Critical Mass bike rides: Three riders tackle issues
Make this part of the world safer for bikes
Maliah Rosenbloom
May/June 1998

When I caught up to the Critical Mass somewhere near Main St, I was stunned to see the police presence. Riding along, I felt like a kid being chaperoned (for my protection I was told), even though it was obvious that they were there to control us. Not having been to any of the previous Rides, I did not know what had prompted this police action. It seems the riders were a bit too disorderly last month to be allowed to express themselves freely this time.

To me, this was no Critical Mass ride. It was a police action and it did not feel good or right. I was even threatened with arrest (my baby and I) for corking the 13th St. left turning lane. It seemed important to me to do my part in this protest--I was not going to back down. Unfortunately, I felt surrounded and watched the whole ride. I would not be surprised if our pictures were taken to be kept on file. The action became one of responding to the cops instead of simply acting on our beliefs.

What I experienced at the meeting following the ride was the same course of events I experienced as part of the Albuquerque Critical Mass. The movement started out with great camaraderie and excitement--we even extended the first few rides because most of us didn't want it to end due to the powerful energy that was created by our great number taking to the streets. We waved at cars when they honked, and extended no malice towards the shouts of impatient commuters. It felt safe and effective as a presence on the road. The rides became less and less fun as those wishing to ride all over the road did so. The police presence increased as the critical mass numbers decreased, due to many regular riders no longer wanting to be associated with such reckless tactics.

The belief that we are free to do as we wish (i.e. taking up more than one lane of traffic) is true to some extent. However, to be effective in protest, I think it is wise to be aware of the consequences of one's choice of actions. If the goal is to make this part of the world safer for bikes, why take action that alienates bike riders who share that belief? To me, the power of Critical Mass is in the potential to unify large numbers of bicyclists with varying levels of activism to ride together to bring awareness of our presence on the road. What we do as Critical Mass, we do as representatives of bikers in this community; the repercussions will be felt by all, from those lobbying for bike rights to those dealing with cars on a daily basis.

I would like to see Critical Mass evolve as a community action that my family can be proud to be part of, not simply an action of a few who are too set on personal expression of protest to see a wider picture. Riding together in great numbers to bring attention to a worthy issue IS radical and empowering.

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