Saturday, October 13, 2007

Fredericton Critical Mass Event, October 19

My friend Ron and I ended up participating in a Critical Mass event on September 21, the day before World Car Free Day. It was my first time. I had heard about Critical Mass gatherings before, but had been unaware that anybody had ever held any in this city. Having spotted the odd poster or two around town in the days leading up to it, we joined up with a group of 30 or so cyclists (and one skateboarder!) in Officer's Square and by the time we hit the road, our numbers had grown to around 40. Participants ranged in age from infant to 60+, with our youngest actual cyclist perhaps four years old. We accommodated him quite happily, matching his speed as we made our way around the short planned loop between the downtown and university areas.

A cyclist approached us today at one of the local coffee shops after Ron noticed her putting a small flyer on his bike and hailed her. It looks like another event has been organized, this one to be held Friday, October 19. Everyone meets at 5 pm at Officer's Square. Ron asked her if the city or local police had been contacted this time to mark the event officially, or to perhaps provide the group with an escort (as the police customarily do during protests, marches and parades), she told us that the city has refused to do so, citing that they wish to avoid liability in case of accidents. I chuckled at the ridiculousness of the reason given; after all, aren't escorts usually provided to ensure safety?. The organizer did point out, however, that the city promised that the police would not interfere with the event (i.e. specifically that participants would not be given tickets for obstructing traffic) -- how generous of them!

Chatting with the folks who showed up for the last Critical Mass ride, I learned that those participating were there for a multitude of reasons, including (but not limited to) their wanting to highlight the need to lessen our reliance on fossil fuels, to promote physical fitness, and -- my main motivation -- to point out the absolutely pitiful bicycle-unfriendliness of this city. Between the lack of bike lanes and bike racks here, it makes cycling a risky inconvenience for most.

The organizers hope to make this a regular monthly event. Last month's was miserably under-promoted, so I hope the word gets out to more people this time around. So -- Officer's Square on Friday, October 19, at 5 pm. Bring your bikes, trikes, skateboards, roller-skates -- whatever works! Don't forget to wear your helmet!

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