Critical Mass in Bergen

is over for now. We had our last Critical Mass ride spring 2000. After five years it is time to find other ways to work for better biking.

Thanks to all of you who parcitipated!


firstThursday every month

at 4 PM
at Torgallmenningen

This is something we do, because it is fun! Come by on your way home, and join us for a ride around the downtown. The conditions for bikers in Bergen are bad. It is important to show people that there are many bikers despite the lack of bike roads and -lanes. Only this will force the politicians to consider our interests!

Dates for actions:
Critical Mass in Bergen was started in september 1995. The first year we biked through the winter. The second year we took a three month break to avoid the worst snowstorms. (We don't really have that many snowstorms here, but we have snow, and it is wet and slippery to bike. Especially, because the snowplows plow the snow to the shoulder of the road, which usually is used by bikers. And as if that is not enough, all walkways are shoveled by the house owners and the snow is deposited on the road shoulder.)
The number of bikers attending varies. Our record is 75, but usually we are around 30 bikers. We have a "soft" profile: we try to follow the traffic rules, and people seem to like us! We have had a lot positive attention from the press. The City-Counsil has approved a plan for walkways and bike roads for the City of Bergen (excluding downtown), but they did not budget money for the plan. With the current level of investment it will take from 50 to 65 years to finnish the bike road system. So, the most important task we have now is to create a opinion that allows (and forces) the politicians to put the money where their mouth is!
Check out our homepage in Norwegian

A Guide for Critical Mass Organizers.

Perhaps I can give some advise. As a political scientist and environmental activists I have been thinking about what is a good way of organizing. Use what ever of these if you find them helpful. These are some things that have been important in making the critical mass rides a success in Bergen:


* The most efficient way to recruit is to talk to friends and people we know.
* We fax a press release at least the day before.
* We leaflet parked bikes. It is very efficient: you can leaflet 400 bikes in 15 minutes!
* We use small leaflets with dates for at least four events. Small is cheap and people are more likely to hang them up on somewhere at work or home.
* If you hand a leaflet to somebody, say something like "I am going and it is great fun. Would you like to come too?". Make sure that you look like a biker (wear a helmet or something), so that people realize "who you are".
* The success behind CM is that it does NOT take much preparations. It is the same people who show up every time. But you have to work in the beginning to create a Critical Mass that works on its own.
* We have permanent posters in every bike store, at several locations at the University and at some workplaces. These posters are changed when the dates go out. It is just a enlarged copy of our leaflet.

* We open ut with a welcome speech, and then we wait for 10 more minutes.
* Somebody has the responsibility to chat with the new people, and make them feel home.
* Somebody has the responsibility to talk with the press. Often we have one person in a radio studio while the others are at the CM. There is always interviews on the spot, too. The person who deals with the press, should not have other tasks.
* We have one "speech" on a bike political topic given by one of us or sometimes a politician. This person often gets their picture and a short interview in the papers.
* we have a short introduction to how we are going to behave in the traffic, so that everybody understands what is going to happen. 1. We are not trying to stop the traffic, we are trying to be visible, and create a good name for biking. 2. We keep together: therefore we behave like a big truck: we keep in one lane, and if we have started to bike trough a intersection when the lights change we just continue (there are always cars who do try to come in from the side, but one biker takes "guard" and is standing in front of the cars in the intersection so that everybody can get trough. 3. We have organizers in the front who keep a slow enough pace and adjust the speed down after every turn so that we keep to together. 4. we have organizers in the back who keep the speed up in the back end. 5. The person speaking is in the middle.
* We try to give people a sense of empowerment. They can make a difference, and by participating the DO make a difference.
* We try to give the people who show up a good time. We have different people talking and chatting while we are waiting for everybody to show up and we have somebody talking and chanting while we bike.
* We are very predictable. Time, day, how long it takes etc. The "cost" of participation should be as low as possible. Do not spend any more time that you have to, the shorter the ride is, the more people will have a chance to come every time. We keep our events under 45 minutes.
* We work closely with the environmental and bike organizations in town. We are all allies, not competitors.
* We have fixed roles at the CM-ride. This way everybody knows what they are supposed to do. Everything that is not specially talked about is going to happen the same way as usually.
* We are educating activists, by letting new people try themselves as public speakers, writing leaflets, talking to the press etc. This way nobody is indispensable.

* It is important to end each ride with a small speech. It gives people a good feeling, and us a chance to tell what we need help for.
* Somebody collects names and addresses of people. One person is responsible for keeping an address list updated.
* We go for a dinner in a inexpensive restaurant after each CM ride. This is how we treat ourselves after a jobb well done and create a good social atmosphere. This where we get new activists! There are perhaps 3-4 new people at the dinner every time, and one of them will eventually become an activist.

* We have a organizing group that is split in two. Some of us work with the CM ride, and try to find some new ideas, gags, T-shirts and all the fun stuff for CM to be a happening, and not just a protest. The rest of us is working more with politics: We try to plan routes for bikers, we find out problems with the present system, We take pictures and write small reports to politicians and bureaucrats.
* Our organizing group has meetings once a month between the CM rides, where we coordinate the work between these two subgroups: We try always to have a theme for each CM ride, that is used to select the speakers, the route we are biking, etc.
* Sometimes we invite people to come and tell us something. This is our opportunity to learn from others, and to tell these politicians, planners, etc. about our views. Every visiting guest we have had by, have been quite understanding of our perspectives. Hopefully, they have learned something too.
* We have a long list of people, their phone numbers, skills and what they are interested in doing for CM. So we can call the designer, when we need a design...

* We do not have an income!

Good luck,

Eero Olli

Keep in touch!

tlf You can get in touch with us by sending email to Heidi Richardson or Eero Olli . This page is written in June 1997. And edited December 2000.