Saturday, August 29, 2009

Critical Mass. Columbus, Ohio. August 2009

That title above should read something like; Being critical of the lack of a mass in Columbus, Ohio. It was surreal. Freaky. Inexplicable. Strange. Disappointing. I arrived at the State House lawn 30 minutes early hoping to meet some peoples, but found nobody. Eventually, around 5;30 I recognized someone I met the day before, a friend of friends of mine, Issac. I had no idea he was in the middle of a massive years long cycling trip. He was from Canada and hanging around for a month. I was from Hartford/Key West and hanging around for a week. And there we were, the only people who showed up for Critical Mass and both of us were out-of-towners! Huh? Yep, and it gets worse and strange. Really strange!

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So, first, here's a pic of everyone ready to ride. Me on the left and Issac on the right. Thank you to the random lady reading on the bench for taking out picture and making sure no one had their eyes closed. I really was looking forward to the ride. It had rained all day, but cleared up pretty nice and I wanted to explore and mingle. But nothing. Nada. Zilch.

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So, this guy in the blue t-shirt comes up to us wanting us to sign some stuff about clean and affordable energy. We couldn't help as neither of us were registered Ohio voters. I asked him about the critmass ride, hoping he'd know something. He kinda laughed and said he hadn't owned or ridden a bicycle since college, almost sounding like cycling was beneath him or something. He then wandered off still chuckling to himself as Issac and I wondered about his commitment to clean and affordable energy and feeling super confused. Whhhaaaaat!?!?

We headed over to the Tip Top bar, which I was told had $1 PBR's for cyclists and was a pretty hoppin' hangout. We arrived to a great mix of people, several bicycles locked up and lots of people who looked like urban cyclists. We ordered a round and tried to talk to a table of people who obviously biked. I asked about Critical Mass. They said not many people usually go and it kinda sucked. I excitedly suggested they make their own flyers and make it a great ride. The response? "Someone used to make flyers." And that was that.  They also mentioned the monday night rides but were not fans of it citing irresponsible riding. They weren't particularly friendly. Perhaps if I returned in cut-off jean shorts and Issac got a fixie, things would have gone better.

Issac and I sat down at a nearby table and crowd watched. One dude was actually wearing a critmass t-shirt! Yep, during the time the ride shoulda been happening, someone was drinking at a bar, wearing the shirt? WTF Columbus? Really?

UPDATE Stopped in a few bike shops today and it turns out the Monday night has upwards of 200 people with good weather (like today!) and critmas is pretty much dead. Well, weekly sounds better than monthly! Looking forward to the ride tonight. Might also head back down to the river around sunset for some explorations.

TUE MORNING UPDATE!
BTW the Columbus Monday Night Ride was pretty sweet. There were 40ish people and went everywhere. wow. so very, very happy to have had 35's, gears and brakes! Met some nice, sharing peeps and even took turns going around an unlighted BMX track! sketchy...but fun. One dude crashed on a street and totally taco'd his front wheel. The thing was toasted. Really burnt toast at that. He removed the wheel and smashed it on the ground until it was reasonably tru again, put it back on the bike and off we were after a great rest stop in the middle of industrial southern Columbus. Well done!  

There were a few red light runnings, multilane blockages and beer can litteringt that I felt was a bit obnoxious and irresponsible, but overall the ride was great. Thanks Columbus!

Click Read More for a story about a redeeming 20miler along the Olentangy River Greenway!



Saturday, after an afternoon breakfast, we embarked on a ride along the
Olentangy River Greenway. T'was great being out of traffic and in a somewhat natural setting. Urban wilderness we'll call it. I'd happily swim in the Connecticut River before jumping into this one! But it was pretty and a good amount of people were out on it. It parallels High Street, several blocks away, for miles and its a great alternative to the busy street.

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We passed this great bike rack parking lot outside of a large building on Ohio State University. The trail skirts the campus for a bit. There's also some options for riding right next to the river or on higher ground. Its all paved, but there were lots of side trails for mountain bikes too.

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I don't remember the name of this pedestrian bridge, but I really liked the curves of the wood.

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Mikey and Jason catching up with emails and texts!

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What a glorious day to fly down a little hill...

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Jason is really diggin' the flying.

We eventually met up with Chrizzle, who just bought a sweet city cruiser and rode High Street the whole way back with a few pitstops along our merry way. Thanks again to Chrizzle and Jason for buying those chocolate chip cookies! 

I am still trying to figure out the scene here. There's a good bit of infrastructure here, lots of people on bikes and even quite a few bike shops; though some seem to focus on hipster clothing more than bike stuff! Drivers seem pretty cool except for two rednecks in a pick-up truck yelling at us to "get the hell off the road!" Other than that, cars have been super respectful. There's bike racks all over and lots of people pedaling around. OK, i am off to tear apart my van looking for the handlebar tape i bought at EMS in West Hartford. The Gunnar has got to get rewrapped!


8 comments:

interstatement said...

We had a total of seven riders for this month's Hartford CM. It was a bit drizzly at times, but the rain really held off until the end.

More importantly, we spoke about having a Critical Discover Ride, I.E. a roll-yer-own ride to make up for the lack of a Discover Hartford ride this year. Who's with us? C'mon!

kerri said...

I like the idea of a Critical Discover Ride so that cyclists of varying abilities and comfort levels can prowl around the side streets and back alleys of Hartford, even if it's not made official by snazzy t-shirts and bandannas.

chillwill said...

Wooo-haaa! Pretty much every Critmass ride last summer was a mini city tour and everyone loved it. Prolly shouldn't be too hard to make some flyers, round up some peeps and make an afternoon of it.

Maybe speak to a few restaurant owners about some tapas/apps specials and throw in a culinary component and stop at a few spots for noshes. Afterparty beer special?

BTW the Columbus Monday Night Ride was pretty sweet. There were 40ish people and went everywhere. wow. so very, very happy to have had 35's, gears and brakes! Met some nice, sharing peeps and even took turns going around an unlighted BMX track! sketchy...but fun.

One dude crashed on a street and totally taco'd his front wheel. The thing was toasted. Really burnt toast at that. He removed the wheel and smashed it on the ground until it was reasonably tru again, put it back on the bike and off we were after a great rest stop in the middle of industrial southern Columbus. Well done!

There were a few red light runnings, multilane blockages and beer can litteringt that I felt was a bit obnoxious and irresponsible, but overall the ride was great. Thanks Columbus!

Jamie Fellrath said...

Sorry that Critical Mass Columbus was such a disappointment for you, but I can't say I'm surprised. Midwesterners don't have the "upset the status quo" mindset that folks on the coasts do. There was some work on a "Critical Manners" ride here - Critical Mass without the actual taking over of traffic, corking, etc. I personally think the jury is still out on how effective that is, but I suppose that part of the issue is probably what people expect to get out of it. Critical Mass as a phenomenon means different things to different people, as I'm sure I don't have to say here.

Glad you caught up with the MNR and Tip Top. That's a fun bunch.

Elenamary said...

Critical Mass Columbus Ohio should be pretty big for the Halloween ride...wish you could come for that Issac your Canadian has already RSVP'd.

Elenamary said...

Critical Mass Columbus Ohio should be pretty big for the Halloween ride...wish you could come for that Issac your Canadian has already RSVP'd.

chillwill said...

hope the halloween ride was great! i was in northern california at an Ozomatli show! but I'll be back in the C-bus next weekend for a few days and will be pedaling! any suggestions?

Alex said...

I am a student at Ohio State and didn't realize there even was a critical mass ride here. I have heard of the Monday Night rides and plan on attending once it gets warmer. Sorry your impression was so poor. There are some decent bike shops, a co-op and some great bike paths. There are also lots of bike racks and bikes in the area, especially on campus. The bad part is, so many of these people don't ride. The amount of active riders is fairly low. As far as drivers attitudes towards cyclists, I have had a few small problems. Some very impatient drivers, and several people have cut me off. One particular jerk passed me with less than a foot and a half to spare between us. The whole lane beside me was open, he was just being a jackass. Oh well, Columbus will one day rise in popularity with cyclists. The pieces are in place, now people just have to start riding! Proud to do my part.