Last Friday, my feet were among some 2,500 pairs pumping the pedals in the Katrina anniversary edition of Critical Mass observed in about 30 cities. The monthly Critical Mass bike ride has been complicating rush hour urban traffic while dumbfounding, enraging, and even delighting trapped drivers around the country for 14 years.
Last week's special course was designed to trace the floodline around San Francisco, to show where global warming might lead saltwater to swallow parts of the city within decades. Gulp; that's quite a bit of turf (map it yourself). But cyclists weren't donning much to mark Gulf Coast culture, aside from a few Mardi Gras beads, rainless raincoats, and handwritten "Save New Orleans" pages stuck to their spokes. One bearded guy wore only salmon-colored, generic Speedos (to swim?), but I missed the feather-bedecked dude who handed out organic carrots from his basket last month. There was way more Patagonia gear than nudity and glitter. (Stay up for Midnight Ridazz if you're jonesing for fishnets or boogaloo bunny suits.)
We started late, since I had to run home first and buy a helmet to replace the one that disappeared this month, and then we followed the floodline backwards hunting for the cyclists. Just when we gave up, arriving an hour past the launch near the waterfront, ta da! Suddenly, the flood of hyperempowered humans-on-wheels surfaced down Market Street. Wheee! Gradeschool fun. A highlight, after the initial climax when everyone circled around a guy climbing a light pole, was blocking the Stockton tunnel to ride through it once, then back the other side.
But it was overkill when some riders hijacked the tunnel a third time. Irrational exuberance can rule the flow in these situations, and at that point the police escorts revved their motorcycle engines uncomfortably close to my rear tire. Yeah, we get it, the car culture stinks and bikes rule, etc. We cut out and got some fish tacos. Once again, here's some Mona Caron art (left); you can still buy this Mucha-inspired poster that commemorated the decade birthday of Critical Mass in 2002.