Easter Day Big Wheel Race Set for City Streets

Annual tradition of cheap thrills and spills won't be harassed by SFPD

By Jackson West
|  Sunday, Apr 12, 2009  |  Updated 8:42 AM PDT
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Easter Day Big Wheel Race Set for City Streets

Orin Zebest

Big wheel-riding nuns won't be on the run from the SFPD this year.

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The San Francisco Police Department backed down from threats to crack down on the wicked fun Bring Your Own Big Wheel race held annually on the crookedest streets in the city.

The event, which started nine years ago on the switchbacks of Lombard Street attracts lots of wacky participants and huge crowds of spectators.

It was moved to Vermont Street on Potrero Hill (which locals call "the real crookedest street in the world") after complaints that onlookers ravaged the shrubbery along Lombard.

To address neighbor concerns, the organizers have asked participants not to bring booze, are setting up porta-potties, and even spent a day filling in potholes along the course.

But the SFPD told organizers "We will barricade the street and you won't be able to go two feet anywhere on that block" if a permit wasn't obtained, even threatening to send "tactical teams," presumably in riot gear.

It's a continuing trend in San Francisco against whimsical gatherings, sometimes called "flash mobs." A Flashdance-themed impromptu dance party was canceled, and the annual Valentine's Day Pillow Fight has come under fire.

Though a nearly decade-long tradition held on the same day every year like the BYOBW race hardly qualifies as a "flash mob."

Organizers complain that the cost for permits and a police presence would mean corporate sponsors would have to be involved to keep it free for participants.

However, working with the Mayor's office, the event will go on as planned without police intervention -- but they will have to get a permit for the tenth anniversary next year.  If you want to go, bring your own big wheel and meet at 4 p.m. at Vermont and 20th in Potero Hill.

Photo by Orin Zebest.

Jackson West thought he remembered something from civics class on a the constitutional right to freedom of assembly.

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