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: December 29th, 2017, 5:30pm, at Justin Herman Plaza (foot of Market Street).

Shift Happens! Critical Mass at 20

July 16th, 2012 by ccarlsson

Shift Happens! Critical Mass at 20 is a new book published to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass, which falls this September 28, two decades after the event started in San Francisco and spread around the world.

"Shift Happens! Critical Mass at 20" cover

Pre-order a copy here.

Here are some excerpts from the introductory essay that I wrote called “Ruminations of an Accidental Diplomat”:

Realizing that 20th anniversary of Critical Mass was less than a year away, late last year we put out an international call for thoughtful analyses. We wanted to go deeper and further than the 10th anniversary book had done. Shift Happens! is the result, and we are extremely happy with the quality and breadth of the writing we received. Several dozen contributors and a wide range of experiences across the Critical Mass world fill these pages, where the original concept is still recognizable but has also mutated and shifted over time and space in fascinating ways…

Critical Mass was born 20 years ago among dozens of people in San Francisco and has reproduced itself in over 350 cities around the world thanks to the diligent efforts of countless thousands across the planet. Often just a few people start riding together and it attracts others to join, gaining momentum steadily until it bursts onto a city’s political and social landscape. Moreover, the concept of riding together en masse is open-ended enough that people have adapted it in many ways during the past decades, from altering the structure of formal recreational riding to using “Critical Mass-style” rides to bring attention to a wide range of political campaigns and issues.

And as we learn from some of the essays in this new collection, mass bike rides weren’t invented in 1992. They took place in different parts of the world years before we started in San Francisco, notably in Bilbao, Spain and Helsinki, Finland where our writers describe earlier rides. Chinese cities were full of bicycles as primary transportation for decades; observing traffic patterns in 1991 Shanghai from a hotel window, New Yorker George Bliss described how bicycles would pile up at the side of a flow of traffic until they reached “critical mass” and broke through to create their own traffic stream—this is where our name came from. Not far from where I lived as a boy in North Oakland, early ecological activists staged an annual mass bike ride called “Smog-Free Locomotion Day” on Berkeley’s Telegraph Avenue from 1969-71. In the deep social genes of San Francisco itself, mass bike rides of 5,000-8,000 cyclists jammed muddy, rutted streets a century earlier, in 1896, to demand “Good Roads” and asphalt (unknowingly setting the stage for the next vehicle of speed, convenience, and personal freedom that soon followed: the automobile). My mother was born and raised in Copenhagen where I visited as a small boy and then again in 1977 as a young adult—the sensible organization of public streets with space dedicated to bicycle transit was self-evidently preferable to the freeways and rigid, car-dominated street grids of my California childhood. Read the rest of this entry »

20th Anniversary Poster from Hugh D’Andrade

July 16th, 2012 by hughillustration

Now, in addition to Mona Caron’s brilliant poster, we have two more posters by local artists celebrating the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass, coming up this September.

This poster is by yours truly, Hugh D’Andrade. I tried to create a poster that would communicate some of the energy, excitement, complexity and diversity of Critical Mass. At first I struggled between which of these two color schemes worked best:

Then I tried a multi-color approach, and since that got the best response from friends, I used that for the poster (12″x24″) and the other two color schemes for handbills (5″ x 11.5″).

Jim Swanson has also created a poster!

Buy one! You can get copies of each of these posters as well as the new book about Critical Mass, “Shift Happens,” on this page. All sales benefit the artists and 20th anniversary plans.

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20th Anniversary Poster from Jim Swanson

July 16th, 2012 by hughillustration

Jim Swanson is the artist who gave graphic voice to Critical Mass in its first years, creating dozens of powerful images that have inspired people around the world. Jim’s new poster illustrates the global nature of Critical Mass, which exists in hundreds of cities around the world. The poster is 15.5″x13″.

Hugh D’Andrade has also created a poster!

Buy one! You can get copies of each of these posters as well as the new book about Critical Mass, “Shift Happens,” on this page. All sales benefit the artists and 20th anniversary plans.

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Buy Some Art & Books and Support CM20 Celebrations

July 16th, 2012 by hughillustration

Our little group of Critical Mass enthusiasts took it on ourselves to plan a bunch of activities to mark the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass in September 2012. We’re selling posters and books that we still have in abundance, and will use the funds to support similar ongoing projects.

We have just dropped the prices on posters to $10 each or all 3 for $20, and we’re selling “Shift Happens” for $15, a 25% discount from cover price.

Click on the Add to Cart link below to buy online and have it shipped.

You can also buy the book at the following San Francisco locations:

“Shift Happens: Critical Mass at 20″ Book
AK Press
Alexander Book Co (Downtown/SOMA)
City Lights (North Beach)
Green Arcade (Mid-Market)
Modern Times (in the Mission)

 

Buy Online

“Shift Happens: Critical Mass at 20,” edited by Chris Carlsson, LisaRuth Elliott & Adriana Camarena, with essays, photos and art from around the world. Buy it here for $15 plus shipping, 25% off the normal price of $20.
Note: Orders of more than one book may require additional postage. Please order, you will be charged for the cost of shipping the first book, and we will notify you of any additional costs. ALSO: If you are ordering from outside the U.S. the postage has become ridiculously expensive. For example, one copy of Shift Happens! to Brazil = $20 in postage alone!… so check with us about the total price before ordering.

Shift Happens (25% off)


Mona Caron’s CM20 standard poster, 12 x 24 on glossy stock, offset litho: $10

If you are ordering from outside the U.S. the postage has become ridiculously expensive. Please add $10 for any poster orders outside the U.S. to cover postage.




Hugh D’Andrade’s CM20 poster, 12 x 24 on glossy stock, offset litho: $10
If you are ordering from outside the U.S. the postage has become ridiculously expensive. Please add $10 for any poster orders outside the U.S. to cover postage.



Jim Swanson’s CM20 poster, 15.5 x 13 on glossy stock, offset litho: $10
If you are ordering from outside the U.S. the postage has become ridiculously expensive. Please add $10 for any poster orders outside the U.S. to cover postage.



Get All Three Posters for $20!

If you are ordering from outside the U.S. the postage has become ridiculously expensive. Please add $10 for any poster orders outside the U.S. to cover postage.