Becca Brown, author of today’s post, lives in Yakima and works as an environmental planner. A transplant from Massachusetts via Minneapolis, Becca wants to see better biking infrastructure in her new community and helped co-found the advocacy group Yakima Bikes and Walks.
Well, that is how Yakima Bikes and Walks celebrated Fat Tuesday this year. Our bike party–which we hold on the First Friday of each month–was a mobile, slow rolling celebration with a Dixieland soundtrack. A busy February night with a threat of rain and wind yielded the smallest turnout since our bike parties began back in August. A baker’s dozen on bikes, still lit up from the Holiday Lighted Parade, rode south from the local pizza joint and through residential neighborhoods. Our route followed a brand new bicycle lane before we turned east, and then back north along the tree-lined boulevard of Naches Avenue.
Every month, the bike parties are organized by a couple, Tyler and Megan, who relocated to Yakima from San Francisco last year. They develop the route, identify fun pit stops around town, and come up with fun themes for costumes and decorations. The parties have become a great way to have fun and be visible as bicyclists around town. It provides people the chance to meet other bicyclists, allows folks a safe, comfortable ride as part of a group, explores parts of town that are often overlooked, and brings visibility to our group as a whole.
As we passed folks sitting on their porches, walking their dogs, and playing with their children, we smiled, waved, and shouted “Bike Party!” Drivers waiting at stop signs waved us through, and the motorists caught behind our parade on narrow streets waited patiently for an opportunity to pass.
Our route crossed important upcoming transportation projects. We passed by the location of the East-West Corridor, which will eventually connect the area north of downtown Yakima to Interstate 82 and the community of Terrace Heights by way of an abandoned mill site and potential area of major development. The project is still in the early design and development phases. We then pedaled west across North First Street, which will be renovated and improved in the coming years, including the addition of bicycle lanes and wide sidewalks. Yakima Bikes and Walks had a strong showing at the City Council meeting last year where the final design (including the bicycle lanes and sidewalk) was voted on and approved.
After about four miles of leisurely bicycling, we pulled into the Tieton Cider Works new location northwest of Yakima’s downtown core. Although the cidery has been in operation for several years, based in tiny Tieton, WA, this particular location and tasting room opened in November of last year. Smells of barbeque and the wail of the blues greeted us as entered the venue. This stop afforded the opportunity for a delicious adult beverage, a potty break, a photo op, and an opportunity to socialize before we saddled up and headed back to the beginning of our trek.
We part ways, heading towards our other Friday night destinations. Several folks head to a free concert, still decked out in their Mardi Gras purple, gold, and green. Others head back home to their families. A couple of us stopped in at a local winery to see some live music. Between songs, the musician, Keelan McPhee, saw us come in and said into the mic, “the bike party people are here!” A couple sitting near me leaned over and asked me, “what is the bike party? We want to do that!” I don’t know what next month’s theme will be, but I hope to see them there!