by Liam Gwynn
Critical Mass cyclists took over the streets of downtown Arcata on Friday night, carrying flowers to the scene of a tragic accident that took the life of a mother. The bike ride was a memorial and demonstration to raise awareness for the problems facing cyclists and the dangers of unsafe driving.
This January, a 40-year-old mother was killed in Arcata after attempting to cross a crosswalk with her child. In a heroic last act, she pushed the stroller out of the way, saving the child. The local branch of Critical Mass hosted Friday’s bike ride to memorialize her life and put pressure on the city to make infrastructure changes with pedestrian safety at the focus.
The group met in the Arcata Plaza where organizers handed out flowers to bring to the locations of two accidents involving pedestrians getting hit by cars. The peaceful demonstration took up the streets and blocked traffic on K st, Spear Ave, and finally the crosswalk of the fatal accident on St. Louis road. The group ended the night by regrouping at the Plaza. They then took turns telling stories of dangerous encounters they had with cars while cycling.
Critical Mass is a peaceful international movement with a focus on promoting ecologically-friendly transportation and raising awareness for safe driving. Jonathan Maiullo is the lead organizer for the Arcata branch and explained how Friday night differed from the usual rides.
“It’s important that the city be aware that we are paying attention and when a cyclist is killed or injured, something needs to change,” said Maiullo.
He explained how this issue requires local development that gives more freedom and safety to cyclists.
“In the city, we just want greater visibility and that would come with having clear and separated bike lanes,” said Maiullo.
Carisse Geronimo is the social media manager as well as an organizer for Critical Mass Arcata. According to Geronimo, the biggest problem facing the cycling community is the interactions between people driving cars and cyclists on the road.
“The whole interface between cars and pedestrians and cyclists’ safety is a big problem. I think our structure is all backward and we shouldn’t feel like we have to yield to cars,” Geronimo said.
Critical Mass hosts monthly bike rides in the plaza, however, many new faces showed up for the first time in order to honor the mother who was killed, including community member Johnny Newsome. He was drawn to the event after he heard where the accident took place.
“I go through that intersection where that lady was killed all the time, and I got to admit I drive through there too fast sometimes myself,” Newsome said. “And you know it needs to be addressed. Some change has to be made on the street.”
Critical Mass meets in the Arcata Plaza on the last Friday of every month at 6 p.m.