I rode in the Critical Mass ride tonight in Boston. Typically 100-200 bicyclists will turn out for these events, but the holiday week and tonight's cold weather kept most sane people home. Before the ride started I estimated the crowd at Copley Square to be somewhere near 50-60 people. This small crowd was less about the two-wheeled circus that usually defines a Critical Mass ride, and was more about keeping one's fingers and toes warm. Once the ride began, we circled downtown and Boston Commons twice, passed through the theatre district, down Newbury Street, and across to Fenway before finally splitting up near Kenmore Square. The police were out, but only once did they try to divert us from the financial district. It was a futile attempt really, they sent a few police cars down the street we were on, but I think it was more a show of force than anything else. I have to say that the solidarity of riding in such a group is quite empowering. Usually we cyclists are alone and vulnerable on the road, I know that I ride by myself 99% of the time. To be surrounded by so many other like-minded people gives you a feeling of power in a situation where the car and driver are usually in control. I met a guy who is now living in Portland, Oregon and we got talking about the differences between the bike culture in Portland and Boston. Unlike Boston, Portland has embraced cyclists of all sorts, not just students and the occasional commuter. He stated that Critical Mass rides in Portland have become something of a joke- hundreds of people show up, the cops plan for it, they know the usual routes, and for the most part leave the cyclists alone. Portland is such a bike-friendly town, and it is clear that Boston has more of a need for events like Critical Mass, even more reason to turn out for these rides. There is still plenty of work to be done here to make the public aware and the streets safer for those of us on two-wheels. There is quite a bit of controversy surrounding Critical Mass, and I can see both sides. Some argue it does little for passing new laws that help bicyclists, not sure if that is the intent. In the past some riders have been known to break laws; running red lights and confronting/harassing drivers. Not a good thing if you are trying to change the opinions of drivers and show bicycles as viable alternatives, but I also think that any attention to bicycle transportation is a positive move, even if some choose to bend the laws a bit while doing so. I didn't see any blatant breaking of laws tonight. We didn't move over for anyone who was over zealous with their horns (it's their way of saying, "Hi, I love bikes too!"), but we stopped at major intersections, and followed the rules of the road. Did we make a difference? Who knows. If one person thinks twice before cutting off a cyclist, then we did something positive. I would like to think so.
Luckilly, these guys were not leading the ride tonight-- insane stuff:
Listening to: My Morning Jacket- It Still Moves