As I tried to figure out who was riding in this past Friday’s Critical Mass bike ride, I was shocked to learn that many people have no idea what Critical Mass is. So let me break it down for you. Critical Mass is a group bike ride that occurs on the last Friday of the month in Cleveland, and in over 300 other cities around the world. Riders come from communities all over Cleveland to ride together through the city streets. Anyone who loves to bike is welcome to participate in Critical Mass.
What does it all mean? I think it means something a little different to everyone. Some people ride to meet others who live in the city and share similar interests. Others use it as a forum for grassroots change. Many believe that it helps raise bike awareness, showing that other vehicles are out on the road. Whatever the reason, Critical Mass bike rides are a lot of fun. The energy that buzzes between hundreds of riders as you bike the city is a pretty awesome feeling. Plus, I feel a heck of a lot safer on the roads with hundreds of companions, than riding solo.
This past Friday was my first time participating in Critical Mass. If you haven’t already heard, Friday’s ride has sparked some serious conversation between the riders and non-riders of Cleveland. From what I understand, typically the police officers of Cleveland have been very supportive of the Critical Mass ride and have even assisted with helping cyclists get through intersections. On Friday, tickets were given to many bikers for going through red lights. Due to the tickets, a lot of people have expressed very strong feelings about the matter.
While I believe that individuals have the right to assemble and to do so peacefully, not all people tend to agree when it comes to Critical Mass. What it comes down to is a much more heated conversation relating to bikes on the road. On the one side of the argument, many bikers complain about drivers who don’t pay attention to the road and have caused many bike related fatalities. On the flip side, there are drivers who are frustrated by some bikers who violate traffic laws. And when you get on either side of that argument, be prepared for some very opinionated thoughts. While both sides have been right at one time or another, I think that the experience on Friday has brought up the very important issue of bike education and how both sides could benefit in creating safer roads.
I don’t believe that the city has anything to gain from ticketing peaceful cyclists who simply want to promote a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to driving a car. Events have been popping up all over the city to promote community – how is this event any different? The ride also ends at a different, local destination each month which helps introduce individuals to new places they may not have known about and also supports the local economy. It seems like a win-win to me.
Overall, I am looking forward to the next Critical Mass bike ride, where we hopefully get the support of the city to do something as cool as Critical Mass. We are part of a worldwide community that loves cycling just as much as we do.