Bicycles and Burning Man: An Unavoidable Given?

By David DiTullio

After a series of articles on the finances surrounding the journey to and from Black Rock City, we turn now to something a bit more daily practicality: bicycles! As we all remember, bikes are a staple at Burning Man. Whether you’re using a bike you’ve had for years, renting on the playa, or bringing your fresh new bike from Walmart (some assembly required), nearly everyone makes use of the ultimate clean-air vehicle.

But just how do people obtain their bicycles? The Black Rock City Census asked burners that very question. The results are shown in the figure below.


It may not surprise you to learn that nearly nine out of ten burners arranged for their own bike while on the playa. The 2014 festival brought mostly clear skies, bookended by storms of rain and dust, but it seems that few wanted to brave the possibility of a trek from deep playa back to camp on foot.

On the other end of the spectrum, 5% of the BRC population did not have a bike at all; nearly half wished for one, while slightly more, or 3% of all burners, accepted their bike-less status. Whether these individuals drove mutant vehicles, or preferred to experience the festival on foot, we do know that there is a subpopulation that is content to defy the oft-traded advice that a bicycle is essential in Black Rock City.

Finally, about 8% of burners were able to obtain bikes through other means, such as borrowing from a friend who had a bike, or using community bikes maintained within their camps or other groups. Certainly, among the population of burning man, such resourcefulness is the norm.

While this post offers just an overview of the status of bicycles at Burning Man, perhaps we can glean some potential strategies of our own for next year: you may have an opportunity to lend your bike to a friend. Or perhaps one day you may decide to set the bicycle aside, to experience Black Rock City on foot. Though you may be a pedestrian, BRC is sure to be anything but.


4 responses

  1. I wonder what percentage don’t have their own bikes but see their resource for one as being any unlocked bike to use as their own “community bike”?

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