This past Friday, owing to extending my stay in Tarija by a few days, I came out with the chapako (local name for the citizens of Tarija) bike fans to take part in the local version of « masa critica » – a mass of cyclists that take to urban roads to ride together, celebrate the bicycle and, inevitably and joyously, annoy more than one driver.
In Argentina, I’ve heard that the Critical Masses can reach truly critical levels with hundreds of cyclists taking to the roads, loudly and proudly yelling slogans and singing songs, getting honked at and yelled at those left in the ensuing traffic jams. It’s a great energy to be in with so many happy cyclists taking advantage of their numbers to, for once, rule over the vehicles that usually rule over them. Maybe not the most friendly approach as it’s doubtful that such a gathering improves driver-cyclist relations…but all in all… really cool.
Tarija’s « Masa Critica » is still a small mass, and for that reason not very critical. But hey, you’ve got to start somewhere! We were some 20 strong, mostly young chicos doing wheelies and jumping their bikes as the owner of the local bike-rental shop biked around with his 1-year-old son in the back, shouting slogans like « go to work on your bike! », « more ecology, less pollution! » and so on. The female population was represented by his wife, a young local recently returned from Belgium and in love with the bicycle… and myself.
It was fun! We cycled around the main squares and around a few other crowded areas and ended off with a reminder that the next gathering would be in a month. It was enjoyable to take part in a local biking project!