Critical Mass is Coming this Friday

Critical Mass Vancouver 2013

Taking over the Granville Street Bridge. Photo Credit: Dooq | Flickr

Drivers beware and cyclists get your gears tuned up because this Friday, Critical Mass is coming. This semi-protest, semi-flashmob type event first began in Sweden in the 1970s, and bike-loving Vancouverites have adopted the event as their own since 1998, taking to the streets of Vancouver to celebrate non-polluting forms of transportation.

History and facts aside, Critical Mass is a fun time that really demonstrates the power that a large group of bicycles can yield.

The ride is open for anybody and starts at 6pm in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on the last Friday of every month (including this Friday, July 26th).

At 6pm on the dot, cyclists, long boarders, bmx-ers, and other people on two or more wheels set off on an adventure. In the summer, Critical Mass is at its peak and there are hundreds of people who participate in the ride.

Critical Mass Vancouver 2013

Even the Mayor joins in!
Photo Credits: ItzaFineDay | Flickr

Typically, the mass moves slowly down Howe Street before going over the Granville Street Bridge. Once all of the participants have gathered in the middle of the bridge, everyone celebrates by lifting their bikes in the air, cheering, and high-fiving. Then, the mass moves on to the next bridge.

The route differs from ride to ride, but in past years it has gone from Granville Bridge to Burrard Bridge, to Lions Gate Bridge. Let me tell you, standing on top of the Lions Gate Bridge with a bunch of other happy cyclists is truly a special moment.

If it’s your first time, just follow the crowd and thank the “corkers” (the guys/girls who block traffic and let the mass through). The Critical Mass ride can last a really long time, but you can leave or enter at any time along the route (just look for the huge mass of people on bikes!).

critical mass vancouver 2013

The police are in attendance to make sure everyone stays safe.

Costumes are encouraged, good attitudes and good behavior are commended, and most importantly – having a great time is a must!

What do you think about Critical Mass? Have you ever participated?

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12 Responses to Critical Mass is Coming this Friday

  1. RC

    I think it’s pretty rude to refuse to share the road (especially on a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon) when there are lovely, convenient, safe, dedicated bike routes now throughout the city. The whole event made much more sense when there wasn’t much recognition of the need for space for cyclists.

    • Obi1

      Despite the decades of raising awareness, too many motorists still feel that cyclist have no right being on the road, drive dangerously close to cyclist, don’t share the road, and in some unfortunate cases, kill cyclists. Sharing the road with cyclist, and more importantly, understanding the rights of the cyclists on roads, should be taught – and tested for – during driver training and licensing. But what can be done for the veteran motorists who have little patience for cyclists? Will a flash mob help raise awareness, or will it just make motorists more intolerant of cyclists?

  2. LS

    I think it could be a fantastic event but it ends up pissing most people (and that includes myself) off due to the fact that the organizers don’t share their intended route. The last Friday of every month is usually the night/afternoon people are trying to get away for a long weekend and to be held up for an hour long procession is bullcrap. And the few people that i’ve encountered have been rotten eggs – anarchists. It should be a fun event that kids can join in on as well — but needs to be better organized and advertised or cancelled altogether.

  3. No_car_loves_bikes

    I am car-free, live downtown, and support every bike lane built or proposed. I *hate* Critical Mass and question the intelligence of anyone who takes part in it, especially if they are trying to improve transportation in our city.

    The biggest victim of Critical Mass is transit users. They might as well label it a protest against transit, since it likely affects 50 transit users for every car occupant it holds up. Most cars can just turn around and find another route, while transit users are stuck waiting for the convoy to pass. Anything that affects transit’s reliability and performance turns away riders and is extremely detrimental to building long-term ridership.

    And they also hold up pedestrians at every crosswalk with their “corkers” building an intimidating wall of bikes. I didn’t know these people had a title, however I’m more likely to call them on their bullying rather than thank them.

    I ask everyone taking part on Friday to look at the pedestrians and transit users you are holding up and ask if the collateral damage against your transportation allies is worth it just to annoy the few car drivers who are too boxed-in to do a U-turn.

  4. sarah

    Share the road with vehicles? Seems cyclists should learn to share the road with vehicles. Cyclists have beautiful bike paths now and more to come. What more do they want? They already clog up lanes during rush hour and sit pretty at a red light right in the middle refusing to allow vehicles to turn right. …..Cyclists need to obey traffic laws. Stopping at stop signs instead of coasting through and sharing the road. They basically need to start paying insurance.

  5. Soctane

    Shouldn’t the mayor be wearing a helmet?

  6. cyclists get away w/everything

    how is this ‘event’ even legal? they are holding up traffic, creating a disturbance and you’re literally prevented from leaving. If you try and get through, they mock you and make snide comments. this whole thing should be banned. if it’s not, those that are against it should put up their own ‘event’. block in the cyclists and prevent them from doing anything and see how they enjoy that.

    • Mike

      Critical Mess I like to call it.

      The folks taking part, and organizing, such an event should be aware that they are violating the law. I will site that they are breaking City bylaw 2849 subsection 67 “Use of a street for sport or entertainment.”

      Also, these folk are also in violation of the following under the motor vehicle act:
      Must ride on right side of road
      Riding two abreast

      Not only that, most don’t wear helmets or stop at traffic control devices. If City council didn’t have such an Agenda… they could make a killing…
      Oh wait, it’s been cited that over 90% of these fines go unpaid!!

      For instances such as being stopped by bikers while on a bridge, I would argue that participants and the City could be held liable for damages:
      1. Assault
      2. False Imprisonment

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  8. JVM

    Having been literally attacked by some of the crazier participants of critical mass a few years ago, and repeatedly stranded on the North Shore after work so that they can have a “special moment” on Lions Gate Bridge, it’s hard to reconcile the author’s assertions of community and joy with the reality of experience.

    If the goal is to give the cycling movement a political boost in this city, then I really need to ask why? The city government is completely pro-cycling. If the purpose is to make drivers more aware of cyclists and to encourage sharing the road, then being aggressive toward drivers (which many in Critical Mass are) is not helpful. Neither is frustrating hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow Vancouverites by holding bridges hostage. That’s not going to win you friends. There are better means, like education and awareness. Use those instead.

  9. Auto Bon

    Well personally, I have had enough of this crap.

    If a critical mass corker gets in my way again, I’m pulling out my steering wheel club.

  10. Disgusted Motorist!

    It is about time that the VPD took action against the thugs who euphemistically call themselves ‘corkers’.
    In reality they are nothing but arrogant self entitled bullies with zero consideration for others and a limited thought process which can’t seem to get past “Me cyclist, me good. Motorist bad!”
    Some time back my son’s grade 12 graduating class was booked on a dinner cruise. Unaware that there was such a thing as Critical Mass we left home in plenty of time to get him and two of his classmates there on time. After being held up for 20 minutes attempting to cross West Broadway, the family in front of us realising that they were in danger of missing the boat very slowly and very carefully tried to weave their way through the mass of cyclists. They were immediately surrounded by ‘corkers’ yelling and screaming who then proceeded to kick in the van doors and at least one tail-light and a headlight.
    Needles to say the evening was an expensive waste of time and completely ruined for the large number of kids that didn’t make the boat, but of course that doesn’t matter, because a good time was had by the only people that really count – the cyclists of course!