Ever come across a gang of rowdy bicyclists clogging the streets of Downtown Berkeley, accompanied by an unholy racket blasting from a portable sound system? Out-of-towners may wonder what the hell is going on, but locals have no excuse not to know: It's Berkeley Critical Mass, a "global nonauthoritarian movement of celebration, street reclamation, and demonstration," as described by BerkeleyCriticalMass.org
. Riders gather every second Friday of the month at the Downtown Berkeley BART station for a 6 p.m. ride that forsakes bike lanes for total takeover of the streets and often jam up intersections through multiple light cycles along thoroughfares like Shattuck Avenue, Telegraph Avenue, and Dwight Way. Still going strong after fourteen years, Berkeley Critical Mass is a spectacle as much as a statement, not least because of the huge speaker, often pulled on a trailer behind a bike, that blares classic and indie rock while announcing the group's presence well before and after it comes into view. "Critical Mass is a rolling free-speech stage and playground," the Web site declares, and what good is free speech without a soundtrack? To keep rolling for this long, protest has gotta be fun.