Call it Critical Mass, West Oakland edition. On Saturday, July 24, Oaklanders will take to the streets for the third-annual Bikes 4 Life Peace Ride, a sort of bicycle-bound block party intended to promote healthy living and strong community.
Like previous rides, this year's is being organized by Tony Coleman, a longtime organizer and Oakland resident who has made community-building in the Bay Area his life's work. The way Coleman tells it, the mission of both the Bikes 4 Life ride and its eponymous nonprofit bike shop, which opened late last year, is to empower young people to "think about their communities, to strategize on ways to better our community and our relationships with each other, and to build that community around biking." More specifically, Coleman and his organization aims to decrease violence, foster community, and encourage physical activity — not to mention promoting green living in a neighborhood that, Coleman said, is often left out of the conversation about environmental sustainability. "There are not a lot of urban folks going green," he said. "This is also a way for us to think about helping the planet."
If all this sounds ambitious and high-minded, it's because it is. But Coleman has been organizing around issues like police brutality and criminal justice and working with youth at risk of incarceration for more than a decade. If anyone knows how to marry lofty social justice concepts with something kids can get behind, it's him. Coleman works from the inside out and the ground up — that is, by inspiring folks to "better their communities in their own ways, in their own flavor," in a way that feels organic and not forced. "This isn't something that's thought up in some back room or some corporate nonprofit office," Coleman explained. His movement is driven by the community it serves, not the other way around.
But for all its earnestness, Coleman promises, above all the ride is a fun way to enjoy the weather and the community and see some specimens of West Oakland's distinct bike subculture — think tricked-out GTs with mag rims, nameplates, and speaker sets jury-rigged to the back. The ride also bills itself as the "most diverse ride in Oakland," and it just might be: Last year's event drew more than 300 people of all ages and backgrounds, from West Oakland and elsewhere, and Coleman expects at least as many this time around.
This year's outing — which, unlike the past two, starts in the early evening — will be followed by a "bike-in" movie screening of the 1979 cult classic The Warriors, with food, prizes, and more. The ride starts at Lakeside Park (468 Perkins St., Oakland) at 7:30 p.m. and concludes at the Bikes 4 Life storefront (1600 7th St., Oakland), where the screening begins at 8:30. Free. 510-452-2453 or Bikes4Life.com