Critical Mass comes to my town

I kissed my wife good-bye and headed down to the basement to get my bike out and then headed downtown to join in my monthly dose of mobile anarchy: the Critical Mass ride. And as soon as I got there I regretted not bringing my camera, since this was the Halloween version of the ride. There was a woman sporting a 3-foot tall beet-shaped placard on her back that read: Bikes beet cars. Then there was the guy in his white skivvies. Never quite figured that out. A young woman sporting horizontally-striped tights and a black pointed witch’s cap atop her biking helmet. But certainly first prize should go to the woman dressed as Jon Benet Ramsey: party dress, cowboy boots, cowboy hat and pink boa draped around her neck. Remember, these folks are also riding their bikes.

Favorite overheard line: young man to young woman. “You know what I love about Critical Mass? I love it when you yell and everyone yells with you.” He’s referring to a refrain and response chant that happens at various times throughout the ride. Someone will yell: “Whose streets?” All the other bikers (or many of them) then respond with “Our streets!”

Q: “Whose streets?”
A: “Our streets!”

Q: “Whose streets?”
A: “Our streets!!”

On the one hand it all seems rather naive, since I doubt the streets of American cities will ever belong to the bicyclists, but hell, who knows? What’s fun about these monthly rides, besides the general anarchy, is the energy of this group of mostly young folks who believe in bikes.

I suppose it does bring a bike awareness to many drivers, but we also manage to piss off a lot of drivers since this mass of bicyclists never stops, meaning we go through green lights and red, and when the light is against us, a few bikers peel off and position their bikes in front of the cars waiting to proceed. I’ve seen cars inch ahead, their bumpers nudging up against the bicyclist’s leg. Really crazy. But drivers want to drive. Does this help the biker cause? Probably not, but often times we’re all rolling along and drivers of cars going in the opposite direction will honk their horns in support. So.

This month, for the first time the ride went to Brookline, my town. There is no prescribed course for this ride. Each month it goes in a different direction, guided by whomever is at the front of the pack at the time. Then there we were, veering on to Harvard Street in Brookline Village. Just as I neared Matt Murphy’s pub, I noticed a friend getting out of his car, so I veered over and stopped to talk with him for a while. He was off to dinner with his sister and I wasn’t much longer for the ride, since I was close to home and wasn’t going to go back into Boston with the whole group. It was dark. Time to go home to a warm kitchen.

Then on the right, a small kid in a pirate costume stood beside the road waving a plastic cutlass at all of us. “Aaaaarrrrrgghh!” I yelled out at him.

Then we were in Coolidge Corner, passing by the Coolidge Corner Theater and the Upper Crust Pizzeria where I often pick up a pizza and all the cooks were staring out the plate glass window, wondering at this huge flock of bicyclists rolling along Harvard Street.

I dropped all the way to the back and then peeled off and headed home, my evening’s work done. When I got home my wife asked me how it went and I told her Critical Mass had come to Brookline for the first time ever and I spoke with our friend Matt, but I was hoping that someone else I knew would have seen me riding by but that didn’t happen.

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