Wheeling and Dealing

Critical Mass is a mess to handle.

"From a police standpoint, it's doing much better," Dilley says. "I feel better in that we've had much less violations."

Dan Grunig, executive director of the advocacy group Bicycle Colorado, supports the general spirit of the ride -- to bring awareness to cycling as a transportation alternative -- but questions its methods. "It's not really clear what the real motivation is," he says. "They say that they want bikes to have a place, but we already do have a place."

The quasi-confrontational nature of Critical Mass also runs counter to his group's message to bike enthusiasts, which is basically: Obey the law. "If you don't like the laws, then get involved and let's change them," he adds. "As you look on the hierarchy of steps, a protest is the last resort after you've already been told no. And I haven't seen Critical Mass down at the State Capitol or at Denver City Council, asking for changes to bicycle laws they don't like."

June's Critical Mass ride got messy.
Dave Engle
June's Critical Mass ride got messy.

He points out that Bicycle Colorado and other bicycle lobbying groups have made gains at the state legislature in the past few years, including the Colorado Safe Routes to School Bill, which earmarked $9 million over five years for improving biking and walking routes around schools, and the Bicycle Safety Bill, which changed laws so that cyclists can now ride two abreast, among other things.

But many Critical Mass participants see their ride as an immediate form of free expression rather than a long-term lobbying effort. Woodard plans to keep taking part as long as he has legs and a borrowed bike to ride on.

As for Janssen, she says, "I think from now on I'm going to have to get off my duff and start going to Critical Mass every month." -- Maher

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