is part protest, part social movement, part group bike ride. Masses of bike riders take over the streets for long, sometimes chaotic rides, usually with no particular destination in mind, a frenzied two-wheeled hive headed by whoever takes the lead at the front of the pack. They are held all over the planet and can be as small as 20 riders or as large as 80,000.
Cars aren't welcome in the path of a Critical Mass ride. The idea is for bike riders to reclaim the road space from cars, so automobiles get blocked off by a wall of tires and handlebars. Traffic rules and travel norms are thrown out the window as the mob of riders range throughout city streets. The rides are exciting, brash and a little in your face.
If Critical Mass were the Goofus of the biking work, Critical Manners is Gallant, the annoyingly chaste hero found at your local dentist office in the pages of Highlights Magazine for Kids
(Yes, I still read Goofus and Gallant
, only now it's when I bring in my kids for checkups).
Riders in Vancouver's Critical Manners obey all traffic laws and stay within proper bike lanes. Their hope is that their Aug. 14 ride won't even be noticed by the general public, so closely will they be following the rules.
I think there's plenty of space on the roads for both Critical Goofus and Critical Gallant. I'm a new convert
to the church of traveling by bike and can already attest to the dangers of being on the road with cars and without proper bike lanes. It's dangerous, and if car drivers have to put up with a little disruption in their drive every now and then because bikers finally get pissed off enough for a good swarm, then so be it. The world needs more properly protected bike lanes (more bike racks, too, while we're at it).
On the other hand, Critical Gallant can help remind car drivers that people on bikes aren't always road-hogging maniacs. We just want to be able to get around without getting hit by cars.