Tampa’s First Critical Mass Ride

On July 25th, a historical event took place here in Tampa — the city’s first Critical Mass ride. Our sister city on the other side of Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, has had a CM ride for at least a year now…but like so many bike-friendly things, the folks on the Tampa side of the Bay lag behind.

Our friends from the Tampa Bicycle Co-op helped get this event up and running. Well over 50 cyclists showed up, from kids to mothers, senior citizens, punks and everyone in between — a nice mix from all cycling disciplines. The ride began at the Lowry Park Zoo and the route took the group from there to Channelside, Ybor City and other city highlights before looping back.

The group begins to gather and tires are pumped…
a little pre-ride maintenance

We had to wait out a bit of rain before getting underway — and that was a good time for the group to mingle and catch up with each other. I ran into some familiar faces and met a bunch of new folks (even some faithful readers!). When the thunder and lightning died down, Co-op cofounder and CM ride “leader” Lily Richeson said a few words, encouraging participants to be friendly and courteous to motorists, to be safe and to have FUN. Then we were off.

Florida Ave.

The chosen route was a good one — multiple travel lanes in both directions. That way, the group could use a full road lane and still leave at least one other lane for cars. This seemed to work out well, and we didn’t have any incidents. In fact, I was surprised at the positive reaction from motorists; we got a lot of “hello” honks, whistling and cheering from passing vehicles. Who knows? Maybe we blew their minds — Tampa motorists are notorious for not really knowing what is going on around them. Perhaps they thought we were some sort of Tour de France parade or something!

(photo by Inertialily)

And now for a little commentary: As you can see from the photos, the group took up an entire lane. Is this in violation of Florida’s “two abreast law? Yes. At intersections with stop lights, did “corking” take place to keep the group together? Yes. Did we stop at every stop sign? No. Is the world going to come crashing to a halt because of this? Absolutely not. Naysayers can say what they want, but it has been my experience that in EVERY group ride, club ride and charity event I’ve ever ridden in for the past 25 years (literally HUNDREDS of rides), the very same actions take place. These “bendings” of traffic laws are not unique to Critical Mass rides, despite the many negative press articles about CM events. In some circumstances, bending the rules keeps the group together, thereby safer. Think of it as one really l-o-n-g vehicle than 60 or more individual vehicles.

Does it make me uncomfortable to bend (or break) traffic laws? Sure it does…nevertheless, I strongly feel that this group didn’t go out of their way to interfere with traffic flow like so many other CM rides I’ve heard about do. There was plenty of hand-waving and shouts of “thanks” in spots where traffic was briefly held up to allow the group to pass through major intersections, and I feel that motorists probably appreciated that if they gave it any thought. Bottom line is — I firmly believe this group is on the right track in terms of road behavior. Certainly, as the subsequent monthly rides attract more and more cyclists, there will come a time when things could get out of hand — it takes only one stupid incident to ruin the “vibe” for everyone. Let’s pray that the organizers (whose hearts are firmly in the right place) continue to encourage participants to get out there and do the right thing — otherwise, motorist hostility, police crackdowns and all those other negative aspects come into play.

rain rollin'
(photo by Inertialily)

I’m already looking forward to next month’s ride!


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  2. The Punisher

    I like the lady smoking before the ride, in the first picture. ;-p

  3. Ghost Rider

    Yeah, there’s a surprising number of smokers in the fixed-gear community…it seems kinda contradictory, doesn’t it?

  4. Ghost Rider

    I should add that smoking is a time-honored tradition among pro cyclists, too:

  5. The Punisher

    Funny pictures. Thanks for the links Ghost Rider!

  6. ragged claws

    The critical mass ride looks excellent and inspires me to try and get involved in one of the local rides. The photos make me wonder if Italian road racing bikes come with carbon ashtrays.

  7. Rapps

    anyone have experience in arranging a CM for their small city?

  8. Priscilla

    Wow. Looks like you guys had a great turn out! Happy to hear all turned out on a positive note. 🙂

  9. meli

    very cool and inspiring! way to go!

    I quit smoking but I used to smoke on the bike before, never affected my slow commuting…

  10. MarkR

    Just as I have no sympathy for the guy on the bike that was assaulted by the cop in NY in their crit mass. And yes I think the cop should be fired. I have no sympathy for others that bring it upon themselves to purposefully and illegally block traffic at rush hour to “make a point.”

  11. Rapps

    MarkR, check out the youtube of the guy getting body slammed by the police officer. Was this rider one who blocked traffic/caused a problem? No way for us to know. From reading sites it seems everyone can/may attend a CM ride. I would very much like to go to a CM ride, but if that’s me riding along and the situation has been stirred up by others, the thought of getting body slammed over it has held me back. Do I have sympathy for riders like you and I who would attend and are respectful to others but get assaulted? Yes I do. I agree with you that it’s wrong to “make a point” the only thing it does is make the public angry at bikers. From watching the video it did not look like that bike rider was out of line. The officer was.

  12. Dustin

    I hope it doesnt become like the rides from sanfran. Im sure the thugs and morons will start coming out in droves for your rides soon enough though. stay safe and if someone looks like their getting angry and going to run you over, concede please. being run sucks but doing on purpose is stupid.

  13. Dustin

    being run over is what i meant

  14. Haroscarfel

    what I would like to see more of is critical manners and ride civil. I participated on the Tampa cm and enjoyed it however I am more interested in observing the law and being taken serious as a respectable user of the road. My wife is currently pregnant with baby 4. When I’m rushing to the hospital. I hope the intersection isn’t being corked.

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