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  1. #1
    csr
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    critical mass / community rides

    I have never participated in one of these. From some youtube videos, it seems that there is a tendency in some cases for cyclists to stray toward the left, to not keep right for the sake of faster traffic, and in some shots it appears that motorists are being deliberately blocked. Is this supposed to be a kind of protest? I think the rides are intended to demonstrate the viability and indeed existence of cycling as a mode of transport. I think it would be better if the cyclists were scrupulously following the traffic laws. A long string of cyclists obeying the traffic laws might convince more people and avoid attracting the attention of the police. To behave in a noisy and anarchical way invites legislation etc. In one youtube video the police showed up and handed a list of citations to some cyclists, just to indicate to them how many infractions had been incurred. The cyclists didn't seem to take it very seriously.

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    Bicyclists are legally allowed to ride two abreast in my state, Indiana. But if it is safe to do so I agree that cyclists should merge into single file and minimize the disruption of traffic flow.

    If it is unsafe for the car to pass you had better take the lane and minimize temptation for the motorist to try and make it anyway. A Saturday group ride I participate in goes for a short distance on a busy road. Since we know it is downhill and we are going for a short distance, we take the lane, since we legally can and ride quickly. There are two windy curves in this short distance that are not very far apart and we are much safer exercising our legal rights and taking the lane.
    What is better than getting your heart rate up and saddle time?

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    csr
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    Yes, I didn't mean two abreast though. I mean five-ten abreast, and actually blocking cars literally. I saw one clip of two cyclists in the left lane blocking a car. Actually it was a bad scene. The car for some reason had come over the cement or something, and the cyclists just stayed where they were. Eventually the car ran over a cyclist a little bit, injuring his foot or something. I'm not happy about the car driver, but the law is that the cyclist must merge right to make way for faster traffic. Then there are community ride clips of cars not being able to make any headway at all.

    I think a good demonstration ride would be: have as many cyclists as possible come out during a certain hour, to ride as many streets as they can fill comfortably, perhaps circling around. Maybe a ten-block route, or twenty. Just go along, obeying the traffic rules. Part of the problem is that cars often encounter maybe one or two cyclists. This way they'd have a steady stream to contend with. If this could be done weekly, it might encourage people to cycle more. I think a lot of people think it is too difficult, or that the roads aren't for them. Millions of bicycles just sit in garages. But it can't be something that attracts the attention of police. Lots of noise-making, dancing around in the street, congregating in the hundreds somewhere, is unusual. Instead, an understanding that the streets will be filled during a certain hour, but lawfully filled, could do some good.

    Another thought: if it becomes a parade, then it seems to motorists and police like a one-off, even if monthly. It's just bicyclists being dorky once a month. But if the cyclists are spread out in a rational way, just as if they were cycling for transport purposes, then it would send the message that hey, this is normal. This is good. We're no trouble at all. We're getting exercise. We're getting everything done. Etc.

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Yes, critical mass rides are meant to block motorists and to be as annoying and rude as humanly possible to anyone who does not ride a bicycle. They love it when fights break out, and when the police arrive on the scene because then they can play the martyrs. They are trying to make a point about cycling being a viable method of transportation (or something) but that point does not come across in any way at all. Instead what comes across is that cyclists are obnoxious jerks.

    I agree with you 100% that if those who participate in critical mass rides really did want to make a point, they should meticulously follow the law during their rides, and they should be extremely polite and friendly to those who are not riding their bicycles. In that way, drivers might look at cyclists in a positive way and be more inclined to share the road. Those not riding their bicycles might also be intrigued by this group of well-mannered cyclists who look like they are having fun while not disturbing anyone ... and might be inclined to dig their bicycles out and go for a ride.

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    Senior Member Tapeworm21's Avatar
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    We need a baseball bad and a horse. Preferably dead.
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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Cyclists have a right to the road within limits of the law.
    Share the road, don't hog it!

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    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Yes, critical mass rides are meant to block motorists and to be as annoying and rude as humanly possible to anyone who does not ride a bicycle. They love it when fights break out, and when the police arrive on the scene because then they can play the martyrs. They are trying to make a point about cycling being a viable method of transportation (or something) but that point does not come across in any way at all. Instead what comes across is that cyclists are obnoxious jerks.

    I agree with you 100% that if those who participate in critical mass rides really did want to make a point, they should meticulously follow the law during their rides, and they should be extremely polite and friendly to those who are not riding their bicycles. In that way, drivers might look at cyclists in a positive way and be more inclined to share the road. Those not riding their bicycles might also be intrigued by this group of well-mannered cyclists who look like they are having fun while not disturbing anyone ... and might be inclined to dig their bicycles out and go for a ride.
    "Prost!"

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    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Yes, critical mass rides are meant to block motorists and to be as annoying and rude as humanly possible to anyone who does not ride a bicycle. They love it when fights break out, and when the police arrive on the scene because then they can play the martyrs. They are trying to make a point about cycling being a viable method of transportation (or something) but that point does not come across in any way at all. Instead what comes across is that cyclists are obnoxious jerks.
    Yes... we blocked some traffic today and I'm sure a few folks were annoyed but we aren't a rude bunch, tend to be pacifists, and have never had the police stop or have to intervene.

    The cagers can have the roads for the other 29 or 30 days of the month but for a few hours every month we are gonna ride and make the point that we belong there too and have rights.

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    csr
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    Just now I was reading "Divorce Your Car!", and on pp. 160-1 this very topic is mentioned. Some critical mass rides run lights to keep the group together. It is alleged by some that the rides have helped gain local government support for cycling.

    Anyway, my opinion is that a more effective model than the one I've seen in youtube videos would be to have a longer string of bicycles, scrupulously obeying the traffic rules. Sticking together in one mass would be less important than filling a number of blocks for a period of time--filling it well so as to do nothing that could be criticized, except existing of course.

    In some videos the cyclists actually head into traffic going the wrong way. Ridiculous!

    Many blocks of competent cyclists would be a good and competent impression. A brief chunk of cyclists behaving oddly is merely an event to be questioned.

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    csr
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    we belong there too and have rights.
    But also responsibilities.

    Anyway I can guess that the above poster is correct, that this issue has already been discussed quite a lot. As a newbie I wouldn't know that really.

    I just think that many blocks-worth of competent cyclists would create a more valuable impression than a temporary 'bursting' of noisy, ill-mannered cyclists.

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    csr
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    Here is the scene of a bizarrely-behaved motorist partly crushing a cyclist who didn't move out of the way. Obviously the motorist cannot be forgiven, but, the cyclist was very stubborn too.
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=R7b-Yk9IAN4

    At minute 1:21 a cyclist physically blocks a car. The car driver will simply think that the cyclists are oddly-behaved and are special cases, not something to expect regularly.
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=Kc9b80ROk8s

    In this case, slowing down the road seems to be the objective.
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=jVQpWPfRfYA

    At about 3:10, some cyclists find officers' concerns amusing.
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=qJju1CuGCDA

    Anyway, I admit that I don't know what kind of advocacy is best.

  12. #12
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    I was really reluctant to join the CM rides here as they do receive a lot of bad press (that is warranted) because riders are behaving so badly but found them to be a great event.

    Our rides are pretty civil affairs and you have to realize that many motorists don't even pay attention to the well mannered cyclists they pass every day until they almost run them over.

    On several occasions I have come close to being run down on my way to the CM rides... today a couple of older ladies cut me off in an intersection and gave me a friendly wave to boot which means they saw me but decided I didn't have the right of way.

    I felt responsible to get out in today's near freezing temperatures and join the local riding community in a peaceful demonstration to bring awareness to the non riding citizens of our city.

    We slowed a few people down for a few minutes ona Friday afternoon... I don't feel bad about that at all.

    It was a bad week for riding as although I didn't have any close calls I was harassed on quite a few occasions by pickup driving rednecks... one of them tried to hit me with some fast food containers but I'm a hard target.

    In a perfect world things like critical mass rides would not exist and I would not have to deal with so many dinks.

  13. #13
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    Yes... we blocked some traffic today and I'm sure a few folks were annoyed but we aren't a rude bunch, tend to be pacifists, and have never had the police stop or have to intervene.

    The cagers can have the roads for the other 29 or 30 days of the month but for a few hours every month we are gonna ride and make the point that we belong there too and have rights.

    And what if there had been an emergency? Someone had died or someone's house burned down because you purposely created a traffic jam?

    How do you think that bicycle you ride came to be? The home in which you live? The food you buy at the supermarket? Unless you are willing to chuck it all, move to the wilderness, with nothing (and I mean nothing, no clothes, knife, matches, food etc.), you better get used to the fact that the automobile is here to stay.

    You are not pacifists as you claim to be. You are anarchists that incite violence in others. As Machka said, you stand a far better chance with a will mannered organized ride. Work with local authorities to bring change in laws, enforce existing laws and to add bike lanes. Instead you are going to make law makers, police and the public (including other cyclists) angry.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by csr View Post
    But also responsibilities.

    Anyway I can guess that the above poster is correct, that this issue has already been discussed quite a lot. As a newbie I wouldn't know that really.

    I just think that many blocks-worth of competent cyclists would create a more valuable impression than a temporary 'bursting' of noisy, ill-mannered cyclists.
    "Bartender, another round over here!"

    Absolutely spot-on!
    By far, the best strategy would be to pick a few key blocks, then ride it for a set time, going up and down the street like a bunch of Dutch, German or Danish commuters. Obey all laws and be courteous to all drivers.

    Do this for whatever length of time. Then go to another planned few blocks and do it again. Spread out the presence. Repeat monthly. Avoid the appearance of a protest and take on the appearance of normalcy. Isn't that what they want? To be accepted as part of normal traffic?

    If Critical Mass were really a responsible organization, instead of a loose conglomeration of neo-anarchists, they'de have a lot more support.

  15. #15
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
    And what if there had been an emergency? Someone had died or someone's house burned down because you purposely created a traffic jam?
    Or less serious but still serious enough to the people involved ... what about all the commercial drivers you slowed down? My EX used to be a courier, and he HATED the critical mass rides because they blocked the downtown area which he had to get through to do his deliveries. He lost money every time there was a critical mass.

    Critical mass rides don't slow down the people who can make the decision to ride to work ... they slow down the people who use their vehicles for work. Those who ride critical masses should stop and think of all the things they own (or are planning to buy) which are transported in some way by motorized vehicles ... right from the raw products these things are made from, to the manufacturing, to the stores, between the stores, etc. Critical masses slow down all of that ... and I wonder how many of the people who ride these things get home, or back to their place of employment, and get on the phone demanding to know why delivery of this or that is late.

    And if the point of a critical mass is to get the people they hold up on the road to switch to a non-motorized transportation, I wonder how many would freak out if they heard that their new TV was being shipped from a warehouse on the east coast to their homes on the west coast by bicycle ... and would get to them in 2 months.

    I don't know of a single driver who has anything positive to say about critical masses or cyclists in general after they have been held up by a critical mass. In fact, back in Winnipeg during the week or so following a critical mass, cycling to work was like taking your life into your hands because of all the angry drivers.

    They don't work ... and I wish they would stop being held.

  16. #16
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm View Post
    "Bartender, another round over here!"

    Absolutely spot-on!
    By far, the best strategy would be to pick a few key blocks, then ride it for a set time, going up and down the street like a bunch of Dutch, German or Danish commuters. Obey all laws and be courteous to all drivers.

    Do this for whatever length of time. Then go to another planned few blocks and do it again. Spread out the presence. Repeat monthly. Avoid the appearance of a protest and take on the appearance of normalcy. Isn't that what they want? To be accepted as part of normal traffic?
    I posted something similar to this that I read on a mailing list some time ago. Instead of riding in one big mass of riders that causes delays and doesn't move with any particular efficiency, a far better option would be to split up into smaller groups that could slide through the traffic unobtrusively, and yet could take over an entire city and be visible to thousands of motorists (if that's what they really want).

    A friend of mine went on the critical mass ride in Brisbane some time ago. She told me that it basically involved sitting in a big group and going at the same speed as the rest of the traffic at the time: 8-11km/h. The point is that no motorist is going to see that and think there is any value in it. Any fool can sit in traffic all day, and they don't need to get out of their car to do it. A far better option would be to demonstrate the value of a bicycle in those situations, but this would require riding in smaller and more efficient groups.

    One of the conclusions I've reached about "advocacy" groups, and it's particularly relevant to critical mass rides, is that most of the time, cycling is not their main motivation. Most of the people on the CM rides are just there to make a fuss and be seen to be "rebelling" against something -- although many of them don't seem to be entirely sure what it is. They seem to revel in the chaos of it all, and the possibility that they might get arrested. It seems to be more about "civil disobedience" than any attempt to advocate or promote the rights of cyclists. In other words, it's about a group of people getting together in a little self-congratulatory gathering and having a bit of fun, with the added element of "danger" or at least being arrested to spice things up.

    Personally, I'd prefer that they found some other place to have their fun together. I could go on, but this blog post sums it up better than I ever could.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
    "We invite everyone to question the entire culture we take for granted." - Manic Street Preachers.
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  17. #17
    Bicycle Repair Man !!! Sixty Fiver's Avatar
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    Our CM rides are organized and the people are well mannered... this is why I like them.

    When we cross the bridge we take up the whole thing and this might add a few minutes to people's commutes but it keeps folks safe as the bridge is two narrow lanes... itis not a route that is travelled by emergency vehicles as there is not enough clearance and because the north and south are served by different emergency services.

    With that being said... I now need a bat and a dead horse.

  18. #18
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Seattle CM blocked all 3 lanes of state highway from south of downtown all the way up to the ship canal last night, a distance of over 3 miles.

    Screw the motorists. Bikes ARE traffic. Bicycle traffic jam? oh well, must suck to be a motorist in a traffic jam regardless of its cause, eh?
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  19. #19
    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    I'd very much like to see the drivers around here become accustomed to seeing bicycles on the road. They're usually quite thoughtful - but only when they know you are there. In some sense, there really is a "critical mass". That is, when enough people are riding, more people will be riding, and drivers will be expecting us. I do not believe Critical Mass is going to get us where I want us to be.
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

  20. #20
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sixty Fiver View Post
    Our CM rides are organized and the people are well mannered... this is why I like them.

    When we cross the bridge we take up the whole thing and this might add a few minutes to people's commutes but it keeps folks safe as the bridge is two narrow lanes... itis not a route that is travelled by emergency vehicles as there is not enough clearance and because the north and south are served by different emergency services.

    With that being said... I now need a bat and a dead horse.
    You are blocking peoples ability to go about their business, the ride may be "organized" in your definition but it certainly is not well mannered in any one's definition.

    Not a route traveled by emergency vehicles? So you can see into the future and know where an emergency is going to occur?

    I suggest you get you head out of the sixties and join the rest of us in the real world.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

    Albert Einstein

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    Quote Originally Posted by csr View Post
    Here is the scene of a bizarrely-behaved motorist partly crushing a cyclist who didn't move out of the way. Obviously the motorist cannot be forgiven, but, the cyclist was very stubborn too.
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=R7b-Yk9IAN4
    On most videos of CM I've seen, many of the CM bicyclists deserve to get hit.
    If you have already seen that a car is driving irrationally (crossing the center divider?) what kind of a ******** ****** decides "Hey! I have a great idea!!! I'll block their car's way with my bicycle!"

    Quote Originally Posted by csr View Post
    ...Anyway, I admit that I don't know what kind of advocacy is best.
    I rather like the Toronto people painting their own bike lanes.
    I'd keep using white the same as the city workers would though, not pink.
    http://www.thestar.com/News/article/226454
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  22. #22
    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    Seattle CM blocked all 3 lanes of state highway from south of downtown all the way up to the ship canal last night, a distance of over 3 miles.

    Screw the motorists. Bikes ARE traffic. Bicycle traffic jam? oh well, must suck to be a motorist in a traffic jam regardless of its cause, eh?
    Wow hope your proud of yourself. I certainly hope no one suffered because they were unable to be transported to a hospital or were unable to get the assistance of the police. You might want to think about that before you you participate in your next thoughtless and selfish act.
    "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it."

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    How many of these folks that do the critical mass bit are daily bicycle commuters?
    Commuted daily for 16 years, year round. Never got hit while commuting but did have a few close calls.
    We are part of traffic, behave as such.
    Share the road, don't hog it.

  24. #24
    csr
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    I think that the world is showing signs of opening up to bicycles. I can't say whether or not aggressive CM rides have had any beneficial impact. Perhaps they have. But it seems to me that the world is ready to see bicycles behave well. The argument that they don't belong seems to be fading. I suppose right now it's a bit like the wild west in some sense. "Messengers on Crack" lol. But the early settlers did best when they insisted on rules and good behavior.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tapeworm21 View Post
    We need a baseball bad and a horse. Preferably dead.
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