The Bicycle Music Festival: A Convincing Argument Against Roller Skates

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Dustin Jensen

Welcome to The Spokesman, our bi-monthly bicycle column written by French Clements, a San Francisco resident and distance cyclist who considers it pretty routine to ride his bike to Marin County or San Jose and back. He belongs to a club, the SF Randonneurs, and is active in numerous aspects of the cycling community. For those of you wondering, the title of this column is a slightly tongue-in-cheek merging of bicycling and blogging terms, not a claim that Clements speaks for anyone but himself.

San Francisco's Gabe Dominguez is one of the founders of the original Bicycle Music Festival. He talked with The Spokesman recently while a bike-parade of revelers flooded into Showplace Triangle last week, turning the sleepy plaza into a humming folksy venue.

What are the goals of the Bicycle Music Festival?
Our goal is to promote sustainable culture in general and bicycle culture in particular by immersing people in the power of free, bicycle-based music events. We started doing this in San Francisco in 2007, so this is our sixth year. But the concept is open-source, so it's spread all over the world -- there's BMFs in Chico, Seattle, Toronto ...

So why bikes? Why not roller skates?
The science behind it is basically that the bicycle is the most efficient form of human transportation ever invented per calorie. Not an airplane, not a car, not even walking is more efficient than riding a bicycle. At least on a paved road. I'm sure if you were riding a horse, it'd be a different story! But because of this efficiency, it's a symbol for the cutting edge of human transportation, which also then becomes a symbol of sustainability and forward-thinking cultures in general. The bicycle in our way is our spinning wheel, like Gandhi's spinning wheel -- it's our revolutionary symbol of self-reliance.

Can you say that the festival is carbon-neutral?
We like to brag that the festival is carbon-negative, because we're taking so many people who might otherwise we doing weekend activities in a car, and getting them here instead.

What do you think are some challenges that face bicycle culture as a viable alternative for carbon-fueled transportation?
Infrastructure is a major one, because it's so dangerous out there, it's scary. It's so cheap for most people to get a bike, it's not really an economic barrier that stops them -- it's mostly a safety barrier. Most people are scared to ride their bike in the city because they're afraid that they're going to get hit, or their kids are going to get get hit, or they're going to get doored, or their bike's going to get stolen, or there's not a bike rack. In suburban areas, what keeps people from riding bikes, is that shit's just so poorly designed. It's all car-centric, so it takes you a thousand years just to get to the store, run errands ... it's just too intimidating for people. And then they also have so much to carry, and they've never heard of cargo bikes, so they have no idea how to carry their shopping, their groceries, or their kids back home from school. So it's an infrastructural issue in the city and in suburbia, but it's especially a cultural issue -- a blockage -- in suburbia. That's part of what's cool about BMF too -- it encourages a scene of bicycle-touring bands who go through small bands in America on their bikes and spread pedal-powered concepts and bike-rocking and so on.

Is this parade through town a big component in getting the word out about the BMF message?
Really, it's mostly just for the sake of the people who are doing it. What really gets the word out is this interview, and YouTube videos, and things that happen after the fact. As you can see, the amount of people who are here is relatively small, but the ripples they make are enormous. The ride's just for fun.


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