Changwon Bike Party
Changwon Bike Party is a monthly, group ride open to any and all riders in Changwon, South Korea. Every ride has a different costumed theme, start point, and route. The goal of Changwon Bike Party is to create a cross-cultural exchange between foreigners and native Koreans centered around a love of bikes and community, all carried out using Changwon’s public bike share system Nubija.
I started Changwon Bike Party in August 2012. I based my model of Changwon Bike Party (CBP) on experiences I had with similar large-scale bike party rides in the San Francisco Bay Area. I had participated as a rider and volunteer in over three dozen rides. By the time I moved to Changwon to become an English teacher, the idea of Bike Party had influenced my life and values, and I was sure I needed to bring this idea to the bike friendly city of Changwon, South Korea.
CBP is a monthly group bike ride open to all riders. Every bike party has a different starting point and a different route and is typically around 12- 20 km. Riders ride with stereos on their bikes and every ride has a different costumed theme. CBP is about engaging with your biking and local community cross-culturally. CBP allows people to explore and engage with neighborhoods and cities that we might not otherwise.
CBP has been in operation for seven months. After surviving a bitter winter of sub-freezing rides, CBP rolled out a welcoming-of-spring event called the Rainbow Ride.
Unlike rides like Critical Mass, bike party has no agenda. The main purpose of bike party is to encourage riders to engage with each other in a social event centered around biking as a means of connecting with one another and with the community at large.
CBP is distinctly different from other bike parties for two reasons: cross-cultural exchange and its utilization of Changwon’s public bike share system Nubija.
CBP is a unique and fun way for foreigners to meet and connect with Koreans in Changwon, and vice versa. The Rainbow Ride was promoted in English and Korean, via online materials and information, as well as through advertisements around the city. The Rainbow Ride brought out a total of 44 people, 25% of whom were Korean.
It provides a wonderful opportunity for the foreigner and Korean community to engage with each other in a beautiful and joyous way. Even with a language barrier all riders can enjoy their time at CBP, meet new people, and engage with each other meaningfully. One of the greatest successes I got from the most recent ride was feedback from Koreans like, “it helped me practice my English,” “I loved people’s passion” and “[it was a] good opportunity to meet new people.” My goal is by the end of the summer to have CBP rides consist of 50% Korean riders.
As mentioned earlier, CBP uses Changwon’s public bike share program, Nubija, to allow its riders to enjoy experiencing Changwon by bike. Nubija allows riders to pick up or drop off bikes at any of the city’s 240 terminals. A year-long Nubija membership is $18 and a 24-hr pass is less than $1. Nubija serves as the backbone for CBP.
CPB changes people’s perception of themselves and how they interact with their community via bicycle. Often before someone’s first bike party, a person may say that they don’t think they can do that kind of distance, or, “I’m not good at biking.” However, after riding and chatting with people around them and engaging with new environments, they arrive at the finish, empowered by the idea of surmounting something they previously assumed incapable of. On the Rainbow Ride, 20% said it was the first time they had ridden 12km.
It also creates more knowledgeable and engaged citizens. It allows people that live in Changwon, particularly foreigners, to gain a better understanding of the city and their surrounding community. On the Rainbow Ride, 36% said it was the first time they had ever been to that part of the city. CBP makes riders more communally aware and better engaged and involved with their surroundings.
CBP builds a beautiful international community centered around a mutual love of biking and also provides a unique opportunity to socialize, be active, and go some place new. The Rainbow Ride had people from eight countries spanning four continents. According to surveyed responses 97% of riders met or talked to someone new and 100% of riders would ride bike party again.