Petaluma Critical Mass, bicycle activists who pedal through the city’s core in an attempt to take back the streets, will ride again Friday night.
Cyclists will congregate at 5 p.m. on Friday in the parking lot of Luchessi Park, which adjoins the Petaluma Community Center, 320 North McDowell Blvd. They will equip themselves with helmets, flashlights, reflectors and other safety materials before beginning a massive bike riding demonstration. Critical Mass typically attracts as many as 50 people per meeting.
Critical Mass first began in San Francisco in 1992, identifying itself with the name “Commute Clot”. Since then, it has spread across the globe, inspiring people to become involved in activism and bringing together individuals with like minds and interests. The Petaluma group, which formed in September of 2003, rides the first Friday of every month.
“Besides the obvious reason of promoting alternatives to cars, CM is important because it reclaims space and creates community in the streets; public spaces usually occupied by people isolated from one another,” said Nathan Smith, primary organizer of the Petaluma event.
Critical Mass has faced a variety of obstacles in recent months, including what Smith describes as police interference and intolerance.
“Officers have pulled us over under the pretense of not having lights and helmets, sometimes giving tickets to people who had them,” said Smith.
Still, participants of Critical Mass say they will not back down. Educated members have begun hosting “Know Your Rights” sessions before the rides to inform people of their civil rights.
“With our actions we say that we will not bow down to the conformity that so permeates our culture, but show that a new world is possible; one of beauty, community and sustainability,” said Smith.
Disclaimer: This story was written in February 2006 as a "preview" to tell of an upcoming event, which is why it might come across as a one-sided piece.