A Note on Routes

June 20th, 2010 by hughillustration

A route map from 2006!

Note: There will be a pre-Mass ride to route scout on Monday, the 21st, at 7:00pm. Meet at Dolores Park, across from the Dolores Park Cafe. And bring your bike!

Last month, someone I know threw a route together on his own initiative and sent it to me, and I posted it here. The month before, I and others suggested we visit the Palace of Fine Arts as our final destination.

In each case, I heard from a few people that they felt the use of a route or destination was uncharacteristic of Critical Mass. As on person said on our Facebook page, “I thought the whole idea of doing CM was that the route is not fixed. IMHO, wIth a fixed route there is no fun doing CM.” Another said “the Mass is supposed to be democratic and spur of the moment, at least how I have experienced it for the last 10 years.”

It’s true that we haven’t had many route maps in the past 10 years (the last I recall was in 2006, on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and that was a rarity), but in the early days of Critical Mass we did them all the time. Each month we would visit a different location — the Presidio, Ocean Beach, Twin Peaks, even Sausalito were destinations. We didn’t always stick to the script, but we definitely mixed it up.

As the commentators noted, this isn’t the most democratic way of deciding where the ride will go. But I would argue that neither is having the handful at the front of the ride make the decisions for everyone behind them. In my experience, the people at the front are universally loud, aggressive and male (and I include myself in this description). What about people who may not be so loud and opinionated? What about the folks in back?

Another disadvantage of spontaneity is that we seem to visit the same locations each month. For the last 5 years, we have been through the Broadway Tunnel and Union Square almost every time, as well as several other familiar locations. We rarely get out to the avenues or other neighborhoods — and that’s too bad, since we want the people of San Francisco to see us!

One solution is to try doing what the San Jose Bike Party does, which is regular bike rides to route scout beforehand. This way we have a route, but many people who are interested can contribute to the conversation. Also, we can use the Facebook and Twitter feeds, and the comments on this blog, to throw around ideas. And, if the route is unworkable, it can always be switched up by the riders. Nothing is ever set in stone, and all routes are just suggestions. (And we don’t need to have a route every month!)

So, as I noted above, there’s a pre-Mass ride scheduled for Monday the 21st at Dolores Park at 7:00. In the future, we’ll try to make these semi-regular, but you can get updates via Facebook & Twitter.

If you and your friends have thoughts about what direction Critical Mass should take, I am eager to get your voice out there. Post something in the comments, send me ideas to me here, or post to Facebook or Twitter and I will try to help circulate your feedback. We can use social networking, blogs, and face-to-face meetings to make Critical Mass as democratic and decentralized as possible.

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8 Responses to “A Note on Routes”

  1. Peter Smith says:

    i think the routes are interesting in that the route planning makes the planners liable to the city, if one’s city does, in fact, regulate large gatherings, parades, whatever. we’ll see if SJBP gets banged with fees.

    what happens then?

    does SJBP go underground? that is, go ‘critical mass’?

    do the San Jose authorities crack down on SJBP if SJBP do, indeed, disobey (not get required permits)?

    do the leaders subject themselves to fines?

    do the leaders just pay up, presumably collecting the money and permits from somewhere?

    i’d actually be interested to get the POV of the SF authorities on a fixed route. not that i am anything more than curious what they think. do they care at all?

    fun times!

  2. Ryan says:


    I’ve seen your comments on so many CM posts and I think even some Streetsblog posts.

    While you’ve made a few nice remarks, it’s more typical of you to be a huge downer. Why do you insist on putting down San Jose Bike Party so much? Mass rides have many similiar goals, and while San Jose’s goals differ from SF’s goals in some respects, I believe we have more in common than not. So seriously, what’s the problem you have with us and why do you choose to comment negatively about us at every oppurtunity?

  3. Ryan says:

    PS – Peter, that ordinance that bikesiliconvalley.org posted received much protest from cyclists and advocacy groups and has been put on hold until August. There is a progressive political culture in the big city at the end of the bay, even if at times it is lost in the fray of the Greater Bay Area.

  4. Ryan says:


    Thank you for keeping this blog.

  5. Jonol says:

    Just moved here from MN, and the CM in the twin cities has been talking about this issue quite a bit as well. I’m a fan of the go with the flow even if it turns out being the same every time — creating a route seems to undermine the whimsical nature of the ride, even if it is illusory.

    — looking forward to ridin’ today.

  6. Jeanne M says:

    7/30/10 – aren’t participants asked to follow some rules? Last night I was heading north in my car on 7th avenue approaching Lawton Street, when some jerks on their bikes pounded my car. I had done nothing to provoke them. What entitles them to intimidate me? How do you think that makes me want to vote next time a bicycle initiative hits the ballot? Too bad a few jerks can turn off people who
    Support your cause.

  7. Iron Pan says:

    I have missed the planned routes and watched the CM rides slowly degenerate into a kind of unthinking roller rink route of tunnel, square, tunnel, square,tunnel-ad nauseum- and always with a brigade of motorcycle cops fouling the air with pollution and ultra-loud, ear-damaging assaulting noise. This city has so many varied and beautiful landscapes to ride in. Why would anyone want to reduce Critical Mass to such a low level as it has reached? It’s the idiocy of mob-mentality. It makes us vulnerable. Thanks for the hard work and keeping the doors and windows open!

  8. Thanks! Appreciate the feedback.