Critical Mass: Biking for No Reason

A number of times in the last year or two I've seen this phenomenon where the street is taken over by a couple hundred bikers. I had noticed it a couple times, but it seemed like maybe it was a one-time or seldom-practiced demonstration. After seeing it a couple more times and hearing that they did it in San Francisco as well, I realized it was a much bigger event.

Critial Mass down UniversityAlthough the event, which is called Critical Mass and happens throughout the world in many major cities, is very unorganized by design, it obviously is a program that promotes cycling in one way or another. Here in Minneapolis, as in most places, people gather on their bikes and ride through the streets of the city together on the last Friday of the month. In Minneapolis they bike north on Hennepin Ave. through downtown and then down University through the U of M area.

The first Critical Mass event took place in September 1992 in San Francisco as a protest of how unfriendly to bikes the city strets were. Since then, it seems that Critical Mass has become worlwide and less goal-focused. One constant, though, is that the large mass of a couple hundred bikers have decided to bike through the streets of cities disregarding any sort of traffic rules, stoplights, or cross traffic. Because it is so big and so purpsefully unorganized, it also seems that members seem to relish the incidents with police or citizens.

I think that, in general, Critical Mass gives the wrong impression to society. Those who are trying to get home from work through downtown are just annoyed by a couple minutes of cyclists blocking their way. I enjoy biking around town, but I respect all rules and signals while biking, of course. I just think that, if anything, the general populace (and maybe the city) will just consider Critical Mass to be a bunch of annoying hippies trying to piss us off and not some sort of protest. Plus, I thnk the Twin Cities, at least, has plenty of support for cyclists with plenty of bike lanes throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul and a pretty extensive network of trails. It seems that it's pretty unneccesary to me.



Dan, thanks for all the cool posts lately. I just got a used speed bike after mine was smashed by a few drunk bike haters and found bent up across the street. (Thanks person, you probably don't remember who did it either.) I think those critical mass people are complete jerks. When i saw them ride by I walked with them for a while and no one would tell me anything about what they were doing. They seemed to enjoy knowing something i did not. Next time they come by i want to get video with the camera sitting on the street and them going around it. And the next time after that, get a video of me using the hose on them from the roof and using water balloon launcher. Give them hippies something to protest.
ps elston says wat up?

I completely agree with you Dan. Biking is is one fun thing to do and a great way to get around, but those people who think that they need to block up the whole road to prove something that is long for gotten is worthless. I think it would be really funny if they all got tickets for breaking the law, just for a lesson. If they were doing it with a clear point that was easy to see than I might agree with it. I think that there are much better ways to protest about there might need to be better laws to protect bikers on roads, especially those that don't have bike lanes. Keep the good blogs coming.


I agree, Dan. They push it over the line, becoming arrogant, aggressive, and elitist. The whole idea of it has entertained me, and I've seen a few of the big ones that Chicago does, but I'm beginning to realize both how close to the truth they are, and where they've missed the mark. I loved the opportunity to bike everywhere in Chicago, but I kinda backslid when I moved to South Bend which is actually a less bike-friendly city. I would like to get back into biking for more than just recreation. Thanks for the reminder!

Yeah, South Bend is 110% about cars. One thing I heard somebody say is that Indiana charges much less in taxes and therefore doesn't really spend as much money on nice public works like big parks and bike lanes and paths. It makes sense, I guess.

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