Of the many subdivisions of utility cycling, community building is perhaps the most abstract, but bringing people together for social gatherings and festivals through the shared enjoyment of bikes can be as useful as riding to commute or to provide bike services. Within community building, there are a of host different activities, such as critical mass rides, charity rides, and group rides, during which people get together with their bicycles for a variety of purposes. Social gatherings and festivals can also be bicycle-centric community events that celebrate cycling, bring like-minded people together and help to strengthen communities by facilitating relationships among the community members.
For a social gathering to occur, there does not necessarily need to be a political, environmental or charitable motive. The catalyst for a gathering can be as simple as a shared desire of the participants to interact with other like-minded individuals. Sometimes, these gatherings have a theme, while other times, the gatherings are more spontaneous and simple rides with family and friends.
An interesting themed ride that took place in Washington, DC was the Seersucker Social Bike Ride. This ride took place in June of 2010, and it was a very causal five-mile spin around DC with the riders dressed in their finest lightweight vintage attire. Dandies and Quaintrelles is the local group that organized this event and other similar rides with the goal of supporting local charities while making a fashion statement on bicycles.
Another type of social gathering by bike is the impromptu group ride with no grander purpose than riding for the sheer joy of pedaling. If you have ever met up with friends, family, co-workers or complete strangers to go for a spin, long or short, and perhaps barbecued or shared a refreshing beverage afterward, you have participated in a social gathering by bike.
Bicycle festivals are generally more organized than social gatherings, but they are also created in the spirit of getting people together to celebrate bicycles.
The Tour de Fat, which is put on by New Belgium Brewing to spread the good word about the positive societal offerings of the bicycle, is a traveling bicycle festival that includes rides, live music and entertainment and, of course, New Belgium beer, to promote the benefits of bicycles and to support local advocacy organizations. In 2011, the Tour de Fat will take place in thirteen different cities, including Nashville, TN, Denver, CO, Tempe, AZ and more.
Other festivals that honor bicycles include bicycle film festivals and bicycle music festivals. Bicycle film festivals showcase a variety of bike-related films that educate and inspire cyclists, and these festivals take place in cities all over the world. Bicycle music festivals also celebrate cycling and demonstrate that music festivals can be sustainable and environmentally friendly. The San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival utilizes a 2,000-watt pedal-powered PA system and is a mobile festival that moves from stop to stop using strictly human-powered transportation.
Whether you are interested in creating new relationships with other velophiles or looking to celebrate bicycles with your group of friends and family, social gatherings and festivals can be exciting, educational and stimulating. Bikes are useful machines for transportation and fitness, and the importance of the culture that has grown around bicycles that promotes sustainability and health should not be underestimated as its own useful function of the bicycle.