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: May 31st, 2019, 5:30pm, at Justin Herman Plaza (foot of Market Street).

20th Anniversary Poster by Mona Caron!

May 23rd, 2012 by hughillustration

The incredible muralista and illustrator Mona Caron has just produced a new poster to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Critical Mass in September. Check it out! Details on how you can get a copy of the poster are below.

This poster is actually a sequel of sorts. In 2002, she created a now legendary poster for the 10th anniversary, featuring a winged angel bicyclist. This image circulated around the world, was reproduced widely, and many thousand copies of the poster were gifted, sold and collected. Here’s the 2002 version:

People will be coming to San Francisco from Critical Mass rides around the world for the September ride. A small group of us are planning a full week of events to welcome our visitors and to celebrate the start of Critical Mass right here in San Francisco in 1992. (We’ll post details of the events as we have them!) Sales of this and other upcoming posters will be used to fund these activities. If you have questions, want to get involved, or if you are planning your own celebratory event, please get in touch!

Mona’s poster is available in a few options:

• Download a free jpg for your phone or desktop from our Flickr page

• Buy one here!

Posters will be shipped via USPS in a cardboard tube. Shipping is $9 in the US, $17 outside the US. Please note: We will be sending the first shipments in early July! Please be patient.

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Dear Steve Emerson,

April 6th, 2012 by hughillustration

Hi Steve,

We have a policy of not publishing comments that contain threatening words. Your comment submitted today threatened to run over cyclists at the next Critical Mass, so I can’t publish it as is.

However, I would like to give you a personal response, since this issue has been on my mind a bit, in the wake the tragic accident in which a cyclist hit and killed an elderly pedestrian, possibly as a result of his own negligence and poor riding skills.

So let me make both a logical and a moral objection to your comment. Logic first:

The number of Bay Area pedestrians who die each year as a result of collision with a bicyclist is, on a 10 year average, ZERO. It happens so rarely that it’s not a blip on the statistical radar.

Meanwhile, the number of Bay Area pedestrians who die each year as a result of collision with motorized traffic is, on a 10 year average, 100. (For injuries, including paralysis and other life-altering damage, the number is about 800.)

If your concern is public safety, your emphasis on one rare event involving a bicycle is irrational and illogical.

On the moral front, I’m sorry to point out that you have no credibility, since you express outrage at the death of one innocent person while threatening the lives of dozens of other innocent people. That’s a glaring contradiction, assuming your concern is for the safety of others, and it does not speak well to your sense of civic responsibility.

Therefore, I conclude that your concern is not safety. Rather, it seems likely that your real concern is a cultural resentment against bicycling and what it represents. Bicyclists and pedestrians are beginning to get a larger share of the traffic funding, and policies around parking and street design are shifting to reflect our needs and our presence (though the shift is not nearly dramatic enough, in my opinion). Assuming you yourself are a motorist, I imagine that you interpret this cultural shift as threat to the relative privileges you enjoy as a person who drives.

I propose that you drop this antagonistic stance against a change that after all cannot be derailed. Why not join us? Get out of your car, organize your life so that you’re not behind the wheel for hours each day, and start cycling and walking as your primary means of transportation. You may find, as I have, that this creates a positive change in your life, leading to greater health, a reduction in stress, and social connections to others which are rewarding and pleasurable.

If you like, you can join us on the last Friday of the month at Critical Mass — no one is ever turned away, and the very least you would learn about the ideas and lives of those you profess to oppose. And if you’d like to re-word your comment in a more constructive manner, I’m happy to publish it, even if the views expressed do not accord with my own.

Good luck, Steve!


PS: Now that I’ve written this, I think I’ll publish it on our blog. Thanks for the instigation!

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Brazilian Bicyclists On the Move!

March 6th, 2012 by ccarlsson

Just back from a great visit to Porto Alegre and Sao Paulo. In Porto Alegre I was a guest of the First World Bike Forum there and wrote about it over on my blog.

Here’s a video of the biggest ever Critical Mass in Porto Alegre that took place on the evening of Friday Feb. 24, 2012:


Massa Crítica do Fórum Mundial da Bicicleta 2012 from Rodrigo Langeani on Vimeo.

I went to Sao Paulo and visited friends there, and had the pleasure of visiting the Praça do Ciclista on Avenida Paulista, the original starting point for Sao Paulo’s Massa Critica or Bicicletada, meeting up with dozens of local cyclists, and riding to Mano Na Roda, the local equivalent of our Bike Kitchen.

Officially renamed "Praça do Ciclista", a small median on the huge Avenida Paulista in Sao Paulo.

More Love, Less Motors (cars)--graffiti on the ground at Praça do Ciclista.

Everyone gathered for a group shot...

Off we went on a fun ride through town, here on Paulista amidst the usual traffic madness.

The local Bike Kitchen.

While we partied, some folks fixed bikes!

Staging a bike ride through the streets for TV Globo.

I gave a bicycling interview to TV Globo and they said they’d air it on Friday at the noon national newscast, but the lead story was the morning’s tragedy: another woman cyclist crushed by a bus on Avenida Paulista. As it turns out, four other cyclists were killed on Brazilian roads the same day. Bicyclists across the country were finally pushed over the edge. Over 1,500 cyclists showed up in pouring rain to stage a massive die-in last Friday night at the spot where the woman was killed. Today, March 6, mass rides were held in many Brazilian cities, and in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil by far, thousands of cyclists jammed the main street and demonstrated in front of the municipal government offices too.

On Friday March 2 in pouring rain, "For the love of God, less hurry in Sao Paulo, More Love in Transit"...

March 6, 2012, Avenida Paulista full of cyclists...

Brazilian cyclists are at a climactic moment. Solidarity and love to everyone down there, condolences to the loved ones lost—all too many…

Critical Mass 20th Anniversary, the Interstellar Critical Mass!

February 19th, 2012 by ccarlsson

The Welcome Committee for the 20th anniversary has started meeting and planning. I want to give a brief overview of what we have in mind here, so folks can make their own plans, add to ours if you feel like it, and generally get the ball rolling towards an amazing week in September to celebrate 20 years since we rode in our first Critical Mass in San Francisco.

First off, if you’re interested in getting involved with the Welcome Committee, or volunteering for any of the numerous activities that will be going on during the week of September 24-30, 2012, write us at critmasssf@gmail.com.

April 2011, San Francisco Critical Mass at Lands End.

Riders gather at coast after riding for two hours to admire Pacific Ocean and the sun, April 2011.

Three of us, Hugh D’Andrade, Chris Carlsson, and LisaRuth Elliott, have been working on a new book for the anniversary. We have passed the deadline for submissions and I’m glad to say we have some amazing essays in hand, and dozens of photos and posters from around the world. The international, no INTERSTELLAR quality of Critical Mass will be fully demonstrated by the breadth and depth of this book’s stories of Critical Mass from Italy to Brazil to Hungary to Mexico. We will have them ready for you in September.

We are also planning to produce some commemorative posters, with Hugh and Mona Caron both agreeing to make new art, building on their fantastic work of a decade ago. We invite all artists who want to make art for the big anniversary to feel free to do so! The more the merrier! Sticker designs, postcards, posters for the city’s walls, everything is welcome! If you can get the printing done yourself, all the better, but if you need help, contact us and we’ll see what we can do.

In this spirit, we’re also inviting the world’s Critical Mass artists to send us art digitally to include in an upcoming gallery of worldwide greetings for the 20th birthday. Send your images and photos to us at our email: critmasssf@gmail.com, and we’ll put together a gallery on this website as the summer progresses.

We are expecting dozens, hundreds, maybe a thousand friends from around the world to arrive in San Francisco during the anniversary week to help us celebrate. We are working to set up a system for house-sharing, couchsurfing, camping, etc. If you have housing to offer we will soon have a webpage where you can list what you have and people coming to town can write you and figure it out with you directly if you’ll be a good fit for each other. Similarly, we’re looking for hidden fleets of loaner bikes. If you have a garage full of 2-22 bikes that you’d be willing to lend out-of-town visitors for the 20th anniversary, we’ll have a webpage for you to sign up on too.

In the meantime, if you have housing, bicycles, or other resources to offer the celebration, feel free to write us at our email. We are hoping to have a “convergence center” open from 1-5 Monday-Friday of that week and we’ll need volunteers to help staff it to meet and greet incoming visitors.

Riding west along the north shore of San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge just visible at right (April 2011).

We are planning to offer two rides each day from Monday Sept. 24 to Thursday Sept. 27, one in and around San Francisco, another going out to the many wonderful rides in the region (from the Marin Headlands to the East Bay shoreline, Montara and Half Moon Bay to the Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge in the South Bay, etc. etc.). In-city rides will include following themes like lost freeways or ice cream parlors, future shorelines or ridge-top tours, all to be determined. On Tuesday Sept. 25 we will open a Critical Mass Art Show at the Diego Rivera Gallery at the SF Art Institute at 800 Chestnut Street. On Wednesday, Sept 26, we hope to have a panel of authors to present the new book at the Main Library (to be confirmed), and on Thursday, Sept.27 we have a big party and concert scheduled at Cellspace. Friday the 28th is of course the big birthday, the Interstellar Critical Mass ride, which we hope will be a giant, crazy, awesome evening ending in a big party under warm skies in a public spot to be determined. On Saturday Sept. 29 we are planning to hold a symposium at the Art Institute that will give us all a chance to sit and talk together in various discussions about the roles of Critical Mass, bicycling, urban social movements, etc. And on Sunday, September 30 we plan a big finale ride to the beach for a potluck bbq and all-day party.

September 2011 Critical Mass goes out Market Street...

... and then up Page Street! One of the steeper hills we've ever climbed!

For every mild or serious uphill...

... There is always a better and easier downhill!

Give us a holler if you’d like to join the effort!