COURTESY OF AWOENAM MAUNA-WOANYA
Bike Party participants gather in St. Mary’s Park before the ride begins.
On the last Friday of each month, the most unique and perhaps greatest display of community occurs in Baltimore. It only takes two words to fully encapsulate this event: BIKE PARTY. It is exactly what it sounds like: a party on bikes, a celebration of this mode of transit on wheels. Over the past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in this monthly event. It was my first Bike Party, and I already know that it certainly won’t be my last.
My story of finding Bike Party starts on the night of my high school graduation. I was seated next to my old government teacher, and during the ceremony we discussed my impending transition to Hopkins. The conversation concluded with her inviting me over to meet her husband, a practicing civil engineer (woo!) and an avid biker.
She wanted to give me a bicycle as a graduation present (I know, I was totally a teacher’s pet). I met her husband a few days later, and he gave me a bicycle. In the midst of our conversation, he brought up Bike Party.
I’d never heard of such an event before. In my head, I imagined a handful of adult adults (as opposed to college adults) biking around a park. I chuckled and responded, “sounds cool; we’ll see if I check it out.”
Fast forward to my arrival at college. I didn’t even bring my bike to school because I thought it’d be such a hassle, and honestly I thought it’d be dangerous to ride around the city.
Two years later, I found myself working for the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and learning all about public transit. Around this time, Birds, the increasingly popular electric scooters, began to be dropped around the city. As I Birded around the city with my boss who is an avid biker, I found that it was super convenient to quickly get from point A to point B.
It also felt amazing to have the wind flowing through my helmet. My boss happened to ask me what I’d like to accomplish before the summer ended. In that moment, I knew I wanted to conquer my fear of riding a bike in the city. I said I would go to that month’s Bike Party.
I immediately started preparing for this event the best way I knew: through research and practice (thanks Hopkins). The process taught me a few things about the event.
Bike Party is a nationwide event for riders of all skill levels (whew!). The route is usually about six to eight miles long. Initially that seems daunting, but it only comes out to about two hours of biking at a slow pace.
Most importantly, I wanted to find out how many others participate. According to Bike Party’s Facebook event, about 1,000 people marked “Interested or Going,” so there are a few more than the handful I initially imagined.
Sufficiently convinced that I could do this, I began to ride my bike around my neighborhood, hoping to be well prepared for the great task that is Bike Party. Unfortunately it rained for, essentially, three months straight, so I couldn’t go when I had originally planned in July. Fortunately, it is a monthly event, and I was not willing to let all of my hard work go to waste. This past Friday, the skies were clear, my bike was oiled and I participated in my first Bike Party.
I have recently been on a kick to properly document life events, so I rented a camera from the Digital Media Center (DMC) (yes, it is something you can do), grabbed my bike and headed down to St. Mary’s Park in Seton Hill, which is sandwiched between Mount Vernon and Downtown. As the sun set, more riders showed up with lit up bicycles and in colorful clothes. I summoned some confidence and reached out, asking people if I could capture them on camera. Let me tell you, the majority of people shined at the opportunity to be photographed.
At 7 p.m. sharp, the ride started. We biked from St. Mary’s Park all the way back up to Druid Hill Park.
Ever hear the saying “it’s not about the destination, rather it’s about the journey?” This was the physical manifestation of that saying.
When hundreds of bikers take to the street at once, you feel their presence. People come out of their homes and cheer the riders on. Children storm the street and join the parade of riders. Screams of joy can be heard for miles. At the end of the ride, people gather in front of Lexington Market for an after party filled with beer, laughter and good music. The collective energy felt during Bike Party brings the Baltimore community together in a unique way. It not only offers an escape from the regular life routine, but it also empowers bikers in a city that is divided on the topic of biking as a viable form of transit.
This monthly event offers the opportunity to explore Baltimore in a new way. What better way is there to explore its neighborhoods than to ride through them, witness the clash of history and present day before your eyes, and ultimately see the beauty of the city we live in? The upcoming October Bike Ride, traditionally Halloween-themed, promises to be one of the best of year. If you have the desire to do something new in Baltimore, this is it.