Thoughts on Critical Mass – Portland / NYC

I’ve never ridden in a Portland CM, but have enjoyed many PDX group rides in the past year. I used to ride in the NYC CM when we were 1500+ strong, would ride on the highway, etc. and not a single arrest. Sometimes the police on scooters would help us block traffic. It was awesome! It was fun! There were kids! Costumes!

The heavy-handedness came during the RNC in 2004, when everyone was dodging police and it got really scary. It folded into the NYC Police “We Got This (Police State)!” campaign. Consequent rides became us vs. the police and this ended up attracting a lot of troublemakers. The ride started eating itself (some might argue by the design of heavy handed policing) and the radical elements really took over. It was all just sheer adrenaline rush, and I don’t think we convinced anyone that bikes were the better form of transportation. That’s when I decided I was over CM. Antagonizing pedestrians, bus riders, etc. was against the guiding principles I enjoyed earlier in the CM movement.

Moving to Portland, the fun rides here are WAY more fun and WAY more effective than any CM I’ve ever been on. Portand *has* reached a critical mass, certainly not an *ideal* mass, but we are at the point where things are turning in our direction. Traffic is calmed, a ton of commuters are using bicycles, bike infrastructure is constantly developed, we have a zoobomb monument… yet still, plenty of work to do! I think if other cities could lead their CM rides like a pedalpalooza ride, they’d be much more effective.

Well done, Portland!

Joe Biel produced a video about PDX critical mass, aptly titled ‘AfterMass: Bicycling in a Post-Revolutionary Portland’