critical mass

February 5, 2010 at 11:03 pm (biking)

I rode in Orlando’s Critical Mass this past Friday. to those in the unawares, Critical Mass is a worldwide bike ride usually held on the last Friday of every month, intended to raise awareness of cyclists and bicycles as a viable, alternate means of transportation. this is Wikipedia’s description of it:

While the ride was originally founded in 1992 in San Francisco with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to cyclists, the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets on bikes.

it was my first one in about a year and I had tons of fun. the Orlando one gathers at Loch Haven Park on Robinson at around 5PM and goes all the way through downtown, mostly down Orange avenue. there’s usually about 100 – 200 of us and we (try to) take up (only) one lane of traffic. we get a fairly positive reaction from people on the road, surprisingly, since this does happen during rush hour in a fairly busy part of town. however, this past time there was a not-so-friendly cop following and heckling us via megaphone for a couple miles. eventually he gave up when he probably realized that there was no way he could arrest several hundred of us for ‘running red lights’.

here are some neat Critical Mass statistics and infos according to the good ol’ neternets:

Cyclists in Budapest, Hungary hold only two rides each year on April 22 (Earth Day) and September 22 (International Car Free Day). The April 20, 2008 Budapest ride participation was estimated at 80,000 riders. (Wikipedia)

It is estimated that there are Critical Mass-type rides in more than 325 cities to date. (Wikipedia)

The name “Critical Mass” comes from Ted White’s bike-umentary Return of the Scorcher. This video shows intersection crossing etiquette in China’s big cities. Cross bike-traffic waits until it has enough riders, i.e., a critical mass, to push it’s way through the intersection. (

The strength of the Mass is in it’s close-knit unity as an organic body. It is sometimes necessary to ride through lights in order to maintain this unity. It is actually safer. Otherwise, car traffic is tempted to weave in and out among small groups of riders. (

there’s even a Wiki dedicated entirely to Critical Mass! so if you’ve never experienced one of these rides, go look one up in your city or one closest near you and definitely check it out. my first Mass was the November 2008 one. I brought my old, too small pink Magna mountain bike with me and it was way too obvious that I didn’t know anything about anything. but I still had a great time, met a bunch of super nice people, and obviously enjoyed it enough to keep with the bike culture for two years after that. :>


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