Can somebody fill me in on Critical Mass?

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Nyrides, Jan 26, 2003.

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  1. Nyrides

    Nyrides Guest

    Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass" thing. Can you tell me what it
    is and why so many cyclists are against it?

    Thank you.

    --
    Low-Impact Rides in the NY/LI region www.geocities.com/NYRides
     
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  2. Try this...

    http://criticalmassrides.info/

    "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]...
    > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass"
    thing.
    > Can you tell me what it is and why so many cyclists are against it?
    >
    > Thank you.
    >
    > --
    > Low-Impact Rides in the NY/LI region www.geocities.com/NYRides
     
  3. NYRides wrote:
    > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass" thing. Can you tell me what
    > it is and why so many cyclists are against it?

    Because they are designed to back up traffic and annoy motorist in order to push bicycling rights.
    What they do is gather dozens of bicyclist and ride real slow on main streets on purpose trying to
    disrupt and back up traffic. In very liberal places like San Francisco, these blockades have had an
    effect. But generally, it is a good idea with horrible execution and gives bicyclist a lot more
    negative press than positive.

    http://www.portlandtribune.com/viewcurr.cgi?id=15558

    quote from a mainstream bicyclist group in Portland

    Many avid cyclists respect traffic laws The Portland Wheelmen Touring Club sponsors rides 365 days a
    year as part of Portland’s transportation picture. We do not intentionally block roads, purposefully
    provoke motorists or have melees with our police departments. Our members use their bikes for
    pleasure, exercise and commuting. And, like most cyclists, we are responsible, law-abiding users of
    our area’s roadways. The recent Critical Mass rides in no way represent the beliefs or purposes of
    our organization. It hurts the cause of cycling to have the public link bicyclists with conflicts
    with the police. Having motorists look at a group of cyclists as an enemy will not increase our
    safety or bicycling privileges.

    end quote

    Critical Mass are the extremist in bicycling advocacy.
     
  4. In article <[email protected]>, "George Shaffer"
    <[email protected]> wrote:

    > "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    > news:[email protected]...
    > > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass"
    > thing.
    > > Can you tell me what it is and why so many cyclists are against it?
    > >
    > > Thank you.
    > >
    > > --
    > > Low-Impact Rides in the NY/LI region www.geocities.com/NYRides

    > Try this...
    >
    > http://criticalmassrides.info/

    That may not fully explain why some cyclists are annoyed by the Critical Mass concept (well, except
    for Cyclists Against Crap Web Design; they have an obvious motive).

    Critical Mass uses very, er, guerilla, not to say obnoxious, tactics in promoting cycling. The
    primary tactic is basically to annoy rush-hour car drivers, by staging mass rides on major streets
    during rush hour (the Vancouver ride is last Friday of each month, starting downtown at 6pm).

    I don't want to take a position on this either way. The Critical Mass position is that they aren't
    blocking traffic, they _are_ traffic, and I sympathize to a certain extent. The anti-Mass crowd
    tends to believe that routinely screwing up rush-hour traffic with bicycle mass rides is an
    excellent tactic for pissing off people in cars, and little else.

    I straddle the fence: I do my own one-man Critical Mass rides on some fairly busy streets in the
    'burbs. I just ride to work, as safely and legally as I can. I also ride recreationally, and have an
    ambitious plan to compete in various rides and races this year. I don't think of cars as the enemy,
    since I've been known to drive one quite often. Instead, I think of them as friendly 3000-lb. metal
    boxes that could kill me with an instant of inattention.

    --
    Ryan Cousineau, [email protected] http://www.sfu.ca/~rcousine President, Fabrizio Mazzoleni Fan Club
     
  5. On Sun, 26 Jan 2003 15:54:32 GMT in rec.bicycles.misc, "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote:

    > Can you tell me what it is and why so many cyclists are against it?
    >
    I'm in favor of it, simply because it raises public awareness of cycling as traffic.
     
  6. Bluto

    Bluto Guest

    "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote:

    > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass" thing. Can you tell me what
    > it is and why so many cyclists are against it?

    As to the latter question, it is because those cyclists' brains are owned by the same interests that
    own most motorists' brains.

    There were slaves who opposed the struggle for Emancipation too, oddly enough.

    Chalo Colina
     
  7. "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass" thing. Can you tell me what
    > it is and why so many cyclists are against it?
    >
    > Thank you.

    Imagine that you're trying to get somewhere using a major downtown city street. Suddenly, a bunch
    of yahoos on bicycles block the intersection and prevent traffic from flowing through numerous
    cycles of the traffic lights, while a parade of yahoos on bicycles rides SLOWLY past blowing
    whistles and ringing bells. It's not a special occasion - unless you consider one Friday
    afternoon rush hour each month to be a special occasion. This takes about 10 minutes, and is
    repeated at each intersection along the route.

    I'm a yahoo on a bicycle myself, and was stopped on the main street watching the parade go by.
    My first reaction was "cool," but by the third traffic light cycle I was wondering why they'd
    want to contribute to the hostility cyclists get from motorists.

    I have a different approach. I obey traffic laws and try to be visible.

    I stopped for a red light, and had a driver lean over, roll down the passenger window, and shout
    "&^%$# *&^%%, you're the first guy on a bike I've ever seen stopping for a red light."

    I stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The pedestrian turned to me and said "&^%$# YU&^%$$, you're
    the first cyclist I've ever seen stopping at a pedestrian crossing."

    I stopped for a traffic policeman. He looked at me in shock and said "thank you. You're the
    first cyclist I've seen who paid attention to my hand signals." He thanked me twice more while I
    was stopped.

    I realize there's something seriously wrong with me
    (and I've had this pointed out to me by other cyclists) but
    I see no reason to give people REASONS to resent cyclists.
     
  8. [email protected] (Bluto) wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass" thing. Can you tell me what
    > > it is and why so many cyclists are against it?
    >
    > As to the latter question, it is because those cyclists' brains are owned by the same interests
    > that own most motorists' brains.
    >
    > There were slaves who opposed the struggle for Emancipation too, oddly enough.
    >
    > Chalo Colina

    *pins on Red Star*

    Depends on how you want to read the Revolution, brotha.

    You can either believe that the revolution will be brought on by purely material factors. Human will
    has nothing to do with it; the revolution and the collapse of the present society is inevitable due
    to the contradictions inherent in the system. [Marx]

    Or you can believe that while the revolution is inevitable, you must do everything possible to
    sharpen the existing contradictions--the faster to spark your revolution. Moreover, these must be
    led by a disciplined class of professional revolutionaries (Massholes?) and they must lead to
    violent confrontation with the enemy. [Lenin]

    Or you can believe that there are many roads to the eventual goal of a New Society; Violent,
    revolutionary means are not totally necessary. You can believe in peaceful coexistence and even
    parliamentary struggle. [Khrushchev].

    For my part, I support Critical Mass so long as they obey the very laws they want enforced. A CM
    ride that rides four or five abreast on a heavily-trafficked public road, or which rides onto
    expressly-prohibited roads (eg, freeways, tunnels, narrow bridges) or swarms over both street and
    sidewalk, is counter-productive. It does bicyclists of all kinds no good at all to have us tarred as
    hazardous scofflaws, or heavily-pierced, disrespectful urban savages. We're not, obviously; we're
    just people who want to get around, just like everybody else.

    I want integration on my terms, as a law-abiding and peaceful road user, not on theirs. Single- or
    double-file, and following all the stoplights, etc, is better still. I like predictable bicycle
    traffic. Easier to ride in. Easier to drive by. Easier to walk through.

    I'd be interested to know how many CMers ride those bikes every day of the week, or every other day
    of the week, and not just on the last Friday of every month.

    -Luigi

    "Too early to tell."

    - Chou En-lai, on whether or not the French Revolution had succeeded.
     
  9. Nyrides

    Nyrides Guest

    Cool. You and I are in the same league, then. I had a feeling these Critical Mass guys were typical
    angry bicyclists. What're we gonna do about 'em?

    --
    Low-Impact Rides in the NY/LI region www.geocities.com/NYRides "mark freedman" <[email protected]>
    wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    > "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass"
    thing.
    > > Can you tell me what it is and why so many cyclists are against it?
    > >
    > > Thank you.
    >
    > Imagine that you're trying to get somewhere using a major downtown city street. Suddenly, a
    > bunch of yahoos on bicycles block the intersection and prevent traffic from flowing through
    > numerous cycles of the traffic lights, while a parade of yahoos on bicycles rides SLOWLY past
    > blowing whistles and ringing bells. It's not a special occasion - unless you consider one
    > Friday afternoon rush hour each month to be a special occasion. This takes about 10 minutes,
    > and is repeated at each intersection along the route.
    >
    > I'm a yahoo on a bicycle myself, and was stopped on the main street watching the parade go by.
    > My first reaction was "cool," but by the third traffic light cycle I was wondering why they'd
    > want to contribute to the hostility cyclists get from motorists.
    >
    > I have a different approach. I obey traffic laws and try to be visible.
    >
    > I stopped for a red light, and had a driver lean over, roll down the passenger window, and
    > shout "&^%$# *&^%%, you're the first guy on a bike I've ever seen stopping for a red light."
    >
    > I stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The pedestrian turned to me and said "&^%$# YU&^%$$, you're
    > the first cyclist I've ever seen stopping at a pedestrian crossing."
    >
    > I stopped for a traffic policeman. He looked at me in shock and said "thank you. You're the
    > first cyclist I've seen who paid attention to my hand signals." He thanked me twice more while
    > I was stopped.
    >
    > I realize there's something seriously wrong with me
    > (and I've had this pointed out to me by other cyclists) but
    > I see no reason to give people REASONS to resent cyclists.
     
  10. I thought about joining a CM ride, to see what it was like. But I enjoy riding alone on quiet
    country roads or singletrack...
     
  11. Zoot Katz

    Zoot Katz Guest

    Mon, 27 Jan 2003 16:14:00 GMT,
    <[email protected]>, "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote:

    >Cool. You and I are in the same league, then. I had a feeling these Critical Mass guys were typical
    >angry bicyclists. What're we gonna do about 'em?

    Without having participated in one, you're in no position to do anything about 'em because you
    simply don't know what's going on.

    Consider that those "typical angry bicyclists" of your fantasy are just ordinary people who, one day
    per month, like to experience the absolute liberation of cycling on _their_ streets for a few hours
    without the constant stench, noise and threat of caged yahoos who dominate _their_ streets the rest
    of the month.

    The Vancouver CM rides demonstrate to drivers that it's lots of fun and decidedly sexier to
    ride a bike.

    The "mass" is a safety device. The front of the mass stops at red lights but when the mass is too
    large to pass through an intersection in one signal sequence, it's safer to block the cross traffic
    to keep the caged yahoos from infiltrating.

    The mass doesn't block emergency vehicles and the few conflicts that the media has seized upon are,
    in reality, police riots instigated by city hall.

    I too was anti CM until I took the time to investigate one and learned that my prejudice was based
    on false premises.
    --
    zk
     
  12. Zoot Katz

    Zoot Katz Guest

    Sun, 26 Jan 2003 11:09:30 -0800, <[email protected]>, Ryan Cousineau
    <[email protected]> wrote:

    >The anti-Mass crowd tends to believe that routinely screwing up rush-hour traffic with bicycle mass
    >rides is an excellent tactic for pissing off people in cars, and little else.

    Having participated in a few CM rides, I can say there are realtively few drivers who are actually
    inconvenienced by them.
    --
    zk
     
  13. Tom Kunich

    Tom Kunich Guest

    SC Hiker Biker <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:<[email protected]>...
    > NYRides wrote:
    > > Sorry. I guess I haven't paid much attention to this "Critical Mass" thing. Can you tell me what
    > > it is and why so many cyclists are against it?
    >
    > Because they are designed to back up traffic and annoy motorist in order to push bicycling rights.
    > What they do is gather dozens of bicyclist and ride real slow on main streets on purpose trying to
    > disrupt and back up traffic. In very liberal places like San Francisco, these blockades have had
    > an effect. But generally, it is a good idea with horrible execution and gives bicyclist a lot more
    > negative press than positive.

    I'd sure like you to explain Santa Claus with the same attention to accuracy. Critical Mass get a
    lot of bad press simply because they are confronting the autocentric ideal. Sometimes they do
    purposely slow traffic but that is the exception and not the rule. In San Francisco the rides are
    just that - rides. They used to back up traffic just from the sheer size of the ride but for the
    most part members themselves didn't like holding up traffic and various strategies were attempted
    where they would "cork" intersections so as to clear the ride through with the minimum of delay for
    cars in general (though that irritated the guy at the front of the cars stopped at the corkers
    because it cost them time.) Now the CM rides are broken up into smaller groups and generally head
    out by different routes. Some have an end point in mind while others just do the ride and go home.

    Bicycles ARE traffic. When they are in mass on a road they slow up traffic whether or not they wish
    to. And it is the drivers who want to race to the next stop light that are the problem in SF and not
    the critical massers.

    > Critical Mass are the extremist in bicycling advocacy.

    Nonviolent extremism in the pursuit of freedom is not extremism.

    I am not nor have I ever been a Critical Masser. I find most of them to be young men with a chip on
    their shoulders. Nevertheless, when some car can't squeeze by a group of bicyclists to make another
    1/4th block to the next stoplight and the bicyclist flips the driver off for screaming at him, that
    doesn't give the driver carte blanche to kill the bicyclist. BTW that happened in San Francisco and
    they didn't file charges against the driver.

    If that isn't proof that some major re-thinking about traffic control needs to be done, what
    possibly could?
     
  14. Zoot Katz

    Zoot Katz Guest

    27 Jan 2003 07:42:17 -0800,
    <[email protected]>, [email protected] (Luigi de Guzman) wrote:

    >I'd be interested to know how many CMers ride those bikes every day of the week, or every other day
    >of the week, and not just on the last Friday of every month.
    >
    >-Luigi

    Participate. I think you'll find the majority of them are daily utility and commuter cyclists.
    They are here.
    --
    zk
     
  15. Sam Huffman

    Sam Huffman Guest

    Zoot Katz <[email protected]> writes:

    > Mon, 27 Jan 2003 16:14:00 GMT,
    > <[email protected]>, "NYRides" <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > >Cool. You and I are in the same league, then. I had a feeling these Critical Mass guys were
    > >typical angry bicyclists. What're we gonna do about 'em?
    >
    > Without having participated in one, you're in no position to do anything about 'em because you
    > simply don't know what's going on.

    Having been subjected to one (while in a "cage") I can attest to the irritation they cause and the
    ill will they engender towards cyclists. I felt those same emotions, even though I thoroughly enjoy
    riding my bicycle in a safe and responsible fashion.

    However now when I drive, every time I see a biker I wonder if he was one of the guys who felt it
    necessary to create a spectacle, and feel that twinge of irritation all over again. And when I ride,
    I just hope that the driver in the car coming up behind me hasn't had the same experience and
    doesn't feel the same irritation.

    The participants in the CM rides no doubt have cyclists' best interest in mind. However I think they
    fail to consider the negative impression they give people of the cycling public in general. Their
    short glory ride once per month increases the hazards for every other cyclist every day of the
    month. It is fair to blame drivers who drive unsafely, but those who knowingly provoke unsafe
    driving just to make a statement are also to blame.

    In Portland we have a yearly bike ride where streets are closed to traffic on a 30 mile loop
    (including several miles of interstate). I do completely agree that it's a liberating experience
    having 4 lanes of tarmac to enjoy without worrying about whose behind you.

    > The mass doesn't block emergency vehicles

    I'm curious; Why the double standard?

    Sam
     
  16. Sam Huffman

    Sam Huffman Guest

    Zoot Katz <[email protected]> writes:

    > Sun, 26 Jan 2003 11:09:30 -0800, <[email protected]>, Ryan Cousineau
    > <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > >The anti-Mass crowd tends to believe that routinely screwing up rush-hour traffic with bicycle
    > >mass rides is an excellent tactic for pissing off people in cars, and little else.
    >
    > Having participated in a few CM rides, I can say there are realtively few drivers who are actually
    > inconvenienced by them.

    How do you know, since you weren't one of the drivers? And how do you judge "inconvenience"?

    Sam
     
  17. In article <[email protected]>, Zoot Katz <[email protected]> wrote:
    >The "mass" is a safety device. The front of the mass stops at red lights but when the mass is too
    >large to pass through an intersection in one signal sequence, it's safer to block the cross traffic
    >to keep the caged yahoos from infiltrating.

    I'm not convinced that you're necessarily safer in the middle of the mass than you would be in the
    middle of mixed traffic. In any case the mass certainly isn't *required* for safety; solo bike
    commuting is also reasonbly safe.

    The only real reason I can see for keeping the mass together is that critical mass is basically just
    a parade, and parades cease to make sense as parades if they're all split up into little bits.

    Some like to speak of critical mass as a demonstration of what the world would be like without motor
    vehicles. I don't see it. I don't see how riding in the mass bears much resemblance to riding in
    real traffic of any kind.

    It's just a parade.

    --Bruce F.
     
  18. In article <[email protected]>, Zoot Katz <[email protected]> wrote:
    >27 Jan 2003 11:46:25 -0800, <[email protected]>, Sam Huffman
    ><[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    >>However now when I drive, every time I see a biker I wonder if he was one of the guys who felt it
    >>necessary to create a spectacle, and feel that twinge of irritation all over again.
    >
    >You're sick. Get help.

    I wouldn't call it "sick" but I agree it is a kind of broken thinking that makes people boil when
    they have to wait for a stranger. But hey, there is just no guarantee that you get to go as fast as
    you want and never wait for anyone - it is the same kind of thinking that makes people charge
    pedestrians who are late getting off the cross-walk - being willing to threaten someone's life to
    obtain pole position.

    The sad thing is, this attitude is by no means restricted to people in cars - I see this type of
    behavior exhibited by cyclists every day on the closed roads in a nearby park that has twisty
    descents and cyclists who go zooming through families on foot with loose dogs and baby strollers
    spread across the road. It's all the same thing. I have roughly zero sympathy for anyone who acts
    this way using any vehicle. When I see cyclists do it I think "you are acting just like a driver".

    The thing that is hard to teach (to the whole world) is how to just use the brakes and slow down
    without getting all hot and bothered. If it was a back-hoe blocking the road at 10mph most decent
    drivers would at least avoid expressing their irritation - waiting is inevitable so just deal with
    it - a cyclist should be thought of the same way.

    If I can't give a pedestrian an auto-lane worth of elbow room then I go 10mph or slower. For one
    thing, the guy's dog or kid is going to come bursting out of the bushes on the side of the road as
    soon as I get near. And pededstrians just don't feel comfortable when a high-speed cyclist comes by
    with a yard or two of room - I know I don't when I'm on foot - there are few people I trust that
    well and plenty of examples of cycling ineptitude.

    --Paul
     
  19. Zoot Katz

    Zoot Katz Guest

    27 Jan 2003 11:46:25 -0800, <[email protected]>, Sam Huffman
    <[email protected]> wrote:

    >However now when I drive, every time I see a biker I wonder if he was one of the guys who felt it
    >necessary to create a spectacle, and feel that twinge of irritation all over again.

    You're sick. Get help.

    >It is fair to blame drivers who drive unsafely, but those who knowingly provoke unsafe driving just
    >to make a statement are also to blame.

    This is ripe: "knowingly provoke unsafe driving". Settle down. See your doctor.

    >> The mass doesn't block emergency vehicles
    >
    >I'm curious; Why the double standard?

    Humanitarian concerns and social responsibility are not precluded by having an activist's mindset. I
    could argue that they're actually prerequisite for cultivating that mindset.

    Also, in Vancouver, we've fairly good rapport with city hall so we take care to not jeopardise that
    relationship. The police found that their hard-line approach caused more problems than it solved.
    So, they tolerate us as long as we don't threaten the public's safety.
    --
    zk
     
  20. Zoot Katz

    Zoot Katz Guest

    27 Jan 2003 11:47:26 -0800, <[email protected]>, Sam Huffman
    <[email protected]> wrote:

    >How do you know, since you weren't one of the drivers? And how do you judge "inconvenience"?

    Relative to the number of cars behind the Mass or waiting at a cross street, there are far greater
    numbers of cars moving freely on all the other streets.

    Inconvenienced meaning they may have had to wait through an extra signal sequence or two.
    (Vancouver's CM rides have never been larger than about 260 people and at times includes a cycle
    commuting city councillor)

    The same type of inconvenience that drivers may experience waiting for one of their kind to push a
    derelict shitwagon out of the road from where it stalled in an intersection. Less inconvenience than
    when some of their consorts smack into each other.
    --
    zk
     
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