Guest blog by Carlos Velazquez, Public Information Representative, City of San Jose’s Environmental Services Department

All photos by Lloyd Cha, SVBC Member/Volunteer


I love riding my bicycle for many reasons, and if you’re a supporter of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, I’m sure you do too. I love how it’s a practice in focus and active meditation. A tool for independence and rebellion. But mostly, I love how it helps me explore and be inspired by my hometown of San Jose.

I got to do just that on Sunday, October 29, as I helped lead a bike ride visiting the many new murals created as part of the Pow! Wow! San Jose festival, a global movement produced here for the first time by Empire Seven Studios and Universal Grammar. With the support of volunteers from Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, the ride brought together more than 100 folks on a 10-mile bike ride from the west to east sides of sanjo.

Walls I passed by on the regular, like the one at Alameda Art Works and Recycled Bookstore on the Alameda, are now a must-see, one of many walls adorned with the splash of color and imagery thanks to a slew of talented artists, local and beyond. Spaces full of history and memories, like Nichi Bei Bussan in Japantown and Pink Elephant shopping center in the Mayfair, resonate even more to the community with a mural. We ended the ride at La Ultima Parada, the annual Dia de los Muertos festival at the Mexican Heritage Plaza for a final dose of familia, cultura, and arte. I would venture to say that the neighborhoods that surround these murals were the true pieces of art that we explored on the ride, and their spirit and energy are now reflected by the art on the walls.

The mural bike ride also was an opportunity for the bicycling and arts communities to come together. They are by no means mutually exclusive; each (to me, at least) are full of endearing and inspirational people and characters, working towards a healthy, safe, and vibrant San Jose.  But the expressions of this vision by the two groups are a bit different, as well as how and where they advocate. More opportunities where folks from these two communities can meet, chat, learn, and laugh so we can scheme, celebrate and advocate for more resources for artists, or safe corridors throughout the city, are needed.

Thanks to ride volunteers Mikael Bengtsson, Lloyd Cha, Tian Harter, Katie Heaney, Betsy Megas, Virginia Panlasigui, and Diane Solomon for helping make the ride safe and organized. Thanks to Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition for sponsoring the ride and providing the resources and training to do a social ride. And of course, thanks to Empire Seven Studios, Universal Grammar, and all the muralists for helping make the first Pow! Wow! San Jose a success. Please consider making a donation to support next year’s festival.

Please share the route, or lead your own crew on a tour of these murals and neighborhoods. Here’s another one from a ride we did back in March, as well. Go on out and explore the history and beauty of sanjo!