Critical Mass redux: Bicyclists take to streets of Philly

A grass-roots social movement with no defined leader is returning to the streets of Philadelphia. And it’s not Occupy Philadelphia.

A bicycle ride called Critical Mass will begin Friday evening outside City Hall at 5:30.

About 10 or 15 years ago, major cities around the world began to see bicyclists informally coming together once a month to ride through the streets. If enough bicyclists showed up, motorists would have no choice but to yield to the pack–hence the name Critical Mass.

It was a way for bicyclists to force cars to share the road, and it often involved scofflaws causing trouble. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia does not endorse the ride.

Philadelphia has not seen a Critical Mass ride for several years. A group of enthusiasts on Facebook, who advocate it as a fun event rather than a contentious one, have spearheaded the revival.

“The idea that we are traffic is a good one, and I’d like to support that,” said Lowell Spogen, who hopes the ride will become a regular monthly event. “But in the end, I think it’s about getting a bunch of people together and enjoying a community event and being respectful to each other and everyone around us.”

Spogen proposed a route that goes through several Philadelphia neighborhoods, allowing riders to see lesser-known parts of the city and avoid major traffic arteries.

But the route will be somewhat spontaneous, determined by riders at their rendezvous outside City Hall.

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