We are traffic!
The first time I saw a Critical Mass event was two years ago in the streets where I was living, Ghent. I thought it was a kind of parade of some sorts. I asked a woman what was this ride for, she answered me that it was a ride to reclaim the streets for cyclists. When I came back home I researched a little bit. I saw that it was a monthly event held the first Friday of every month. An event held in approximately 300 cities around the world.
Then I saw the documentary ‘We are traffic!‘. As a result, my curiosity was triggered.
The thing that first appealed to me it was the simplicity and the lack of hierarchy in its organization because there is no organizing committee or organization behind the events. Anyone that shows up at the ride is in charge. And the simple statement that the streets belong to us.
Critical Mass events are described as protests or direct actions. However, the participants called them celebrations and spontaneous gatherings, though. They happen without advance notification to the authorities as a citizen right. The first one was in San Francisco in 1992. Activists and cyclists wanted to increase visibility and reclaim the streets.
Although the lack of organization, there were people that have contributed with ideas. Some tactics are “corking” consisting on few riders blocking traffic from the side roads. Maintaining the cohesion of the ride and handing out flyers to motorized vehicles.
Some activities are “Bike lift” and “Die in“. In the later, riders lie on the ground symbolizing the cyclist deaths and injuries caused by automobilists. Riding your bike is not forbidden and that’s the main point of the “We are Traffic” motto. If you take the proper precautions it should not be dangerous either. Using lights, show your maneuvers with your hand, good maintenance of your bike, etc… It is dangerous when you are not respected in traffic. Here is where your activism and the Critical Mass events are important.
Critical Mass is a direct action that looks for reclaiming the streets to the people. The goal is drawing attention and create a debate because bicycles can be a viable transport alternative. Sharing the streets with any kind of transportation with mutual acceptance and respect. Showing a different lifestyle making cities more human and ecological.