Chicago Critical Mass celebrates its 25th (or is it 50th?) anniversary this Friday – Streetsblog Chicago

Last Thursday, there was an inspirational bike protest drawing hundreds to the Loop, like Chicago, Bike Grid Now’s Jamapalooza Convergence demonstrated for a citywide network of bike-priority streets. town. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check out stunning drone footage of attendees holding a die-in on DuSable Lake Shore Drive. The purpose of the motorway closure was to draw attention to recent road deaths, including the murder of cyclist Gerardo Marciales on February 28 as he cycled across the eight-lane road with a signal Steps.

Jamapalooza at Buckingham Fountain before the DLSD takeover.  Photo: John Greenfield
Jamapalooza at Buckingham Fountain before the DLSD takeover. Photo: John Greenfield

There are another one great inspirational bike ride coming up this Friday, September 30, one that almost certainly influenced CBGN’s idea for its weekly Bike Jam rides. Chicago Critical Mass, the officially leaderless ride that meets the last Friday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., will hold its 30th anniversary that evening. Or maybe it’s the 50th anniversary – it depends who you ask.

True, monthly Critical Mass rides in Chicago, part of a worldwide movement of anti-car events, were launched in September 1997. But local affordable housing advocate Michael Burton (an old friend of mine), which, along with web designer Jim Redd, hatched the idea of ​​monthly rides from the square, it’s a bit of a prankster. During the 20th anniversary race in 2017, Burton insisted it was the 30th year the event had existed. He offers a route for this Friday’s hike and, predictably, he claims it’s the 50th anniversary of the protest-parade-party.

The 20th (30th?) Anniversary Carousel meets at Daley Plaza in 2017. Photo: John Greenfield

One thing that is not debatable is that Chicago Critical Mass has been a big influence in making our city a better place to ride bikes. It has helped launch countless careers in bike advocacy and planning, including my own. More importantly, it helps participants imagine what our city might be like if our attention shifted from streets for cars to streets for people. As Active Transportation Alliance spokesman Ted Villaire noted in a blog post ahead of the 2017 ride, “Once attendees have tasted the two-wheeled camaraderie that comes with the event and to the feeling of riding through the streets of the city without being afraid of car traffic, people naturally [want] to get involved in improving the bike.

The route of Chicago Critical Mass rides is never predetermined, and if more than one person shows up at the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza with a proposed route, the crowd will often vote on where to ride. There are currently discussions of potential routes on a CCM-related Facebook group.

Draft proposed itinerary for Friday's ride by Michael Burton.
Draft proposed itinerary for Friday’s ride by Michael Burton.

Burton suggests a route that stops at 12th Street Beach, “with an additional 50-mile overnight trip to the Indiana Dunes on offer for intrepid riders.” If you plan to go on an adventure, bring your own tent and sleeping bag. Also keep in mind that due to a dual track project and shuttle service replacing part of the rail service, the South Shore Line Commuter Railroad does not currently accept bicycles at any of the stations. from the dune area. However, biking from the Dunes to Gary subway station to catch the return train is an option.

Burton is dedicating its proposed route to CCM pilot, monorail enthusiast and former mayoral candidate Bill Wendt, who died in December 2020 at the age of 73.

Bill Wendt.
Bill Wendt.

“Over the past 50 years [again, it’s really only 25], Critical Mass has made Chicago a more bike-friendly city, with accomplishments like 200 miles of protected, buffered, and shared street bike lanes; and more than 13,000 bike racks,” Burton said in a statement. “Despite these many gains, there is still a lot of work to be done. But, we all ride for different reasons, and maybe no reason at all. I drive CCM to set up a car-free city, where the current autocracy turns into a long-forgotten bad dream that will be replaced by the joyous chime of bicycle bells.

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