Critical Mass in San Diego.

Every city has a different story with critical mass. Some have 50 people, stop at lights, don’t block intersections. Some have numbers into the thousands. Each city has a different relationship with its motor vehicles and with the local police departments bringing up the challenges of road rules and road rage.

Here what is going on San Diego:

Once a month, county cyclists claim the streets.
By Pauline Repard

August 10, 2008

article link.

Hundreds of bicyclists pump doggedly up Fifth Avenue’s steady incline out of downtown, their taillights strobing in the dark.
It’s the last Friday of the month, when cycling enthusiasts from throughout the county join in a Critical Mass ride around San Diego.

Its popularity has grown from a handful of bicyclists about 11 years ago to more than 1,000 in July. They begin each ride in Balboa Park, but from there the route is spontaneous and fluid.

Definitions of Critical Mass also are fluid – and not always complimentary.

Bike rider Tom Hepler of North Park called it “wacky, anachronistic.”

Cyclist Esther Perkins of Poway said it sends a message to motorists that bicyclists have rights to the road. “San Diego’s supposed to be a green city, but cycling is not encouraged,” she said. “It’s so unsafe.”

“Critical Mass is simple,” cyclist Mike Lashua of San Diego said. “Once a month, bikes take over the road.”

San Diego police Capt. Chris Ball of Central Division had his own take on the event.

“Critical Mass is an interesting and challenging phenomenon for law enforcement worldwide,” Ball said. “Is it some form of civil disobedience? Is it political speech? This isn’t just a bike ride.”

A mass of riders
Critical Mass originated in San Francisco in 1992 to promote cycling. Now, in more than 300 cities from Anchorage, Alaska, to Mumbai, India, riders hit the road each month in numbers from a few dozen to several thousand. There are no leaders. Cyclists learn by word-of-mouth and Web sites when and where to turn up.

Joshua Sibelman, 37, of South Park, who pedals to work in Chula Vista, said Critical Mass draws “those who are coming out for fun, for awareness, or to be more militant about it.”

The political-environmental message can be lost on motorists suddenly surrounded by cyclists who run red lights, ride into oncoming traffic, or occasionally pound on a car that fails to yield.

“It was arrogant, more like anarchy, to take over the streets like that,” said a 71-year-old visitor from Tucson who was frightened when cyclists surrounded his car July 25. He asked that his name not be published for fear of retribution.

The man said his 68-year-old wife was driving south on Kettner Boulevard about 10 p.m. when about 1,000 cyclists came north in their lane. He told his wife to pull over, fast.

“Lots of them had no headlights on their bikes,” he said. “There was no advance warning this event was to take place. Someone is going to get hurt. The city is looking the other way while this mob is on the road.”

Riders say it is safer for them to stay together, even if it means running red lights.

Ball, the police captain, said the local rides have sparked nothing more than an occasional argument between drivers and bicyclists.

But in Seattle, police arrested two riders on their July 25 ride when a motorist was beaten after he ran over a cyclist. Officer Mark Jamieson said that for 10 years the department has kept a hands-off approach to Critical Mass, which draws 100 to 300 riders, but that may change in light of the Seattle incident.

At the park
In San Diego, the events take on the look of a carnival as riders start gathering about 6 p.m. around the fountain at the end of Balboa Park’s Prado.

Young women in summer dresses and young men in cutoffs and T-shirts show up in flip-flops, on beach cruisers. Serious cyclists sport Spandex and aerodynamic helmets. Antlers or stuffed animals adorn ballcaps. Some riders sneak swigs of alcohol tucked into packs. Bikes range from multispeed and fixed speed, to BMXs, mountain bikes, tandems and giant-wheeled homemade ones.

The July ride was dedicated to Atip Ouypron, who was fatally injured July 18 when he ran a red light on his bike in Hillcrest and a pickup hit him.

About 8 p.m., out of a swelling crowd, a handful of cyclists start pedaling slowly around the fountain. Riders whoop and ring their bicycle bells.

More and more cyclists circle the fountain. One rider tows a booming stereo on a lightweight trailer. No leader has been chosen, but soon a few riders break out and pedal down the Prado.

For the next several hours, bicyclists follow one another down San Diego streets, with Ball and another officer loosely trailing in cars.

The cyclists travel downtown, past the airport, then into Hillcrest. A police helicopter hovers. Ball and the other officer direct traffic at Park Boulevard and University Avenue as riders circle around mounds of flowers in Ouypron’s memory.

Many cyclists then regroup and turn north up Park Boulevard to continue the ride.

Where to meet for Critical Mass San Diego:
At the large fountain in Balboa Park.
7 p.m. on the last Friday of each month.

More info at: San Diego

Check out a video from the AP from the May ride.

Great photoblogger from San Diego Area:

Coming soon…new fixie shop.

Velo Cult Bike Shop
2220 Fern St.
San Diego, CA 92104

5 comments to Critical Mass in San Diego.

  • Jym

    =v= I just got back from San Diego, and was surprised to see that article. There was some press coverage at the end of last month, and this article just seems to rehash those stories and tosses in a mention of the Seattle incident. (They didn’t toss in any mention of the motorist issuing a mea culpa and the cyclists’ charges being dropped, though.)

  • Anonymous

    I live near Balboa Park and was witness to the August Critical Mass ride. While I’m a cyclist myself and think it’s a great idea to get groups together to encourage cycling, this group was a critical mess. After failing to yield to the rules of the road, the cyclists caused enough confusion within the motorists that two cars had a fender bender. As one lone police car tried to manage the ensuing gridlock, a few cyclists were arrogant enough to yell curse words and insults to motorists and the cop. They finally dispersed and/or disappeared farther up Fifth Avenue, leaving in their wake empty beer cans and trash all along their route. Yeah, so much for making a statement. Seriously lame. Hopefully, the group will be reclaimed by those who are responsible and serious about making a positive impact with regard to cycling – and the hipster poseurs will find some other activity to latch onto that makes them feel unique.

  • Anonymous

    WTF?!?! Critical mass is a great concept that has been well executed in San Francisco every month for 15 + years without issue. You know why? Because smart people who love to ride get together to have fun and show people what alternatives there are to cars.

    So why is the San Diego Critical Mass filled with drunk belligerent riders (beer in hand) threatening members of the community as they ride down a two lane/two way road in BOTH LANES while shouting at cars to “Get the f*ck out of my way”? You are riding a bike, not starting a revolt/anarchy.

    You rode through my neighborhood (Mission Hills) on 8/29/08 and gave your group a really bad reputation. A few really bad apples (assholes) managed to ruin a potentially great political statement about alternative transportation because they wanted to ride drunk, with a pack mentality, acting belligerent.

    Great way to inflict positive change guys!

    The organizers should be ashamed of what went on last night. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

  • jeff

    This is jeff,In legislative practice, a rider is an additional provision annexed to a bill under the consideration of a legislature, having little connection with the subject matter of the bill.[citation needed] Riders are usually created as a tactic to pass a controversial provision which would not pass as its own bill. Occasionally, a controversial provision is attached to a bill not to be passed itself but to prevent the bill from being passed (in which case it is called a poison pill).



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