"It kind of exposes people to different cultures, different things, different neighborhoods," said 33-year-old Keon Hayes. "How often do you get to ride with 700 people? I'm down for a party."
Hayes was on his second Bike Party ride. Most work days he uses his Mongoose Deception to ride about 10 miles to his job as a mortician. He's been riding in the city for more than five years and said bicycling in Baltimore has changed.
"It's getting better," said the Ashburton resident. "There are bike lanes now, and when I started, they didn't have them."
Ask any of the participants about bicycling in Baltimore and their answers were similar: Things have improved, but the city needs more than 50 miles of bike lanes and drivers need to respect the three-foot gap they're supposed to maintain with bicycles on the road.
"If everyone who had a car rode a bike for one day — one day — then they'd realize how vulnerable you are on a bicycle," said Michael Bowman, a 31-year-old information technologist for the Salvation Army who was dressed in a full tuxedo with sparkly fuchsia sneakers.
Surveys conducted by the Department of Transportation have found commuting by bicycle has increased 50 percent over the past four years. Still, only about 0.7 percent of the population makes the daily work trip on a bike. Bike Party's organizers are hoping to change that by getting more people interested in biking.
Even though the pace was leisurely, there was still a break halfway through the ride at the Clifton Park amphitheater. By now it was dark, and hundreds of cyclists slowed along Saint Lo Drive. The riders pulled their bikes onto the grass and walked down toward the amphitheater, transforming into a dark moving mass of blinking red, blue and white bike lights. Waiting to resume the ride was Shannahan.
"Leading can be a little bit stressful at times because you have to keep reminding people to stay behind you or they're going to get lost," said Shannahan. "You're at the front, so you don't see the huge mass of bike riders. But when we stopped here, it's really amazing. We got to see everybody come through."
After about 20 minutes of dancing and more chants of "Bike Party!" the group headed back out. Final destination: the Pratt Street Ale House by Camden Yards, where riders rehydrated and posed for prom photos snapped by after-party organizer Anastasia Tantaros (check them out on Baltimore Bike Party's Facebook page).
The success of the Bike Party hasn't surprised the organizers. But the speed of that success has. They're still mulling over what to do in the future in terms of evolving the event.
"That is a good question," said Tantaros. "I ask Tim that a lot: Where is this going? I'm not sure. I'm just taking this each month at a time."