The Denver Cruisers know how to stir things up. Rather than simply announce the 2013 themes for the mega-popular Wednesday rides, Brad Evans and company released an April Fools' Day version first -- one that turned heads via concepts like "Skid Marks & Seamen Stains."
Behind the edgy irreverence, organizer Brad Evans has a slew of appropriately big plans for the season, including a Social Ride Summit to be staged during the USA Pro Challenge. He talks about the state of the Cruisers below.
The first Cruiser ride took place in May 2005, Evans recalls, "and there were thirteen people on it." Contrast that with the July 4, 2012 get-together. "I think there were 3,500 people on that one," he says, "and even the rainy rides last year were a thousand.
"We never planned it to be like this," he admits, "never intended it to be like this. My favorite is when people say, 'It's not like it used to be.'"
This statement "works in multiple phases," Evans feels. "It's like people who liked the band first; the Denver Cruiser ride is the band you used to like. But at the same time, the ride has become the gateway drug for people riding bikes in Denver. Nobody's telling them it's wrong or bad that you should do this. Instead, it's a creative interpretation -- like, 'I can ride my bike to the grocery store. I don't really need my car.'"
But even as the ride spreads the cycling gospel, the concentration of Cruiser participants presents challenges aplenty. "I'm trying to re-envision the Cruiser Ride," Evans says. "It's like, how do you manage this many people on a Wednesday night? We're just trying to figure out, 'What does that look like?' And how do we get the city and police involved in a different format?"
Officials haven't balked at coordinating with the Cruisers even as the group has grown. "Nobody has ever come to me and said, 'You've got to stop doing this,'" he stresses. "We've had a great working relationship. Whenever there's been a problem, the questions have been, 'How do you address it? How do we make this work?' And they realize this is a Denver phenomenon. There are some big rides around the country, some critical-mass stuff. But people didn't even believe it was possible in Denver, and it is."
With that in mind, Evans is hoping to brand Wednesdays as Denver Bike Night, with bike safety a key component. "The City and Bike Denver and Steve Sander and I have been working on a bike-safety campaign, and as part of it, we're hoping that the Denver police will come and give away five-thousand sets of lights. I'm working on that right now, and I got an e-mail from one of the police commanders that said, 'The best way to engage the bike community is through education.'
"That tells me we've got a green light with someone who wants to work with the bike community -- that the relationship doesn't have to be adversarial with the cops and us and drivers."
That's a good thing, since Evans envisions Denver becoming even more bike-friendly as the years go on. "A graphic the City uses says that 1 percent of people will ride bikes no matter what, 3 percent are enthusiasts, and 33 percent of people won't ride bikes at all. That leaves over 60 percent that will ride bikes if they feel safe doing it. And imagine 60 percent fewer cars. It would change everything."
To make such a dream a reality, structural alterations would be necessary, as Evans well knows. "I was at a Public Works meeting, and my question was, 'What is the big vision? What would an infrastructure system look like, and what would it cost?' And the City said $120 million. That's what it would cost -- but every city that's made that kind of investment has started to put that other 60 percent on bikes."
To promote such a shift, Evans says, "why not make this city the place where the world's biggest bike party happens?" And he sees plenty of buy-in among big players. "We have cool support in terms of the theater district, nonprofits. They're super-psyched about the Cruiser ride. So we want to find those win-wins throughout the city. We don't want to be a menace, and the more this grows, the more it will help Denver to become a real bike city."
With this goal in mind, the Cruisers are hosting "the first-ever Social Ride Summit in August.
"Back in 2005, there were two organized rides in Colorado -- the Boulder ride and the Denver ride. Theirs was bigger, ours was smaller. But now, there are at least 25 organized rides here, and we have a list of about 220 rides around the globe. And we're inviting all those people to come to Denver when the USA Pro Challenge is here."
Planned for August 21-24, the Summit is expected to feature lots of activities. "People will get to go on the Denver ride, the Boulder ride, the Highland ride. And then we'll host the Starlight Cruise, a ride along the route of the USA Pro Challenge's final stage the night before."
Since such a summit hasn't taken place before, so Evans has no idea what to expect. "Our goal is to have a hundred people from other rides come here -- and we'd be psyched if we had 500. We're lining up an awesome slate of speakers, trying to get real high-end people come and speak. There are so many great rides around the country, like in Austin, where these guys do a Thursday night social ride -- and I think they're going to come up and participate. There's such a cool potential to start bringing this invisible audience cruiser rides have become."
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Well, maybe "invisible" isn't quite the way to put it. "I remember the Fourth of July 2008," Evans notes. "We were at a couple of bars downtown and there were three-hundred people on the ride. I was with Damon Bruno, who I work on this with, and we both said at the same time, 'It can't get any bigger than this' -- but it did."
More from our Things to Do archive: "Photos: Denver Cruisers' hilarious April Fools' theme schedule -- and the real thing."