2006-04-14 After-Dark Bicycle Rallies – NY Times

After-Dark Bicycle Rallies


New York Times

April 14, 2006

By Johanna Jainchill

CONVENTIONAL wisdom says that when the sun goes down it is time to leave the local park. But riders at the Central Park Moonlight Rides in New York are far from conventional. At 10 p.m. on the first Friday of every month, they pass up urban night life to enjoy the tranquillity of an automobile-free park and a perspective on nature accessible at night.

Dima Gavrysh for The New York Times
Riders setting off on a Central Park Moonlight Ride last week faced little car traffic.
“There are no beeping horns, no traffic – it’s just quiet,” said Bill DiPaloa, a ride organizer. “You probably wouldn’t go alone, but you are with these people, and then you end up at this beautiful, serene place.”

This is one of a handful of nighttime bike rides around the country that take place when cars – the biker’s nemeses – are most easily avoided. Some rides are illuminated by moonlight, some only with the cyclists’ headlights and others by the lamps of otherwise abandoned city streets.

Mr. DiPaloa is a founder of the 20-year-old environmental group Time’s Up, which started the ride to offer people an antidote to less wholesome nighttime activities – drinking and spending money at bars and clubs – and to promote contact with nature.

The group organizes night rides in parks and over bridges. The riders stop at times – for example, for turtle sightings against the backdrop of city lights. The rides are short and moderately paced. (They also lack the confrontational nature of night rides organized by Critical Mass, a group that deliberately challenges the hegemony of the automobile.)

Across the country, in Los Angeles, a city as storied for its traffic as for its tinsel, bicycles take over the boulevards one night a month. The Midnight Ridazz was started by a woman who found night cycling exhilarating and invited others along. Now as many as 800 show up on the second Friday of each month for themed rides through the streets of Los Angeles. Prom Night brings out tuxedo-clad cyclists; the Dead Celebrities tour takes riders to sites of the deaths of famous people including Biggie Smalls and Janis Joplin. The Strip Club ride’s focus is obvious.

Each ride’s theme is announced several days in advance by e-mail (a popular way to get on the list is through Yahoo Groups) and flyers, but the actual route is kept secret until the beginning of the ride; the cyclists always meet at Echo Park and Sunset Boulevard at 9:30 p.m. “L.A. was hungry for something like this,” said Marisa Bell, one of the founders. “The streets are empty, and the world is our oyster.”

Other midnight rides are organized as annual events. In Boston, the Back Bay Midnight Pedalers will hold its 18th Boston by Bike at Night in August. The ride starts at midnight downtown, watches the sun rise and ends at Christopher Columbus Waterfront Park. The tour hits the city’s many historic sites when the hour and darkness offer riders freedom on otherwise crowded and narrow city streets.

On Antelope Island, the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, a 22-mile ride is held around the time of the full moon in July. Riders share moonlit white beaches with its rich wildlife, including bison and antelope. A seven-mile causeway connects the island and the shore.

And for those who want to do good for their bodies and their communities at the same time, night rides in Lenexa, Kan., and Woodlands, Tex., raise money for local charities. Lenexa’s Midnight Bike Ride will mark its 11th year in July, when nearly 1,000 riders are expected to ride 9.5 or 12.5 miles through Old Lenexa and nearby for the Optimist Club, a charity for children. In Woodlands, the Midnight Bike Cruise in August raises money for the Montgomery County Food Bank. This will be its eighth year; it has previously attracted more than 1,000 riders for 10- and 20-mile routes.

“The difference is, you have a totally different perspective on the things you are riding past,” said Jan Huff Soper of Lenexa, a ride organizer. “It’s a peaceful kind of ride.”

NEW YORK Meet at the southwest corner (Columbus Circle) of Central Park.

What: Central Park Moonlight Ride, 212-802-8222.

When: 10 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.

LOS ANGELES Meet at Echo Park and Sunset Boulevard.

What: Midnight Ridazz Bike Ride.

When: 9:30 p.m., second Friday of every month; (ride at 10 p.m.)

BOSTON: Meet in front of Trinity Church in Copley Square, Back Bay.

What: Midnight Pedalers Boston by Bike at Night, 617-522-0259.

When: 11:30 p.m. Aug. 19.


What: Old Town Lenexa Midnight Bike Ride, 913-541-0209.

When: July 15


What: Annual Antelope by Moonlight bike ride, 801-451-3286.

When: 10 p.m. July 7

WOODLANDS, TEX. Start at Panther Creek Shopping Center.

What: Midnight Bike Cruise, 936-718-2469.

When: 11:59 p.m. Aug. 12 (preride activities begin 10 p.m.).

Copyright 2006, New York Times