Yesterday evening, some 100 riders gathered at the Fruitvale BART station to head out on a tour of Alameda’s holiday lighting displays. David Coldiron, the events organizer, started the “Alameda Holiday Lights Ride in the Island City” back in 2011. As he explained it, the event lets him show his love for his home cities of Oakland and Alameda. “People beg me to keep hosting and it makes me happy, so I keep doing it,” he said.
“It’s a way to enjoy the holidays in my home town of Alameda,” said Susan Corkhill, a rider and member of Bike East Bay and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “It’s a positive way to get people on their bikes… it gets people riding.” In fact, there was a fairly good representation from all over the Bay Area. “We live in San Francisco, and I’d never been on this ride,” said Jessica McElroa, adding that she hadn’t ridden in a while because of the rain. Those rains, fortunately, stopped in time for the Sunday night ride.
Streetsblog, meanwhile, even found a couple of riders who came all the way from San Jose. To Robert Prinz, Bike East Bay Education Director, that’s why rides like this are beneficial from an advocacy standpoint. “It gets people out who haven’t ridden before and it has a good way-finding aspect,” he explained, meaning that any ride that gets people exploring on their bikes, helps them build confidence to use their bikes to get to the area next time they have to go.
But, added Prinz, “mostly it’s just fun…and the decorations on Alameda are pretty spectacular.”
Just before 6:30 p.m., Coldiron gave the riders the basics: don’t run red lights, follow the rules of the road–“don’t give Alameda Police a reason to break up the ride,” he said. He also asked riders to set their headlights on the steady setting (not blinking) so strobing lights don’t interfere with people enjoying the views. He also asked people to ring their bells when they passed a really nice Christmas display.
Coldiron also said a few words about the Ghost Ship fire, which killed 36 people just nine days earlier. The Ghost Ship warehouse, as Streetsblog readers may already know, is only a five minute walk from the Fruitvale BART station. “A tragedy occurred a few blocks from here,” said Coldiron. “Tonight should be about healing…have a peaceful night.”
And with that, the group rang their bells and headed out of the station area towards Fruitvale Road.
The group took the Fruitvale bridge across the estuary, and then Tilden Way to Park Street, for a stop in front of City Hall, before continuing on to Western Alameda.
Traffic was light and most motorists kept their distance. But at one point a driver went into the opposing lane of traffic and sped past. One cyclist with the group remarked at how dangerous that was: “Why be so impatient? And if you’re really in such a hurry, it’s a grid–Alameda is a grid–so just take another street!”
Streetsblog wasn’t able to attend the entire ride, but was there to see a dozen or so houses that were really impressive, including one that was laced entirely in strings of green lights and another with a giant illuminated snowman. But nothing was as impressive as the hundred or so riders, with everything from spokes to hats covered in lights. There were also several families in the group riding cargo bikes with kids on the back.
Aside from one or two impatient motorists, most local Alamedians were happy to see the riders with all their bling and illumination. Several brought their kids outside to wave at the passing cyclists. The bikers rang their bells in response. Smiles abounded. “The lights, the riders,” said Cindy Barreto, a school teacher from San Leandro, seen above with her adorned steed in the lead photo. “It just makes people happy.”
Have you been on any holiday rides? Tell us how they were and what street you think has the most beautiful displays. Comment below.
And speaking of fun things to do on the holidays, don’t forget Thursday is the Streetsblog Holiday Party, at Dalva, 3121 16th Street, SF. Hope to see you there.
And don’t forget to donate to Streetsblog this holiday season!