Since its founding in 2005, the Denver Cruiser Ride has sponsored bicycle rides in the Mile High City that doubled as rolling costume parties every Wednesday throughout the summer. But for 2017, DCR founder Brad Evans has announced that the weekly rides will be replaced with five monthly events. In the meantime, he's launching two new projects: Bike City, a cycling advocacy group, and happy-hour meetups called City Spark that he sees as a way to bring together veteran Cruisers, longtime residents and folks who've just moved to the area to build a larger and more cohesive community.
"People come here, and they don't know where to connect and how to connect," Evans notes. "The Cruiser ride is fun and bikes; the lubricant is bicycles and costumes. But I think Bike City and City Spark are the next thing, the next layer."
Over the years, the regular Denver Cruiser Ride became so iconic that in 2013, the City of Denver officially proclaimed Wednesdays "Bike Night in Denver" in honor of the gatherings. For that reason, the decision to cut back from weekly to monthly Cruiser rides (the full schedule is on page two of this post) wasn't made lightly — and Evans stresses that it had nothing to do with attendance fluctuations.
"We think this will make it bigger," he says. "People have asked us for years, 'Why are you doing so much?' Twenty weeks is incredibly challenging for any kind of event production, and especially one that's operated on a shoestring in the past. And we've never been able to get big sponsors because it's such a big commitment. Porta-lets, insurance — all these things cost money."
Indeed, Evans reveals that the Cruiser rides "have never paid for themselves" and were only able to continue because of "Brad the check writer." That's why, earlier this year, "we came to the realization that we can't do twenty weeks of this. We thought, how many can we do? And five is what we can do — so we went back to the sponsors, and they were like, 'This is manageable.'"
Among the sponsors for the Cruiser ride this year are Avery Brewing Company and Sazerac, the firm responsible for Fireball Cinnamon Whisky — and Evans expects that others, including an area hotel, will be coming aboard. "The cost of doing twenty rides is over $100,000," he points out. "Doing five should cost less, but we'll be doing bigger locations, and they'll cost more. Still, the hope is that we'll be able to be in the black this year."
The logistics of the rides will also be different in 2017. Prior to the monthly events, riders will still be able to gather at the Ginn Mill, 2041 Larimer Street, which has long served as the rides' start location. In addition, several satellite locations will host their own rides, including Monkey Barrel, 4401 Tejon Street; Little Machine Beer, 2924 West 20th Avenue; Be on Key, 1700 Logan Street; and the Illegal Pete's branch at 270 South Broadway. The plan calls for riders to mix and mingle at any of these locations between 6 and 8 p.m. on ride nights, with cyclists departing by 8:15 p.m. and connecting for the traditional "Bike Party/Circle of Death" up until 11 p.m.
"We've always toyed with this idea in the past," Evans says about the multiple locations. "This winter, we had a bunch of people come to us and say, 'How do we host our own rides?' So we're trying to accommodate that. This way, we're still supporting the Ginn Mill, but other people will be able to do their own rides" — and the result, he hopes, will enhance safety without sacrificing any energy.
Evans has long aspired to more than simply facilitating fun on two wheels during the warm-weather months. He flirted with entering the race for Denver mayor in 2015, and his launch that same year of the Denver Fugly campaign, while lighthearted, raised serious issues about development seemingly run amok in the Mile High City. Likewise, he's been deeply involved in Ditch the Ditch, the fight against the I-70 project.
At present, Evans has no plans to become a political candidate. However, he wants to make progress on issues that are important to him, and he sees City Spark as a way to do it.
"We started saying, 'God, so many people are moving here. How do we get them engaged? What topics can we take on and get people engaged in and see what happens when we mix people together?'" he points out. "We tried out the concept in February and did one in April, too — and some powerful conversations and connections came out of them. I think that's what people are hungry for, and what Denver's ready for. Denver's always been a connected place, but now, with so many new people here, they're wanting to figure out how to plug into an already existing network. And City Spark is a way."
So, too, is Bike City, whose stated mission is to "demand that Denver become a more bicycle-friendly city; in doing so, it will create a more vibrant and thriving community." In Evans's words, "we're going to be the bear-pokers for bikes in Denver, together with other groups that are already in place. We're not going to take any money from the city, so we can be more critical about how things are, but also supportive. If they do something great, we'll talk about that, too."
The top priority for Bike City is "advocating — sticking our necks out where nobody has been willing to before, and demanding more," he continues. "I don't want to call it guerrilla, because that's so traditional, but we're definitely thinking outside the box. One of the campaigns we've batted around is, 'Bikes are not cars.' For thirty years, bike advocacy has been, 'We need to have the same rights as cars,' but that's gotten us nowhere. A cyclist is a human body on a piece of 100-pound metal versus a three-ton car with a distracted driver. And that's not the same."
Below, along with schedules for the Denver Cruiser Ride and City Spark, we've included Evans's Bike City primer, along with an open letter he wrote about DCR changes — which he's open to tweaking in the future if necessary.
"This thing has always evolved," he says. "It's not the same as it was when we first started, and the hope is that as we evolve and the city evolves, the Denver Cruiser Ride will evolve right there with it. So the changes are so we can do these other things and have a bigger impact."
Continue for the Denver Cruiser Ride and City Spark schedules, Brad Evans's essay, and more about Bike City.
2017 DENVER CRUISER RIDE SCHEDULE
Wednesday, May 17: THEME: Green
Wednesday, June 21: THEME: Cardboard, Bubble Wrap & Duct Tape
Wednesday, July 19: THEME: TBD
Wednesday, August 9: THEME: Dress Night
Wednesday, Sept. 20: THEME: Ski Bums & Ski Bunnies
2017 DENVER CITY SPARK SCHEDULE
Wednesday, May 24: Reality of 2017 being the “Year of Mobility”
Wednesday, June 14: Core issues of Denver's Homelessness and Affordable Housing crisis
Wednesday, July 26: Is Denver more about Sprawl than Urban Design?
An Open Letter to Everyone that has Loved and Supported the Denver Cruiser Ride
By Brad Evans
"One of the most gratifying results of intellectual evolution is
the continuous opening up of new and greater prospects."
– Nikola Tesla
All great things must evolve. Since the very first ride in 2005, what has remained constant is our commitment for Riding Bikes and Having Fun. While it's true that change is never easy to embrace, with the 2017 DCR rides, we're again doing something "different." While this every-Wednesday tradition is evolving into a once-a-month celebration of bikes and fun; what we are embracing, and hope you will as well, is the evolution of the DCR from what it was, to what it will become. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine that 1,000s of people would show up downtown, in costume, on bikes - turning it into the largest weekly social rides on the planet.
Creating and hosting this ride has been a wild ride from the very beginning. I've experienced just about every emotion since. It's been an exciting, fun, evolving, excruciating, wonderful, anxiety-filled, crazy ball of energy all rolled into a blur of 12 summers. I can still recall the jitters I felt riding over to Paris Wine Bar for the very first DCR in May of 2005. Unwittingly setting the stage for what I would be doing nearly every summer Wednesday night since. Had I known what I was creating that fateful night in May, there might not have ever been a first ride. Fast-forward 13 years and the DCR still gives me the same kind of jittery excitement as it did on that very first ride. It's this giddy excitement that's why, instead of cancelling it all together, we're moving to a monthly format. Same bike fun, just 5 times instead of 20.
One of the first "rules" of the DCR was to "not talk about the DCR." Clearly, the fun we were having became viral, and people have been talking about it every since. As the rides grew from 13, to 65, to 100, to 300, to 3,000+, we continued to roll with these growing punches. Each year evolving how it rolled to some degree - but always with the same idea: Having Fun On Bikes. One turning point of the DCR came in 2008, on the 4th of July ride, we had made a stop in Larimer Square with 300+ people in tow at a bar that could maybe hold 100; as costumed riders spilled out on to the street, I recall asking Damon the Demon "who are all these people, and how did they find out about this?" Each summer has been like this every since. We kept riding, and people kept showing up. That's been the absolute most amazing thing about this, and the bike riding fun that the DCR has spawned.
Every year since its inception, we've "embraced" changes. Eventually this off-the-radar fun we were having, got on the radar, and that required a whole NEW level of involvment. What had been essentially been an un-organzied free-for-all, quickly became something that needed a leader, and someone to answer to those that were asking questions... that was DPD and I was in a red prom dress. We've long worked to keep this bke fun real, but also dealt with what it required to keep it going. It's easy to stay rogue, but had we done that, this institution that you know it today would not exist. This meant putting our big boy pants on, and being where the buck stopped. This single decision was pivitol in the success of the DCR, and why it's still here today. (ask me in person what this is about).
It's somewhat of a miracle that we've managed to keep the flash mob (is that still a thing?) feel to the DCR as it's grown from a small ride to a very large ride. Perhaps that's been part of the magic of what has made this so special? However keeping the rubber on the road has literally taken all my time (and several others' time) to keep it going over the years. While this isn't a complaint, it's also a fact that being an "advocate" for Riding Bikes For Fun is not as lucrative as it has been imagined by some, and there's been an enormous financial sacrifice on my part to keep it going. That being said, without the attention that's been dedicated to this ride over the past 12 years, not only by me, but by countless volunteers that have contributed their time, there likely wouldn't even be a DCR ride.
It's absolutely true that riding bikes is FREE, but hosting a weekly bike party for 1000s of your best friends certainly is not. With the kickoff of the 2017 DCR, it's not without sadness that we will be ending our support of a weekly series, and will be instead supporting a monthly set of rides. There will be a ride each month (all but Augus)t on the 3rd Wednesday of each month.While the format and time frame is changing somewhat, our love of bikes and commitment to host the DCR, is meant to honor it's past, but also recognize the necessity to set this evolution in motion in order to provide for its future.
It's our hope that you'll appreciate our dedication to what's become a Denver institution, and you will continue to support the DCR in a similar way that we've supported this ride, and your bike riding fun over the past 12 years.
Lots of love to each and everyone,
Brad K. Evans
ABOUT BIKE CITY
Bike City has been created for the sole purpose of fueling the fire of REAL action within the city of Denver. For decades the political will to make real progress in saving lives and providing a future for our children has been completely stagnant.
A cohesive, safe, and sustainable infrastructure affects more than just commuting times. It is the circulatory system that gives life sustaining blood to every city. It provides jobs, it transfers products too and from businesses, it allows for people to access and drive those businesses.
Without a cohesive network that provides channels for all the necessary parts of this social body, as with any living organism, Denver, this city that we love, will atrophy from its own neglect.
Bike City seeks to spark a real-time conversation between those demanding a safer, more expedient infrastructure and those already engaged in creating these bike-inclusive facilities.
Translation: We will hold the feet of those in high places to the fire, and amplify the voice of those demanding change to make it happen.
BIKE CITY ACTION PLAN
• DEMAND that the City and County of Denver put its money where it’s mouth is. As a first order of business, fully fund the Denver Moves initiative.
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• CONNECT community with the organizations responsible for cycling initiatives throughout Colorado.
• CREATE a “Bikes Are Not Cars” campaign that will reframe the conversation; and refute the common notion bikes should exist in the same space as automobiles, and that a shared roadway is a safe place to ride bicycles.
• MOBILIZE the majority of Coloradans affected by the inferior and short sighted infrastructure, namely automobile drivers and cyclists alike.
• REMIND our elected officials that their jobs are on the line if they continue to feed us words, and fail to take meaningful action.