Sunday, February 26, 2012

An interview with the Philly Bike Party

Recently I wrote a post about the Philly Bike Party. Modeled after the San Jose Bike Party this a social ride about bikes and boom boxes. A night ride through Philadelphia with stops for dancing. Recently the creators of the Philly Bike Party, Steph and Karenina, were kind enough to answer some questions.

What inspired you to start holding Bike Parties in Philadelphia?
Steph and I met while working to organize Philly Naked Bike Ride 2011. We were both deeply impressed by the fact such a huge-seeming venture was really just a hand full of people who created a movement by simply putting up a website and using their own money to design and print some posters. It did, of course, take more than that to make it as well-oiled and fantastic as it is, but we saw first hand that it was possible.  During the Naked Bike Ride I could not get over how much fun I was having. I remarked out loud to no one in particular, "Wouldn't it be awesome if we could do this all the time?" and a girl on her bike responded, "Check out Bike Party!". I went home, read about San Jose's movement, , and fell instantly in love. At the PNBR wrap-up meeting I proposed the idea to Steph, and Philly Bike Party was officially born.

Did you work with the San Jose Bike Party to help create the Philly Bike Party and if yes what were some of the most important things you learned?
I emailed them to ask them for tips and the funniest part was how excited they were about it! It was this group of people who had been putting so much hard work and love into something they cared about for so long and suddenly someone 3,000 miles a way wanted to replicate it. They were bowled over by the possibility of making Bike Party coast to coast. Ultimately what we learned was:
a) Bike Party is very much an organic project - it's all about how much people want to do
b) it's totally place specific
c) you can't really teach someone how to do something until they try it out on their own.

At first they gave us all these details about how they organize their volunteers - and so far Steph and I are really the only regular ones! We have a few great people who have been able to chip in here and there, but so far it's mostly just the two of us handling the load. Since this is only the 2nd ride we're hoping that as popularity grows, so will support, but hey, if people don't want to help then they probably have more important things to do with their time, and most things in life should only happen if people want them to.

Do you have any themes you plan to incorporate into future rides?
For now we're sticking to more general themes. There are already so many rides that involve extra-special creativity (Tweed, Kinetic Sculpture Derby, even PNBR is starting to feature a lot of artistic expression) that we wanted to pare it down so that people didn't feel like they had to anything more than show up to have a good time. So, the first ride's theme was "Bike Party" because it was the first. This time it's Winter Edition/Feel the Love - it's cold out, so wear a jacket and come show Philly some love! But none of these require costumes. Personally, we like being able to dance in a our jeans and sneaks without being concerned about having enough paper mache or glitter.

What have you learned about planning Bike Parties since you first started?
1. Setting up a website is harder than we thought it would be, but Karenina has had a lot of fun learning how to do it!
2. We need a better speaker system and it needs to be well prepared in advance. We're still working on that so if anyone knows anything about hooking up a PA speaker to a car battery, we would love you forever!
3. Stay longer at each dancing spot - we were kind of anxious the first time and would only stay for a song or 2 at each spot so we finished in less than 2 hours. This time we'll have about 8 dancing spots and we'll be staying for 4 or 5 songs at each spot. :)
4. People who love bike and dancing will be there and they will love it, and it will be great.

How do you handle crowd control and littering?
Well, the only issue we had at the first ride was a drunk guy on roller-blades who thought it was fun to annoy cars by getting in front of them. That is NOT what we're about, so we're working on having "corrallers", to keep people in the corral aka the bike lanes. Littering hasn't been a problem yet!

If someone wants to get involved in planning rides how can they do that?
Please contact us!!, We could use help with: encouraging riders to stay in the bike lanes by riding on the outside of the column, hooking up speaker systems,

What do you do when you are not planning Bike Parties?
Haha I'm blushing - you're making me feel like a celebrity!
Steph is in her 3rd year of undergrad at Temple doing a double major in criminal justice and film/media arts. She also works 3 jobs: Dean's Office at Tyler School of Art, CVS, and the Print studio at Tyler. She also does a lot of work with the Temple section of Occupied Philly, volunteers for Alley Cats, helps with Philly Naked Bike Ride, helped organize the reprise of Critical Mass Philadelphia, and helps out with various projects at Neighborhood Bike Works.

Karenina is a law student at Temple, which eats most of her life. She also does all sorts of volunteering around the city for disadvantaged people including: case management and Spanish translation for Volunteers for the Indigent Program - a pro-bono legal org, fund raising for the Student Public Interest Program at Temple, volunteer recruitment for the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program run by the Campaign for Working Families, and is currently doing an internship at the City Law Department of Philadelphia. She is also a principal organizer for the Philly Naked Bike Ride and is involved with the Safe Streets Philadelphia efforts through the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition.
Oh for fun? Hmm for fun....when we can we each sleep, we each ride bikes, we each try to see our friends when we can, and Karenina plays a lot of video games to calm her tired brain.

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