Bike Group Celebrates Liberation From Autos





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A group of pro-bike, anti-fossil fuel Berkeleyans partied Sunday at the Pyramid Ale House in Berkeley's closest equivalent to the all-American biker rally.

The event was the fifth anniversary celebration of the Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition, and the group's semi-annual Bike Film Festival.

It featured a wide variety of bike-related activities, including valet bike parking, bike music, bike limbo and even a huge vegan bike birthday cake.

The high point of the evening came when UC Berkeley alumnus Jason Meggs, one of the group's more prominent members, brought out his homemade car piņata, a large cardboard effigy of a fossil fuel-guzzling big rig, which was beaten savagely with a broomstick until its innards, candy and toothbrushes for the children, rained down on the Pyramid's parking lot.

Although the tenor of the evening was decidedly light hearted, it was not without weighty political discourse. Cyclists Kriss Worthington and Ken Bukowski were on hand, as well as members of the Berkeley and Emeryville city councils.

Worthington spoke about the planned bike boulevards project. The coalition is proposing a network of bike-only streets to link all corners of the city.

"I'm lucky enough to be an every-day cyclist," said Worthington. "I'm looking forward to the day when it'll be possible to ride all the way across Berkeley, and maybe even neighboring cities, without having to be right next to a car, ever."

Bukowski hailed the passage of a bill in the California legislature that would amend existing California law to require pedestrian and cyclist access to newly-built highways. He urged Gov. Gray Davis to sign it into law.

"We already have the right to use the roads," Bukowski said. "The question is, 'Are you going to make it safe for us?'"

Some of the coalition's other projects include "traffic calming workshops," environmental clean-ups, bicycle training and bicycle riding programs for school children. One of their more well-known projects is the Bike Station in the downtown Berkeley BART station.

"A lot of people are coming to the Bike Station who would not ordinarily ride their bikes to work," said Jen Collins, the director of the project. "Twenty-eight percent of greenhouse emissions in Berkeley come from cars. We could really cut that down if everyone in Berkeley could ride a bike."

Even though most of the attendees were optimistic about the coalition's progress over its five years of existence and its prospects for future success, Hank Resnick, the group's founder, made reference to a darker side of the cycling life.

"I learned a lesson this summer (as I biked down from Oregon to Berkeley)," Resnick said. "I learned about what a truly oppressed minority people like us are, and what a big and scary thing those fossil fuel corporations are. Back here, where I feel really comfortable, I think it's not only about the bike. It's also about the people."

After the sun had set and the cardboard truck pinata was brutally throttled, Meggs fired up his projector for the bike film festival. Nearly all of the short films shown were produced by local artists.

Some of the strongest entries were the Media Foundation's "Autosaurus", a bike artist's conception of the automobile apocalypse in the not-too-distant-future, and "Car Bomb."

With a frothy glass of Pyramid Ale in his hand and a smile on his face, one bike enthusiast summed up the ambiance of the evening's festivities with a toast.

"Here's to riding the bike, leaving the car parked, and the gas tank full," he said.

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