New and Venerable Institutions: Critical Mass

Thousands of cyclists and their supporters gather at Justin Herman Plaza before the 10th annual Critical Mass on Sept. 17, 2002.
Critical Mass was born in San Francisco on September 25, 1992. Since then, close of business on the last Friday of every month is an opportunity for bicyclists to show their numbers and promote bike lanes on public streets as well as the need for alternatives to fuel burning cars and oil dependency. Frustrated motorists often clash with members of the Critical Mass movement - now a worldwide happening - sometimes leading to violence and arrests. Confrontation can be an effective political tool, particularly in San Francisco, where several bike lanes have been designated in the years since the first Critical Mass. For most participants, however, Critical Mass is a peaceful convergence of upbeat people whose principal message is "Share the road."

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