Bike Summer 1999

The Revolution will Not be Motorized – Celebrate Bike Summer in San Francisco

Summer is a season of celebration — a time of intense energy when people gather under the sun and ideas bloom. There is no better time to effect social change and inaugurate a new era than summer. At the end of July, Bike Summer will consume San Francisco for one month as people pedal in from points far and wide to celebrate the glories of the bicycle, advocate for a sustainable transportation balance, and educate the greater community and other cyclists about how to bring about this velorution (velo=bike in French; velox is Latin for swift). Bike Summer is one of the most important environmental grassroots gatherings of the decade. By focusing the intense global momentum of the bicycle movement in one place, Bike Summer will raise the visibility of bicycling and transportation concerns, and it cannot come too soon. We must live the velorution.

Why Bicycles? Why Now? One of the pivotal environmental battles at the turn of the millennium is being waged over transportation. Transportation is more than an individual choice of how we decide to get from point A to point B — it is integrally tied to land use, air and water quality, habitat and wilderness loss, public health and safety, and even the rise of political and social apathy. We have built interstate rivers of concrete that emptied out our once-vibrant, compact urban centers and spilled humanity and our waste across the landscape in unending sprawling waves of auto-oriented subdivisions and mega-malls. As our metropolitan areas grow several times faster than do their populations, we are consuming vast tracts of wilderness, farmland, and open space and replacing them with oceanic parking lots, strip malls, and single-use isolated pods of tract housing and office “parks.” The low-density world designed around the needs of the automobile — its space demands, fuel demands, economic demands, psychological demands — leave room for little else in our communities and our lives. Consider these stark statistics:

  • Every year over 300 million gallons of used oil from road runoff, leaks and oil changes pour directly into our rivers and oceans — that’s 33 times as much oil as spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
  • 43,000 people die in the U.S. every single year from auto collisions. Add to that 2 million less-than-fatal motor vehicle injuries annually. o 107 million Americans live in counties that fail to meet one or more air quality standards.
  • 30,000 Americans die each year from respiratory illness stemming from auto-related airborne toxins.
  • The taxpayers paid $1 billion for construction of the 4.5-mile Cypress Freeway in Oakland, CA, or $3,500 per inch.
  • It costs $30,000 to the cost of a new housing unit in San Francisco: to add one off-street parking space.
  • Federal and local governments nationwide spend $185 million per day on highways and major roads.
  • Number of bicycles that can park in the space of one SUV: 16 – 20

We have subdued all other needs — of safety, of equity, of community, of health, of environment — to ensure that the automobile can chug along unfettered. And the irony of the whole system is that we have paralyzed our movement in unending gridlock. Our current transportation superstructure focuses on only the movement of the greatest volume of cars at the greatest speeds possible. All the while we have disassembled, underfunded, and neglected mass transit and marginalized any form of non-motorized transportation, including walking. We have made the corner grocery store, the pedestrian, the public town square, the bicycle commuter, and the blue sky all endangered species. We have forgotten how to move people.

The bicycle is the ultimate vehicle of liberation, of sustainability, of efficiency, of community, and of social equity. The environmental benefits of bicycling are unquestionable. Zero-emission human-powered transport is the ultimate tool of sustainability. Bicycles are inexpensive to manufacture and are affordable to families even on the most meager budgets. Bicycles require very little space in an urban setting to maneuver and park, they take up little room in movement and in place. In tandem with mass transit, bicycles permit a city to keep itself confined to less area, keeping wild lands and open space unpaved, intact, and nearby. Bicycling fosters an ethos of living locally — supporting local business, relying on local agriculture, appreciating local ecosystems.

We cannot forget the human ecology of the bicycle. Community, cultural activity and political discourse need physical and public places to foment and grow, they require entropy and human contact. Public squares, neighborhood parks, sidewalks, marketplaces — these are the places where people mingle, ideas grow, and culture and community germinate. All of this requires a human-scaled built environment. The human spirit needs contact with others to grow and flourish. The bicycle is ideal transportation to travel this compact, traditional urban landscape. Bicycling fosters community and gathering. It promotes social interaction at every turn. It fits in perfectly in a human-scaled city.

Cycling keeps the body fit and the mind and reflexes sharp. In this age of super convenience and drive-thrus, we have let our health and vigor deteriorate. Cycling as everyday transportation is a simple solution to regular exercise. And of course, the simple acts of bicycling lifts the human spirit and revives our connection with air, land, and water.

What is Bike Summer?

Bike Summer will be a month of intensive advocacy and celebration with daily events. Events will kick off on Friday, July 30, with the largest Critical Mass ride ever (we’re hoping to double the 5,000+ rider Mass of July 1997), and continue with daily events until the August 27 Critical Mass. Events will include film festivals, activist trainings, art exhibits, daily mass rides, political strategy workshops, cultural and natural history bike tours, street theatre, camping excursions, guerrilla bike rack installations, lectures and teach-ins, bike rodeos, family rides, street parties, and many direct action events aimed at raising consciousness and demanding change (as well as having fun!).

San Francisco is the birthplace of Critical Mass and the epicenter of the bicycling movement. Often looked to as a trend-setting capital, this city, grappling with its transportation and land-use future at this millennial crossroads, is the natural stage for intensifying the global struggle against automobile domination. Bicycling has been making slow incremental progress, but we need to take the campaign to the next level, strengthen the web of global activists, and begin to turn the wheels toward sustainability. Bike Summer 1999 in San Francisco is the first monumental wave of the velorution. Be a part of history and help pedal toward a greener, more livable future.

Bike Summer organizers are expecting large packs of cyclists and activists from all over the country to descend on San Francisco. If you want publicity material (press kits, stickers, flyers, full-color posters, logistical information, audio public service announcements), or want to help plan a Bike Summer event, please call (415) 431-2453 ext.9, send an email to, or visit the official Bike Summer website at

Bicycling fosters an ethos of living locally — supporting local business, relying on local agriculture, appreciating local ecosystems. Bicycling fosters an ethos of living locally — supporting local business, relying on local agriculture, appreciating local ecosystems.

Bicycling fosters an ethos of living locally — supporting local business, relying on local agriculture, appreciating local ecosystems.