Where: Its home is San Francisco, California, USA with event happening worldwide
When: 5.30pm, last Friday of each month
What’s it about: Protesting against oil consumption and private car ownership by taking to the streets en-masse on bicycles
Remember to Bring: A bike!
What’s it About
Started in 1992 in San Francisco, Critical Mass has grown into a worldwide movement to get people out of their cars and into the streets, riding bikes to save the planet’s resources. By taking back the streets in unorganized, mass protests, Critical Mass has enraged motorists who have been trapped in a gridlock of hundreds of bicycles. Local San Franciscans addicted to their cars usually commute on ‘Mass’ days. Through the unorthodox views of the participants, Critial Mass has gained notoriety, especially after a 2000 incident when Critical Mass shutdown the Bay Bridge during Friday rushhour, after which several dozen CM’ers went to jail.
Get On Your Bike
To participate in Critical Mass, all you need is a bike, and advisably, a good crash helmet. It takes place on the last Friday of every month, starting at around 5.30pm at the Ferry building on Market street in downtown San Francisco. Sometimes hundreds of people are there wearing costumes to mark current events or upcoming holidays like Halloween and Christmas; other times there are barely 50 paticipants. Whatever the turnout there is a nervous, tense atmosphere as the police cars are already lined up on nearby streets prepared to arrest any rowdies and no one knows where they will be going or what will happen.
Spirit of the Chase
With a shrill whistle and the crack of some starters pistols, Critical Mass is off, and immediately the crush of bicycles swarms around cars, stops traffic and gridlocks whole intersections for minutes. As you ride along, people (especially tourists) stare in awe at this mass rally that has suddenly brought out so many police and wonder what is going on. Local residents (especially in cars) will swear at you and honk their horn as loud as they can; usually this is met with several bikes totally blocking the cars path and a bullhorn screaming for the end of oil consumption blasted in their face. Fistfights have broken out and with the police not far behind the scuffle doesn’t last long.
As you ride the hilly streets playing follow the leader, it’s a great way to see the City from the seat of a bike; in one Critical Mass session you can go around Chinatown, North Beach, the Castro, Golden Gate Park and Fishermans Wharf. All along the way cheering and jeering crowds will greet you and enraged motorists will glare at you through windshields, but overall it’s a fun event that is all about the spirit of San Francisco.
Critical Mass Worldwide Rides
Links to Critical Mass events worldwide, related articles and viewpoint forums.
Reclaim the Streets
A European based organisation who party on the streets to protest at local and global autogeddon.