People were saying we were 300 people strong, but I didn't do a personal count. On a Friday night when the 405 was shut down- both North and South- all of the major arterials between Westwood and Santa Monica were gridlocked in both directions and our tide of bicycles wove a pattern of liberating whoops and beckoning blinks, reflected of off chrome and mirrors in the sea of automobiles and buses.
My hope is that some of the supreme frustration motorists must have felt at the rare but truly horrible experience of being completely motionless in a metal box for an extended period of time when all you want to do is GET somewhere, juxtaposed with the flow of bicycles, moving freely by their windows, made more than one motorist get "IT," even if they weren't actually getting anywhere.
A bit later into the evening, we filled the giant traffic circle in Venice Beach as we rode around and around. On the outside of the circle, I noticed two cars waiting or watching, but probably not knowing what to do or think about the spectacle. I slowed to a stop in front of the car closest to the bicyclists and pointed down a side street for the car that had the easiest access to it, so they could escape what might have become a long wait. The car got the message and opted for the detour. The other car rolled up and the female driver asked me what it was all about, her face partially hidden by her rolled fist, as though she were supporting her chin.
I began to explain about Critical Mass, its beginnings in '92 in San Francisco (hey- I've read the Critical Mass book, not to mention the many essays by Cris Carlsson et al . . .), a few of the reasons why people do the ride, etc. As I spoke she removed her hand and there in front of me, getting the lowdown on Critical Mass, was Jennifer Aniston, nodding her head to the concept of "reversing roles and marginalizing the cars for a few hours a month." Another cyclist rolled up to hand her our piece of xerocracy du jour. She thanked him and drove away. He looked at me and said "Hey- do you realize that was- what's her name?" And I said, "Yes, I do."
From what I hear, this is not the first famous person to come across Santa Monica Critical Mass.
Next stop: getting a Hollywood star on a ride. After that: getting bikes in movies, in place of product-placement sportscars and SUVs. Even after that: people all over the world deciding that riding a bike like Jennifer Aniston or Denzel Washington is WAY cooler than driving a spewing tank down the street.
Many thanks to all of the velorutionaries that brought last night's ride and afterparty to life. You inspire untold numbers of people to be the change.