Critical Mass — that enigmatic, fun, controversial, “defiant celebration” of bikes as traffic — has been all but missing from Portland’s bike scene lately.
The theories about its demise vary, but in the last year or so it seems to have lost its mojo here in “Bike City USA”.
Some folks say that Portland’s bike community has just moved beyond the need for such a ride, and that it ignites more anti-bike sentiments than its worth (both from car drivers and bikers). Others say it simply became a bore and an exercise in futility after the Portland Police instituted a very strict enforcement policy (there’s no “corking” allowed).
“There is no reason to wuss out just because of the cops.”
–From a message posted to the Shift email list
And yet, through it all, there are still people that feel it is a necessary and important component of our bike ecosystem. After falling completely off my radar in recent months, it seems like now there’s some renewed energy coming into the ride.
I don’t have much evidence, but I did notice a few flyers around town for this month’s ride (in photo above) that say, “A very special Critical Mass,” and feature an illustration of a bike and a car with the tag line, “My bike will eat your car.” Also leading me to believe that there might be some renewed energy for the ride was an email posted to the Shift list that read:
There are a lot of cyclists in Portland.
There is no reason our Critical Mass has to suck so much.
There is no reason it can’t be thousands strong like in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York.
There is no reason to wuss out just because of the cops.
Critical Mass isn’t a death march- it’s a celebration! Come have fun with your fellow bikers and shout “Happy Friday!” with a smile to the passers by.
If you’re curious and want to take part, meet at 5:30 tonight (1/25) under the west side of the Burnside Bridge (ride leaves at 6:00).