Tag Archives: cycling

Taser Tag at the Exposition Park Rose Garden

I heard about this game while many of my housemates were gathered around a table and drinking. The first time the speaker shared this story, he also bragged about other rules he had broken as a child or young adult. This story is an example of ‘forbidden play’ and it took place near the University of Southern California.


After the Exposition Park Rose Garden closes for the night, those who enter can be apprehended for trespassing. From 2013 to 2015, the speaker said that the cycling community in Los Angeles was “massive.” After one large race in 2013, the speaker’s friends gathered in the rose garden and someone suggested that the group of 13, 14 and 15-year-olds play taser tag. Cyclists carried tasers, knives or brass knuckled with them and they rode ‘suicide bikes’ or racing bicycles that have the breaks removed. ” A lot of us have very traumatic lives where we just pain sometimes makes us feel alive.” The speaker explained that about 15 of the 50 cyclists gathered owned tasers, and that the game was well received by the group.

In the event that state troopers caught the boys in the rose garden, they would scatter. Those who were caught were given “a slap on the wrist” and sent home.

The speaker never had a taser, so he was a ‘runner.’ There were no rules about where tasers could attack. ” You could taste in the nuts. It’s wherever this person lands the taser. The good thing is it wasn’t high voltage… enough to drop you on the ground. That’s it.” The speaker said he had been tased in the neck. Girls could attack with tasers but the speaker said they seldom outran the boys. Anyone playing Taser Tag in the rose garden was fair game for attack. He admitted that Taser Tag was fun because it was forbidden, as was “using self defense weapons as offensive weapons.”

Taser Tag games with the speaker’s group occurred five times between 2013 and 2015. The last time, one member brought pepper spray and the speaker said “All 10 of us suffocated. And you’re like, Dude, this guy that comes back. We’re going to hurt him.”

The speaker said that “growing in South LA is kind of like a free for all,” and that “whenever a bunch of kids run around with bikes, I rather see them doing that than dealing drugs.” The speaker noted that some of his cyclist friends who played Taser Tag did get involved in gang activity after their group dissolved. When asked what the game meant to him, the speaker said that this “was a day where all of us no matter what ethnicity where we’re from, who we are, it’s just fun. And that fun involves a little bit of pain.”


This speaker retold this story in front of friends. I believe that this memory is important for the speaker because many of his friends have left or are no longer living. This memory is also important because the speaker enjoys rough activities, and it is difficult to engage in rough-and-tumble activity as an adult. I believe this time reminds him of an era where he did not have to worry about larger adult problems, and this brings a sort of nostalgia for something one can never do again.

For more information on forbidden play, see Folk Groups & Folklore Genres Chapter 5, Children’s Folklore by Jay Mechling.

Don’t Talk About Crashing – Cyclist Superstition

My informant is a 21-year-old animation student who was a nationally and internationally recognized competitive cyclist in her high school years. She has since given up cycling professionally but teaches spinning classes at the Lyon Center. She heard this word of advice from an older cycling teammate when she started cycling. This interview was conducted during a break in our animation class.

“You never talk about crashing, that’s the number one, because if you talk about crashing, you’re gonna crash. Anytime I’ve ever crashed, I talked about crashing immediately before.”
“That happens to you?”

“That happened to me so… (chuckles) I’m like ah fuckin hell, they’re probably right. Just don’t talk about crashing. If you like, talk about it, it’s just like, bound to happen, which I guess, my old coach, the reasoning she said was that, like, uh, you know that psychology thing where if you say like ‘I’m not gonna do this’ then you do it because you’ve like, brought the idea of doing it to yourself. If you think about crashing… and she’d be like no, no, you can’t phrase it that way, you just have to like, think about staying upright and being alert! And I was like, this is stupid, this doesn’t actually, this isn’t a thing. But uh, yeah.”

With a sport like cycling where everything is so up to chance, crashes are one of the scarier possibilities during a race. It makes sense that there would be superstition about it, especially among higher-consequence competitive cyclists.

Ghost Bikes

The informant (J) is a 22 year old college graduate who just started his first real job. He got into bicycling during the summer of 2012 when he was renting a room in Sunnyvale, California near his summer internship. Though he had had bikes prior to that summer, he began to rely on his bike exclusively for the 8 mile round-trip to his workplace from his rented room. He borrowed a bike from his mother’s friend but eventually bought his own once he got his first couple paychecks. He purchased a mid-end road bike and quickly got wrapped up in the biking communities on sites like reddit.com/r/bicycling. Though his commute was short, the threat of being hit by cars is always on the top of serious bicyclists’ minds, especially when cycling in the street. I first asked about his biking knowledge when I encountered a white bike chained to a pole near Union Station in Los Angeles, California. He learned about this from the people he talks to on the internet about biking, since none of his real-life friends like to ride in the same way he does. He had heard of the practice before he saw his first ghost bike. The following is a paraphrase of the information he gave me regarding the practice.

“The white bikes are called ghost bikes. They get put up when a cyclist dies on the road. They just find a bike and paint it white before chaining it to a pole or something near the spot the cyclist was killed. They usually get put up by the friends of the cyclists, if they know about the ghost bikes, but they can also be put up by random cyclists if they hear about the accident and are familiar with the idea. At first, there are usually pictures and candles and stuff along with the bike but the bike usually stays there longer than all that stuff. They do have to chain the bike to something or assholes will steal the bike even though it’s basically like one of those crosses they put on the side of the road when some dies in a car accident or a shooting or something like that. Luckily, I’ve never known anyone personally who died while cycling so I haven’t had to put one up, but I definitely notice when I see one. It’s a little weird to see one. It’s supposed to tell the drivers to be careful and watch the road”

The practice of putting up ghost bikes highlights the struggle felt between drivers and cyclists. There is tension between the two groups because a little tap won’t hurt a car, but can kill a cyclist easily, a fact that is often forgotten by those driving cars. Often, cars don’t even STOP when they hit a cyclist. The ghost bikes are a reminder that cyclists do get killed when drivers aren’t careful, both to the drivers and to the cyclists. It seems like a reminder to cyclists that even if they do everything “right,” things can still go very, very wrong. I think it unifies the cyclists under the pretense that they need to raise awareness so that other cyclists don’t suffer the same fate. The people who put these bikes up identify themselves as cyclists and the use of the bike to remember the death is representative of that. Though putting up a ghost bike is not something people want to have to do, it can serve to honor the life of the deceased by existing long after their death.