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thoughts on "critical mass"

Old 07-28-08, 09:07 AM
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thoughts on "critical mass"

and their attempts to disrupt traffic flows by unlawfully blocking intersections, violating traffic lights and traffic laws... all the while claiming they have a "right" to do so?
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Old 07-28-08, 09:10 AM
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My thoughts are that this stay in General cycling and not get to the point of being moved to P&R.
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Old 07-28-08, 09:22 AM
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If they're violating traffic laws, they ought to be ticketed. critical mass (yes, I put it in lower case, I have no respect for these scofflaws) gives bike riders a bad name.
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Old 07-28-08, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by nooooob View Post
...all the while claiming they have a "right" to do so?
Can you elaborate on the claim YOU are making? Critical mass is a loose organization of hundreds of seperate rides occuring all over the planet. Who was the official spokesperson for the tens of thousands of riders worldwide who came out stating that all of us belive we are entitled to do whatever we want on the streets?

I ride with the local CM and I do not condone corking or blowing through traffic signals.

You are making broad and sweeping generalizations about a ride that you do not seem to know much about. If you want to discuss CM then lets discuss it, it sounds more like you are interested in trolling and making baseless attacks on a very dynamic group of riders.
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Old 07-28-08, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by HandsomeRyan View Post
Can you elaborate on the claim YOU are making? Critical mass is a loose organization of hundreds of seperate rides occuring all over the planet. Who was the official spokesperson for the tens of thousands of riders worldwide who came out stating that all of us belive we are entitled to do whatever we want on the streets?

I ride with the local CM and I do not condone corking or blowing through traffic signals.

You are making broad and sweeping generalizations about a ride that you do not seem to know much about. If you want to discuss CM then lets discuss it, it sounds more like you are interested in trolling and making baseless attacks on a very dynamic group of riders.
how about when a cop comes up to the intersection that they are blocking, turns his lights on and instructs the cyclists to move along and not block the intersection and the cyclists claim to be "doing nothing wrong"?

its a fairly common belief among the majority of cyclists that traffic signals are made only for cars and not bikes, as displayed by the numerous cyclists who run through red lights and stop signs at whim. not such a big stretch to assume that as a result, most cyclists in critical mass feel that breaking laws is not a concern
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Old 07-28-08, 10:18 AM
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Originally Posted by HandsomeRyan View Post
I ride with the local CM and I do not condone corking or blowing through traffic signals.
Could you explain why you ride with critical mass? Is there a specific goal of the group that you ride with? If not, what purpose are you individually trying to achieve and how does your participation in these events further that purpose?
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Old 07-28-08, 10:27 AM
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critical mass likes to claim they are trying to raise awareness that cyclists deserve equal rights to the road, but why do they decide that denying rights from others is the best way to do this? right of way laws are pretty cut and dry, violating said laws seems to incite more anger from law abiding citizens than anything else.... seems like breaking laws would increase opposition to your cause
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Old 07-28-08, 11:55 AM
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It seems to me that Critical Mass is a political movement that was intended to bring bicycling issues on public streets to the public’s attention. As such they attempt to avoid legal issues by not having a leadership hierarchy but saying their events are “spontaneous”. This is a bit like kids having a spontaneous party because they find an empty warehouse and they text message all their friends to be there. Because of this they contend they do not need a permit for their rides because they are not organized. If all they do is ride from point A to point B they might have a point. However with the number of arrests that have taken place over the years some people could wonder how this is not simply a political protest movement?

Not to make a judgment but it seems as if Critical Mass is a bit like ELF or Earth First. They have noble goals but their methods often morph into something far closer to a protest ride. If they are protest rides then a permit is necessary. Because someone has to at least assign a meeting place and plan a route and pick a date someone has to be responsible to speak for the group. If we join a mob and that mob turns ugly and breaks the law aren’t we responsible? Our society has allowed mob action to give some people a feeling they aren’t responsible for their actions. We see it demonstrated when we watch TV and see riots after a sporting championship game and cars are damaged and storefronts are broken into.

I empathize with Critical Mass and some of their issues but personally I would rather be part of an organized ride with rules of conduct and a defined goal. Just how I see it.
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Old 07-28-08, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by nooooob View Post
how about when a cop comes up to the intersection that they are blocking, turns his lights on and instructs the cyclists to move along and not block the intersection and the cyclists claim to be "doing nothing wrong"?
I have no idea what you are talking about? Just last Friday (7/25) I rode the local CM ride here in Knoxville. We passed 2 bicycle police officers on patrol about 5 minutes into the ride. They waived and complimented our bicycle trailer stereo. About 30 minutes later, riding several miles away in a residential area a police SUV was "stuck" behind the CM ride as we passed through a neighborhood and the 2 officers waited until a safe area and passed the group without incident. In fact, I have yet to have an unpleasent experience with local law enforcement due to my participation in CM rides. I can not answer for the situation you refer to because I wan't there. What I can tell you is that just because the critical mass riders wherever you live ride like idiots does not mean that the other tens of thousands of CM riders all over the planet condone that type of behavior. What you are doing is making generalizations.

Another way to look at it- Last time I showed up to ride with some roadies they were rude, they intentionally dropped me even after I was told it would be a no-drop ride (only reason I showed up), and they left me to ride alone in the dark in sub-freezing weather. Would it be fair for me to say that all road cyclists are [explitive deleted] because the 6-7 guys I met up with acted this way? Absolutly not, those guys are the exception rather than the rule.

Originally Posted by nooooob View Post
its a fairly common belief among the majority of cyclists that traffic signals are made only for cars and not bikes, as displayed by the numerous cyclists who run through red lights and stop signs at whim. not such a big stretch to assume that as a result, most cyclists in critical mass feel that breaking laws is not a concern
I have few problems with these statements- (A) if "the majority of cyclists" disregard traffic signals then why is Critical Mass being singled out for the hate-fest? (B) When you refer to "The majority of cyclists" I can only assume you mean "the people I ride with or see riding in my city" because that statment does not hold true where I live or in many other areas I've visited and I'll go out on a limb and say it does not hold true for the majority of the world cycling population. (C) Now you say that traffic laws are "Not a concern" where in your first post you said specifically that CM riders "claim to have the right to [disrupt traffic]".

Originally Posted by Febs View Post
Could you explain why you ride with critical mass??
I personally ride critical mass because I like to enjoy the company of other cyclists in a non-competitive, non-pretentious setting. I've met some really fantastic folks through this event who I probably never would have met if not through CM.

Originally Posted by Febs View Post
Is there a specific goal of the group that you ride with? ?
Our 'goal' is the same as all Critical Mass rides- To ride on as a group on public streets as a celebration of the freedom to do so.

Originally Posted by Febs View Post
If not, what purpose are you individually trying to achieve and how does your participation in these events further that purpose?
I don't think I can answer your question in the form you've asked it. For me, CM is not a protest rally or a militant demonstration. I don't show up because I think I'm changing the world. My purpose in attending is to have fun. I enjoy the company of the other riders and they take me to parts of the city I do not (otherwise) spend much time in. I'd say CM is pretty darn effective at achieving this goal. We ride all over the city, talk and tell jokes, and at the end we go to a cyclo-friendly watering hole and drink beer. Mission accomplished!
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Old 07-28-08, 12:31 PM
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[QUOTE=Robert Foster;7151835] As such they attempt to avoid legal issues by not having a leadership hierarchy but saying their events are “spontaneous”.

I think you are confusing "flash mobs" with CM rides. There is nothing spontaneous about CM. They meet at the same time in the same place every month and the meeting locations are for-the-most-part published online where anyone can find them. Knoxville's CM meets at the base of the Sunsphere on Clinch Ave. between 5:30-6:00PM on the last friday of every month. It's not a secret. I think it would be cool if the KPD wanted to send a bike patrol to ride ::with:: us. [But we can't pay for the officers O/T so that won't happen]

There is no legal issue with a group not having a leader. If you meet a couple buddies to go riding do you assign a leader in case somethign happens? No? Well when I meet 30-40 of my friends the last friday of every month we don't assign a leader either. This isn't a club or gang with dues and bylaws. It's just a group of people who like bikes who go ride together once a month.

Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
This is a bit like kids having a spontaneous party because they find an empty warehouse and they text message all their friends to be there.
No, it's nothing like that. As mentioned above it is NOT a spontaneous happening, it is planned well in advance and the locations are public places and published online where anyone (even government/law enforcement) can see them. Also important to note that bicycles are legally vehicles and can legally ride on the streets. Breaking into an abandoned building is trespassing and is NOT the same thing.

Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
If they are protest rides then a permit is necessary.
(A) they aren't protest rides, (B) the first ammendment doesn't say "Fredom to peacably assembly only if you file the correct paperwork and pay whatever fees the local government has come up with"

Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
If we join a mob and that mob turns ugly and breaks the law aren’t we responsible?
Of the thousands of critcal mass rides all over the world that have taken place in 2008, less than three one-thousanths of a percent (or about 0.00028%) have ended in clashes between police and riders. It would be great if the number was 0 but this isn;t the largest problem facing the world right now.
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Old 07-28-08, 12:36 PM
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Critical Mass.
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Old 07-28-08, 01:15 PM
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I am sure the implementation of "critical mass" is widely varied. Particularly when dealing with smaller groups of Riders.

The issue is, Negative instances will have more impression with fewer incidents. Where as it takes a lot of Positive instances to get awareness up.

So in the regard, it's hard to fault Critical Mass with altercations, because most of the riders peacefully ride. Its the few "bikers with bad attitudes" that cause the problems because their actions will produce a bigger foot print so to speak.

In implementation of Critical Mass there is some haziness as to what parts are positive and what parts are negative.

I somewhat like the idea of holding up regular traffic. "cycloning" and "corking" and "Die-ins" For safety purposes it is almost necessary when dealing with large amounts of people. The message can have mixed interpretations, though for me, it's a demonstration of awareness to cyclists, and also by stopping traffic, you are holding them up, perhaps a show that we don't need to get everywhere so fast, and what slowing down can save not only cyclists, but pedestians and other motorists. It's a general lifestyle message.

However, the reality is that many people, particularly the critics who have long reaches in media outlets, will show that blocking traffic is a nusance, and they are causing people to be late, and disrupting city functions, and emergency vehicles. They will give it a negative spin, and because of the few cyclists who acted up in protest to citations or so on, that amplifies the negative feelings around the rides.

It's the question of connotation. And with Critical Mass it's been a negative one, which is unfortunate for that group, as well as all cyclists, because it's clear they have good intentions.

Now, The other issue is, about the blocking traffic again, is that parades and protests, and so on all have permits, and predetermined routes.

Critical mass cannot have this. No city will allow monthy rides of 1000's of riders to ride on permit. And if they did, it would quickly fall under scrutiny and so on.

It's tough to say, I love what critical mass is all about, but I fear that circumstances outside of their control will only bring negativity to riders.

It's not that thousands that do things right and are peaceful, it's the bad apples in the group, and the critics that amplify the negativity.

Which is why, I believe its better to raise awareness through peaceful rides. Ones that don't stop traffic un-necessarily. Ones that stop at stop lights, and stop signs, use proper signaling and generall follow the rules of the road. I'm in a group called Bike Ypsi and every sunday we do rides like these.

About the only time we "bend the rules" is at stop signs, we all go through at once, Which means sometimes we wave cars through, if there is a line of cars significant. And once we have a reasonable gap, or a reasonable wait, we all bike through at once.

There is a group called "Critical Manners" that was created by cyclists to be a Counter to "Critical Mass" not because they don't like the message of having the same rights, or raising awareness to cyclists on the road, but to hopefully act as a heat sink to those negative moments.

It's a tough issue with no "right answer"
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Old 07-28-08, 02:06 PM
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CM has good intentions. I've heard of some CMs having a positive effect where everyone had a good experience. I've heard of others where they went seriously and horribly wrong.

I have no opinion either way (because I've not experienced one personally). There are a lot of topics on this issue, with lots of people having very sharp words for and against, so I'd probably recommend someone check out other people's thoughts on that.
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Old 07-28-08, 02:14 PM
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People that exercise their rights with no thought to their obligations are a problem wether they are on bikes or in cars.


Share the road...
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Old 07-28-08, 02:43 PM
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[QUOTE=HandsomeRyan;7152099]
Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
As such they attempt to avoid legal issues by not having a leadership hierarchy but saying their events are “spontaneous”.

I think you are confusing "flash mobs" with CM rides. There is nothing spontaneous about CM. They meet at the same time in the same place every month and the meeting locations are for-the-most-part published online where anyone can find them. Knoxville's CM meets at the base of the Sunsphere on Clinch Ave. between 5:30-6:00PM on the last friday of every month. It's not a secret. I think it would be cool if the KPD wanted to send a bike patrol to ride ::with:: us. [But we can't pay for the officers O/T so that won't happen]

There is no legal issue with a group not having a leader. If you meet a couple buddies to go riding do you assign a leader in case somethign happens? No? Well when I meet 30-40 of my friends the last friday of every month we don't assign a leader either. This isn't a club or gang with dues and bylaws. It's just a group of people who like bikes who go ride together once a month.


(A) they aren't protest rides, (B) the first ammendment doesn't say "Fredom to peacably assembly only if you file the correct paperwork and pay whatever fees the local government has come up with"

Of the thousands of critcal mass rides all over the world that have taken place in 2008, less than three one-thousanths of a percent (or about 0.00028%) have ended in clashes between police and riders. It would be great if the number was 0 but this isn;t the largest problem facing the world right now.

Maybe the US is more prone to the protest part of these ride then because out of the 250 or so rides that were published in 2007 you had an "incident in San Francisco and Berkeley pushing the rate to close to 1.5 percent. Seattle 2008 was a protest ride unless you believe in bad luck or coincidences. Corking is not freedom of speech it is the disruption of public transportation.

How many cities have had a crackdown on Critical Mass? And why do they have such crackdowns?
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Old 07-28-08, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by mp123 View Post
People that exercise their rights with no thought to their obligations are a problem wether they are on bikes or in cars.


Share the road...
+1
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Old 07-28-08, 03:00 PM
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Share the road legally.
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Old 07-29-08, 02:44 AM
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Originally Posted by nooooob View Post
and their attempts to disrupt traffic flows by unlawfully blocking intersections, violating traffic lights and traffic laws... all the while claiming they have a "right" to do so?
Thoughts? The one that springs first to mind is "anyone want to flog a dead horse?"
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Old 07-29-08, 06:54 AM
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Originally Posted by mlts22 View Post
CM has good intentions. I've heard of some CMs having a positive effect where everyone had a good experience. I've heard of others where they went seriously and horribly wrong.
Skunks have good intentions too. They generally conduct their lives accordingly, it's just that they're unpleasant to be around unless you're another skunk. Still, you may not like them but you can tolerate a skunk even when it chooses to infringe on your personal space.....until you're sprayed by one, then, good intentions or not, the skunk will have permanently changed your opinion of it.

As long as skunks don't bother me I don't bother them, but if they do they're easily chased off by hurling rocks or other objects at them. That's a fairly effective deterrent for all types of skunks.
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Old 07-29-08, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by HandsomeRyan View Post
I have no idea what you are talking about? Just last Friday (7/25) I rode the local CM ride here in Knoxville.
I was just about to mention this. I was there, too, and I think Knoxville has one of the most rule-abiding CM's out there. I'm sure lots of other cities have the same, but most people only ever hear about the ones that go wrong. There was a problem last Friday in Seattle, but that's only one of thousands of CM's that went down last week. CM as a whole is a good thing, sometimes people can just ruin it.
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Old 07-29-08, 07:35 AM
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I went to my first CM this month! Very fun, met some great people!
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Old 07-29-08, 09:43 AM
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Can you imagine a country like China with all its bike riders doing a critical mass? I think they would not even consider it. They are the mass.
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Old 07-29-08, 10:40 AM
  #23  
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I've been doing our local CM ride for a few months now. It's a lot of fun, and I think our group does a good job about trying not to be too disruptive. The route is often mainly on multi lane roads, and we try to stick to the right lane to allow cars to pass. If the head of our pack gets to a light that is red or yellow, we stop. But we do continue on through lights that change while we're in the process of going through them. I have mixed feelings about this, but I tend to go along with it. I realize we are breaking the law, but I also realize that, as far as disrupting traffic goes, several small groups of bikes with cars trapped in between them probably creates more hazards than one big group. And several cyclists stopping after an intersection to wait for their group to catch up with them would also be disruptive to traffic and illegal. Since the purpose is to ride together, and the consequences of breaking up the group are at least as disruptive as running the light to stay together, I've made my peace with that aspect of CM.

On the other hand, I disagree wholeheartedly with the OPs generalizations that CM participants believe they have a right to ride illegally. I think they have a right to assembly, and the traffic violations are a side effect of exerting that right. And I don't find that the Critical Mass ride does anything to encourage people to ride illegally in other situations. When riding solo or in a small group, I always obey the traffic laws as much as possible (there's always a few lights that won't change for me, and I do admit to going by stop signs if I can see that no other vehicles are going to be in the intersection at the same time), and I routinely see other cyclists doing the same. It may be that it's different in other areas, but my feeling is that when someone sees a cyclist breaking the law, it sticks in their mind, and when someone sees a cyclist obeying the law, they have nothing to get upset about, so the incident does not stick in their mind. As I cyclist, I notice all the other cyclists and notice whether they are law-abiding or not. I find that the vast majority are behaving as they should, but even with me, the girl on the road bike who seemed perfectly comfortable riding in traffic and waiting at the stop light this morning will soon fade from memory, but the idiot riding in the bike lane going to wrong way and making me swerve into traffic to avoid him last month will stick with me. So I can easily see how the idea that cyclists are mostly law-breakers could get started, but I also don't think that it's actually true, and it would be great if cyclists in particular could try to avoid spreading that particular myth.

For me, Critical Mass is about asserting our right to be on the road and about making the public aware that a sufficient number of cyclists are on the road. It's not about breaking the law, but that's not to say that an occasional law does not get broken. Also it's just a fun ride.
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Old 07-29-08, 11:23 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Rob_E View Post
I've been doing our local CM ride for a few months now. It's a lot of fun, and I think our group does a good job about trying not to be too disruptive. The route is often mainly on multi lane roads, and we try to stick to the right lane to allow cars to pass. If the head of our pack gets to a light that is red or yellow, we stop. But we do continue on through lights that change while we're in the process of going through them. I have mixed feelings about this, but I tend to go along with it. I realize we are breaking the law, but I also realize that, as far as disrupting traffic goes, several small groups of bikes with cars trapped in between them probably creates more hazards than one big group. And several cyclists stopping after an intersection to wait for their group to catch up with them would also be disruptive to traffic and illegal. Since the purpose is to ride together, and the consequences of breaking up the group are at least as disruptive as running the light to stay together, I've made my peace with that aspect of CM.

On the other hand, I disagree wholeheartedly with the OPs generalizations that CM participants believe they have a right to ride illegally. I think they have a right to assembly, and the traffic violations are a side effect of exerting that right. And I don't find that the Critical Mass ride does anything to encourage people to ride illegally in other situations. When riding solo or in a small group, I always obey the traffic laws as much as possible (there's always a few lights that won't change for me, and I do admit to going by stop signs if I can see that no other vehicles are going to be in the intersection at the same time), and I routinely see other cyclists doing the same. It may be that it's different in other areas, but my feeling is that when someone sees a cyclist breaking the law, it sticks in their mind, and when someone sees a cyclist obeying the law, they have nothing to get upset about, so the incident does not stick in their mind. As I cyclist, I notice all the other cyclists and notice whether they are law-abiding or not. I find that the vast majority are behaving as they should, but even with me, the girl on the road bike who seemed perfectly comfortable riding in traffic and waiting at the stop light this morning will soon fade from memory, but the idiot riding in the bike lane going to wrong way and making me swerve into traffic to avoid him last month will stick with me. So I can easily see how the idea that cyclists are mostly law-breakers could get started, but I also don't think that it's actually true, and it would be great if cyclists in particular could try to avoid spreading that particular myth.

For me, Critical Mass is about asserting our right to be on the road and about making the public aware that a sufficient number of cyclists are on the road. It's not about breaking the law, but that's not to say that an occasional law does not get broken. Also it's just a fun ride.
The problem is, that IS how it works, people remember the negative things. They talk about it in retail all the time. If someone has a Bad experience at a store, they will tell others, if they have a regular experience, or anything short of spectacular, they don't tell anyone. It's just how people are.

So, as I stated, it's not CM that's the problem, it's the few cyclists who take it too far. It's also the fault of those who DO cut in front of traffic, run stop lights/stop signs, etc etc etc.

It would be better to start a club, that has law abiding rides, and always end at a major parking lot, where literature will be canvased on all the motor vehicles. To raise awareness of cyclists. The issue is the potential waste involved with people throwing the flyer out the window. But to balance that, your group could also do clean up days, where you clean up a certain section of the city.

The group I roll with does this, last time we swept a bridge that was in particularly bad shape. Now its nice to ride on.

Positive impacts will take longer for the voice to be heard, but it will at least be a positive voice.
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Old 07-29-08, 02:32 PM
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HandsomeRyan
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Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
Seattle 2008 was a protest ride unless you believe in bad luck or coincidences.
How many people were riding in the Seattle CM ride vs. how many people actually took part in the violence that ensued? Just because a few bad eggs showed up with intentions of furthering a political agenda or causing violence and chaos does not mean that everyone who attended was onboard with the idea. I'd venture to guess 95%+ of the folks showed up that evening planning on a fun ride through the city, not a violent brawl with a cager.

If I go to a football game and a few fans of the opposing team sitting in the row behind me get drunk and start throwing stuff at me for wearing my team colors, is it fair to say that every fan of the opposing team must be a jerk? That is in essence what you are saying about the CM riders- a few folks lashed out and did something stupid so it's okay to generalize that every rider there must have been a protester.

Originally Posted by Robert Foster View Post
How many cities have had a crackdown on Critical Mass? And why do they have such crackdowns?
I've ommitted the minor stuff but here is the list of the 'major' police crackdowns-

• New York City, 2004 during (and since) the Republican National Convention.
• San Fransisco, July 1997
• Minneapolis, August 2007
• Atlanta, June 2008

I don't know the exact reason for all the enforcement but I do know the SanFran crackdown began, quite literally, because the mayors limo got stuck in traffic due to the ride and he was late for dinner.
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