The East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) was born in 1972, the same year BART first hit the tracks. Their shared birth year wasn’t a coincidence, however; BART in essence spawned the EBBC by banning bikes entirely, galvanizing a nascent community of East Bay bike advocates around a common cause. Three years later, BART began allowing bikes onboard. “It was our first fight,” said EBBC executive director Renee Rivera. “But it certainly wasn’t our last.”
Now, four decades later, with the East Bay fully steeped in bike culture, the Bike to Work Day advocates and pothole fighters at EBBC are still working to make the East Bay a safer and better community for cyclists. And on Friday, November 16, to celebrate the coalition’s fortieth year, they’ll transform the Jack London Square Pavilion (98 Broadway, Oakland) into their own personal bikers’ utopia — Biketopia, in short.
“It’s going to be our vision of the super bike-friendly city of the future,” said Rivera. The organizers will create a mini streetscape inside the Pavilion, featuring colored bike lanes, parklets, and on-street bike parking. There will also be music, a silent auction featuring bike accessories, food from Jack London Square’s own Miss Pearl’s Restaurant and Lounge, and plenty of wine and New Belgium beer. “We don’t advise biking around with a beer in your hands,” said Rivera with a laugh. “This is more of a celebration of what we know the East Bay can someday be for bikers, in miniature.”
As far as modern-day models for the bike haven the EBBC envisions, Rivera looks no further than Berkeley. According to the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2011, Berkeley has the nation’s fourth-highest rate of bicycle commuting — at nearly 9 percent of the workforce — behind Boulder (9.6 percent), Palo Alto (10 percent), and Davis (16.6 percent). But Rivera seems confident that with the initiatives the EBBC is supporting, the rest of the East Bay isn’t far behind. Among the organization’s priorities are fighting for full bike access on BART and building support for the “East Bay Greenway,” a network of bike paths from Oakland to Hayward inspired by Berkeley’s Ohlone Greenway. “We have a really great example right next door of what a great biking city looks like,” she said. “This is a chance for people to celebrate around all of us getting there.” 5:30 p.m., $15-30. EBBC.org/Biketopia