike around a busy intersection in downtown San Mateo snarls up traffic. But that does make me wonder why our society always seems to give priority to automobiles. Bike life is maybe not all that different from the way Critical Mass people engage in direct action to advocate for safe bike infrastructure. Not all that different from the upper middle class white bicyclists who ride in the middle of the lane on the twisty mountain roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Popping wheelies in the fast lane of Highway 101 is pretty crazed, but maybe no more crazed than riding 35 miles an hour down Page Mill Road in Palo Alto, where hitting one little pothole could spill you into oncoming cars.

Detail of screen grab from Bike life video

For my part, both Critical Mass and Bike life are a little too intense. Same for riding in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I get why those bicyclists do what they do, but it’s not something I want to do. Bike Party is more my speed. Except that I’m way too scared of the Bay Area’s hyper-aggressive motorists to ride my bicycle anywhere on San Mateo city streets, where we have no dedicated bike lanes (although City Council just approved some), and where motorists dominate everything else. I don’t want to be part of Bike life, but I’m glad they’re showing an alternative to a car-dominated world.