Government vs bicyclists

Initially we viewed the relationship between government and the bicyclist participants of Critical Mass as a negotiation between breaking laws to draw attention to a situation and having the right to peacefully protest. However, with further research, cases of law enforcement showing unnecessary hostility and withholding rights from Critical Mass bikers surfaced.

Motorists vs bicyclists

To be effective, Critical Mass must balance peacefully highlighting the safety issue for bikers and further irritating motorists. We searched for more information concerning motorist reactions, emphasizing the extreme attitudes.

These two negotiations are the most critical because the interaction between the government and bicyclist and motorists and bicyclists can easily be witnessed; visible evidence of these negotiations flare up in daily life for many individuals in media and direct experience.

Videos about Critical Mass:

This video celebrates the 10th anniversary of Critical Mass in San Francisco with clips from rides and commentary from participants. The footage indicates the hostility between motorists and bikers.

This short documentary emphasizes the negotiation between government and bikers. The film was made in March 2007 after a new law prohibiting the assembly of more than 50 people in New York City. The police clash with the first Critical Mass participants since this law was put into effect.

This video powerfully portrays the concept of Critical Mass with simple graphics. The clip argues for the environmental importance of bicycling as a means of transportation and thus a needed respect from motorists and other sources of traffic, reinforcing the “safety-promoting design” taxonomy.

Ride Locations:

Clearly, Critical Mass has taken root across the globe as a means of “urban outreach”. Since the conflict between motorists and bicyclists is most prevalent in cities, the purpose of the design fits well into this taxonomic category. The spontaneous yet influential nature of the event is contagious; as demonstrated by the world map, hundreds of cities appreciate the effectiveness of the design and embrace this means of protesting hostility towards bikers.

Critical Mass Ride Documentation:

Critical Mass 2008 - Budapest

Reactive Movements to Critical Mass:

Scientifically, a critical mass is defined as “an amount or level needed for a specific result or new action to occur.” Rather appropriately, Critical Mass rides have inspired  multiple biking movements, including Critical Manners, Bike Summer, Kidical Mass, Critical Sass, Tweed Run, Free Tibet Rides, and the San Jose Bike Party. Other passionate bikers recognize the power of Critical Mass to draw attention to a certain situation, whether that involves the environment, the rights of bikers, inspiring children and families to be active, female unity, or the human rights of Tibetans. The inspirational nature of Critical Mass reflects the design as a “massive collaboration” and “community cooperation”; unity plays a significant role in Critical Mass’s essence.

Critical Mass Incidents:

These reports reflect the tension in our two key negotiations.

Riga, Latvia- Policemen arrest Critical Mass participants without vocalizing any accusations and ran over bicyclists with their vehicles.

Honolulu, Hawaii- Police tackle a woman peacefully riding her bike in Critical Mass, which results in her hospitalization

Minneapolis, Minnesota- 19 Critical Mass riders arrested.

Berlin, Germany- Police confiscate a Critical Mass participant’s bicycle during a ride with 60 others.

Chicago, Illinois- A drunk driver runs into the mass of bikers and flees the scene.

Berkeley, California- A motorists intentionally drives into the Critical Mass, damaging bicycles.

Sacramento, California- Police oversee the event and issue citations, occupying more of the road than the Critical Mass participants.

Evidence of Impact:

-In New York City, a Department of Transportation Commissioner was hired in 2007 with a vision for creating a bike-friendly city.

-Grassroots efforts to change mindsets and treatment of bikers in Istanbul gains momentum.

-RAND corporation analyzed Critical Mass as an effective yet spontaneous design in “What Next for Networks and Netwars?”














10, نوفمبر 2010

WonderRoot Website

What: Wonder Root is a grass roots organization that focuses on the gap between community and art in Atlanta. Since 2004, more than 1,000 artists and youth have joined, making Wonder Roo

t’s monthly participation around 400 people. The program offers a public studio, community service, programs for children, adult arts education classes, and public art to its members.

Why: The organization feels that is necessary to support art in the Atlanta area and to educate the people of the community. Their mission statement describes it as a “non-profit organization committed to uniting artists and community to inspire positive social change.”

Who: For only $60 a month for unlimited access to their space, Wonder Root supports anyone with an interest in art. Specifically, they seek artists to unite, adults to learn, and children to experience.

Notes and Rationale: The most important aspect of Wonder Root is the organization’s inclusive nature. They invite everyone to join their community because they believe all individuals can contribute to the beneficial impact on society they intend to make. The group does not focus on one type of creative expression but works with various mediums, including photography, sculpture, pottery and music development.


(1) Artist to Artists- the relationship between different ideas and perspectives leads to new ideas and community

(2) Artists to Outside Community- design is not only for designers, art is not only for artists, the community can become involved

(3) Community to Artists- relating this in the opposite fashion reveals more collaboration where the community brings their insights

Taxonomic Categories: Community-Based Design, Commune, Sharing, Commitment to Others, Societal Improvement, Urban Connection Design, Art Collaboration

Critical Mass

10, نوفمبر 2010

What: Critical Mass is a bicycling event usually held on the last Friday of the month in over 300 different cities in the world.  The bike ride lasts as long as an individual participant wants. While the group keeps moving, people are welcome to break away when feeling fatigued.  The goal of this event is for bikers to ride as one critical mass, a unified body unimpeded by any red lights and stop signs they encounter.   

Why: This event was founded in 1992 in San Francisco to draw attention to the hostility the city drivers showed towards bicyclists. Critical Mass is not meant to be a protest or demonstration event, but it is seen as a celebration and gathering of city bikers seeking road rights and visibility.  

Who: All bikers are encouraged to join.  In Atlanta, 445 bikers participated in October 2010. The participation in cities range from 20 to an impressive 10,000 participants in Budapest.  

Notes and Rationale: The design and fluidity of Atlanta’s Critical Mass exudes simplicity.  Without much prior planning, besides a location and time to meet, the event flows smoothly with participants looking out for one another and maintaining the cohesion of the group.  Although surrounding cars honk impatiently, participants have learned to use the corking technique in which some bikers sit in front of the cars with green lights to let the remaining mass of bikers pass through the intersection. In an urban, fast-paced event there is always the risk of injury and accidents, so some participants have taken it upon themselves to wear rollerblades.  The rollerblades give individuals ease and flexibility to move among bikes and provide assistance if needed.   The event’s design is rooted in the collaboration of its participants in regards to everything from the route of the bike ride to facilitating safety. An uncomplicated design like Critical Mass that coordinates such a large group of people emphasizes how the most effective structure can be one that is straightforward and simple.


(1)The bikers among themselves– communication and collaboration

(2) The bikers and government– the right to run lights and stop signs, the right to use passive-aggressive ways to draw attention

(3) Bikers and motorists– positive attention and negative feedback

(4) Bikers and pedestrians– new conflict created due to biker vs. driver conflict

(5) Critical Mass event structure and RAND Corporation– The RAND Corporation produced a report “What Next for Networks and Netwars?” which analyzes the structure of the ride, evaluating the decentralized decision-making for military battlefield use.  

(6) Bikers and non-participating bikers- creation of “Critical Manners” and “Courteous Mass” (bike events that stop at lights and stop signs)

Taxonomic Categories: Urban Outreach Design, Community Cooperation Design, Community-based design, Mass Collaboration Design, Government Attention-drawing Design, Safety-promoting Design