Ride of your life

Ride of your life

It’s been a while since I heard about a Critical Mass in Charlottesville, though other bike events do pop up in this bike-curious town. There’s the Bike Extravaganza, for one, and let’s not forget the apparently newly formed Charlottesville Bike Polo Club. Good times.

Critical Mass is its own breed of crazy fun, though. And there’s one planned for Friday! If you’ve never had the Critical Mass phenomenon explained to you, I’ll give you the short version: At a predetermined time and place, bicyclists ride on city streets in sufficient numbers to block traffic.

This fellow looks ready for some social distortion!

There’s a lot of discussion about whether this is a “protest,” a “party,” or a “performance,” and of course it’s all those things. It gets people talking about how bike-friendly the streets are, the meaning of civil disobedience, and why cars so often run over bikers.

I have a little bit of personal history with Critical Mass—while living as a clueless 19-year-old in Berkeley one summer during college, I was invited to join a Critical Mass ride in San Francisco along with my friend. It sounded fun, and someone loaned us a tandem bike. Both tandem bikes and Critical Mass were entirely new to us, so we wobbled our way through it—a pulsing circus of bike spokes, freaks in weird outfits, and occasional pissed-off motorists blocked at intersections by thousands of two-wheelers rolling past. (Oh yeah—this was on a Friday afternoon, at rush hour.)

I remember some moments of conflict among driver, bikers and cops, but I don’t remember feeling scared. And the long ride (10 miles?) ended with a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge and a ferry ride back to the city from Sausalito. Excellent. I can’t remember the date and whether I might accidentally have been part of the historic Critical Mass mentioned here, but it’s possible. As I say: clueless.

Anyway, you too can be part of the fun. Critical Mass is meeting up at 5pm on Friday at Community Bikes and also at the Archway at the bottom of UVA’s Brooks Lawn. Call 293-2383 with questions. And post your bicycle war stories here!