Costumed bicycle club promotes riding with whimsy
By Alex Wilson 12/16/2010
Members of the San Buenaventura ArtRiders Bicycle & Social Club demonstrate how fun and easy it is to get around town on a bike, and encourage others to join the cause with head-turning costumes and an eccentric attitude.
They organize themed ArtRides to coincide with Ventura’s monthly First Fridays art events, and decorate their bikes with colorful lights and bells for the evening gallery tour. They also stage daytime rides like an upcoming Santa Claus themed holiday excursion.
Having fun is obviously a goal, but they also hope to help the environment by promoting bicycles as a viable alternative to cars.
My wife, Dawn, and I joined them on a recent ArtRide with a Revenge of the Nerds theme, and we outfitted our bikes with some cool flashing lights.
Another participant was kind enough to give me my own plastic pocket protector and a green pen to complete my outfit consisting of white dress shirt, wide necktie and a pair of my old horn-rimmed glasses with the lenses popped out.
It was great fun to ride with the group of illuminated bikes, and one even had a tiny stereo attached to provide a soundtrack of hits from the 1980s. Some amused people waved at us as we rode down Ventura Avenue on our way to galleries, including Bell Arts Factory and Stoneworks, where we were welcomed with interesting artwork, a roaring fire, friendly cats and refreshments.
The club’s co-creator, Gwendolyn Alley, says they wanted to show that driving cars between the art spaces is unnecessary, and wearing fanciful costumes promotes that message. “If we were dressed in street clothes, nobody would care much, but if we were dressed up in a wild and zany way, then people would respond and laugh, and generate goodwill, and people would say, ‘Gosh I want to join that. I want to get my bicycle going,’ ” says Alley.
They also participate in the Ventura County Fair Parade. One time, they dressed up as farm animals. This year, they created horse costumes for their bikes and wore Western clothes to match the fair theme. Since their mounts had wheels, they could get closer to the spectators lining Main Street and interact with them more easily than people riding hoofed horses, on floats or in cars. Their creativity earned them first prize in the parade’s novelty division.
The upcoming “Save Santa” themed ride starts at 1 p.m. on Dec. 19. They’ll meet up at the Artist’s Union Gallery near Ventura’s beachfront promenade. The club is on Facebook, and there’s also more information at www.bikergogal.wordpress.com.
Alley says they want to encourage riding bikes as one way to help deal with global climate change, but not in a heavy-handed manner.
“There is definitely an element of environmental activism,” says Alley. “It’s really hard to get people to support bike lanes and alternative transportation if they don’t ride their bikes, if their bike has a flat, or it’s been five years since they’ve ridden it, or if they only ride on the bike path along the beach. That’s a limited experience, and it’s hard to get people to understand the issues that bicyclists have if they’re not out there.”
Alley says it’s one of the most enjoyable ways possible to make an environmental statement. “We really want people to have that experience, partly to help save our resources of the planet, but also for the joy of the experience that you get when you ride your bike, and the health experience, too,” says Alley. “It’s for people and the planet.”
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