TODAY -

What Does The Critical Mass Means ?

Salam Gunakanta Singh *

A Critical Mass Cycle for your health, cycle for a sustainable economy, cycle for the environment in April 2011
A Critical Mass Cycle for your health, cycle for a sustainable economy, cycle for the environment in April 2011



It is hard to find many people of our State does not know anything what does actually the critical mass means. What's the benefit of it and much more? So, for the awareness of the people, "Critical Mass" means a gathering of cycling enthusiasts in a place, and then, have a ride in a city or town. Critical mass is held by the Manipur Cycle Club on the last Sunday of every month.

It is critical for the environment, for promoting cycling as alternative means of transport, for the cycling community to come together. It has no leaders; there is no Nationak group that licenses local rides. In every city where there is a critical mass, cyclists just picked a day time and started handing over fliers. You don't need anyone to authorize your ride. Just do it.

Critical mass like bike tours with hundreds of participants took place in Stockholm, Sweden in the early 1970s. But the first ride within the present wave took place on Friday, September 25, 1992 at 6 pm in San Francisco. At that time, the event was known as 'Commute Clot' and was composed of a couple of dozen cyclists who had received flyers from Market Street. Shortly after this, some participants in that ride went to a local bicycle shop for a screening of Ted White's documentary "Return Of The Scorcher", about bike culture overseas.

In that film, American Human Powers Vehicle and Pedi cab Designer George Bliss noted that, in China, both motorists and bicyclists had an "understood" method of negotiating intersections without signals. Traffic would queue up at these intersections until the backlog reached a "Critical Mass", at which point that mass would move through the intersection. This term from the footage of the movie, was applied to the name of the ride, and the name caught on, replacing "Commute Clot" by the time of the second event.

Critical mass take place without an official route or sanction, participants in some cities have sometimes practiced a tactic kwon as "Corking" in order to maintain the cohesion of the group. This tactic consists of a few riders blockings traffic from side roads so that the mass can freely proceed through red lights without interruption.

Corking allows the mass to engage in variety of activities, such as forming a cyclone, lifting their bikes in a tradition known as a "Bike Lift" (In Chicago this is referred to as a Chicago hold-up), or to perform a "Die-In" where riders lie on the ground with their bikes to symbolise cyclist death and injuries caused by automobiles, very popular in Montreal. The "Corks" sometimes take advantage of their time corking to distribute fliers.

The practice of corking roads in orders to pass through red lights as a group is in contravention of traffic laws in some jurisdictions and is sometimes criticized to be contrary to critical mass' claim that "We Are Traffic", since ordinary traffic does not have the right to go through intersections once the traffic signals has changed to red. However, group of cyclists are allowed to pass signal's as a group at least in Germany and Austria. Corking has sometimes led to hospitality between motorists and riders, even erupting into violence and arrest of motorists and cyclists alike during critical mass rides.

The critical mass rides have inspired a number of bicycle movements that range from political movements to the "Critical Tits" ride during the yearly burning man festival. In Chicago, a movement has grown out of the critical mass community to promote Winter cycling via the Bike winter campaign. The extensive news coverage of San Francisco's July 1997 ride spawned an international celebration of bicycling, called Bike Summer. Kidical Mass originated in Oregon, and encourage bicycle riding for children and families.

Critical Sass is an all-female version of the ride in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, That Take Place the second Friday of every month. The Tweed Run (A Various Other Vintage Bike Rides) is a well dressed mass which takes place annually in a number of cities across the world. Examples of Critical Mass rides for political movements includes "The Free Tibet Rides" (May 2008): Free Tibet Critical Mass in Columbia, Missouri, "Tibetan Freedom Bike Rally" in San Francisco (Aug 2008), and "Bike Ride for Tibet" in London (Aug 2008)

Critical mass can be fun, but in and out itself, critical mass doesn't change anything. Critical mass is effective only when combined with real advocacy - such as lobbying local and state government for bikes lanes and progressive legislation. If all you and your cohorts do is ride your bike around once a month, don't be surprised when nothing changes. When local police learn of your ride, they may insist that you get a permit, perhaps a parade permit. Don't do it.

The point of critical mass is that biking is a right, not a privilege. Cars don't need permits to ride on the street and neither should cyclists. Remember that critical mass is supposed to be a celebration of cycling, not your opportunity to see how much inconvenience you can cause to others. It's about asserting our rights to the roads, not denying others their right to the road.

Critical mass can be festive. Many riders can wear costumes or decorate their bikes extravagantly. Use your imagination. It makes the rides more fun. Stickers with messages such as - The Climate Is Changing - Can You? One Car Less, Cycle - Simple, Bicycles Have Feelings Too, Health Freak, Environmentalist, Cyclist, That's Me, Excuse Me It's My Road Too, etc, can be distributed, clearly giving the right message. So, please join the ride and enjoy the fun.


* Salam Gunakanta Singh wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
The writer is with MCC - Manipur Cycle Club
This article was posted on July 29, 2013.


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