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.

Continue reading “Carol encounters Bike life”


We were walking down by the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix when we saw two middle-aged men, both white, riding bikes in circles on the sidewalk. One of them was riding a Dahon folding bike with 20 inch wheels. Carol has been looking at Dahons on Craigslist, so she asked the man how he liked the bike. The other man rode towards some people walking towards the theatre and asked if they wanted tickets, and then I noticed the man we were talking to had tickets in his hand. He knew a lot about bikes, and, like Carol, he regularly checks Craigslist for used bikes. The two of them compared notes on bikes they had seen for sale recently. He advised Carol not to get a Dahon, because they’re poorly made.

We got to talking about Phoenix, and the man on the bike said there just wasn’t much going on in downtown Phoenix. Restaurants, for example — he grew up in Portland, Oregon, where within a few blocks he had an unbelievable number of choices of restaurants, but in Phoenix there aren’t so many choices, and many of them are chain stores. I asked if there was any kind of bike culture, and he said there was not. not only that, but he said cars had no respect for bicyclists, and he had had more than a few close calls. What about jobs? we asked. His friend rode up at that point, and said most of the jobs in Phoenix were service jobs, paying seven-fifty or eleven dollars an hour.

Someone walked up looking for tickets, and the other man turned away to talk with them. The first man said he had come to Phoenix in the late 1990s, and he gave the impression that he wished he had never left Portland. One thing about Phoenix, he said, was that even though wages are low it was cheap to live here. But that meant it was hard to move anywhere else, hard to save up enough money to move away. You could feel stuck here, he said.

But he did like monsoon season. We asked what that was like. He said that it came in July and August, and you’d look up at the sky and see dark clouds moving in, and soon they’d cover the sky, and then there would be thunder and lightning everywhere, heavy rain, water running a half inch deep on the streets, then in thirty minutes it would all be over. He said it was worth seeing, and it was something he’d never seen in Portland.

Then some more people walked up looking for tickets, so we said good bye, nice talking to you, and went on our way.

Bike party

We came out of the theatre at about eleven o’clock and looked to see if it was safe to cross the street. A whole passel of bicycles was coming at us. “Bike party!” said one of the bicyclists as they came near. We watched for about five minutes as clumps of bicycles passed by. There was a break in the bikes, and I scurried across; Carol wiated for another couple of minutes for another break in the bikes before she got across. There were enough bikes that we weren’t going to be able to get the car out easily, so we stood on the sidewalk and watched. Hardly anyone seemed to be talking to one another, except that everyone once in a while someone say, “Bike party!” A few of the bikes were playing recorded music ranging from rap to norteno to classic rock. Two daredevils rode too fast and weaved in and out of the other bikes, but most people just rode along fairly sedately. It looked a little boring to me, but then I never was one for making long bike rides in a group. Finally, along came two motorcycle cops, a few stragglers on bikes, and that was it. We got in our car and drove home.