The City Where Bike-topian Dreams Are Reality

27 Aug

Imagine a city of 60,000 where 90% of its residents ride bicycles to get around town. And it’s not in Denmark or Holland or Japan or China, but out in the wide-open desert of Nevada. The city’s web site is direct: “Black Rock City is designed for pedestrians and bicycles…Bikes are not merely a convenience, they are part of our culture.”

I’ve never visited Black Rock City, but my neighbor is headed there this weekend. Rachel’s bringing her “playa bikes”, immediately recognizable by those in the know as bikes embellished for Burning Man, an “annual art event and temporary community based on radical self expression and self-reliance in the Black Rock Desert.”

What makes a bike a playa bike? First, they’re chosen for cruising the loose soil of playa, not speed. With an official speed limit for motorized vehicles (aka mutant vehicles) set at 5 miles per hour, greyhound-speed bike is not appropriate. Even if it didn’t get bogged down in the alkaline soil of Black Rock Desert’s dry lakebed, your mechanic would never forgive you for the wear and tear on your delicate road or mountain bike.

And despite the virtuous mission of Burning Man, bike theft is an issue. It’s no surprise that while Rachel and her friend head out for dinner without lights, she carries a strong lock. Even in a city where no one sells anything and everyone gives and receives freely, hand painted bikes are too tempting to leave unsecured.

What does your vision of bike-topia look like? How close does where you live come to it?


Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Around Town


7 responses to “The City Where Bike-topian Dreams Are Reality

  1. Vicki

    August 28, 2012 at 2:53 am

    Your neighbour will have a great time at Burning Man I am sure, what a wonderful thing to be able to attend!

    • ladyfleur

      August 28, 2012 at 8:38 am

      I’ve never been that interested in going before. But after reading about it more, I’m now curious to see how they manage to harmoniously set up a city of 60,000 in the middle of nowhere. It would probably have lessons for how we could improve our real-life cities.

  2. Cara

    August 28, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Great post! Its very dark on the playa and lights are a really good idea, plus afford another opportunity to dress up the bike

    • ladyfleur

      August 28, 2012 at 8:40 am

      Perhaps Rachel lights up her bikes for the event itself. She didn’t have any on her bike when she and her friend were headed to Castro Street for dinner. I would really enjoy dressing up my bikes with lights, probably more than the daytime decorations.

  3. Rachel Unger

    August 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Those rims are great – love the paint jobs. 🙂

  4. Martin

    August 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Hi. This comment has nothing at all to do with Black Rock City, and everything to do with stylish women on bicycles. I just stumbled across a biking web site that you would probably find interesting (most likely, though, you already know about it) and that is “Women on Bikes SoCal”

    The current issue features a show in Long Beach in September called “Cycle Chic: Past, Present, and Future.” I think it would interest you (and many of your followers too.)

    (This from a very unfashionable guy who also likes cycling.)

    • ladyfleur

      August 29, 2012 at 10:07 am

      Hi Martin, I do know about the Women on Bike SoCal site and have read it before. I’d like to get down to Long Beach next week for the Women’s Bicycling Summit, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.


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