Participating in Critical Mass has been on my to do list for several years. But for several years I haven’t been much of a bike rider and I never mustered up the motivation to partake. Some might say I am bike rider now, so last week I finally decided to join in on the chaos, and with my friend Brian, took over the streets of San Francisco during pre-Holiday weekend rush hour with several hundred other commotion-creating bike riders.
If you’re not familiar, Critical Mass is a bike event held all around the world every Friday of every month. The purpose is part protest and part social movement. Basically, it’s a bunch of bike riders flexing a little commuter muscle over motorists by riding en masse around the city, blocking intersections, disobeying traffic signals and reminding drivers that we own the road too. Critical Mass started in San Francisco in 1992 and last Friday was the 224th riding.
There is no official organizer of Critical Mass so the whole experience is a little loosey goosey. Brian and I showed up at Justin Herman Plaza at 5:30 PM and we quickly realized we were among the first to arrive. Over the next hour we were joined by several hundred bikers, including but not limited to, old naked men, hipsters and hippies, Financial District professionals, athletes of all shapes and sizes, and even some tourists on their Blazing Saddles rental bikes. There were even a handful of companies tapping into the diverse and captive crowd, including 5-Hour Energy and Nestlé Quik, dancing bunny and all.
Around 6:30 PM, critical mass was (apparently) achieved and we all hit the streets. We traveled down Market, wound our way through SOMA and the Mission, cruised up Van Ness en route to the Broadway and Stockton Tunnels and clogged intersections in Union Square – all while running red lights, bringing traffic to a standstill and dancing around the streets with our bikes over our heads.
It was an hour of chaos and joy. Brian and I had huge grins on our face the entire time. One of our favorite moments came when a woman in a beached taxi in the middle of Van Ness popped her head out the window and went off on a tirade about how we could all go to hell because she was sitting in an inactive taxi with the meter running.
Success! That is what critical mass is all about, in my opinion. It’s not the end of the world honey, we’re all just having a little fun.
If there’s Critical Mass in your city, I insist on your future participation. It was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done in a long time.