Bicycle Diaries: The end draws near...

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The end draws near...

Chicago should save
Critical Mass

From the Chicago Critical Mass website:
It’s been a long and sometimes strange trip, but after ten years of Critical Mass, Chicago’s streets will never be the same.

What began in 1997 as a demonstration by 150 cyclists to affirm their right to the road, Chicago Critical Mass has steadily grown over the years into a raucous mass movement that routinely turns out thousands of riders and has resulted in numerous citywide bicycle-friendly reforms, including:
  • Establishing a network of 100 miles of on-street bike lanes and 50 miles of off-street trails;
  • Installing 10,000 bike racks, more than any city in the United States;
  • Permitting bicycles on Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) trains and equipping their fleet of 2,000 buses with racks that carry bikes.
Although Critical Mass has much to celebrate, a growing number of cyclists feel that the ride may be a victim of its own success. As Critical Mass has grown, so has unruly behavior. What was once an activist ride now more often resembles a fraternity party, complete with excessive drinking, loud music, littering and public nudity.

As a result, many longtime riders have declared that the September 28th ride will be Chicago Critical Mass’s swan song—a Grand Finale ride to celebrate the past ten years and reaffirm the ride’s original activist values.

Rumors have been circulating that the City may move to save the monthly ride by taking it over and administering it through the Mayor’s Office of Special Events, with title sponsors such as Chase Bank and Old Style Beer as possible underwriters of Critical Mass.

With Chicago Police routinely facilitating the ride by clearing intersections and preventing cars from breaking up the group, official City sanctioning could be a natural progression for Critical Mass. Some say that Mayor Daley may join the September 28th ride as the honorary mass marshall and make an announcement about Critical Mass’s new direction.

Regardless of whether Critical Mass continues to roll in Chicago, one thing is certain: the September 28th Grande Finale ride, with three live bands and more than 5,000 riders expected, will be a ride to remember!

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