Father and son Eric and Sprocket Downing in the 2010 Supermarket Street Sweep. Photo by Koshi.
I've only been a resident of the Bay Area since 2006, but it's felt like home the moment I ditched my New York City zip code for the "Best Coast." One of the reasons I moved out here is because it's a mecca for folks who love the great outdoors, and as a lifelong cyclist, I can't imagine another place I'd rather live and play.
Ironically enough, it wasn't until I left New York that I heard about Cranksgiving. This is an annual food drive that's been going strong since 1999. It was originally organized by a group of NYC bike messengers and follows the "alley cat" format of street racing. Alleycats emulate a typical bike messenger's day. There is a "manifest" that lists the "checkpoints" -- rather like the multiple stops messengers make on their delivery route. During a typical alleycat, an individual stationed at the checkpoint will sign the manifest as proof that the participant came by. With Cranksgiving, the supermarkets serve as the checkpoints, and racers buy a list of groceries that goes directly to food pantries and other non-profit organizations.
Cranksgiving has spread around the country, and there are now over 30 benefit races at last count. San Francisco didn't have one in 2006, so I and a group of bike-fanatic friends launched the Supermarket Street Sweep (yes, the name is a riff on the old game show) to help the San Francisco Food Bank. The Sweep also adheres to the alleycat street race style, but there are two categories: Speed and Cargo. For the Speed category, cyclists race to supermarkets as fast as they can to buy all of the items on their list.