Monthly event shows different side of town
THE SANTA CLARA
February 26, 2015
A giddy crew of about 20 Santa Clara students set off to break free of the cocktail dresses and button-ups of a standard weekend night. With our bike lights blinking and anticipation rising, we began our adventure.
From the house of junior Sean Reilly, a native of the Willow Glen neighborhood in San Jose, we set out to join the Bike Party. Every third Friday night each month, thousands of bicyclists ride through the streets of San Jose. It may be the greatest idea in Silicon Valley’s history.
“I have been ‘the car’ caught in Bike Party,” Reilly said. “You just shut off the engine, hang out for a second and marvel at the fact that 3,000 cyclists are going by you.”
It wasn’t long before we found fellow bike partiers waiting at a predetermined intersection where all walks of life were represented. Among the gathered, a polite elderly couple on their California cruisers sat next to a trio of chopper riders sporting tattoos and beards.
There was no shortage of beads, boas and bright colors to celebrate Mardi Gras. Bike Party’s route and theme change monthly.
Soon, the herd zoomed through our intersection bellowing and rallying “Bike Party.” We mounted our bikes and zippered ourselves into the flow. The journey was our destination and we had arrived.
“It’s like I’m in a biker gang and an illegitimate parade at the same time,” said junior Bryan Berggren.
Bike Party is an exercise in civilized chaos. Cops are rare. Fireworks pop sporadically. Joyous yelling is constant. Streetlights are ignored and intersections become battlegrounds for wheelie competitions.
“Bike Party plays by its own rules,” said junior David Swan.
On our bikes, at night, we saw a new side of our adopted city.
We rode past old carpenter-style houses on quiet tree-lined streets that connected bustling nightlife hubs filled with people out on the town. We saw a blinking sea of light, heard the distant thumping of bass and whiffed the fresh multi-fragrance of food trucks.
“This is our haven,” said sophomore Margaret Ackerson.
We found the first meet-up point.Rejoining our group, we relayed tales from the middle of the pack.
“Everyone is just here to help each other,” said first-timer Mohit Nalavadi. “Like when you have to make a left turn, everyone shouts out ‘Bike Party! Left Turn! Left Turn!’ and you do it, and everyone else does it.”
To celebrate the checkpoint, Ackerson and I split a Belgian waffle with Nutella and bananas on top. It was exactly as delicious as it sounds.
After this break, the Santa Clara delegation resumed its ride. As we rode through downtown Campbell, honks from passing cars and cheers from pedestrians made the ride feel like a celebration of bikes, freedom and the impending weekend.
Portable speakers bumped mariachi, electro, alternative, hip-hop and oldies, giving Bike Party a sonic vibe as eclectic as its attendees.
We came to the second meet-up spot. As with the first, a ho-hum shopping center parking lot was transformed into a hopping event, complete with a disco-lit dance floor for killer moves and raucous chanting.
After this stop, Bike Party’s route turned away from campus, so our crew bid a reluctant farewell and rode through the sleepy streets, feeling as though we were now in on a wonderful inside joke with the city.
Contact John Flynn at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.