I was a bit uncertain about going on today’s ride, what with the local daily paper predicting widespread chaos and inciting drivers to rebel against the ‘illegal’ riders. But a sunny Friday lured me down to the Vancouver Art Gallery to sketch the scene and join the mass.
This was my second such ride, and again I was struck by the sheer ordinariness of most of the crowd. Sure, there were some people with angel wings, a tandem bike with a built-in keyboard and one guy riding a full-gym size stationary bike that he had rigged up to roll. But it was hardly a nude freak protest fest. And that’s the essence of my brand critique. More on that presently.

critical-mass-media-sketchThe media were out in full force, smelling their own self-generated blood, congregating around the more colourful personalities and looking to nurture controversy. A street team from Rogers was flogging a promo contest giving away free hand-held fans, and leading me to ask if Rogers head office officially supported Critical Mass. The rep on hand said she personally believed in it, but couldn’t speak for the corporation. It occurred to me that it would be somewhat hypocritical to be trolling the crowd and not have the corporate cojones to support the cause. At any rate, the ride took on it’s usual mellow vibe, and proceeded across the Cambie Bridge with nary a harsh word thrown that I could hear. To hold traffic back and mollify the drivers close enough to the front of the pack to do damage, the Critical Massers employ riders called ‘corkers’ who park in front of the roads to let the pack pass by relatively unmolested. It is an amazing feeling of freedom, power and joy to share a bridge with several thousand other cyclists, ringing bells, smiling and marveling at the solidarity of it all.

Green Briefs Branding Idea
The rally cry of the ride is, “We don’t block traffic, we ARE traffic.” Which seems to raise the hackles of the motoring public even further.
This led me to think that the whole Critical Mass brand might benefit from a refresh. Because, as one participant put it, this is really more of a festival than a protest.

So how about instead of Critical Mass, we rename it something more positive. Like the Love2Bike Ride, which would capture some of the ride’s positive spirit. Or the 2-Wheel Rush Hour, which might at least make motorists think twice about the mayhem they cause twice a day, every day.
Next, get some corporate sponsors (Rogers?) to donate swag or coupons that the ‘corkers’ can hand out to annoyed drivers, along with explanations of the purpose and international scope of the event.
It would be a start. Because this monthly ride is not going away, and as it grows, it has the opportunity to be much more than a group of self-righteous riders taking back the streets by force. It can, and should be an event that projects as much goodwill out to the community as circulates within the ride itself.


— Post From My iPhone

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