When you hear the phrase, “critical mass”, what comes to mind?
Protesters? Defiance? Advocates? Troublemakers? Celebration? Conflict? Tempers?
I know that critical mass rides can, in theory, and sometimes in reality, promote cycling to the general population, but I often have a hard time seeing the net benefit to society.
Usually, a critical mass ride organized via unofficial means with the aim of “taking back the streets” by force merely serves to piss a majority of people off and further entrench cycling as an activity undertaken by miscreants, deviants, certain fringe elements, and social pariahs. Some people end up getting carried away and end up “exercising their rights” all up in someone’s business. People don’t like that.
Critical masses held under the auspices of governing bodies or at least with the consent of the community, however, are all of a sudden a different beast. Wrapped up in the idea of consent is the feeling that the thing in question is at least a tiny bit legitimate. Rather than taking the streets by force, cyclists who organize themselves well enough to convince their community to accommodate (or even celebrate?!?) their right to freely travel by bicycle on public roads (en mass), while behaving in a way that celebrates cycling and the joy of self-powered locomotion as opposed to running amok like entitled adolescents, sends a very different message to the general public. While they may not end up volunteering to direct traffic for the cyclists, they may at least come to the conclusion that cycling isn’t all that bad, when you really think about it…
City Of Joy
I like a good tilt-shift video, and when its subject matter is cycling, that’s all the better. Below is a brilliant little video (via Cycle) that portrays a critical mass ride in the best possible light. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, and it makes everything look like toys, which reminds me of playing with them as a child, which in turn suggests the purity of the activity itself; the state of mind that one usually finds oneself in when riding a bike.
Header image: source