What is Critical Mass?

Critical Mass is a worldwide movement to promote the use of bicycles as a viable means of transportation. It has arisen in response to what many call the “car-culture:” an overdependence on the private automobile. It is, more than anything else, a reclamation of space, a demonstration to show that the city belongs to people and not machines.

How did it get started?

It started in August 1992 in San Francisco when a group of bicycle commuters decided to ride home together.

Why is it called “Critical Mass?”

The name “Critical Mass”comes from Ted White’s bike-umentary Return of the Scorcher. This video shows intersection crossing etiquette in China’s big cities. Cross bike-traffic waits until it has enough riders, i.e., a critical mass, to push it’s way through the intersection.

When did Critical Mass start in Grand Rapids?

The first Critical Mass ride took place in mid-June of 2000, with approximately 15 riders participating. Since that time rides have occurred consistently on the last Friday of the month from April to October and have involved as many as 55 riders.

Who runs Critical Mass?

There is no organized structure running Critical Mass, nor are there individual leaders. Routes and other decisions are made democratically.

Why are the rides the last Friday of every month?

Critical Mass is a worldwide movement. In order to enhance the feeling of solidarity with other riders around the world, the last Friday has become customary.

Are the rides “athletic?” Do I need to be in shape?

No. People of all ages and abilities ride. The average speed is about 5mph. However, you should be in shape anyway, and if you ride your bike enough, you will be.

The contents of this page are based on a document prepared by Chicago Critical Mass.