Saturday, April 25, 2009

First "Queer Mass" Ride Set For Sunday

From St. Pete Times' Friday edition:

TAMPA — Local cyclists are a diverse community — not just the stereotypical weekend warriors clad in spandex.

To tout their many shades and to advocate for openness, riders of all types will hop on beach cruisers, fixed gears, mountain bikes and more Sunday, as part of Tampa's first "Queer Mass."

The slow moving ride will be modeled after a "critical mass," in which a group of riders take over a lane of traffic. The idea is to raise awareness, letting cars know that cyclists have the right to be on the road.

Queer Mass, however has a more focused aim: gathering people from the gay, bisexual, transgendered and lesbian communities, along with supporters, to let them know that there is a place for them among cyclists.

"It is about accepting everyone but also about creating a specifically queer positive space," says event organizer Seven Mitchell.

Keith Sherwood of Tampa Heights has a bike but only takes it out once or twice a month. He says he's never been on an organized ride before but plans on attending the Queer Mass.

"I think it's a great idea," he said. "A queer positive ride, without being a protest. It helps the sense of community."

Riders will meet at Tampa Bike Co-op Space, 2512 Silver Lake Ave., and leave at 6:30 p.m. Cyclists will snake through downtown, into Channelside, Ybor and back.

Members of the Tampa Bike Co-op meet monthly and host bicycle repair workshops. The group wants to give more people access to cycling by teaching them how to repair their own bikes.

Mitchell, a graduate student in anthropology at the University of South Florida, has been active in the Tampa bicycle community for nearly two years and is a regular at the co-op. He says the ride is open to anyone who is pro-equality.

"I want this to be about acceptance," he said. "It's bigger than just sexuality."

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