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Critical Mass builds up for cyclist's rights ride

Posted: Friday, September 28, 2007

The organizers of tonight's Critical Mass bicycle gathering hope at least 20 to 30 cyclists show up for the 30-minute ride.

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It's thought to be the first such ride since the Juneau Freewheelers Bicycle Club organized a 30-cycle demonstration on Sept. 9, 2003, to protest a Juneau Assembly decision to remove bike lanes on the Douglas Bridge.

Critical Mass

What: Critical Mass bike ride.

When: 6 p.m. today.

Where: Meet in front of Juneau-Douglas High School.

Finish: 6:30 p.m., ends with snacks and beverages at the Silverbow Inn.

Today's ride starts at 6 p.m. in front of Juneau-Douglas High School, and the impetus is far less political. The goal is to promote community awareness of bicyclists and advocate for cyclists' rights. The public is encouraged to attend and ride along.

"There are a lot of folks out there on bikes who ride with varying frequency and intensity, and who are not connected to the cycling community in any way," said event co-organizer Nick Schlosstein, a junior at the University of Alaska Southeast. "CM is by nature a slow-speed event, given to socialization and networking, and we are looking forward to making connections with folks of all different sorts of ridership and providing them with a forum."

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The event has been organized by a few members of the University of Alaska Southeast's Bike Club, but it's not officially sanctioned by that organization.

"This is an idea that a lot of people have been talking about for a while," Schlosstein said. "We wanted to do a big community ride, and have a place for the UAS Bike Club to go and possibly any other bike people in town. It's kind of a sendoff to the summer season as well."

Critical Mass rides are held in cities around the world, often on the last Fridays of the month. They're usually loosely organized, with no real leaders or structures, other than a starting point.

The first such gathering was organized in September 1992 in San Francisco. In that city, many of the riders tend to be more radical, attempting to block traffic and symbolically take over the streets.

In other places, Bellingham, Wash., for example, Critical Mass is more casual. There, riders have pedaled down the streets in imaginatively constructed bikes while tossing free burritos to pedestrians.

Schlosstein attended a Critical Mass this summer in Anchorage. About 40 cyclists turned out.

"This is more of a community ride," he said, of today's event. "We will be in traffic, but it's not as big a statement as it is in other places. It'll be more of a positive thing, rather than us against them."

Karen Michael founded the UAS Bike Club last summer. The students had been finding discarded, wrecked bikes and pieces of cycles throughout the Mendenhall Valley. They formed to start some sort of centralized workshop to reassemble the bikes and give them back to people in the community.

A few of the club members will be riding re-assembled bicycles today.

• Korry Keeker can bereached at 523-2268 or korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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