Critical Mass. What exactly is it?
Celebrated in over 300 cities, Critical Mass is a leaderless group ride with no planned route. Typically Critical Mass is held the last Friday of the month. A few years ago Windsor had Critical Mass rides, and apparently they are starting again – I was handed a flyer for the next Critical Mass while at the Downtown Farmer’s Market. The ride will start at 8pm at Atkinson Skate Park on University Avenue West on Friday July 30th.
Critical Mass dates back to the early 90s in San Francisco. Called “Commute Clot” for the first ride, they changed the name to “Critical Mass”, and had 100 riders by their 4th ride. They now average around 1000 participants and rides have spread to over 325 cities around the world. Budapest holds 2 Critical Mass rides a year, with close to 80,000 massers at one of the rides.
The rides have often been perceived as protest activities, but participants sometimes describe them as a “celebration”, “grassroots reclamation of public space” or simply a “fun community ride” instead. Because there is no planned route, participants in some cities have practiced a technique called “corking” in order to block the intersections and keep the group together. This tactic has sometimes lead to hostility between riders and motorists, as well as to violence and arrests. San Francisco, the birthplace of Critical Mass has since come up with “Critical Manners” rides, where participants are expected to obey all traffic laws, such as signaling and stopping at red lights. Organizers of the Windsor ride have indicated that it is not going to be a political protest, and I am interested to see how it turns out.