Many of you by now have heard of Critical Mass, those raucous bike rides all over the country where cyclists try to take back their urban streets. I don't need to mention that those streets were never really made for bicyclist in the first place. So, what ensued was years of ill-feelings between motorists and these seemingly anarchistic folks on human powered machines. In fact, this political battle is still being waged out in many cities, even the ones that are "bike friendly".
Anyway, Hanoi is not one of these "bike friendly" cities. Not even close. Actually in the pavement food chain, those on bicycles are like plankton-insignificant fodder. Motorbikes are on the next rung up, then taxis, private cars, buses and then construction vehicles. As you can see, the bigger your mode of transportation the less respect you have on those smaller.
So, it's best to watch out, be defensive and literally "roll with it". That's what the original pioneers of LA's Midnight Ridazz did when they began their first-Friday bike rides. They started way after rush hour when the streets have died down of traffic and rode around for fun. The stops were either food or alcohol related. What began as a small group of close-knit friends grew to monthly rides averaging 1,000 people!
This is one of many things that I miss about LA. And that is why I started Hanoi's own Midnight Ridazz calling it Hanoi Ridazz-to have a fun time with friends riding around on our bikes. Here is a map of our first ride on March 12th, 2010:
This was also info on one side of the spoke card and this below was the info on the opposite side:
As you can see from the map the ride took us thru some of the more scenic highlights of Hanoi. We began at the Opera House then rode by the Lenin Statue and Flag Tower, by the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, up to West Lake, next to the Citadel, thru the Old Quarter, around Hoan Kiem Lake twice and then down thru the center of town to Thien Quang Lake.
We stopped for "refreshments" twice-once on Truc Bac Lake and then at Thien Quang Lake. Actually it was a BYOB affair all provided by Luke and Kristi. While Luke drove his Big Dummy Extracycle, Kristi sat on the back passing out beers to everyone riding along with us and to a few motorbikers.
The night was cool and humid, and as we pedaled thru the streets we were warmed by the slight effort and by each others company. Here are shots of our crew that night on the initial Hanoi Ridazz ride.
Meeting in front of the Hanoi Opera House. This is Luke and his Extracycle.
Hien came kitted up in his roadie outfit and his very new Cannondale road bike.
Riding thru the streets with Kristi passing out beers. If you knew of the lawlessness here in Hanoi, drinking a beer while riding a bicycle is very tamed by comparison.
And, how about this for a motlie crew?
That's Erin, Mandy, Me, Wolfram and Andreas. And this is the entire group.
We plan to do this every second Friday of the month, so join us if you can.