More than 800 Bay Area bicyclists rallied at the West Oakland BART station this past Sunday and rode around the city in response to recent attacks against cyclists by several individuals driving in apparently stolen cars.
The solidarity ride was organized by the Roll Out Crew, a Black-led bike education group in Oakland. Demorea “Truckie” Evans, the 45-year-old minister and barber who leads the crew, told the gathering he wanted all types of bike communities in one place to “learn how to become neighbors” and to start advocating together for improved road conditions.
“The more of us together, the stronger we are,” Evans told the crowd as he stood on the back of a pickup truck in the BART parking lot. “It’s going to take all of us to see the change that we desire to see. Supporting those who are victimized and saying, ‘You cannot get us off our bikes.’”
Some of the other bike and road safety advocacy groups that joined the ride included members from Bike East Bay, Traffic Violence Rapid Response, Traffik Boyz, Coco County Rippers, and the Santa Cruz Maniaccs. The ride was also sponsored by the Khadafy Washington Foundation for Nonviolence, which helped give out a free bike to one of the attendees.
Bryan Culbertson, one of the leaders of Traffic Violence Rapid Response, told The Oaklandside he was heartened by the level of support shown to collision victims. “People are starting to understand what it is like to be a vulnerable road user, to be a cyclist on our roads,” he said.
Culbertson said he hopes the attention paid to the attacks will also extend to people who have recently died on the roads in less-publicized incidents. At least three pedestrians have been struck and killed on Oakland roads in the last three weeks, including at a High Street intersection, he said.
Julie Meyerson, from San Jose, said she showed up to Sunday’s ride out of a sense of solidarity. “A lot of my friends were horrified to hear what was happening and we wanted to ride with them and show them that we have their backs,” she said.
Vera Andreyva, a Russian who lives in San Mateo, told us the attacks “sounded absolutely crazy.” Andreyva said she also often feels at risk in the South Bay while riding but that she feels grateful about the level of infrastructure available compared to her native country, where bike lanes are “nonexistent.”
The Roll Out Crew ensured all bicyclists followed the rules of the road for the Sunday ride by asking them to wear their helmets, to ride in the right lane, and to avoid swerving around car traffic. Evans also made sure bicyclists were protected from driver-induced violence by following the group with his truck while other “safe cars” driven by his friends accompanied the bike group as well.
“If you’re gonna do something at our ride, we’re going to stop you and whatever has to happen after that, we’re gonna wait for the police or we’re gonna give you a warning. We’re gonna do it, but we’re gonna do it in love,” Evans said.
A lot of smiles on two wheels
More than 16 bicyclists were attacked on Feb. 10 and 11 in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville. According to evidence gathered by the East Bay Bike Party as well as witnesses who spoke with The Oaklandside, one or several groups of young people appeared to use stolen Kia and Hyundai vehicles to sidle up to bicyclists and sideswipe or door them. Two people went to the hospital with broken bones and head wounds.
Sunday’s solidarity ride took bicyclists from West Oakland to North Oakland through Market Street, moved East through the Santa Fe and Temescal neighborhoods, stopping briefly at Oakland Technical High School for a group picture, then on Broadway toward downtown Oakland, Grand Avenue, and Lake Merritt, before returning to West Oakland.
Ron Keys, a member of the Traffik Boyz crew, biked with his family from Antioch to be a part of the ride. He told The Oaklandside it felt good to ride with his kids.
“[Getting to hang out with] grown people we haven’t seen in years, it’s actually pretty cool,” Keys said.
One of his sons said it’s important to be careful in choosing who you are with and where during bike rides. “Crazy stuff like [the collisions] happen. They just mess it up. But we’re still gonna have fun regardless,” he said.
Ellie Mead, one of the victims of last week’s attacks, said Sunday’s ride was “incredibly moving.” Mead previously told us she wasn’t sure whether she’d be able to ride again. But she took comfort in being surrounded by hundreds of bicyclists.
“For me, the feeling in the air was, ‘despite everything, at least we have each others’ backs.’ It was the best possible way for me to get back on my bike,” she said. “And I felt immense gratitude to be a small part of this huge, diverse community of Bay Area bikers, who advocate for one another and band together when bad things happen.”
Carter Lavin, a local solar and transportation activist who attended Sunday’s ride, told The Oaklandside he was shocked to hear about the recent attacks on bicyclists.
“I love Oakland and I love my neighbors, and I put a lot of effort in so I can continue to be alive here. I wear a helmet and a higher visual vest. I bike in the bike lanes safely,” he said. “And the fact I can’t decide I’m not the one who gets to choose whether or not I make it home to my spouse, that I have to rely on our neighbors [who drive cars] to do what they’re supposed to be doing…That’s scary.
Antonio “Tone” Muñoz, who lives in Hercules and rides with the Coco County Rippers group, attended the Sunday ride with his young son. He said he got mad when he first heard about the attacks, but instead of turning him away from biking, it made him want to be more involved.
“I don’t get it. It’s dumb, man. It’s ignorant. Why are you gonna go after somebody that is just minding their business and open the door on them? That’s totally uncalled for,” he said. “The more numbers we are, the more the picture gets out that “Hey, don’t mess with the bike life, man. We ain’t doing nothing to y’all.”
How Sunday’s ride was organized
Evans told The Oaklandside that within moments of hearing what happened last week, he felt an immediate paternal instinct to protect the community. He got in touch with some of his customers and friends and said he wanted to ride out as soon as possible to make sure that the people who did this didn’t feel empowered to do it again.
“I just couldn’t allow a big time gap between what happened and getting back outside. We needed to get back out,” he said.
Even more important, said Evans, was demonstrating that there are a lot of different types of people who ride bikes in Oakland. One theory that has percolated in social media over the last week is that the teens who assaulted bikers did so because they see members of the growing bicyclist community as wealthy outsiders intent on destroying Oakland’s culture. Evans’ idea was to bring different bike groups together from all different parts of Oakland and outside of it, in part to show local residents that cyclists are not a homogenous group of people. These disparate groups, Evans said Sunday, usually do not ride together.
“Riding together as one, the purpose is solidarity for peace and our protection,” he said.
Continued pressure on police to find the suspects
Cyclists have long complained that police don’t take attacks on bicyclists seriously enough
“Oakland police don’t prevent traffic violence, they don’t prevent this stuff,” said Lavin. “They don’t investigate. And even if they did, sending a person to jail doesn’t bring a person who was hit and killed back to life.”
Jesse, an East Bay Bike Party volunteer who declined to provide his last name, told us he understood that the police in Oakland are understaffed and that they have to prioritize homicides. But he thinks they still could have done better to connect with the bike attack victims.
“It’s tough because you want justice but you also have the context of OPD and what justice means to them. They were just hacked. Apparently, their entire system was down for a week and a half. They sacked their police chief,” he said.
District 1 Councilmember Dan Kalb attended the Sunday gathering and told The Oaklandside that when he first heard about the attacks, it “pissed [him] off.” Kalb said he asked the OPD to start investigating the attacks as criminal assaults instead of traffic incidents.
“It’s bad enough that we have people who are negligent and irresponsible harming cyclists or pedestrians, but for someone to consciously, knowingly cause harm, that shouldn’t happen at all,” he said.
Kalb said Sunday’s ride was an important show of political force from the bike community.
The Oakland Police Department told The Oaklandside Tuesday that the bike attack case has been transferred from the Traffic Investigation Unit and is now being handled by the Criminal Investigation Division. The department is asking anyone with information about the attacks to call 510-238-3426.