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Critical Mass was fun! A recap for those who missed it.

Critical Mass was way more fun this month than in previous months (at least for me). Here's my recap.
So, I think the permit actually made things better because all the cops were on the "official route" at first. They split off a smaller group of people around 6th & Salmon (??) early in the mass, but the larger group of us then rode without any police interference whatsoever for 15-20 minutes probably! Even when we rode down broadway to Pioneer Sqaure, there was a gaggle of cops watching us (and TONS of people... apparently the tree lighting ceremony was tonight), but they were all pioneer square cops completely unequipped to do anything about all of us on bikes.

Then there was the traditional ride up burnside (where we caught up with the rest of the mass that had been split off) to 23rd (yawn) and back ... down to pioneer square! This time there was a lot of bike and motorcycle fuzz. We rode around the square in a circle about twice and then cops blocked up from turning right on sixth to continue the cirle. We went straight (our only choice) to 5th, and then they had 5th blocked, making our only option to go right.

BUT... The street was clearly marked "NO TURNS". So we had no option. At one point a few of us decided to pick up our bikes and walk them straight on the sidewalk. After all, many shoppers were doing the same thing. But when we got to the other side of the sidewalk, the cops confronted us. One individual continued his march forward and got a typical over-the-top Portland Police beating.

After another 5-10 minutes of standstill, trucks of riot cops pulled up and things got really tense. Eventually the mass decided to break the law and go right like the cops wanted us to rather than face the inevitible pepper spray.

They blocked off a route forcing us onto the Hawthorne bridge. They obviously wanted us out of downtown. So the mass surprises them and heads down to the eastbank esplanade. That's where it got confusing. The ramp up to morrison bridge was blocked off. We biked down to the steel bridge and some people went up the ramp to the top and other of us went across the bottom of the bridge.

Those of us that crossed the bottom were a small group unable to decide what to do next and eventually there were more cops and everyone just called it a night.

I'm not sure what the (larger) group of people who went up the ramp did. Hopefully they kept the mass going.

Anyway, what made the mass so fun for me? Well, it was largely just that there seemed to be a much more sympathetic mood from the cars. I got a wave back from probably 75% of the cars I waved to. And the people at the square also seemed to be having a good time. It was partly the lack of police for a significant part of the ride. It was partly the nice weather. And, of course, the police stand-off was fun too (admit it!).

Can we do a Mass during the Starlight Parade? What happens if we try to ride in the parade? That would be fun.
Much Fun, Despite Fizzle... 29.Nov.2002 22:15

Mr. Grinch

I thought this was the funnest ride in months. Great energy and humor from the mass, and the confusion and exitement of being split and rejoining added to the texture. Spectators seemed especially supportive tonight as well.

I found some satisfaction also in knowing that the crowd that was watching the police riot escalate across from Pioneer Place, were busy doing something other than shopping.

I was also amused that a carton containing 5 eggs, just happened to be on the sidewalk near the intersection where the police were preparing to riot. Glad no-one took the bait. Roll on Critical Mass, and thanks to all those who attended. See ya next month!

night pic 29.Nov.2002 23:07

digcam boy

here's a photo from the start of the mass at front and ash streets. only the streaks of the bike lights show up in this long exposure, except at the right of the frame, where you can see two wheels, faintly. must've been something bright on the rims that caught the light.
night pic
night pic

Yes, very fun! 30.Nov.2002 08:19

Tipping Point

This is what happened with the other group that followed the pre-planned, permitted route: Right at the beginning of the ride, everyone circled the little cicle several times on the esplanade just south of the Burnside Bridge. Then everyone headed out of the park. The route called for heading south on Front Street, but the vast majority went north (probably about 200-300 bikers!) while only 12 or so of us went south.

We followed the route, and so there we were, 12 bicyclists, being escorted by about 20 motorcycle cops! It was hilarious, and really fun. They blocked traffic for us, cleared the streets, and we pedalled along totally unobstructed, waving and laughing. The situation was absolutely ridiculous, and I think pedestrians and motorists were even more confused and befuddled than when they witness a regular critical mass. We also were very satisfied to know that we were drawing away all the cop attention from the main ride, at least for awhile.

A few times we made wrong turns, because it was so easy to just ride on through intersections. Each time we noticed the cops looking confused, waiting on the other street for us. So, to continue the experiment we would turn around and go back the way the route directed.

Eventually, as we headed on the route toward the Burnside Bridge, we collided with the main mass, and joined it. The cops sort of got confused all over again, unsure whether they should be corking and escorting, or ticketing and arresting. At some intersections they'd wave us through, and, seeminly randomly, at others, they'd shake their heads and ticket anyone who ran the red.

I previously had mixed feelings about the idea of a permit, and police escorts on a planned route. I still think it goes against the fundamental anarchic, leaderless basis of CM. But, I was glad I went just to witness the absolutely ludicrous, ironic spectacle. Any time cops are made to look stupid, it's all worthwhile!

I hear the Portland police are consulting with the San Francisco police to learn how they handle CM in SF. I hope they listen carefully and learn a lot because from my experiences with SF's CM, the cops there have a lot better attitude and handle things a lot more smartly and peacefully. By comparison, PDX cops are just clueless idiots.

Parenthetically, I'm totally for the idea of xerocratically-led planned routes (just not neccesarily routes protected by the police). The advantage of this is that more creative and varying rides can happen, instead of the same old same old route that the mass always takes. It gets boring always going the same way every month, people!

Critical Mess 30.Nov.2002 10:39

Biking Jesus

Well it was amusing to see how inept the Portland police are at leading a ride. I was in a small group that got split off at 6th and Salmon. About 8 of us ended riding through traffic (thanks cops for endangering our lives) for about 10 minutes before catching up with some more Massers on the little traffic island across from Powells. There were about 15 of us there and easily 20 cops. People walking by assumed we were being detained. Eventually we joined the rest of the Mass on Burnside.

As for the "showdown" near Pioneer Square, again the police showed their stupidity. Instead of letting us through they blocked our way creating an unnecessary scene. Shoppers and holiday families stood by waiting to see the "radicals" on bikes do something. Well we didn't. We stood our ground peacefully until the police threatened us with tear gas. One officer, Davis from Beaverton, shoved me and told me to move on or he was going to spray me. I just smiled at him and wished him a good evening. That really pissed him off.

The one complaint I have is that we should choose a route that does not block MAX and the Bus mall. Mass transit shouldn't be our target. Cars should be.

See you next month.

funny ride 30.Nov.2002 12:03


There must have been some weird vortex, because people either loved or hated this ride. I loved it, up to the point we were FORCED across Hawthorne bridge. Starting out, along the permitted route, I had concerns. I knew, though, that the awesome power of Critical Mass would prevail and the route would be lost quickly. After the mass ignored the third turn in the designated route and continued South on 3rd, the police had no idea what to do. I had reservations about "Jim" having applied for a permit, as I thought the police and City Hall would use the excuse that by ignoring it, we'd invite a draconian response. The police, though, were thrown a curve and missed badly. They were on the defensive from the outset and continued to lose ground. This ride is evidence enough that Critical Mass cannot be broken.

After the lap around PCS, when the police made the roadblock and were met with a beautiful bike lift, hundreds of holiday shoppers saw that the police were completely out of control. I didn't hear any mention from the peds about "those damn trouble making cyclists." The bystanders understood all too well that the police were saying, "stop mocking our authority or risk injury." When the police break out the riot gear to respond to a bunch of cyclists, they lose.

In addition, the ambulance on Burnside put the lie to the accusation that CM blocks emergency vehicles. Since the uphill side of Burnside was blocked with cars (through no fault of ours, by the way) the mass quickly opened a lane for the ambulance to use. Ironically, the ambulance was blocked by a dangerously oblivious SUV driver after passing the mass.

Who has photos of the bike lift?

my perspective @ 6:00pm 30.Nov.2002 16:01

training wheels for everyone

i saw the bicycles gathering under the burnside bridge and walked down there. it was about 6:00pm. on the way a squad car joins another squad car sitting on the corner of Naito Pkwy and Couch Street (there were 2 cops in the front car).

Food Not Bombs was helping to feed people under the bridge at this time and there was a line forming. at this time there were at least 6 uniformed bike cops "monitoring" the situation. after i got something to eat, i started walking around. in the sky i noticed 2 helicopters hovering over the N-S/W part of downtown, aligned east-west @ 6:15pm. this is when the eastmost one drifts north for a second while the other remains stationary. (there is also news chopper traffic at this time; the choppers were lifting off from the garage-storage building located on first between Davis and Everett Streets). at about 6:22, after the returning chopper joins it's old buddy to sit a bit longer, the two copters start drifting slowly toward the city center.

a single-engine aircraft that had flown on the scene moments before the two choppers started to drift downtown is now circling and drifting around the city center itself.

well, that's about it. as a sidenote, i hopped an eastbound MAX train at a Yamhill stop; there was a man standing in the rear of the car who apparently was the choral leader for a group of people singing christmas songs back there. i began feeling queasy and decided to disembark at the very next stop. don't they know we're at WAR from here on out (or until further notice)?!

(oh, and it was cold outside)