It’s supposed to be warm in Denver, and it’s not. Whatever, it’s still time for that weekly biking tradition and colorful spectacle that signals summer in the Mile High City: the Denver Cruiser Ride.
It’s the 10th anniversary of the ride, which began with just a few participants and has grown to a caravan of possibly thousands of people pedaling through the streets wearing Viking helmets or yeti costumes or maybe Santa suits, depending on the night. Riders (all are welcome) will start tonight at 7 p.m. from various points of the city and will converge on a location to be announced at 5 p.m. They’ll reinvent the ride every Wednesday evening through September 30 with a different theme and end point. Tonight’s theme? Technicolor.
Denver Cruiser Ride’s popularity has turned founder Brad Evans into a bicycle activist, even if it’s of the nontraditional kind — an “accidental advocate” in his words. As the ride evolved from an underground group of a dozen friends into a massive, moving symphony of spokes and pedals, Evans’ responsibility grew too.
“It’s fun on bikes. That’s the core of it,” Evans said. “But if we can start showing people that it’s safe and fun to ride bikes then they start changing their behavior.”
In its current iteration, Denver Cruisers works closely with the Denver Police Department on crowd control and has a comprehensive website with start locations, themes, and rules. The best way to get a feel for the ride is to go on it, but everyone should check out the How We Roll page first. It’s an entertaining read with serious overtones about bike safety that range from “Thou Shall Not Run Red Lights” to “Thou Shall Not Over-Imbibe” — an apt piece of advice given many of the start points are bars and restaurants.
Evans stresses that the Denver Cruiser Ride is not an exercise like Critical Mass, which takes over entire streets and intersections, but definitely conveys the notion that bicyclists should be the equal of motorists on the roads.
“I don’t do the Critical Mass thing,” Evans says. “What we’ve always tried to do is promote stopping at red lights, leaving a lane open for cars. Some other groups might be interested in causing chaos on the roads, but that’s not our intent. If it does, we just continue on our campaign to share the road.”
Don’t get the wrong idea. Even with its blessing from the City Council, the Denver Cruiser Ride is still charmingly subversive, and Evans admittedly enjoys seeing cars having to make room for bikes for once. The ride also takes on the stereotype of the drafting, spandex-wearing cyclist of popular imagination — an intimidating image for those thinking about taking up biking.
“I think that’s the beauty of this thing,” Evans says. “It kind of flips it around, but not with a fist in the air — with a smile. I don’t know if it’s good for bike activism so much as it’s good for people to just get on the streets and understand that it can be safe to ride on the streets. This is the gateway drug for people to ride bikes.”