Critical Mass a success in Portland!
Last Friday's Critical Mass in Portland was the most successful the event has been in months. Around 200 cyclists participated, no tickets were given out, and only bicycle police accompanied the ride for it's first half. There's a new mayor in town, and he rides a recumbent.
January 2005 Critical Mass: Potter! Sustainable! No tickets! Fun!
Critical Mass - a size, number, or amount large enough to produce a particular result or sustained reaction
I arrived at North Park Blocks at about 5:30. Some of the mainstream media had arrived, and more followed soon, having picked up the story of the mayor's intentions from indymedia (where the real news gets reported). Various corporate broadcast media reporters were looking for 'typical' Critical Mass riders to interview; I declined.
Mayor Tom Potter arrived a little before 6PM. With so many people crowding N. Park Blocks, the throng around the mayor was only a little denser, and it was hard to tell where he was. I heard that Sam Adams came too, but I'm not sure about this. Several of the more conservative and/or accountable elements of the Portland bike community were also in attendance.
Shortly after 6, the ride started, with about 200 cyclists. In a change of pace for Portland Mass, someone produced and distributed a route map. The route went around downtown, then up to NW 21st and 23rd, before crossing to the east side and heading north (on MLK/Grand) for the post-Mass movie night.
The influence of the new mayor on the police force was very evident. No citations were given out, and no arrests were made, an incredible reversal to how the cops treated Mass under Katz.
At the ride meeting point, the cops were handing out a single-sided 8.5x11 sheet saying how they were accompanying the ride to ensure the safety of cyclists and motorists alike. (if anyone still has a copy of this, please post the text from it)
On the west side of the Willamette, the ride only had bike cops: more approachable, less noisy, less smelly than their motorized coworkers, and not in freakin' cars or vrooming bloody motorcycle engines. (and less expensive for the taxpayer) Alas there was no corking, but there's hope for it in future. Certainly having the ride broken up by lights makes it much slower and requires more police to keep cops with each mass-let . The cops asked us (that's right _asked_ us) to keep at least one lane of travel clear most of the time. This did cut down on the fun some, but cyclists who wandered into the lane were simply asked to keep it clear, not ticketed for using something they have a legal right to use. Potter stayed with the ride for about 1/2 an hour; pretty good considering that Katz never gave us the time of day. (Tom Potter you have very small shoes to fill) The ride had to work hard to stay together. The front had to go slow in a few places, and more than once the ride pulled over to regroup. In celebration, we did a bike lift (everybody lifts their bike in the air and cheers) at a gas station at about 18th & W Burnside.
On the east side, the motorized cops came out, burning fossil fuels, and being more intimidating. Cops on motorbikes (10+?) and cruisers (4+?) rode along with the ride, as we went north on MLK. At the the entrance to I-84, two cruisers, lights flashing, were there to stop the ride from descending onto the freeway. Reportedly there were more motorized cops waiting off the ride route, in case things got out of hand. But still no tickets were handed out. The police even corked in a few occasions as the ride got further north. At about MLK & NE Knott, an official-looking black sedan was parked as the ride went by; supposedly Tom Potter was in the back, watching how the ride progressed.
Without the constant threat of harassment, the ride was a lot more fun than it's been in a long time. Throughout the ride, whoops, yells, cheers, and choruses of bike bells rang out. And some Critical Mass culture came out: a few tall bikes, some flags, a few costumes, and at least one sound system...all adding to the bike festivity.
But, I still felt like the cops were "giving us permission" to ride Mass and/or "protecting us". I don't need them to give me permission, and I don't want their protection. Nonetheless, the shorter leash that the new mayor keeps them on made this ride hundreds of times more pleasant than it was under Katz. (No Vera, we don't miss you.)
The ride ended at Liberty Hall in North Portland for a movie night, featuring the Critical Mass documentary "We're not blocking traffic, We are the traffic!", about the birth and development of Critical Mass in San Francisco in the mid-90's. This was followed by a film from Berkeley by Jason Meggs about Christmas trees, cars, bikes, and mating rituals (amongst other things).
So Portland, you're Critical Mass is back. Please come out and ride; it's a lot of fun. Next ride is Feb 25, and there will be a post-Mass event(TBD). You no longer need to fear police harassment, ticketing or arrests, just for riding your bike. Be creative: costumes, signs, crazy bikes, dogs, and please, let's get more sound systems out there :P
The challenge remains to make these improvements permanent. This will take effort from Critical Mass riders, like yourself, lobbying and working with the city government. Remember, it's your Critical Mass.
For more information on this, or to get involved, try the Portland Critical Mass mailing list on riseup.net:
or the Portland Critical Mass website:
If anyone has pics, please post 'em! or even short video clips
PDX Critical Mass - Last Friday every month 5:30PM, N. Park Blocks (NW Park & Couch)
Ride, represent, celebrate.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article