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Oakland TV Station Displays Hella Windshield Perspective

Note: GJEL Accident Attorneys regularly sponsors coverage on Streetsblog San Francisco and Streetsblog California. Unless noted in the story, GJEL Accident Attorneys is not consulted for the content or editorial direction of the sponsored content.

"If riding bikes is a crime, god forgive me" ...from a participant in Sunday's "rideout" bike ride.

A group of young cyclists, as part of a "rideout" event, briefly took over a short section of I-80 in Berkeley last weekend. KTVU reported that:

It was a dangerous and bizarre sight on Interstate 80 in Berkeley when more than 100 people on bicycles rode onto the freeway, blocking traffic. The bicyclists were out Sunday afternoon in the westbound lanes near University Avenue.

California Highway Patrol slowed traffic and escorted them off at Powell Street. There were no reports of crashes or injuries.

"So far our communications on rideouts have mostly been related to how individual drivers or police should respond to these activities, so as to not escalate the risk for anyone involved," wrote Bike East Bay's Robert Prinz about Sunday's ride in an emailed to Streetsblog. "The response [described] in the KTVU story seemed to be ideal, with CHP providing traffic control but not engaging with the group and/or escalating the situation."

Indeed, riding on a freeway is illegal and dangerous and Streetsblog does not condone it. But KTVU was quickly ratioed on Twitter over how they covered it and for the windshield perspective they took.

Advocate Tim Courtney put it well in his Tweet above. The kids on that ride may have put themselves in some peril, but cyclists minding their own business riding on regular city streets are continually put in danger, everywhere in the Bay Area, by drivers who block and drive in bike lanes with total impunity. Dangerous, law-breaking drivers frequently maim and kill cyclists, usually without any repercussions.

Valencia Street. Photo: SFMTA
Valencia Street. Photo: SFMTA

Where is KTVU's piece about that truly "dangerous and bizarre" and non-stop phenomenon? If any KTVU producers are reading this, here's a link to a story with data about how often it happens, just to get you started. Keep in mind that not only does law enforcement all but ignore this problem, they're often its worst offenders.

Meanwhile, rideout organizers tend to fly under the radar, although anybody can find out more about the events on the web. "We are here to get kids and our community on bikes to create a positive outlet and safe space, all while preserving the bike life and Oakland culture we grew up with," it says on the Everyones Rideout webpage. Streetsblog has reached out to the group to find out more about what they do and why they went on the freeway that day.

A rideout last summer in Oakland. From Rideout's Instagram
A rideout last summer in Oakland. From Rideout's Instagram

From Streetsblog's view, though, it's tragic that the Bay Area has built its cities in such a way that it should ever be dangerous for a group of kids to go for a bike ride on the streets where they live. But that's the situation, and it is no doubt part of why these groups congregate in large numbers: for safety. It's even understandable that occasionally they would feel an urge to ride on the freeways that cut through their neighborhoods.

From Bike East Bay's page about them:

Bike East Bay celebrates people bicycling. When we see large groups of young people cruising down the street together, popping wheelies, and creatively celebrating their freedom, we see the pure joy of riding a bike.

However, they also have advice for drivers:

We also acknowledge that sometimes young people ride their bikes in unpredictable or non-traditional ways, and this can be confusing or alarming for drivers. In these moments, it is important for all of us to challenge our traditional notions of what safety means in a world that has not been built for kids on bikes.

Bike East Bay urges drivers not to call the police. They offer a list of suggestions, including:

    • If you’re driving, yield to them. Your car is potentially dangerous. Just stop your car if you aren’t sure what to do. Check your mirrors and your blind spots and proceed slowly when it’s clear.
    • Stay calm and smile. Most of the riders are very young, so they might act like it. Be thoughtful and patient with young people.

Meanwhile, Streetsblog has reached out to KTVU to see if they'd be interested in doing a follow up story about motorists driving and parking on sidewalks and bike lanes.

Note: Baybe Champ of Scraper Bikes declined to comment for this story, but asked Streetsblog to express that they are not part of the rideout group and that the "freeway ride was not a Scraper Bike ride and those kids do not represent our organization."

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