What is Critical Mass?

Critical Mass is a mass bicycle ride that takes place on the last Friday of each month in cities around the world. Everyone is invited! No one is in charge! Bring your bike!

Next San Francisco Critical Mass: June 29th, 2018, 5:30pm, at Justin Herman Plaza (foot of Market Street).

October Halloween Ride Photos and thoughts

November 1st, 2009 by ccarlsson
Ghosts speed past Union Square...

Ghosts speed past Union Square...

I had a great time at Critical Mass, like I almost always do… afterwards I heard a half dozen stories of mayhem and major stress on the streets. Not too surprising, given how many cyclists were out there, and how incapable we are, as an inchoate mass, of making intelligent stops when we’ve lost mass, helping stranded vehicles get out, and treating pedestrians with respect and encouragement.  It’s a reinvention process, and a lot of us old timers aren’t rising to the occasion to help that reinvention each month. It’s a burnout! As Gerry pointed out, the ride has been “taken over” by yahoos… but not really. There’s always been yahoos, they’ve always been a tiny minority, and they get a lot of attention because we live in a subculture that puts the onus of meaning on the behavioral perfection of the participants… 1% of assholes gets way more attention than 95% cool people acting with courtesy and kindness…

Before beginning, hundreds of riders were already clogging lower Market Street.

Before beginning, hundreds of riders were already clogging lower Market Street.

The light was gorgeous as we departed...

The light was gorgeous as we departed...

Read the rest of this entry »

Halloween Ride

October 31st, 2009 by hughillustration

Halloween is the ride of the year. If I was going to make just one Critical Mass ride in a year, this would be it. I’d say 70% of the people on the ride were in costume, which just adds an element of fun and unpredictability to the ride. What would happen if we dressed up every month?

Note: There’s an interesting comment from a bus rider who doesn’t like what he saw tonight..

I came late because I was working on my costume (I was a conspiracy theorist — complete with tinfoil hat). I caught up with the ride turning south off of Market at around 4th street. We rode through SoMa, then up Van Ness — at which point you could see a line of bikes all the way up the hill through the creeping fog. Then we did the tunnel, which is not so bad if you approach it from this direction going down hill.

This placed us downtown again, and after a few more turns the ride ended up in the Mission — skipping the Castro for some reason — and I peeled off to hit an after party at Grace’s place in Bernal.

At the party I met a real conspiracy theorist. It was strange to be wearing a tinfoil hat and be arguing with someone who has the opposite view of mine concerning who planned and executed 9/11. Smart guy, really knew his stuff. Made me wonder if I should go back down the rabbit hole.

Back home, I sat down at my computer at about 11:00. I heard music outside and saw a group of about 20 bikes strolling past my window — looked like it was ‘Deep and friends.

Adam took some photos — hope he can post those soon!

H.

Critical Mass Do’s & Don’ts!

October 27th, 2009 by hughillustration

DO

• talk to stranger, bystanders, bus riders, motorists – welcome people to join us next time

• help cars stuck in mass to exit to the right

• stop regularly if you’re in front (no matter how slowly you think you’re going, gaps are opening up behind you)

• stop at red lights when in front to allow the rest of the ride to “mass up” behind.

• keep going in dense packs through red lights to stick together and keep it safe for everyone.

• fill gaps; Critical Mass depends on bicycle density to displace cars.

• remember that pleasure and friendliness are more subversive than anger and blaming.

DON’T

• race ahead to block cross traffic before the Mass has arrived

• ride into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road

• pick fights with motorists, even (especially) if they’re itching for one

• fail to turn and twist through the city to make the ride more interesting

• forget to smile and wave and talk to strangers!

• imagine that you are morally superior just cuz you’re on a bicycle (you’ll be in a car again soon enough)

• hesitate to tell other Massers what you think of their behavior, whether good or bad. Talk to each other!

• forget – we are all responsible to make Critical Mass what we want it to be.

A Critical Mass Blog? In San Francisco?

October 27th, 2009 by ccarlsson

Welcome to a new website about Critical Mass in San Francisco. We’ve been around since the beginning and after some early years of publishing Critical Mass Missives and many other flyers, posters, and stickers, we are back to open this online space. Here you will find  a place to discuss what’s happening in Critical Mass, as well as an historical archive and a quick informational site where well-known tactics are easily accessible (and well-known problems have helpful answers). We’d like to host a forum to communicate about Critical Mass as well as the larger dynamics of bicycling in San Francisco

It’s a bit ironic in the home of the dotcom boom a decade ago, and at the epicenter of the Critical Mass bicycling phenomenon, no one has put together a decent website for our town. We decided it was overdue. One reason is because the culture of Critical Mass hasn’t been well transmitted from old-timers to newbies, and we hope to remedy that a bit here. Critical Mass started about 17 years ago, and it’s wonderful and mysterious that it has been such an ongoing event, never missing a month all these years. And of course it has spread to over 400 cities around the world.

Since the conflicts with the City and police in 1997, a tacit truce has dominated the formerly fractious relationship. In the past decade no one has taken a lot of responsibility for orchestrating routes, producing flyers or stickers, or being super involved in corking or leading the ride. Instead, a remarkable spontaneity that has often benefitted from serendipity and good luck, has kept the ride mostly fun and interesting. Nevertheless, a noticeable repetition in the past two years has become a bit tedious.

Do we really need to ride through the Broadway and/or Stockton tunnels EVERY month? Are there really still bicyclists showing up who think it’s cool, or radical, or important, to block oncoming traffic on the opposite side of two way streets? And how boring is it to “circle up” in intersections, pointlessly blocking traffic in every direction? Why is there so little xerocracy now? Essays, arguments, news, etc. have long been absent from the ride… politics? What politics?

We have some simple “Critical Mass Do’s and Don’t's” that we think are helpful lessons learned from many years of doing this. And we will be hosting a moderated discussion on our blog, where everything is welcome, but we will reserve the right to delete extraneous and hateful material. (If you don’t like our edits, please exercise your 1st amendment right to start your own damn blog.)

We’re committed to a flourishing of intelligent debate and dialogue, and a public process of advancing whatever “success” we can claim for the Critical Mass phenomenon to other, deeper issues too.

Join in!
–Chris Carlsson and Hugh D’Andrade, August, 2009

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