Photos by Asia Morris.
Over 200 bicyclists took to the streets of Long Beach Tuesday night, not to stop traffic or make a statement, but to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Long Beach’s largest monthly ride, Moonlight Mash and—at the core of it all—to have a great time on two wheels.
The ride was realized thanks to Long Beach cycling advocate Charlie Hockett. Hockett followed his return from a nearly 4,500-mile, cross-country bicycle tour last year with the idea of the ride gestating in his mind, after experiencing Moonlight Mash in Eugene, Oregon. He thought Long Beach had major potential for fostering an all-inclusive ride of its own.
So he partnered with LBcycology and Pedal Movement, two of the more prominent entities that support cycling and community in Long Beach, filmed a short promo video, created a flyer and convinced more than a handful of friends to show up to Harvey Milk Promenade Park for the very first ride, which took place on Friday, December 18, 2015.
Long Beach’s Moonlight Mash saw a record-breaking 200-plus bicyclists come out to ride around town under the light of the full moon in celebration of its one-year anniversary. Read more: lbpo.st/2gKyckpPosted by Long Beach Post on Wednesday, December 14, 2016
“I wanted to bring the Moonlight Mash to Long Beach because I believe more people riding bikes[...] makes our community healthier, more sustainable and more fun,” he said. “Our first ride had about 20 people and we had so much fun. We knew that with a little more promotion and tweaks to the route we would continue to grow.”
With Hockett’s motivation and the resources and functionality provided by Pedal Movement and LBcycology, 20 monthly participants have grown to 200 just over the past year, with Tuesday night’s holiday light parade drawing a record-breaking number of participants from Long Beach as well as neighboring cities.
“Conversations start, and you don’t even know each other,” said Donn Nguyen, a participant from Orange County. “There’s safety in numbers when you’re riding with a crowd. That’s always comforting and fun.”
“We’re like a bike gang, but a good gang,” said Rebecca Raber, whose cousin, Erik Garcia, helped get the ride off the ground. “The community totally embraces us.”
The building of community and the sense of belonging its members feel simply starts with having a bike to ride at a pace and route set by Moonlight Mash that is considerate of all types of cyclists, from those just starting out to the seasoned athlete.
“You have all types of riders who come out to the Mash now,” said Johnny Tully, co-owner of Pedal Movement and one of the ride leaders. “Since Pedal Movement has partnered, we have been able to take this ride to the next level. I’ve seen six-year-olds, cats, dogs, and 80-year-olds on the ride. It’s a great way to get involved and meet new people.”
Friendly honks from motorists and whoops and hollers from pedestrians amazed at the sheer size of the group were a refreshing change from the tensions too often shared between drivers and cyclists sharing the road.
“We have had nothing but cooperation and support from City officials, PD, and community partners since the beginning and I want to be sure to express our gratitude for that,” said Hockett. “We always stress being respectful and responsible users of the road and I think that the community sees and appreciates that.”
By mid-summer last year, the ride was regularly seeing 100 participants.
What had started as a group of friends showing up for a quick ride and immediately parting ways, had become so much more. Bicyclists were showing up early just to hang out for a bit before take-off, and hanging around long after the ride was over, just to get to know each other better.
“Since the beginning I said that my goal was for the Mash to happen every full moon whether we planned it or not,” said Hockett. “One of my proudest moments was meeting a bicyclist in Huntington Beach [who was unaware of Hockett's role in starting the ride] who invited me to the Mash [in Long Beach] the following month, well before we released any details. It was then that I knew that we were creating something that would outlast any of us.”
“We offer bicycle rentals and free basic maintenance, so you really don’t have an excuse to not come on the ride,” said Tully.
For more information about Moonlight Mash, visit the Facebook page here.