Critical Mass!

Why don’t you jump on your bicycle to work, school or the grocery store when the weather is perfectly fine? Why is it only “sporty parents” that bike to work? And why do motorists get annoyed when you actually take your bike for a roll one day? How do one get the general population to notice bicycling as an actual and effectiv mean of transport in the city? How can bicyclists reclaim more space in the city traffic? Where do we start? And perhaps most importantly, who can make the changes?

Critical Mass - Bike Lift (Hungary)

Critical Mass - Bike Lift (Hungary)

My Italian friend, Nicola, told me about these bicycle-events going on in different cities in Italy every month, and after a short research it seems like this is a world wide movement/phenomenon… Critical Mass is an event where bicyclists “take over” the streets in the city, by making a more or less unorganized ride around the city, and for that short moment take a part of the road away from the cars. Or as the wiki-page states: “…these events should be viewed as “celebrations” and spontaneous gatherings, and not as protests or organized demonstrations. This stance allows Critical Mass to argue a legal position that its events can occur without advance notification of local police.

And last month, probably the worlds largest Critical Mass ride was held in Hungary, where about 20 000 bicyclists reclaimed the streets of Budapest. This huge event only occurs two times a year, but other cities around the world arrange smaller monthly events to promote bicycling, and there is a great amount of blogs talking about it.  There is an obvious reason why Copenhagen is not on the Critical Mass-list, since it seems to be a critical mass of bicyclists all over the city every single day. But why isn’t Oslo mentioned??

So what’s actually going on in Oslo?

Biking in Oslo. - Somethings happening, but apparently just a handful knows about it...

Biking in Oslo. - Something's happening, but apparently just a handful knows about it...

I read that Syklistenes Landsforening tries to organize some bicycle rides/events in Oslo each month, but little have I found about this on the Internet, and who noticed the bicyclists in the streets? I would like to see more documentation, if there is any…? (There have also been held campaigns to promote “bicycling to work” etc., but what about making these kinds of campaigns attractive to more than one type of people?) As of yet, I’m not completely updated on this, so I would like to hear from you if you see or know of any bicycle related events in the region.

I like the image of Norwegians as an eco-friendly people, and I definitely want to see more people (including myself) biking in the streets… (And don’t you even mention the worn out argument of “too many hills”, because it’s not! …it’s too many cars!) It’s clearly that the horrible organized infrastructure is a main problem, but the decision makers just don’t get it, do they…

I’m ready to roll, are you?

When will it happen in Oslo?

When will it happen in Oslo? ex: Prinsensgate. (Logo from Critical Mass Italy, sligthly adjusted.)

14 Responses to Critical Mass!

  1. Here in Arcata (almost as bike-friendly as nearby Portland) Critical Mass demonstrations have acquired a decidedly sinister dimension. Roads were blocked, sometimes for hours at a time, leaving motorists no way to get through. A pregnancy was nearly terminated and a people were prevented from getting to work or markets by screaming mobs of cyclists. At this point, they aren’t welcome here; we’ll have to create our cycling future without them.

    • tuvs says:

      Ah, that’s definitely the least desirable outcome of it. But I have also heard of other places where these critical masses aren’t too popular. Considering the environment I imagine most bicyclists would want the traffic to go smoothly to avoid congestions. It seems to work in other ‘critical mass-cities’ where the groups of bicycles obey the traffic rules as any other road user. (But I haven’t witnessed this myself, yet.) It’s important to make bicycling appealing to all parts of the population, especially motorists, so why anger them…

      What other, more successful, means have been used to improve the bicycling in Arcata?

      • Arcata was the first community in the USA to elect a Green city council. They have focused on cycling for years and we have well-marked bicycle lanes throughout the town as well as many bike parking facilities. The campus of Humboldt State University here is very bike friendly; hundreds–maybe thousands– of students ride every day. The big issue here would be finding some way to connect to our sister city, Eureka, which is five miles south of us along beautiful Arcata Bay. The only way to ride that route now is on a freeway. However, an old railroad track runs along the bay, unused for more than ten years. We are debating whether to try to bring back the railroad, an expensive and proposition. or simply commit to a “green” future and abandon it to a bike trail. You can imagine such a debate, pitting workers against environmentalists, gets heated. A decisive election is coming up next week.

  2. You can see a map of our area showing the Arcata to Eureka route on my blog: http://bikesocial.blogspot.com/

    One “green” solution for a bike trail to connect the cities would be to convert the existing–and unused–railroad tracks to a bike path. Then, if the train ever came back, it could be a train track again. If not, it would remain a bike path. This is the lowest cost solution, however, train advocates oppose it. They believe the tracks belong to the train and any attempt to change that will just delay the train needlessly.

    Of course, we could build a separate bike path along the train tracks, but that would be a lot more costly.

    • tuvs says:

      Thank you for contributing :) It’s crucial to get other cities’ experiences and knowledge.

      Is the weather averages in Arcata almost like those of Denmark, or do you, as Oslo, get heavy snow falls during the winter?

      Nice blog, by the way. I will keep following it…

      • Arcata rarely sees any snow. It’s typical of the California coast: moderate all year round, lots of fog close to the ocean in the summer. It’s mostly flat; ideal for cycling. If only we had the bicycling infrastructure that you have in Scandinavia!

        When you head east, away from the ocean, the roads climb steadily as do the temperatures. It can get really hot in the summer just a few miles from the foggy coast. Further inland are the Trinity Alps, a whole different world. About 100 miles to the east we have the exquisite Mount Shasta, which last erupted 300 years ago.

        Fingers crossed…

        • tuvs says:

          Just to point out one important thing; Scandinavia does not have great bicycling infrastructure, Denmark does.

          In Oslo, Norway, we have a long way to go to get even close to the utopia of Copenhagen. You’re probably way ahead of us, planning wise, over on the west coast as well. It should be noted that there’s quite a difference in both terrain and climate in Norway compared to Denmark, but that’s not a good enough reason for the absence of bicycling infrastructure. I hope and believe we’ll see some crucial changes here soon..

          • Here on the west coast the biking varies from town to town. Arcata is good but Eureka, which is only six miles away, is positively chaotic on a bike. That city decided to bring a major Freeway through the downtown area “to stimulate business.” Also, there’s no good way to bike from one town to the other. I’m afraid the automobile rules here.

  3. I stand corrected on Norwegian cycling; I’ve never actually been to your country. I’ve biked a bit in Sweden and Finland and thought conditions were pretty good. And Denmark, as you point out, provides a model for the rest of the world.

  4. Francis says:

    Hi,
    I was looking for critical mass schedule in Oslo and stumbled on this blog. Sad to find there is no CM in this lovely bicycle friendly city :(
    I am from Bangalore, India where we started the CM movement a year ago.
    aww.. I badly want to be back in Bangalore for the anniversary ride.

    Cheers,
    Francis

    • tuvs says:

      I know, it’s sad! What are you up to in Oslo?
      Right now I’m in Copenhagen, and it’s like a critical mass every morning and evening here ;)
      I really would like to see a critical mass happening in Oslo in the spring… Stay tuned, and tell me if you hear of anything, or have any thoughts.

      Until then you can join “Syklistenes Landsforbund”. First Saturday each month they have a bike ride downtown Oslo. I haven’t been to it, and apparently not too many others have either…

      Tuva

    • tuvs says:

      …Now we’re actually trying to get a CM started in Oslo as well! I have really no idea how this will turn out the first time in june, but hopefully people will join. Here’s the fb-group for CM in Oslo, if you’re interested.
      Critical Mass – Oslo http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Critical-Mass-Oslo/109665625733829?ref=ts

      :-)

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