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10/14/2008: "Closer and Closer to the Real Critical Mass...."
There's Critical Mass, and there's the real critical mass. The former is a rolling party disguised as political action; the latter is simply when there are enough cyclists on the road that cycling becomes "normal," as it is in places such as Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Vienna, and most Japanese cities (as well as countless cities and towns in the developing world). We wrote about this recently in our article on Safety in Numbers.

We've got a long way to go before we achieve the lower-case critical mass, when the chain-reaction effect will cause the number of cyclists on the road to burgeon dramatically, but we're slowly getting closer.

This morning I had a number of walking chores to do--dry-cleaning drop off, shipping orders at the Post Office, wasting time in coffeehouses, etc. I was out at rush hour, and again, the increased number of cyclists of all sorts out on the road impressed me--two in particular.

After leaving the Post Office, I stopped in at Massimo's Mudspot for a cuppa, and saw a classic old Raleigh locked up outside. The owner was having his own brew inside, a great tall fellow named Jim; the bike, complete with old-school generator lighting and seatpost clamp-on rack, had belonged to his dad, and Jim was now using it for his basic transportation--riding it as far as Calabasas, some forty hilly miles away!

Then, as I was strolling home, I saw a chic middle-aged Asian lady, wearing cigarette-leg pants and formal makeup, whizzing down the sidewalk on a classic lugged mixte with drop bars, and making better time than she should have been among pedestrians.

These in addition to the usual scatter of mountain bikes, hybrids, and fixies that crisscross the Miracle Mile on a workday morning.

Little by little, neutron by neutron, closer to the real critical mass....

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