Saturday, April 28, 2007


I always wondered what it was like to ride in a critical mass. Critical mass was created 15 years ago in San Francisco when a bunch of cyclist decided to reclaim the streets on their own by just getting on the streets once a month and taking as much space as possible. Now there are critical masses all over the world, including Montreal. I was contacted this winter to check out there site and this Friday I decided to join in.

Now these rides are notorious for being very unorganised affairs in some places. The one in New York City is, from what I hear, a monthly clash between cyclist and the very well manned NYPD. The Montreal ride as also it's extremist elements, but being Montreal it's in a civilized manner. The morning before the ride I was watching the weather on a regular basis and I was hoping for the rain to vanish so I would be able to take part. Mother nature decided otherwise!

I was about to call it at around 3 O'clock and it made me realise that I was getting soft. I used to ride to work 12 months a year in way worst weather and here I was being held back by a little rain. Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead. Out came the high-vis raincoat and I headed downtown with the 45 lbs cruiser. The ride down to Phillips Square was a blast and when I got there I was surprised to find at least 50 people who had gathered in spite of the rain. I even met a reader of this blog who put together a trailer from one of my articles. Riley used the trailer to carry the music for the ride, sweet!

With no Police escort, we took to the street and rode for at least 30 minutes without any trouble. The rain was on and off but that didn't affect our spirits. Pedestrians on the sidewalks cheered us on and motorists were cursing the very fact that we were alive! Then somewhere on Park Avenue, we crossed a Police car that was waiting in the oncoming lane and by the look on the officers face, I knew we had just ruined what must have been a very quiet shift.

We had three Police cars join us after that in no time. We were intercepted at the corner of St-Laurent and Mont-Royal were they tried to escort us. One car was preparing to open the ride up front, but the mass decided to turn on the street before on Drolet to start a game of cat and mouse. The cruisers caught on pretty fast and the mass was boxed in within 2 minutes. The officers from station 38 were pretty ticked off. You could see it in their face, body language and deployed straight batons! They really didn't won't to mess around. But station 37 came behind us and the sargeant on duty from that station managed to calm things down on both sides. Great work on his part prevented things to go ugly. The ride was over, this was confirmed once we were advised that it was an illegal demonstration. The Police took down the names of 4 people without advising them of why I was told. The group broke up and we ended up at the Mont-Royal metro station for chat and snacks. I rode back home at around 8H30 pm and that ride was a blast.

What made this ride enjoyable for me was not the mere fact of riding in the streets in a spate of what might be interpreted as civil disobedience. The people I met there, the ride-in in traffic, the ride-out in the darkness were even more fun. Meeting a reader of this blog that actually put together one of my crazy ideas was also a great kick I must admit. Almost as exciting as a brush with the law.

So if your bike riding or your life is getting too boring, get to Union and Ste-Catherine at 5H30pm every last Friday of the month and go for it. For the readers of this blog that are out there in the world, just google critical mass to see if there is one in your town. If not, start one.

Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We had at least 100 people riding in Minneapolis last Friday. A dedicated group + great weather lead to most people sticking around for nearly two hours as we crossed around town. No objections for law enforcement and plenty of cheers from pedestrians.