A group of more than forty bicyclists clogged the streets of downtown Ann Arbor in a mass bike parade that began at the corner of North University Avenue and State Street on April 20.
The Critical Mass Bike Parade caused traffic to slow down for more than an hour during rush hour traffic, causing commotion along the streets as some drivers honked their horns and pedestrians stopped to watch the bicyclists pass by.
According to Creative Resistance, the organizers of the event, the ride aimed to regain the streets from cars, prove bicycling is a useful method of transportation and protest “neo-liberalism and car culture.”
Traverse City, Kalamazoo and East Lansing held simultaneous bike rides to support the protests in Quebec against the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a proposed trade agreement between 34 countries in North and South America, said group member Elizabeth Ayer, an LSA freshman who attended the event.
“We want to take back the roads. Why does the whole downtown Ann Arbor have to be paved road? It could be only for bikes and pedestrians,” said David Klingenberger, a participant in the bike ride.
Klingenberger said he thought the group had a good time during the event. “It was peaceful, and we were happy. We claimed the street,” he said. “We are not blocking the traffic, we are the traffic.”
Albert Parson, another biker, joined the bike ride “in solidarity for a more cycling-friendly environment, pedestrian friendly downtown space, and just because I like to ride bikes.”
Parson said responsibility on the behalf of cyclists and motorists could solve some safety problems for those wanting to ride bikes downtown.
“Bike paths are not the answer. They are not maintained, and they are not direct routes. We need more calm, informed motorists and responsible cyclists,” he said.
Andrew Wilhelme, an LSA senior, said he is concerned about the environment and energy problems that he would rather ride a bike than drive a car.
He said he is worried the world will be a “polluted, smoggy hell pretty soon,” because of the government”s lack of concern over environmental issues.
Angelo Plakas, a motorist who drove to the area from Livonia, said he wasn”t bothered by the clogged streets.
Plakas, who watched the cyclists ride by and described the event as meaningful and peaceful, said he thought the cyclists had the right to express their opinions.
However, Plakas said he didn”t think the event would create a safe environment for bikers.
“This is an age-old problem of balancing,” he said. “After all that”s said and done, they may just have to be more careful. Sometimes there”s no solution to a problem.”
Kristin Wolf, an LSA freshman, who passed by the bikers before they began, said she believed the event was a good way for bikers and pedestrians to protest traffic.
“(Bicycling is) good for the environment,” Wolf said. “In a college town like Ann Arbor, the traffic”s way too much and annoying,” she said, adding that she believed bike paths could alleviate the problems between cyclists and traffic.
LSA and Music junior Jim Leija said he thought the event was “a wonderful way of non-violent protest. I don”t know much about the issue, but it is hard to ride a bike in this country especially in this town.”
Leija said he believed there are also problems between cyclists and pedestrians.
“Motorists seem to be more understanding of people on bikes compared to pedestrians,” he said.
Participants in the bike ride said they hoped the parade would lead to more biking and less driving in downtown Ann Arbor.