Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, May 14, 2001

Groups of up to 60 people often show up for Critical
Mass's monthly rides through Honolulu to spread their
message about safely sharing the roads with automobile
traffic. The flyer's fine print says to bring noisemakers,
signs and lights.

Bicyclists peddle

2-wheelers take to the streets
to promote safety and
encourage acceptance

Cycling spoke-n here

By Gary Chun

If you happen to be stuck in traffic on a busy Friday evening and you come upon a group of, say, 20 to 30 bicyclists pedaling en masse, they're not there to annoy you -- they're trying to make a statement and make it safer for others to bike, whether for transportation or pleasure.

The loose-knit group calls itself Critical Mass, the name being an apt description of the uneasy relationship between bicyclists and motorists attempting to share our busy streets and byways. While Critical Mass's only planned activity is a monthly bike ride and it has no organization in the form of bylaws or officers, the group has a message.

"Frequently, the drivers don't realize that we have just as much privilege to use the streets as they do," said group member Yan Fernandez. "We want to let drivers know that we deserve a place on the road, and that there are certain protocols that have be observed, even though some of them don't necessarily like it.

Critical Mass T-shirts make the statement, "We
aren't blocking traffic, WE ARE TRAFFIC."

"The group's main tactic is to increase bicyclists' visibility and educate drivers," he said. The group regularly passes out informational flyers to passing pedestrians and drivers.

Some common courtesies Fernandez would like to pass on to motorists include allowing a distance of at least three feet to safely pass a bicyclist, "realizing that, sometimes, a bicyclist has to take up an entire lane in order to safely pass by a parked car, in the event the car's driver opens his door into passing traffic" and that "it doesn't help to yell at us to get off the road, because it just shows the driver's ignorance."

"Also, my biggest issue for drivers," said fellow group member Aaron Hebshi, "is that when turning right, most don't look to see if they're cutting in front of a bicyclist."

Both Fernandez and Hebshi regularly commute to and from the University of Hawai'i at Manoa, and they agree that the city could do more to improve current bike lanes.

Lanes like the ones on both Kalanianaole and Nimitz highways end prematurely as they lead onto the H-1, leaving little maneuvering room between the curb and traffic.

"But the group gets together to have fun as well," said Hebshi. "We get to know other bicyclists from around town, and find out we're not alone -- sometimes with cars whizzing by you and buses almost hitting you, you need to feel empowered when riding in a group.

"I feel that the onus of responsibility doesn't lie with the drivers or the bicyclists but on the city," he added. "They have to provide the infrastructure for a safe separation to share on the road. Good driving and biking techniques can only take you so far."

Critical Mass meets at 5:30 p.m. the last Friday of every month at the Kakaako Waterfront Park Ewa-end parking lot. The group hits the road around 6:15. To subscribe to the group's list-server, e-mail

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