What is Critical Mass in Chicago, and why is it cool?
Critical Mass, a worldwide movement to encourage bicycling for fun and transportation, takes place on the last Friday of every month. With warmer temperatures finally arriving in the city, Critical Mass is likely to involve thousands of cyclists every month, yet still many in Chicago do not have an understanding of what Critical Mass is and what it means for non-bicycling commuters.
Critical Mass began in San Francisco in 1992. Since then, cyclists in cities across the globe have embraced the principles of Critical Mass and initiated their own rides. It derives its name from a practice in China where bicyclists wait to cross an intersection until there are enough of them to form a “critical mass,” creating safety in numbers as the bicyclists cross.
There is no set leadership or organization to Chicago’s Critical Mass. Anyone who wants to ride and participate is welcome to do so and the riders vote on designated paths to travel. The riders have met at Daley Plaza since 1997 and continue to meet there at 5:30 pm on the last Friday of every month where the riders take to the street and usually ride for three or four hours before disbanding.
I happen to be bicycle accident attorney, and my office overlooks Daley Plaza, so I love it. Once a month I sit there and watch literally thousands of bicyclists form a mass across the street from my office. I have never ridden in it, but I do on occasion go outside and take photos and video. It is really fun to watch.
Critical Mass is an opportunity for bike riders in the city to claim their right to ride in the streets in numbers too large to be ignored. The group attempts to stay together as much as possible because the large size means that motorists are less likely to attempt to weave in and out of the group as might happen with a smaller number of riders, making the event safer for all involved. Occasionally city police officers have been known to ride along with the group which has also increased safety.
Critical Mass claims to have no political association or statement to make; the riders are out simply to ride and promote bicycling as a means of transportation. All types of bikes can be seen as well as the occasional skateboarder and rollerblader but forms of motorized transportation, including motorized bikes and Segways, are discouraged.
Drivers, pedestrians, and unaffiliated cyclists might experience some delays if Critical Mass crosses their path on a Friday evening. The massers travel at five to 10 miles per hour, which is slow enough to bother some drivers. The sheer size of the group means that some intersections can be blocked for extended lengths of time and might force others to find an alternate route to their destination. If you come across a Critical Mass ride, you are encouraged to remain patient while the cyclists pass and only proceed when it is safe to do so. This will help prevent many accidents and near misses and keep everyone safe.
Riders are encouraged to consider safety above all else and most rides end without incident, though unfortunately accidents do occur. Crashes between bicyclists or cars and bicyclists may result in injuries that require medical treatment, including abrasions, broken bones, and head injuries.
Sometimes crashes occur because the negligence of a cyclist or a driver. If someone’s negligence caused you to sustain injuries while riding in Chicago, call the bike accident attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. for a free, no obligation consultation today. You may have a claim for your injuries and any lost wages you suffered and we can help you get a recovery you deserve. We have a lawyer available 24 hours a day, seven days a week so call us today at (312) 924-7575 or (855) 529-2442.
Prior Blog Entries:
Biker Hits Two Cyclists, Causes Violent Collision, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published May 2, 2013.
Supreme Court Justice Breyer Has Shoulder Surgery, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published April 30, 2013.
Photo Credit: Bike Race 14, Image ID 43473, stock.xchng