At 4:45 Friday evening, the famed beauty of the Oval on CSU’s campus was peaceful, quiet and undisturbed. A lone girl waited in its center with a black bandana and a bike, not sure exactly sure what to expect.
Passer-bys went on without wonder, and two more bikers came rolling down the hill to wait. Conversation floated around uncertainty, until suddenly from the north came Garret Carr, yielding a 10-foot white flag with splattered red paint that read, “CRITICAL MASS.”
Tim Browne and Josh McArthur weren’t far behind and, just like the history of the mass, a small gathering quickly started to grow.
Within an hour, there were close to 80 bikes clamoring around the center of the oval, and then they took to the streets.
Critical Mass is a kind of tradition that some say started in San Francisco.
A mass of bikes and environmentally conscious bikers gather on the last Friday of every month to ride the streets and remind us all that bikes are out there on the road, too.
Put more simply, people just want to celebrate the bike and have a good time.
Nobody at Friday’s gathering could take credit for the initiation of the mass in Fort Collins.
“Last year it was like six or seven people,” said Browne, a junior at CSU studying anthropology. “No one’s in charge of it. No one is responsible for creating it.”
The group was expecting no more than 30, so organizers were quite content with the impressive turnout.
“This is a big one,” said Lindee Zimmer, a senior art education major who helped put up posters around campus.
“The whole motive is getting people aware of biking,” she said. “Just because you petroleum mongers have a car and a metal cage around you when you’re on the road doesn’t make you more important than us. We own the road.”
“We’re takin’ back the streets,” said Sage Faucette, a senior high school student and co-organizer.
Passer-bys then started to become participants, as cheers and cries started resonating through the oval, with Zimmer and Browne leading the chants.
“I just saw that guy ridin’ by my house with the Critical Mass sign, so I thought I’d check it out,” said Andrew Koprowski, a CSU senior in the computer science department. “Does the bike group go to the breweries?”
Then without further adieu, Brice Sawin and Ryan Chambler grabbed the flag and took to their tandem bike and followed Browne out of the oval and onto Laurel street, with a crowd of almost 100 bikes behind them.
The chants of the group continued down the street, “Bikes! Bikes! Bikes! Bikes!” they called, and then, “Everybody get in the turn lane!” – onto College Ave.
“Who’s streets?” Browne cheered. “Our Streets!” the group yelled.
“Who’s streets?!” – “Our Streets!”
The mass continued to grow as police showed up to try to herd the group into the right lane.
Police followed north to Riverside, as onlookers watched with confusion and cheering support, from Riverside to Lemay and then to Drake, where the diminishing group started to split up as they hit the bike trail.
“The cops followed us the whole way, even onto the bike trail, which I can only assume is illegal if not just plain unsafe,” Browne said.
The group made their way down Prospect and finally back to the oval, with close to 25 still going strong.
“The cops just made sure we stayed in the right lane, they didn’t give us too much trouble,” said Angela Lobach, another co-organizer for Friday’s “mass.”
“We just all wish they had come out on bikes, being followed by a cop car and a cop SUV is a little invasive,” Browne said.
Lobach said she hopes the next meeting will be even bigger, in spite of the police.
“We just need to work with them really, but of course, there is going to be opposition,” Lobach said. “Last week was embarrassing, I’m so glad to see so many new faces this time. Next one will be on Halloween, so everybody better come out!”
Staff writer Trevor Simonton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.