Ready, set, ride: Critical Mass takes to the streets

Ariana Sanchez-Fierro

Ariana Sanchez-Fierro
City Times

Bicyclists from all over San Diego shouted, circled the fountain and set off sirens to pump themselves up for the 20 mile bike ride that took place Feb. 27.

Critical Mass, originating in San Francisco, has now become an international event for bicyclists to have their voice be heard: bikes are a fun, safe, and reliable mode of transportation.

“It starts with everyone going in a circle around the fountain, and than we take off across the bridge and from there the ride is open to whoever leads it,” said David Mullin, who was riding in Critical Mass for his second time.

Although there is no set route, the goal is to ride 20 miles, but participants are allowed to stop or rest freely. It has been rumored to have around 1,000 bicyclists participate in this new age cultural event.

“Reactions are mixed, some people are very interested, others are mad they have to sit and wait in traffic for ten minutes,” said Alex Ludington, a seven-time Critical Mass participant.

There has been no record of fatalities while partaking in Critical Mass, but there have been some injuries and instances where locals do not appreciate bicyclists over-powering the streets.

“Sometimes bikers stop cars, but usually cops stop traffic or set up barriers, which has helped out a lot for a smoother ride,” adds Ludington.

“It’s interesting how people find out about critical mass. I was sitting in traffic waiting for them to pass by last month, and decided to try it out,” says Anthony Vattuone, a first-timer at Critical Mass.

Observers of the sea of bikes that overrun the streets and interrupt the flow of traffic have contributed to the recruitment of fellow San Diegans to partake in the excitement of a night, group bike ride.

“We want to support fellow bicyclists and ultimately enforce bicycle awareness,” said Kathy Keehan, executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. “We are here to support the effort, and act as a voice for bicyclists to elected officials throughout San Diego,” adds Keehan.

The San Diego County Bicycle Coalition is a nonprofit organization that devotes time to improving bicycling throughout San Diego. They have approximately 1,100 members, 99 percent of which are San Diego County residents. To join the coalition or for further information check out: www.sdcbc.org.

“It’s a pretty mellow ride, and we are all here to have a good time,” said Kyle Verger, a veteran of Critical Mass.

Anyone and everyone are invited to join in on the fun ride. What started off as a bike ride to show the versatility of bikes and to raise bike awareness, Critical Mass progressively advanced into a global event. Critical Mass occurs every last Friday of the month, and the meeting spot is at the fountain in Balboa Park. For other locations throughout the country, check out www.meetup.com for a Critical Mass near you.