Yesterday after work I went to Critical Mass.
We met over 1,000 other cyclists at Daley Plaza.
A funny story about Daley Plaza: I was at the Art Institute a few days ago to see the Picasso exhibit, which opens with a miniature version of this sculpture and a giant mural-sized photograph of the day this opened in Daley Plaza. I turned to James and was like, man, that's so cool, I wish that was still around. Obviously, it's not only still there -- but I bike by it all the time, and I even ran by it just a few days earlier. The Trephine wrote about this vision-obstruction problem and it's a lesson I try to keep in mind all the time (you know, mindfulness, etc). But I guess I needed another reminder.
Anyway, Critical Mass says it operates as a xerocracy and some people had made a route that would take us past some of the schools Rahm Emanuel wants to close.
I was really looking forward to seeing where some of these schools are. The CPS closings is a big issue with big implications for other cities. I think seeing where something is happening can make it "more real," and helps people connect to it, and maybe encourage them to think and debate with each other about the issues and what's at stake.
The route would take us all the way back to the South Side and Hyde Park, which I'd just left, so I knew we'd be doing at least 25 more miles of biking. It was gorgeous out and the energy was really positive (the "Happy Friday" thing helps with that).
We started by doing loops around the Plaza, gradually moving on to the road, and then stretching out across the whole road until we'd cleared the entire perimeter of cars. Then we were off!
Critical Mass was not conceived as a protest against cars, but as way to celebrate a vision of what a preferable alternative might look like -- a kind of action that I think is really exciting. It was awesome to see the streets filled with bicyclists. Everyone was really chill and riding slowly, staying together and calling out "Happy Friday!" to pedestrians. Drivers had their windows rolled down and they were taking pictures and saying, "Happy Friday!" back to us. A few cars got kind of "stuck" with us, so riders cleared a path for the cars to drive through.
We stopped at each of the schools on the route while Megaphone Guy spoke about the history of the school, why CPS says they're closing the school, and what will happen to the building.
The vibe stayed chill, with people playing music, hanging out, and talking. There were some bike cops riding with us and I asked one if he was with us in solidarity (since he is a cyclist himself!) or if he was there as police. He said that he only works when he has to and if he didn't have to be there he'd be at his house drinking a beer. That got a pretty big laugh. Elsewhere along the route, police were blocking traffic for us, which was kind of nice albeit confusing.
We ended at Promontory Point, where everybody took their bags off and hung out for a little bit before biking home.
40 miles for the day!