A Critical Look at OC's Critical Mass: Neither Critical Nor Massive
Driving along P Street before 10th Street in Sacramento one starry night two Novembers ago, I came upon what I assumed was a gunman holed up inside a state government building. That's how many police cars with flashing lights and TV vans were outside the place. But then I noticed something odd: more than 100 bicyclists. It turns out this was not a crime scene but the gathering spot for Sacramento's Critical Mass, some of which you may be able to make out in this dark picture to the left.
Critical Mass is a bicycling event that is usually held the last Friday of each month in more than 300 cities around the world. The first ride took place on Friday, September 25, 1992, at 6 p.m. in San Francisco to show how unfriendly the city was toward bicyclists. Critical Mass now has a leaderless structure that means any ride can protest anything, or nothing at all. Indeed, participants insist rides be viewed as "celebrations" and spontaneous gatherings, and not as protests or organized demonstrations.
Wonder of all wonders, did you know Orange County has a Critical Mass? (And, no, I'm not referring to the spare tire around my womanly midsection.)
Here's a photo from the first one, which took place in Laguna Beach on September 20, 2008. Subsequently, Critical Masses have been held the third Saturday of each month.
Notice anything different with this second one in October?
Or how about last month's?
Or how about the promotional photo for the Dec. 20 ride that again begins at 9 a.m. at Park Avenue and Legion Streets?
It appears the masses at these Critical Masses are getting smaller and smaller. Maybe they aren't critical enough of anything to draw doo-gooder bikers? If anyone shows up this weekend, they would be advised to bundle up. Forecasters are predicting "Butt Cold." Exchanging Lycra for a Michelin Man suit may make pedaling more difficult, but think of how much easier it'll be to bounce off those hunks of tin sharing the roads with you!
Whatever happens, here's hoping our Critical Mass will someday get bigger instead of smaller with each successive ride. The April 20, 2008, event in Budapest, Hungary drew 80,000 riders!
This photo from the Sept. 22, 2008, ride shows another massive crowd in Budapest. These are Hungarians, people! They can't even afford pedals back there and they are out biking us. Brave the cold, show up Saturday and be somebody.