Monday, September 28, 2009


"This has been awesome," Matt Dove exclaimed, "This has been one of our most successful events." Matt and three other staffers from the Presidio YMCA Youth Bike Program, YBIKE, guided more than fifty kids through a skills training course full of STOP and YIELD signs, "watch out" door zones, and twists and turns during NOPA's BIKE THE BLOCK celebration on Sunday. "My son just learned about yield signs," one NOPA mother gushed a few minutes after arriving at the bike-themed block party.

While YBIKE anchored one end of the block, fun-ready folks lined up for a spin on the seven-person party-bike at the other. Dan Nguyen-Tan steered singing, waving, laughing neighbors on spins on NOPA streets with hardly a refueling stop in between. "Real trooper duty," one block resident proclaimed seeing Dan smiling and sweating through a perfect San Francisco summer day. Dan picked up riders from the Divisadero Farmers Market and plucked a few from the Panhandle Path, but the party pedalers who seemed to have the most fun were the women in their Sunday church finery rocking to Michael Jackson.

Cyclists especially appreciated the free bike parking and tune-ups from volunteer members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC). Max Poletto grinned and showed his chain-greased hands after three hours of expert bike care. "I worked on about a dozen bikes." Max worked alongside Justin Connolly and new NOPA resident Marc Caswell at one of the busiest bike stops on the block.

Confirmed walkers as well as cyclists took their first rides ever on electric bikes provided by Len Rogers, owner of a San Francisco electric bike outlet. Cliff Courrier, NOPA neighbor and electric bike owner and enthusiast, teamed up with Len to advise riders on how to get a power boost during their tryouts. "Almost too much power," commented Will Valentine, but then Grove is one very flat street.

"This is fantastic to have have so many options for kids," Jodie Howe concluded. "This helps us start planning for biking for our ten month old." Nearby Kara O'Keefe helped kids make a flurry of ribbon, streamers, and flowers before displaying their bedecked rides. Younger kids took a hand at drawing and stickering anything that could be stuck.

How much more could one city block offer on a sunny bicycling day? Chris Hogg wowed the crowd with gravity-suspended stunts on his BMX. So amazed were the onlookers that no one even said, "Kids don't try this at home." Next to Chris' twirls and balances, Sarah Crockett, BIKE THE BLOCK co-organizer, and Lenore McDonald displayed bike trailers for all kinds of hauling. We overheard Sarah explain to another mother of young ones what it's like transporting kids on a bike. "You know what they say about riding a bike: 'it's just like riding a bike.'"

In the late morning, Reverend Will Scott, Associate Pastor of NOPA's St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church extended a Bike Blessing with a prayer written by Nadia Bolz-Weber and adapted by and for the people of the neighborhood. When was the last time a prayer extolled "the simple beauty of the bicycle," the needs of "victims of road rage and bike theft," and protection for "eco-warriors, bike co-op anarchists, and messengers"?

Khalil, a neighbor from Fell Street, offered his summation of the day. "Today is an example of how we can envision a more sustainable world and provide examples of our diverse cultures and ethnicities and all come together."

BIKE THE BLOCK was all about kids riding safely on a neighborhood street, parents enjoying their kids taking the block, and everyone else celebrating a fine day of bike-themed fun events. SFBC Community Planner Neal Patel beamed once he spun onto Grove Street. With an experienced eye, he judged today's event included about 300 people.

An enthusiastic collaboration of generous sponsors made the NOPA bike party possible: our progressive neighborhood association, NOPNA; bike-friendly Pacific Primary School, superstar YMCA/YBIKE, inspiring and dedicated SFBC, and BIKE NOPA. Special thanks as well to Mojo Bicycle Cafe for free t-shirts and tune-up gear, Central Coffee and Tea for the coffee and pastries that kept us going, Warm Planet Bikes for bike parking gear, Electric Bicycle Outlet (everyone loved the rides!), and Amy D'Auria with her dessert wonders from Pink Buttons Patisserie.

On behalf of the event sponsors, a special thank you to the residents of the 1500 block of Grove for sharing their part of NOPA with so many others.

BIKE THE BLOCK posts later this week: "BIKE THE BLOCK Volunteer Roll" (more pics),
"The Blessing of the Bicycle" (with YouTube video), and "Tool Kit for Block Parties: Transforming Our Public Spaces."

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