Critical Mass – Documentation & Analysis

24 نوفمبر


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?”



3 تعليقات to Critical Mass – Documentation & Analysis



ديسمبر 13th, 2010 at 4:57 م

When you guys presented this to the class I had difficulty understanding the concept behind the whole Critical Mass event, but now I think its a pretty clever case study. Looking at the overall process of design, cases like this are the first process in design; identifying a problem. This case is unique because it identifies more than one issue with biking, and the solution bikers came up with isn’t a solution at all, it adds to the problem to get the government involved. I thought this case study was very interesting after a closer read.

Grant Wilson


Savoir Faire

ديسمبر 14th, 2010 at 10:30 ص

When we watched the video about critical mass in class, I thought the movement was funny and rebellious. Now that I have read about some of the incidents that have happened during the mass rides, the event worries me a lot more. I think one of the negotiations would also be danger vs. safety. This form of government protest is far more dangerous than a picket sign protest. From the videos, it is clear that people don’t seem to care about this negotiation.
Shelby Apps



ديسمبر 15th, 2010 at 6:00 م

I find the concept of using some form of peaceful protest to highlight a deficiency in the environment, be it lack of bike lanes as in this case or a potentially hazardous leak that has escaped a city’s notice for over two decades as in the case of the Astoria Scum River Bridge, to be incredibly fascinating. Here, design isn’t about building a tangible solution to a problem. Instead, it’s about building up momentum that can, in turn, create that tangible solution that those acting as the momentum’s driving force aren’t necessarily in a position to acheive. I find this to be an extremely innovative and creative approach to a problem, drawing so much attention to it that it can no longer be ignored.

– Jessie Hassett

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