Friday, October 1, 2010

Connecting in Person: Critical Mass

Dalton and friend on tandem bike during Oct. 2010 Critical Mass ride in Provo, Utah
In a recent blog post Dalton Haslam talked about participating in Critical Mass, a monthly cycling event in which cyclists in various cities take to the road --en masse-- both to enjoy the ride but also to call attention to cycling as an important alternative to vehicle transportation. He got me curious, so I borrowed my neighbors very-sweet-ride and, with about 50 others (including Dalton and class member Morgan Wills) took to the streets of Provo tonight. Now, in some cities these Critical Mass events have caused some consternation, with some of their members using this as a sort of activism. Would we block traffic? Get arrested?

The prospect of filling up lanes of traffic and getting in trouble with the police put a bit of an edge on this event, but my first experience with Critical Mass in Provo tonight turned out to be a nice social occasion with some fun exercise on a beautiful Autumn evening. Dalton had pointed me to the Critical Mass group on Facebook, and I was glad I got (and took) the invitation to ride with group.

I always find it fascinating when I've met up with others in person by way of something that started on the Internet. And I asked around. Many of the others were also there because they'd gotten word online, and also because they did see riding as a cause and not just as an excuse to pedal or chat.  I think the Internet changes both the ways and the reasons that people get together. Maybe online-mediated, face-to-face events end up being more focused -- and yet also being more random at the same time.

Part of the philosophy behind Critical Mass is that there is no leader. Whoever happens to be toward the front of the pack ends up leading us wherever he or she wants. I asked whom I thought was the leader, a girl named Becca, but she just laughed and said she thought it was somebody else. Can a herd not have a head? Interesting. Come join us on the streets for the next Critical Mass event on the first Friday in November!