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Old 12-10-04, 06:47 PM   #1
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I went to my first Critical Mass ride today

I know this group has been discussed a lot here, but this is my first experience with it...

The organizer posted an ad for a Critical Mass ride on Craigslist leaving from the U of Maryland campus at 5 pm. I'd never been so I thought I would try it out. Only 6 people showed up because of the rain. Everyone was very nice and friendly and they were mainly also students. 2 of us (including me) had blinkers and helmets, 1 had blinker but no helmet, and 2 had neither. Also, one of them had a singlespeed with only a coaster brake, and his chain was too long and droopy, which drove me nuts and made me want to whip out a frickin' chain tool

We only rode about 8 miles. It was fun but kind of scary to ride around in a pack on 40 mph roads. The leaders were good about signalling when we were turning and stopping at stop signs when there were cars waiting, but a couple people tended to swerve a bit. Our pace was reallly slow, like 10-12 mph on the flats, and uneven, so there were constantly cars getting stuck behind us. Although only a few actually honked, I imagine a lot more were pissed off.

As I said, it was fun, but I think it is just a little silly. I realize that bicycles have the same rights to the road, but it is inconsiderate and unsafe in my opinion to take up a whole lane with a bunch of very slow moving bicycles at rush hour. No one likes being stuck behind a slow-moving farmer on a tractor, but where I am from they are mostly polite enough to ride on the shoulder.

When I commute on my bicycle on my own, I try to use paved trails and less trafficked roads. If the shoulder is wide and smooth enough I use it. If there are no cars at a stop sign and I can see clearly, I'll coast through it. Instead of going through a left turn at a busy intersection, I'll often cut over onto the left-side sidewalk and go around the corner on it, then cut back across when the road is clear. I realize that some of what I do is technically illegal, and some of it is ceding my equal right to the road, but I feel like overall I am not doing anything unsafe and I am making the ride more pleasant for myself and car drivers.
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Old 12-10-04, 07:58 PM   #2
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I used to ride with a guy who would get all mad when a car would pass us without changing lanes. He would start yelling traffic rules and foaming at the mouth.

I think he was stupid for it.

IN my opinion there are lots of advantages to being in traffic but not being a part of traffic.

Your less likely to get hit I think. You can cheat easily like ride to the front at stoplights and stopsigns and other such infractions. You can pass slow moving cars, sure doesn't happen much but really cool when you do it.

So I think critical massers should not take up whole lanes. Just ride in one big mile long singlefile line.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:10 PM   #3
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OK, I've been reading these posts on the NYC CM rides with interest. And I just can't get past the idea that these rides are MEANT to be provocative.

Then I read here that six bikes are taking up a whole lane? What the heck is that? How is being unsafe, inconsiderate, and in violation of laws furthering the cause of bike advocacy?

I just can't believe that in NY everyone in the ride follows all the traffic rules. If they did, there would be no reason to arrest anyone.

I mean, if you want to be a wise-ass college kid and "fight the man", that's cool. But your cries of "poor me" are silly.

(Moxfyre this is not directed directly at you - it's something I've been thinking a while.)
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Old 12-10-04, 08:17 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Diggy18
I just can't believe that in NY everyone in the ride follows all the traffic rules. If they did, there would be no reason to arrest anyone.
If they weren't arresting people who rode more than ten yards, you'd be right. Unfortunately, they were bagging anyone who got on a bike last time. No one had a chance to break a traffic law because almost no one got a chance to ride at all.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:20 PM   #5
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Hey Diggy, I agree with you about the inconsiderate and unsafe part. Is it actually illegal for bikes to ride in a pack and take up a whole lane? Not that I think it's a good idea, but just wondering if it's legal... if it isn't CM should stop it, because they say they're trying to do everything legally.

I'm not planning on going on more CM rides, by the way. I don't think their goal of bike advocacy is bad, I just think they're dumb and unsafe about it. I don't think it helps people like me--who commute by bike--to get treated well by drivers and city planners.

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Originally Posted by Diggy18
OK, I've been reading these posts on the NYC CM rides with interest. And I just can't get past the idea that these rides are MEANT to be provocative.

Then I read here that six bikes are taking up a whole lane? What the heck is that? How is being unsafe, inconsiderate, and in violation of laws furthering the cause of bike advocacy?
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Old 12-10-04, 08:29 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
Hey Diggy, I agree with you about the inconsiderate and unsafe part. Is it actually illegal for bikes to ride in a pack and take up a whole lane? Not that I think it's a good idea, but just wondering if it's legal... if it isn't CM should stop it, because they say they're trying to do everything legally.

I'm not planning on going on more CM rides, by the way. I don't think their goal of bike advocacy is bad, I just think they're dumb and unsafe about it. I don't think it helps people like me--who commute by bike--to get treated well by drivers and city planners.
Well, I don't know about in NY, but I'm pretty sure in PA a bike is supposed to pull over and let traffic by if the cyclist is causing a long backup of cars, so I guess having a group take the whole lane isn't legal.

ANd in NY, what if everybody with a hobby decided to have a Critical Mass event that messed up traffic. With all the eccentrics in NY, you'd have some kind of whacky parade every night.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:30 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Diggy18
ANd in NY, what if everybody with a hobby decided to have a Critical Mass event that messed up traffic. With all the eccentrics in NY, you'd have some kind of whacky parade every night.
You say that like it's a bad thing.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:39 PM   #8
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I feel safer taking the whole lane. I only spilt lanes to pass cars. If they want to pass me, they can change lanes. I'm not going to worry about making anybody's driving experience less enjoyable or whatever. In DC there is a law against taking the whole lane (intentionally obstructing traffic) and against staying to the side (failure to maintain lane.) A friend got charged for failure to maintain lane after breaking her finger pretty badly when a door opened in her path. Basically it is illegal to ride in DC depending on how you interpret the law and the police always interpret it to find biker at fault. I think this is what CM is about. At least the DC police won't usually charge you with either of these violations unless you get run over or doored!
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Old 12-10-04, 08:48 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diggy18
ANd in NY, what if everybody with a hobby decided to have a Critical Mass event that messed up traffic. With all the eccentrics in NY, you'd have some kind of whacky parade every night.

Um, there is 'some kind of whacky parade every night', it's NYC you just gotta know where to look.
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Old 12-10-04, 08:54 PM   #10
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Well I disagree with you about not worrying about other people's driving experience. Presumably you don't like it cars do inconsiderate things that make your ride less fun either.

I didn't know about the contradictory DC laws. Sounds pretty stupid. I have sometimes commuted from my girlfriend's apartment in NW to College Park, and never had a problem.

Quote:
Originally Posted by qmsdc15
I feel safer taking the whole lane. I only spilt lanes to pass cars. If they want to pass me, they can change lanes. I'm not going to worry about making anybody's driving experience less enjoyable or whatever. In DC there is a law against taking the whole lane (intentionally obstructing traffic) and against staying to the side (failure to maintain lane.) A friend got charged for failure to maintain lane after breaking her finger pretty badly when a door opened in her path. Basically it is illegal to ride in DC depending on how you interpret the law and the police always interpret it to find biker at fault. I think this is what CM is about. At least the DC police won't usually charge you with either of these violations unless you get run over or doored!
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Old 12-10-04, 09:32 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by moxfyre
Well I disagree with you about not worrying about other people's driving experience. Presumably you don't like it cars do inconsiderate things that make your ride less fun either.

I didn't know about the contradictory DC laws. Sounds pretty stupid. I have sometimes commuted from my girlfriend's apartment in NW to College Park, and never had a problem.
I'm fine if the car doesn't violate my right of way. I don't violate the motorist's right of way. There are a couple of intersections on my ride to work where I pull over and let all the cars make the light before I re-enter the lane. I'm not totally inconsiderate. I'm taking the whole lane because I don't want a car to pass me in the same lane, there is not enough room for this to happen safely. Typically a driver will move a little into the other lane to get by you safely. If they can move a little bit into the next lane, they can move all the way into it. I've been passed too close too many times lately. Cars going fast a few inches from my handlebar scares me. I see it as a question of my life vs. some other guy's convenience. Maybe I'm selfish, but I value my life more than your convenience.
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Old 12-10-04, 09:35 PM   #12
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Well, I think that what you do is very considerate. It's true that what is a matter of convenience for the car drivers is a matter of safety for the cyclists. I guess the problems start when people start going out of their way to make a statement, rather than just ride safely.

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I'm fine if the car doesn't violate my right of way. I don't violate the motorist's right of way. There are a couple of intersections on my ride to work where I pull over and let all the cars make the light before I re-enter the lane. I'm not totally inconsiderate. I'm taking the whole lane because I don't want a car to pass me in the same lane, there is not enough room for this to happen safely. Typically a driver will move a little into the other lane to get by you safely. If they can move a little bit into the next lane, they can move all the way into it. I've been passed too close too many times lately. Cars going fast a few inches from my handlebar scares me. I see it as a question of my life vs. some other guy's convenience. Maybe I'm selfish, but I value my life more than your convenience.
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Old 12-10-04, 10:20 PM   #13
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I know, lately I've realized I'm riding my own CM everyday. Does me alone or a group blocking the lane make drivers hate bicycles more or does it raise their awareness about the fact that bikes are on the road and to watch out for bikes? Often, maybe most times it makes them hate us more, but if more people would ride, encountering cyclists on the road would be more expected and tolerated perhaps.

I don't know the answer but riding a bike is my job and sole means of transportation so I'm going to be riding anyway. I could do without the cars though. Riding for fun, give me a nice stretch of single-track or fire road.
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Old 12-11-04, 11:57 AM   #14
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Dear gmsdc.
You ride well, please keep it up and for the sake of cycling try to educate the other "Car Culture" fools that pavement/hard shoulder etc is NOT THE PLACE TO RIDE!
I want to stay alive and if that makes a car slow down for a second then I just do not care! I ride considerately but with safety as a priority.
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Old 12-11-04, 05:13 PM   #15
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I agree with PedalDog. When I need to take the lane or my safety and the safety of the motorist then I will. The laws out in Arizona say that I need to be as far right as practicable and if that means the middle of the lane on a hill so the truck behind me doesn't get hit head on so be it. When I can I like to educate the motorists on how to drive safely with cyclists. Thank you to everyone who rides safely and within the law.
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Old 12-12-04, 09:31 PM   #16
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I read an account on the Wash. D.C. CM website of one of their regular rides. There were 20 riders and the evening traffic was light. I believe they were riding up 14th St. At one point the motorists behind them were honking irrately. A few paragraphs later it said that when they got to Georgia Ave., they quit taking all the lanes. 20 riders and they were completely blocking their side of the road? No wonder they were being honked at. On a multilane road, it isn't necessary to ride single file, but they only needed one lane, both for safety and to make their point. I'm not impressed. This is not the way to win respect from the motorist ranks.

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Old 12-13-04, 05:35 AM   #17
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And yet we just suck it up and accept when all those cars block us, just because their drivers want to, for the rest of the month? Sure CM is provocative. It's dealing with habitual idiots.
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Old 12-13-04, 06:11 AM   #18
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And yet we just suck it up and accept when all those cars block us, just because their drivers want to, for the rest of the month? Sure CM is provocative. It's dealing with habitual idiots.
Well, I rarely have trouble with slow moving cars blocking my way while I'm riding. How about you, do you have that problem?

How fast do you ride, and how wide is your bike?
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Old 12-13-04, 09:05 AM   #19
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Different states have different laws about how much of the roadway a cyclist may use. The best states don't assign inferior rights to cyclists compared to other drivers. In NC, any driver who is not passing or turning left, while traveling substantially under the maximum speed limit, is entitled to the rightmost through lane if lanes are marked, or must travel as far right as practicable if not. The municipality of Cary, NC has an ordinance against cycling *more* than two abreast. It's perfectly legal here for a group of cyclists to use an entire lane; I believe it's also generally safer. As for using more than one lane, there's rarely any reason to do that unless you have many, many cyclists trying to get through traffic signals in a timely fashion.

As a solo cyclist, I ride near the middle of the lane if it's narrow and I find it unsafe for drivers to pass using my lane. This is my default position on roads with more than one lane (narrow) in my direction of travel. On wide lanes I often allow drivers to overtaking sharing my lane.

http://humantransport.org/bicycledriving/
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Old 12-13-04, 05:50 PM   #20
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It's dealing with habitual idiots.
I guess it's a good thing I left out the part about the destination of the ride was to visit the sites of 2 bicyclists killed by trucks within a week during this last summer.

I stand by my opinion of the D.C. CM group. I have also checked the websites of the Blacksburg, Va. and Charlottesville, Va. groups. I got curious about CM from reading posts in these forums. My work schedule keeps me from actually riding with them, so I'm relying on their websites to get a feel for their "politics". Charlottesville is more like my idea as to what CM should be about as they have relatively orderly rides that promote the fun of cycling. It's the old honey vs. vinegar arguement.

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Old 12-14-04, 01:11 PM   #21
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Just remember that all CM's are run differently and just because one group take up the whole lane doesn't mean that all CM's are ridden that way. If 5 idiots are the only ones that take part in CM then obviously that CM wouldn't be a good one to ride with. Our particular CM happens to use the shoulder and ride single file. The name Critical Mass is just a reason for people to ride together, if it's idiots riding then so be it, if it's safe riders then yeah. All CM rides are different.
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Old 12-14-04, 08:26 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hal Hardy
I read an account on the Wash. D.C. CM website of one of their regular rides. There were 20 riders and the evening traffic was light. I believe they were riding up 14th St. At one point the motorists behind them were honking irrately. A few paragraphs later it said that when they got to Georgia Ave., they quit taking all the lanes. 20 riders and they were completely blocking their side of the road? No wonder they were being honked at. On a multilane road, it isn't necessary to ride single file, but they only needed one lane, both for safety and to make their point. I'm not impressed. This is not the way to win respect from the motorist ranks.
Right on Hal! I rode CM and they went down Constitution Ave. taking 3 lanes, I was embarrassed to be a part of it. They get well meaning cyclists to join and then use the size of the pack to get away with stupid anarchist's pranks like that. I plan on participating in DC CMs in the future but on my own terms. I will not leave the right-hand lane or run red lights. Probably I will get dropped and be riding my own CM like I do every day. If I lose contact with the group my CM will route towards my house. After party for any who follows me home!
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Old 12-14-04, 08:47 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andygates
And yet we just suck it up and accept when all those cars block us, just because their drivers want to, for the rest of the month? Sure CM is provocative. It's dealing with habitual idiots.
Cars block you!? Get real! I might not split lanes in a CM if we were trying to adhere to the letter of the law (like that might happen!). I feel it would be much more effective protest if we sat in traffic holding down one right hand lane and not passing anyone and not running lights. In real urban life, I hog the lane if the cars are moving at an acceptable speed and I split the lanes when they aren't. CM seems more like idiots than car drivers to me. Car drivers are lazy which is a sign of intelligence not idiocy!

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Old 12-15-04, 12:34 AM   #24
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Car drivers are lazy which is a sign of intelligence not idiocy!
I agree that car drivers are lazy but I don't view that as a sign of intelligence...

If you think motorists are smart 'cause they're sitting on their butt alone in a two-ton $30,000.00 waste of resources, pushing on their gas pedals 'n' brakes, idling in traffic (which forms every day on it's own and doesn't really need any help from Critical Mass), all the while wasting yet more irreplacable resources that our troops are literally dying for in Iraq, and bicyclists are stupid 'cause they're out there pedaling, getting around under their own power, you're on the wrong forum, my friend. Try http://www.car-forums.com/
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Old 12-15-04, 08:52 AM   #25
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moxfyre don't you think it is wrong for you to complain when someone is doing illegal "1 had blinker but no helmet, and 2 had neither. Also, one of them had a singlespeed with only a coaster brake, and his chain was too long and droopy, which drove me nuts and made me want to whip out a frickin' chain tool " when you are doing something illegal yourself?

Also why do you think by doing the following you are not doing anything unsafe, the drivers won't be pissed off when they see you do these illegal things, well think oh good this rider is not inconsiderate and is a safe rider and by doing these illegal things you are not making it unpleasant for the next rider that the driver see.

"If there are no cars at a stop sign and I can see clearly, I'll coast through it. Instead of going through a left turn at a busy intersection, I'll often cut over onto the left-side sidewalk and go around the corner on it, then cut back across when the road is clear".
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