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News :: Organizing
Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
30 Oct 2005
Boston, MA – A woman with a dragon-face mask and flashing red lights in her seat pedaled down Boylston Street Friday surrounded by witches, Vikings, a man hauling a jack-o-lantern, and various other costumed bicyclists to the enjoyment of onlookers and cyclists. Yesterday’s event brought together approximately 150 local cyclists for the monthly Critical Mass bike ride, an international bicycling movement intended to celebrate urban bike riding.
Click on image for a larger version

WitchOn Bike.jpg
(Picture from 2001 Critical Mass Halloween Ride)

In the cold weather, hovering in the low 40s by late afternoon, cyclists gathered in Boston’s Copley Square in anticipation of the Halloween ride when bicyclists take to the streets adorned in their most creative, and bike-friendly, costumes.

One individual, wearing a bathrobe, was forced to perform last-minute alterations on his costume because the robe failed to agree with the bike as well as presumably he hoped. Nonetheless, the stalwart bike and Halloween enthusiast kept up with the “mass,” the term Critical Mass riders use to refer to their roving two-wheeled celebration, until well after 8 o’clock when he broke away with the intention of improving his costume in time for Monday’s trick or treating. (In reality, the author is only sure that the robe-wearing rider left well after 8 o’clock.)

Though not all of the approximately 150 riders were dressed in Halloween attire it seemed that all the riders were as happy as many children will be during Monday night’s sugar-fest. As the mass rode down Brookline Avenue in Cambridge, several cyclists in the rear joined together for some caroling.

Pedestrians and customers of restaurants and bars located along the Critical Mass route seemed energized by the sudden unexpected appearance of 150 bicycles. Dozens of people stopped to admire the cyclists as the mass slowly made its way down Newbury Street.

While some people merely seemed pleasantly puzzled by the mass, many others pulled out cameras for snapshots or applauded and shouted words of encouragement. Many people asked for more information about the ride.

Several individuals who asked where the mass was going were answered by the ambiguous and entirely accurate response: “That way!”

Critical Mass is not a formal organization and does not have leaders. On the contrary, it is a non-hierarchical celebration of bicycling. It is, to this author, as much a manifestation of political resistance as it is a rolling celebration of bikes, peace, love, camaraderie, and the good earth. Each monthly ride is designed on the spot by whoever happens to be at the front of the mass.

Started in San Francisco in the early 1990s, Boston’s Critical Mass attracts leftist activists, dedicated cyclists, and the occasional family with young children. Friday’s event appeared to attract a largely white crowd of young people.

Frustrated motorists caught in traffic jams at times interrupted yesterday’s celebration. Streets in Boston and Cambridge, where the mass rode, are not equipped to handle large numbers of bicyclists. In addition, cyclists commonly block traffic at intersections to ensure the safety of riders, motorists, and pedestrians. Interaction with police was limited during this month’s ride.

One Cambridge police officer informed riders that they should not block traffic. The officer exited his vehicle, but did not try to impede the mass. He quickly put on his coat and reentered his vehicle.

The riders took advantage of yesterday’s clear, if cold, weather to leisurely ride through Boston and Cambridge. Setting out from Copley Square at approximately 6 p.m., the mass circled Boston’s Public Garden and headed down Newbury Street. A Hummer limousine, filled by very excited young women who did not seem to notice the irony of having their vehicle blocked by bicycles, occupied an entire lane of Newbury Street for several dozen feet requiring cyclists to maneuver around the enormous gas-guzzling monstrosity. The mass left the Back Bay traveling on Comm. Ave. through Kenmore Square and into Cambridge via the BU Bridge.

After circling the rotary long enough to allow the entire mass to gather, riders headed into Central Square and Harvard Square. Returning on Mass. Ave. into Kendall Square, the mass crossed the Charles River into Boston and eventually traveled through Chinatown, the Back Bay, and Kenmore Square.

The Boston Critical Mass rides start at 5:30 p.m. at Copley Square in Boston on the last Friday of every month. For more information, visit “The Unofficial Boston Critical Mass Home Page” at
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Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
30 Oct 2005
does anyone know where when the halloween ride is (green st??)
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
30 Oct 2005
green street. monday. 7:30
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
01 Nov 2005
why don't we ride some other areas? Columbia Rd and down through Blue Hill Ave is a great wide area to ride and have some fun!
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
01 Nov 2005
Get up front and lead the way next month.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
03 Nov 2005
The Title of this article and the picture accompanying it is demeaning to Wiccans. IMC should be ashamed of itself for the insensitivity that it is displaying forward an oppressed religious minority. IMC should immediately post an apology and retraction
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
03 Nov 2005
melissa, how so? i happen to have a wiccan friend and the word "witch" is not at all offensive to her. on the contrary, she herself uses it to note that "witches" have always been persecuted. it's not the word that offends is the use of it.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
03 Nov 2005
It's not the word witch when standing alone. It's the combination of the word coupled with the picture. It's the stereotype of the of the hag in the pointy hat as a witch that is offensive..
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
03 Nov 2005
Melissa, I would hardly refer to this as a picture of a "hag." She has a beautiful face and smile. What should we call her, "goddess on a broom," or "sorcoress with floating cleaning supplies"? The history of Wicca, as an insitution, is that its creator, Gerald Gardner, a British civil servant, hoped to capitalize on the idea of witches from popular culture. He coined the term Wiccan religion, in the 1940s, as an amalgamation of different tradtions. Ironically, there is very little genuine historical information about many of the belief systems he combined, which is what gave him the room to mix them all together with his own ideas in the first place. Granted, other people have riffed off Gardner's ideas, and many of them probably never even heard of him but I think its a little odd to want to borrow the cultural representation of a witch, calling yourself a Wiccan, and then be offended that someone else uses it as well, for their own purposes. This smiling, happy, bicycle activist doesn't strike me as an intolerant persecutor of New Age religions, but she is dressed up like a witch.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
03 Nov 2005
So then what you are saying is that it is ok to defame a religion that may have been brought into the mainstream by a Briton. Good history lesson from Boston Legal mate!
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
04 Nov 2005
No, I'm saying she isn't defaming anything, nor is the IMC. If it makes you happy to believe what you belive, that's great. Its just that no witches have been burned at the stake since long before the word Wiccan was made up, so saying that somehow the notion of witches as riding on brooms with big black hats is somehow dangerous or violating the sanctity of the Wiccan tradition is a little far fetched. In fact, Wiccans have chosen to self-describe as wtches precisly because the term has so many connotations and lots of cultural meaning. In other words, the use of "witch" to denote a woman wearing a big black hat is just as historically legitimate, if not more so, than the way Wiccans want to use it. In fact, it is the reason, historically, that Wiccans want to use the term. You are reading this image with a sense of presentism, and claiming that your view has some basis in history. Its just not true. If you are offended, its likely that you don't know much about the history of your tradition.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
04 Nov 2005
If I want to worship the goddess of oompapamama, that is my right and you have no right to criticize or say anything negative about it. This is what diversity is all about. Full respect for someone else's opinions.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
04 Nov 2005
You're right.
And you just because you find it offensive, doesn't mean its intended to be. After reflecting on the issue, I realized that I'm sure someone who is more well informed than I could proabably make a strong historical argument against me. But we can't let our conversations devolve into the battle of ideologues. Just because a small minority considers an outfit or a word offensive doesn;t mean that they shouldn't be worn or said. If that were the case where would free spreech stand? Every interest group can't expect the whole world to ignore history, or just change overnight.
There has to be discussion, so that we can learn from one another.
The woman in the witch outfit, or the person who wrote this article, might be interested to learn your opinion but don;t expect them to change just because you cryied "foul." It takes work to change the world.
And you have to prove that there actions are damaging, you can;t just say, "I'm offended," and make everybody jump. At least not in the world outside of the talking TV heads.
04 Nov 2005
It's a conspiracy. There are thirteen posts before mine. It must be a wiccan conspiracy.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
04 Nov 2005
Americans love to have fun.They rape and kill the rest of the world and think nothing of it.They have so much and the rest of the world starves.So let's ride our bikes and not worry about the poor Iraqis.
07 Nov 2005
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
07 Nov 2005
You people need to make up your minds. Do you like the way Iraq was, or don't you? Sheesh.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
09 Nov 2005
This picture is offensive to broomsticks.
12 Nov 2005
Broomsticks are nobel instruments of labor and should not be degraded. The picture shows a broomstick in a position that implies that it will soon be between a young woman's legs. This is degrading to broomsticks.
Re: Critical Mass Attracts Dragons, Witches, and Lots of Bikes
14 Nov 2005
Why, what's wrong with being between a woman's legs?
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