Saturday, August 30

Critical Mass: Portsmouth

I'm posting a day late so that I could investigate Portsmouth's Critical Mass, which, according to the site, meets in Market Square at 5:30 pm on the last Friday of each month. Friday afternoons/evenings in Market Square are also notable because of the liberal protesters. I'm not exactly sure what they are protesting, but they are a vivacious group and draw supportive honking from the passing cars.

Anyway, I head down there and see a couple other guys on bikes, including the Chrest, a cyclist that is conspicuous in that his steel Lemond is often fully loaded for uber long-distance touring, with a trailer and like four water bottles. I think he lives one town over in Kittery, though. So I figured if anyone would know about the Critical Mass, it would be Chrest, being practically a paragon of cycling advocacy.

No, he had no idea and hadn't heard about it. His presence, along with the other people that happened to be sitting on or near their bikes in the square as if waiting for something, was simply a coincidence. So I guess there was no Critical Mass in Portsmouth as such. But just in the ten minutes that I spent talking to Chrest, I saw probably half a dozen people ride by. Couples. Families. And the couple people that were also randomly hanging out. Myself. I think a couple of the protesters had ridden their bikes to get there. I'm not sure Portsmouth needs a Critical Mass. We're here on our bikes and anyone who is not with the program is quickly finding themselves left behind.

So, there was nothing really officially going on. Definitely not anything like this:

So I split, and went home. It was a critical mass of one. Honestly, that's fine with me. From Bike Snob NYC:

People do need to see other people out there on bikes. They need to become accustomed to them so they learn to respect them, and they need to see how practical and effective they can be so they consider riding them themselves. Many cyclists illustrate this day after day, not only by riding their bikes to and from work during rush-hour but also by using them for recreation and even racing on them. A driver who sees you zip past as you ride your bike to work, and then sees you riding your bike to dinner later with a date, and then sees you going for a road ride that weekend doesn't realize he's seen only one rider—as far as he knows he's seen a bunch of riders, and he sees them using their bikes successfully. Effectively, you’re a Critical Mass of one. Meanwhile, a mob of people on crappy bikes blocking traffic one day a month isn’t a “mass” at all. At best it's a party. At worst it’s effectively just one big stupid person.