ORLANDO, Fla. – If you’re looking for something to do each month, there’s a unique meetup that will get you off the couch, out of your car and moving.
It’s called Critical Mass and it’s become a worldwide movement.
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In Orlando, the community rides bring out hundreds and even thousands of people of all different ages.
If you’re wondering ‘what the heck is Critical Mass?’' You’re not alone. I had no idea what it was until my colleague Josh Chaney, a News 6 photographer, told me about it.
Josh is an avid bike rider and says Critical Mass has given him a sense of community.
“I always liked to ride bikes. It’s something I’ve done since I was a kid. Growing up my dad would ride a lot,” said Josh. “When I’m on my bike I feel free. I feel young. I feel joyful. There’s just so many emotions I have. Just being one with nature and feeling the breeze, there’s nothing like it.”
Josh moved to Orlando from Birmingham about two years ago at the start of the Pandemic.
Many businesses like bars and venues were temporarily closed, making it difficult for Josh to meet new people. One evening, while out on a bike ride, he noticed something familiar: a large group of people making their way to an Orlando park on bikes.
“I want to say there were thousands of people. You’ve got scooters and people on one wheel,” said Josh. “I was like ‘oh my gosh, look at these bikes.’ I was in heaven... I participated in Critical Mass in Birmingham and it was good, but a little tougher to navigate. We didn’t have as many bike lanes and sidewalks like Florida has.”
So what is Critical Mass?
“Critical Mass is a bike ride centered around having safety in numbers,” said Josh.
It’s not an organization, but a movement promoting peace and harmony between cars and bikes that share the roadway, doing so in a safe way.
“There are several messages this movement shares. I think the most important is safety. Just being aware that there are people that have other modes of transportation like bikes and scooters and they’re traffic too so respect them. Same for the bicyclists respecting drivers.
“Two: Community. With people in Orlando coming together, the community aspect is an important message as well. And three, there are other ways to get around. If you live close, you can ride your bike to work or the grocery store. It saves you gas, and with the prices as high as they are right now, it’s a better option,” said Josh.
Critical Mass is held the last Friday of each month and isn’t something that happens just in Orlando. It takes place worldwide in more than 600 cities according to a travel publication. The movement originally started in the early 1990s in San Francisco.
“People coming out, having fun and being able to just ride their bikes through the city in a safe way and not worrying about other traffic coming through,” said Josh. “It’s all ages. You see kids three or four, then you have older people. They’re still getting out and being active and still having joyful moments. What it’s really all about is community.”
You won’t find a website for Critical Mass in Orlando, but there are social media pages on Facebook and Instagram run by the organizers who post updates. Rain or shine they host the community ride, meeting at Loch Haven Park in Orlando on the last Friday of each month at 6:30 p.m., with the ride starting promptly at 7 p.m.
According to the Orlando Critical Mass Facebook page “We are a group dedicated to spreading bike awareness in our city, all skill levels welcome.”
Is there a Critical Mass meetup in your area? Let us know by typing in the meeting location in the comment section below, so our Insiders throughout Central Florida can participate in the ride closest to them.