Bike lanes, separated bike paths, loop detectors that pick up bikes, integrated bike routes. We need more of all of these important things in Minneapolis to get more butts on bikes, and to grow our supportive bike culture. But you know what we also need?
An accessible, inclusive party space.
Let's call it a “bike space for community development and bonding.”
I'm currently helping a team of rad WTFs organize the next Babes in Bikeland- the largest All-WTF alley cat race in the universe. There are several big tasks that have to be conquered every year: Design/ art, location of stops and activities at the stops, volunteers, sponsored donations of prizes, including beer, and... the after-party spot.
Each of those elements has it's own challenges, but the hardest resource to find, in my opinion, is the after-party location. In my experience organizing with Grease Rag for parties or educational seminars, other bike races for after party spots, and events around town with various needs, this is always the most crucial, and the most difficult to secure.
What are we looking for?
We have to front the costs for t-shirts, spoke cards, and other promotions, and every year we start at a zero budget. We don't have the resources for a space that costs $50+, and this goes double for other organizations that only do one event a year, have no financial resources, or won't even try to secure a place that isn't free.
Bike parties can be super cheap. Plop a keg in an ice bucket, light a bonfire, and fashion your own megaphone! The bike life agrees well with the thrifty/ free life. However, rain happens, snow, sleet, and thunderstorms happen, and you want to protect your sound system and DJ from the elements, not to mention your participants.
Capacity for 30, 50, 100, 200...?
Part of GROWING the bike community is that more bodies need to be able to mingle together. If we keep inviting 100 people to a space that can fit 30, it becomes exclusive, and you get the same 30 people showing up, again and again. We need to be able to accommodate parties and seminars of all sizes.
Sometimes We Can Be Loud
Some parties, like Babes in Bikeland, have a sound system, amplifiers, and the kind of music that makes you want to dance, WOO, and dance some more. We don't want to have to can the party at 10, and we also want to respect neighbors, so we are always looking for a space out-of-the-way or at least not right up against residential neighbors.
And We Like to Stay Up Late
Park buildings close at 10pm with the parks. Sometimes we want to stay up until 2am, dancing and singing!
Alcohol is a common ingredient at bicycle events, and we need a place that will let us serve our sponsored booze.
We don't need a fancy bike valet system or a million bike racks, we just need some rails or a place inside the party area to bike pile, or lean up against. It wouldn't work to have a party on a third floor of a building with no where to park in the area.
Everything Else is Just Gravy
In general, bike people are pretty low-maintenance. A garage, warehouse, loading dock, or any other no-frills space will work. Everything else is just gravy.
We always find a way to get an amp, some tables, a megaphone, some lights, tents... but if a space could provide party/ event equipment for free or low-cost? Bangarang! That would certainly open up event-hosting and -organizing to a group of people that don't have the same connections that Babes in Bikeland does, as it enters it's seventh year. Imagine if all you had to do was collect donations for the space, submit a plan for your event, and the space helped out with the rest!
Babes in Bikeland needs a space like this. Grease Rag needs a space like this. All of the fun, free, awesome bike events in Minneapolis need a space like this.
Do you know where we can go? Would you like to host an event that builds bike community and promotes fun and enthusiasm? Speak up. We need you.
Or if anyone wants to go in on buying or leasing a large warehouse space for the good of our bike community... Let me know. (Mostly not joking.)