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Fourteen years since its inception and still riding strong, Critical Mass, a group that sees itself as more of an idea than an organization, promotes the use of environmentally friendly modes of transportation like bicycles.
Similarly, AU’s own Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels not only participates in the local Critical Mass ride each month, but also advocates the use of “alternative transportation among students” and the promotion of “responsible consumption and alternative transportation through creative means.”
“Dinosaurs is a wonderful outlet for AU bikers,” said Josh Kramer, vice president of Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels and a sophomore in the School of Communication.
“They can ride together, fix their bikes together and learn to get around the city. I doubt I’d be biking here if not for DAFF.”
Rachael Johnson, a junior in the School of International Service and a member of Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels, spoke about her desire to “raise awareness” of new and healthier modes of transportation. Involved in Critical Mass since she was 16, Rachel mentioned the unique opportunity to see D.C. neighborhoods she would have never known about without the rides.
According to one Critical Mass Web site, http://www.critical-mass.info, it all began 14 years ago in San Francisco. The very first ride took place in September of 1992 with only 48 participants. Soon the ride grew to over 500 cyclists and today Critical Mass is an international event with participants in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
The initial rides in 1992 were called Commute Clot. Critical Mass earned its current name from Ted White’s 1992 documentary about bicycling titled “Return of the Scorcher.”
According to the Web site, “the documentary describes a typical scene in China, where cyclists often cannot cross intersections because there is automobile cross-traffic and no traffic lights. Slowly, more and more cyclists amass waiting to cross the road, and when there is a sufficient number of them, a critical mass ... they are able to all move together.”
D.C. cyclists usually meet the first Friday of every month at a designated locale and ride through the city. Unlike most “protests,” Critical Mass has no hierarchical structure. Group rides are not led or organized by a single person but by word of mouth.
“It’s a fun, safe, community bike ride,” Kramer said. “And it’s a form of activism that actually involves doing something.”
Protecting the environment is not the only cause participants are passionate about. Many attend the monthly rides to help create awareness of the restrictive laws cities often place on bicyclists. A slogan widely associated with Critical Mass is “We aren’t blocking traffic, we are traffic,” which highlights Critical Mass’ support for cyclists’ rights.
Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels, now entering its second year as a campus organization, promotes bicycling and alternative transportation. They also serve as a resource for people interested in biking, leading a trip this past Saturday to a bicycle sale in Silver Spring, Md.
Students who are interested in getting involved can get further information from http://www.critical-mass.org or attend the next meeting of AU’s Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels.
Tips for getting involved
in Critical Mass…
Getting involved in a group like Critical Mass or Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels doesn’t mean that you already know your way around a fixed gear bike or have radical ideologies. All you need is a passion for biking and bettering the environment. Both of these considered, here are some helpful hints for diving into the local biking community.
-Stay with the group. Critical Mass follows different routes every month, so it’s easy to get lost if you try to ride at a different pace. The group usually takes it slow so everyone can keep up.
-Don’t get cocky. Let experienced riders lead the group and block intersections. They know how to respond to D.C. drivers.
-Bring a helmet. Don’t be dumb; you could crack your head open.
-Bring plenty of water. Rides can last two to three hours, but you may lose track of time and not realize how quickly you become dehydrated.
-Critical Mass usually meets the first Friday of every month at 6 p.m. in Dupont Circle.
-Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels will meet on Sept. 22 at 6:45 p.m. in front of Kay Spiritual Center to join Critical Mass’ Bike4Peace at 7:30 p.m. in Dupont Circle.