Wheelie Woes in San Francisco as Dirt Bikers Take Over the Streets

Wheelie Woes in San Francisco as Dirt Bikers Take Over the StreetsWoody Kelly on Unsplash
Nina Singh-Hudson
Published on August 21, 2023

On August 21st, 2023, a tweet by Henry Lee from KTVU revealed the frustration of a witness who observed dirt bikers and ATV riders popping wheelies, occupying both sides of a street and sidewalks in San Francisco, near 17th and Lake. Exasperated with the lack of police intervention, the witness voiced their concern about the potential dangers posed by these riders. This seemingly chaotic display, however, is part of a larger subculture known as "Bay Area bike life," which has drawn mixed reactions from the public and authorities alike since its rise over the last decade.



According to a 2017 New York Times article, this community of urban dirt bikers and ATV riders is known for taking over bridges and freeways in the Bay Area, performing stunts and weaving through traffic at high speeds - often without helmets. While some view these actions as dangerous and disruptive, others, including enthusiasts within the community, argue that the goal is not to cause trouble but to connect with like-minded individuals who share a passion for adrenaline-fueled rides.

Meanwhile, several incidents involving the Bay Area bike life community have sparked debates a over public safety and law enforcement's role in addressing the issue. One such incident, as reported by a 2021 Reddit post, involved a large group of dirt bikers driving the wrong way on the Bay Bridge and engaging in risky stunts on closed pedestrian and bike lanes. 

To some extent, the Bay Area bike life shares similarities with another motorcycle subculture, supermoto riders. While both groups engage in group outings and high-speed rides, supermoto riders tend to follow a stricter code of conduct and generally operate street-legal vehicles. However, as pointed out in the New York Times article, distinctions between the supermoto and dirt bike communities may be lost on the general public and motorists who find large swarms of motorcycles unsettling.