Bike Community History

Maybe you ride the Ride for Roswell every year?  Maybe you ride Slow Roll as many Mondays as possible during the summer months.  Maybe you’re a Campus guy, a Bike Party girl or if there’s an Alley cat going on, that’s your jam.  Maybe you feel like you really have found your tribe while riding bikes with other people riding bikes.  Truly it’s a beautiful thing.

In the past few years, bikes have become a huge thing in Buffalo.  From a city that used to be almost as hostile to bike riders as New York City, Buffalo has turned into a near perfect bike paradise.  There’s a group for all kinds of tastes.  You can ride in Tweed and other seasonably suitable fashions on Tweed Rides, you can raise hell on Sunday night with a bunch of derelicts, or you can chill and chat with the East Side Bike Club on Saturday afternoons.

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Bike culture started in the late 1960’s in San Francisco with San Francisco’s bike messengers.  Up to that time bike cultures were activity specific.  With the advent of bike messenger culture, the bike culture came to represent more of a true cross-section of society.  This is because messengers themselves are extremely diverse.  Among us there were artists, college grads, criminals, ex-commodities traders, graphic designers, ghetto rats, Olympic bike racers, moms, dads, veterans and anything you could possibly imagine.  We were black, we were white, Hispanic, Asian and mixes of all of the above.  The one thing we all had in common was our love and respect of the bicycle.

The bicycle was how we earned our living.  In our culture we honored the engineering marvel as a thing of great beauty with something akin to worship.  For us, the world revolved around the bicycle.  The thing that probably galvanized us was the very real notion that any one of us could be killed in a split second by a car.  We took our relationships with each other very seriously because we were cycling in cities when before it was considered cool, back in the bad old days of biking.  Back then the majority of car drivers believed that bikes were toys, they drove as if their windshield was a video game screen.  Messengers were attacked regularly by drivers “teaching bikers a lesson.”  I personally have lost about a dozen friends to road rage and negligence.

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This bike world we live in now, is strikingly similar to the bike world we as messengers imagined out loud together over group dinners and waiting for work in city parks.  We wondered aloud why people were so attached to driving cars, how getting around on bikes was so much more convenient. 

To our continuing surprise, it all came true.  If you’re a cyclist in Buffalo, there’s never been a more exciting time for cycling in the city.  For the first time possibly since the biking craze at the turn of the 20th century, there probably has never been such a large number of cyclists in Buffalo.  Around the country, small cities like Milwaukee, Portland and Ann Arbor has beat us to the punch in creating vibrant cycling communities.  Buffalo is catching up really fast though.

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2 thoughts on “Bike Community History

  1. Really trthuwortsy blog. Please keep updating with great posts like this one. I have booked marked your site and am about to email it to a few friends of mine that I know would enjoy reading..

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