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"it's not even a person, it's a beast"
February 28, 2011 6:49 PM   Subscribe

On Friday night in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a banker named Ricardo Neis was driving behind a group of about 150 Critical Mass cyclist/activists who were riding en masse to promote inner-city cycling. Neis claims he felt threatened: his response to this feeling was to literally plow through the cyclists at full speed (incident begins at about 50 seconds into video). Miraculously, none of the cyclists were killed. Witnesses to the incident were shocked. Neis eventually abandoned his VW Golf before his involvement was discovered. Local cyclists doubt he will be charged with a crime.
posted by mightygodking (202 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
"The incident has sparked outrage among activists and riders, who say that events like Critical Mass are meant to show that cyclists don't need a special dispensation from traffic officials to use the streets."

I... I just can't top that quote for unintentionally-introspective witty responses to this incident.

Fact: Cyclists and drivers simply can't share the streets peacefully for one fundamental reason: They can't (or at least, don't), go fast enough. Even in a 25 zone, you rarely see cyclists keeping up with traffic (Well, until you come to a light, which they then run with gleeful abandon amidst a symphony of horns - But that goes into whole different category of lesser reasons why they can't share the road).

And don't get me wrong, I'd rather see cars banned from the road than bikes. But both should not coexist.
posted by pla at 7:03 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know, I was going to make some snarky comment predicting the upcoming cyclist/car flame war, but HO LEE SHIT. If you haven't checked out the :50 second mark on that link, go back and click it. For fuck's sakes, he does absolutely just slam on the gas and peel right through them all. How can he not be charged with anything with that evidence?
posted by cavalier at 7:03 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Re: HO LEE SHIT


Ho. Lee. Shit. Seriously. God, that's attempted murder.
posted by The Whelk at 7:05 PM on February 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


Fact: Cyclists and drivers simply can't share the streets peacefully for one fundamental reason: They can't (or at least, don't), go fast enough.

It's interesting that you cast this as the fault of the cyclists. They were there first.
posted by pompomtom at 7:06 PM on February 28, 2011 [14 favorites]


Holy crap, that footage is insane.

I can't see how this guy will escape multiple counts of attempted murder unless he can prove he's legally insane.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:06 PM on February 28, 2011


Yep, standard banker behavior.
posted by anarch at 7:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [16 favorites]


Yep, standard banker behavior.

Well, that is generally how they approach economics.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


pla, your comment is literally incomprehensible after watching the video. It makes no sense at all to suggest that this is in any way, shape or form, a conceivable result of any set of traffic laws or social norms. It's unequivocally fucked up.
posted by odinsdream at 7:08 PM on February 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


Things in the US aren't much better. Drivers in fatal vehicle-bicycle accidents are rarely ticketed, let alone prosecuted.

If you want to get away with murder, your best bet is to put your victim on a bike. Here's one particularly horrific local incident. 3 miles. She drove 3 fucking miles before she realized she had hit and killed a person.

No charges were filed. No sobriety test was performed. No drug test was performed. The driver was never even issued a ticket.
posted by schmod at 7:09 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


My god, that car left a wake when cutting through the cyclists.
posted by SemiSophos at 7:10 PM on February 28, 2011


Horrible. The car driver belongs behind bars.
posted by Daddy-O at 7:10 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


The safest thing that could happen to that guy is a long prison sentence... If he's not behind bars, I suspect he will not be safe. That was just crazy..
posted by tomswift at 7:14 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was a lot of driver-led opposition to the recent addition of painted bike lines to a stretch of road a little outside downtown Seattle.

Nearly all of the opposition was about how cyclists slow down and increase traffic, even though most people were already driving 10-15 mph over the posted speed limit on the road in question. So any slowdowns would have just made the road safer.

Luckily we have a pro-cycling mayor who looked at the engineering data and went ahead with the repainting project — despite an organized astroturf campaign against it — but the sheer, violent rage that drivers showed on a local neighborhood blog was jaw-dropping.

It turns out that the engineers were right, and that the "road diet" worked: Road capacity stayed the same, and drivers slowed down to the speed limit, which is safer for cyclists, drivers and pedestrians alike.

Despite what uninformed people like pla will tell you, sharing the road with cyclists can benefit everyone, when it is done rationally.

But some drivers are very angry people, who do not want to share the road with anyone. It's sad to say, but attacks like these show why Critical Mass is necessary, as much as their rides occasionally inconvenience commuters.

People are getting hurt and killed because some can't share, and we need to have this dialog.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:16 PM on February 28, 2011 [85 favorites]


Thankfully no-one was badly hurt. There were a couple of dicks in that clip (one of them in a car).
posted by unliteral at 7:16 PM on February 28, 2011


I mean, jesus, smaller incidents have started fucking wars before.
posted by odinsdream at 7:17 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fact: Cyclists and drivers simply can't share the streets peacefully for one fundamental reason

This word 'fact'. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:18 PM on February 28, 2011 [31 favorites]


They can't (or at least, don't), go fast enough.

First, I'm not a motorist, so forgive me for only discovering now that cars are... designed and built with some sort of minimum travelling speed? That must be annoying. They must be very hard to get out of. And... in to, now that I think about it.

Second - what? I'm a cyclist in a big city and 9 times out of 10 I'm moving faster than the auto traffic. The real irony is that the crazy shithead using his car as a WMD would actually be able to get around more easily if CMers' goal - way more people on bikes - was seen to fruition. I mean, motorists - if you don't like bikes, you're just going to hate other cars.

Buuuuut I'm guessing that axe was already pretty sharp before you got here.
posted by regicide is good for you at 7:18 PM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


[comment removed - metatalk is your option. If you don't want to fight about this topic, you don't have to.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:18 PM on February 28, 2011


Dude's gonna get lynched.

If that happened during a Critical Mass I was riding in, I would be very, very angry- citizen's arrest time at the very least.
posted by vrogy at 7:18 PM on February 28, 2011


Fact: Cyclists and drivers simply can't share the streets peacefully for one fundamental reason: They can't (or at least, don't), go fast enough go too fast for safety.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:27 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Christ, what an asshole" doesn't begin to describe it here.
posted by Tsuga at 7:34 PM on February 28, 2011


Local cyclists doubt he will be charged with a crime.

Maybe he will be, maybe he won't be, but I hate this kind of prospective outrage. If you want to do something now, figure out what crime you think he committed and call for him to be charged with it; don't just start complaining about what you expect to happen.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:34 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think the only issue here is critical mass is a demonstration, and they do take over streets and take up all lanes of traffic and block all intersections in order to have a peaceful demonstration of what the world would be like without cars.

This is naturally disruptive to normal car/bike/pedestrian traffic and why I never participate in Critical Mass rides. Their goal as a group is to convert people into riders by having them watch the demonstration but I've found people in cars get really, really upset when they are late getting home or to an appointment while a 20min long traffic blockage holds them back. I've never witnessed anything as insane as this video, but I've seen drivers come dangerously close, blasting their horn, inching their way into bike traffic, and running their engine as a threat.

Bike demonstrations like this go well if you get a police escort in front and behind the group, the self-organized varieties are dangerous and tend to increase road rage in those that have to wait.

Honestly, the moderate approach is having a city with nice wide separated bike lanes and filling them with happy cyclists while cars drive safely apart from the separated cyclists, but from what I read about this, the town in Brazil doesn't have bike lanes so this demonstration was to kind of show support for such a thing.

Anyway, yeah, the guy should be in jail for a long time, since that's pretty clearly attempting to murder a bunch of bystanders. It's just dumb luck no one died.
posted by mathowie at 7:34 PM on February 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


I am normally a pretty level headed person when it comes to things like this. Yes, I'll get really upset and feel horrible for the victims but usually I'm happy to let local law enforcement and the court system take care of the person responsible.

In this case I'm just livid! I want to pick up one of those devastated bikes and beat the ever loving crap out of that guy! I'm the kind of person who feels bad when I kill a spider (even though spiders are evil) and I just want to beat this person to with in an inch of his life.

I don't know what the justice system is like in Brazil, but I hope he fries.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:36 PM on February 28, 2011


On Friday night in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a banker named Ricardo Neis was driving behind a group of about 150 Critical Mass cyclist/activists who were riding en masse to promote inner-city cycling. Neis claims he felt threatened: his response to this feeling was to literally plow through the cyclists at full speed (incident begins at about 50 seconds into video).

Threatened because he was behind some cyclists?

Bitch, please.

You know this banker was late to his high end prostitute...and she charges starting at the scheduled time, whether he is there or not.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's true, the couple of times I've encountered Critical Mass as a pedestrian it has felt pretty unsafe for me there on the sidewalk, and forget about crossing the street. I'm 100% behind cycling and killing automobiles for good and all that but I'm not so much a fan of Critical Mass.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:37 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's sad to say, but attacks like these show why Critical Mass is necessary, as much as their rides occasionally inconvenience commuters.

I agree with you 100% up to this. I'm not sure antagonizing the drivers, intentionally causing gridlock at rush-hour, etc. is the path to bicycle nirvana. I think people are more amenable to compromise when their worst thoughts about the cyclists aren't confirmed and they don't perceive themselves being under attack. I think these kinds of things bring out the worst in people, which never leads to good things, and can often lead to tragic things.
posted by floam at 7:38 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


According to local Brazilian news, the Attorney General's Office of the State of Rio Grande do Sul t has ordered the driver's arrest. There is a picture at this site of a demonstration in São Paulo in support of the victims.
This is a horrible event, and I am really happy that no one died. What good that could come out of this would be raising awareness in Brazil about the importance of sharing the road. A growing number of Brazilians drive, and there are more cars on the road than ever in major urban areas. The driving population tends to drive aggressively, like in other big cities worldwide where there isn't a lot of enforcement of the rules of the road. This isn't even the only incident this week of a car gunning down people. In this case, the dude kills seven people walking out of a church because he was driving like shit around a slick curve. That's not even to mention the Carnival float in Minas Gerais that caused an electrocution, killing 16 people.
I'm ranting at this point. People die due to stupidity, rage, negligence and incompetence all the time. It's fucking miraculous that no one bit it in Porto Alegre. Peace be with them.
posted by msali at 7:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


Critical Mass isn't my thing. But there's a lot of distance between not liking something, or getting annoyed at it, or honking your horn and swearing, on the one hand, and attempted murder on the other. Lots of things go on in cities that I don't like, but that doesn't mean I feel entitled to assault the people who do those things.
posted by craichead at 7:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [13 favorites]


Fact: Cyclists and drivers simply can't share the streets peacefully for one fundamental reason...

Pointing out the obvious here but bikes and cars have shared the roads around the world for over a hundred years now.
posted by octothorpe at 7:42 PM on February 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think these kinds of things bring out the worst in people, which never leads to good things, and can often lead to tragic things.

Perhaps CM is just another way to confront the sense of dominant entitlement that the automobile culture has, which negatively affects all of us, whether we drive, ride or walk.

Non-violent resistance of all forms has perhaps been necessary to start a dialog — whether it is about recognizing the rights of cyclists, here, or other rights that have been brought to public awareness through various forms of civil disobedience throughout history.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:44 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


All the avid car-haters in this thread should bear in mind that without cars, there would be no roads for their bikes in the first place, so there's that.

Bicycles and cars really don't belong on the same road. When I drive my car, I hate bikers, mostly because I'm terrified of hitting one. When I'm on my bike, I hate cars, for the opposite reason and more.

I don't have an answer other than let's hope the tea party craze dies down so we can build a crapload of bike paths.
posted by Camofrog at 7:46 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess I just don't think most drivers are evil enough that sit-ins are required, Blazecock. The crazy bike haters are a pretty small minority. I look at outreach here in Portland like the BTA does at Sunday Parkway events and the affect it has on families when everyone has a good time on car-free streets with bicycles and smiles and popsicles, and I look at the nastiness that is Critical Mass and just can't help but shake my head.
posted by floam at 7:49 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


All the avid car-haters in this thread should bear in mind that without cars, there would be no roads for their bikes in the first place, so there's that.

Actually, it was bicycle clubs that brought paved streets to much of the US before there were cars.
posted by floam at 7:51 PM on February 28, 2011 [63 favorites]


I'm v.surprised at the amount of "support" I've seen for the car driver. Some comments I've read.

** This looks like a critical mass rally; they have these here in Vancouver, a hundred or so idiots who want the working, taxpaying, public to give up half of the already crowded roadways - that gas, home, and vehicle insurance taxes pay for - to give these morons bike lanes. They protest by going out in rush hour, picking a very busy roadway, highway, or bridge and blocking it with bikes. They are mostly pot-heads and welfare bums. You cannot imagine how many people dream of doing just what this driver did.

Made my fucking day

** fucking psycho!!! i have always wanted to do that. You sir are what myths and legends are written about, i take my hat off to you

** I'd type a comment if I could just stop applauding wildly...
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:52 PM on February 28, 2011


Actually, it was bicycle clubs that brought paved streets to much of the US before there were cars.

You can't deny that the current network of maintained pavement is due entirely to car and truck traffic, though, come on.
posted by Camofrog at 7:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I look at outreach here in Portland like the BTA does at Sunday Parkway events and the affect it has on families when everyone has a good time on car-free streets with bicycles and smiles and popsicles, and I look at the nastiness that is Critical Mass and just can't help but shake my head.

More cities could learn Portland's lessons on sharing public space, definitely. I don't take part in CM, but every time I get physically threatened by a driver, or have to assert space on badly-designed and poorly-maintained roads that I pay taxes for like everyone else, I can't help but sympathize with their non-violent ideals a little more than I did before.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


That guy is an attempted murderer. First thing I would do is make sure he was never allowed behind the wheel of a car ever again.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:56 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, that was horrific. I hope that savage gets what's coming to him.

I'm an occasional cyclist in a the downtown area of a traffic-heavy megacity, and I have yet to participate in a Critical Mass ride. I like that their function is to raise awareness of the tensions that exist between motorists and cyclists, and to open dialog on sane rules of the road for both groups, but I'm not sure I like how they go about it.

Understood that taking over the road for a night is just a small tit for motorists' day-in, day-out tat. But ignoring posted signage and disobeying traffic laws while doing it doesn't send the best message. Recently I participated in a (non-CM) bike ride where a 7 mile stretch of road was officially cordoned off through downtown Los Angeles and motorists were not allowed to share the road. It was a glorious ride, and really felt good to cycle free from worrying about traffic.

But the other cyclists on the ride sped through stop signs, weaved all over the road (the route was bi-directional—people joined in wherever and rode in whichever direction they pleased), and didn't use any indication signals that I noticed. It was frustrating because this sort of thing is supposed to bring awareness and support for cyclists and for sharing the road, but that message gets lost amidst the disorganization and apathy riders show towards traffic controls.

Ride, and ride often, but ride responsibly is all I'm sayin. And watch out for crazy motherfuckers like Ricardo Neis.
posted by carsonb at 7:56 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:59 PM on February 28, 2011


You can't deny that the current network of maintained pavement is due entirely to car and truck traffic, though, come on.

No denial from me. Cars can keep all the roads that were made for cars after cars became popular.

Cyclists and pedestrians [and horses?] can keep all the roads made before cars became popular.

That seems fair.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:59 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Camofrog: "All the avid car-haters in this thread should bear in mind that without cars, there would be no roads for their bikes in the first place, so there's that."

...because there were no roads before there were cars, of course...
posted by notsnot at 8:00 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can't deny that the current network of maintained pavement is due entirely to car and truck traffic, though, come on.

You think the roads would have gone away if it weren't for cars? Obviously, sure, without cars we wouldn't have these sprawled out suburbs requiring so much road per capita, but our actual cities where these things bicycle-car conflicts are such a problem would have been just as paved as they are today. And it'd be cheaper because you wouldn't have big heavy vehicles tearing up the road requiring repaving so often.

Don't get me started on what cars did to so many of our once-glorious cities and small towns.
posted by floam at 8:01 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can this possibly turn into a thread on the tactics of Critical Mass? Regardless of whether or not that group was following routinely disregarded traffic laws that is in no way relevant to whether or not they should be mowed down like corn stalks. For fucks sake everyone in that video was smiling, its not like this was a warpath. Should we also hold a referendum on how short a skirt must be for that to be relevant to an assault?

My body is covered in scars from the callous arrogant entitlement of drivers like this beast. Its an intensely terrible lonely dehumanizing feeling lying in the road covered in your own blood and gore and piss wondering if your dead because someone couldn't be bothered to see you as a human being.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:04 PM on February 28, 2011 [32 favorites]


During the three hour questioning, the dick had the nerve to claim it was done in self-defense, that he did out of fear of grievous bodily harm to himself and his 15-year old son, also in the car.
posted by Neekee at 8:04 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bulgaroktonos: "Maybe he will be, maybe he won't be, but I hate this kind of prospective outrage. If you want to do something now, figure out what crime you think he committed and call for him to be charged with it; don't just start complaining about what you expect to happen."

I am not sure how things are in Brazil, but if they are anything like the US, people can reasonably expect that he won't be prosecuted at all, or if he is he gets a minor slap on the wrist.

Juries and cops don't give a shit about cyclists.
posted by idiopath at 8:09 PM on February 28, 2011


Mad skills by the bloke in orange at 0:53. He knew something was up waay before anyone near him. He would have copped it dead middle, instead he just got out of the way. Love his work

Had to laugh at 1:05 when a number of people started chasing the [long gone] car on foot. I watched it without sound, and it looks like it's sped up at that point, Benny Hill style.

At 2:04 - 2:07 the injured man's auld fella is poking out the top of his shorts. The person attending him thinks about putting it back in his pants, but decides it looks better out.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:11 PM on February 28, 2011


Sweet merciful crap. I sat through a Zoology lecture last Wednesday on parasites during which we watched mountains of tapeworms being removed from a three year-old's intestines.

I had a stronger reaction to this. At least parasites are just doing what they're biologically required to do to survive.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:13 PM on February 28, 2011


I am not sure how things are in Brazil, but if they are anything like the US, people can reasonably expect that he won't be prosecuted at all, or if he is he gets a minor slap on the wrist.

Juries and cops don't give a shit about cyclists.


Get your hand off it. He will get prosecuted big time. Too much publicity now. Brazil must show the world that they are getting tough on, um, cars-deliberately-running-over-cyclists crime.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:16 PM on February 28, 2011


1) I hope that guy gets locked up for a long time, and that those injured in this incident will be OK.

2) I think the world would be a better place if there were more bike lanes and more people using bikes for their daily transportation than cars.

3) But, the Critical Mass folks are rather rude in presuming that their desire to make a point trumps the desires of everyone else on the road (even if everyone else on the road is mean). Besides, there is a certain amount of irony in trying to convince people to share the road by hogging it yourself. This is not at all to suggest that they deserved this...
posted by epimorph at 8:19 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"But, the Critical Mass folks are rather rude in presuming that their desire to make a point trumps the desires of everyone else"

Substitute nearly any group seeking equal rights for "Critical Mass" in that statement... blacks, gays, illegal aliens, women, etc, etc...

I think it's easy to discount the efforts of Critical Mass, after all, they are only wanting to ride bikes, how important could that be, eh?

Sometimes the discomfort needs to be shifted to the people that have the power to make the change before anything happens.
posted by tomswift at 8:24 PM on February 28, 2011 [11 favorites]


I think that driver should burn.

BUT...why does critical mass go so slow?

Wouldn't it be more effective if during a "rally", they rode safely and quickly not causing a huge buildup? All they kinda show is "we can be slow like cars on stuck highway...muah muah muah".

I'm rather sick of movements where its "us vs. them" rather than "hey, lets get people to understand why this movement is awesome".

But yeah, that banker should burn.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:26 PM on February 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why are some bike people so righteous? All I did was say that the current US road system was designed for cars and trucks, not bikes. I didn't say that I was happy about that, and in fact, I'm not. I have and use a bike. Yet now I am someone who runs over bikers on my way to my suburban house.
posted by Camofrog at 8:26 PM on February 28, 2011


But, the Critical Mass folks are rather rude in presuming that their desire to make a point trumps the desires of everyone else on the road (even if everyone else on the road is mean). Besides, there is a certain amount of irony in trying to convince people to share the road by hogging it yourself.
When I first started riding my bike for transportation, I agreed with you. I guess I still mostly agree with you. But it has become abundantly clear to me that being polite is not very effective. Polite cyclists get ignored. Polite dead cyclists get blamed for being doored or right hooked or whatever. Drivers routinely do things that endanger cyclists, and many of those things aren't even illegal. It's not illegal to open your door right into the bike lane without looking. It's illegal to double-park in a bike lane, but it happens all the time, and I've never seen anyone get ticketed for it.

I don't really know how to get drivers to pay attention to the needs of cyclists. I don't think Critical Mass is really the way to go. But given that drivers routinely do things that literally endanger my life, I have limited sympathy when they're mildly inconvenienced by cyclists.
posted by craichead at 8:29 PM on February 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


Obligatory link to Ride of Silence (on Mefi 1, 2)
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:31 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The dream of autonomous, protected mobility promised by the automobile is a powerful one. I dare you to show me an car ad that portrays its subject in motion in a realistically (to this east-coaster's eyes) constricted driving space. No, in the ads they zoom around obstacles, admiring pedestrians, quite often a couple of pokey cyclists, and off onto snakey ribbon of asphalt that bears no other drivers. Usually the surrounding environment is pristine and lovely.
So, no one with a non-flat EEG can complain that ad campaigns don't confront the viewer with the harsh facts of life, but it's interesting to compare the dream with the increasingly adverse reality. Unless you live in a truly rural area, driving is really hardly fun anymore. Shit, motorcycling is hardly fun anymore. There's just too much traffic. And there always will be, even if we do wind up paving the planet.
But it's still the status quo -- in fact, it's the idealized status quo for many populations for whom autos have only recently become affordable. Another ad trope is the pride one takes in being able to acquire one's very own getaround box. You've Made It, they say. Having achieved fiscal liftoff, now one may detach from (literally) pedestrian concerns: weather, mass transit routes... other drivers. Zoom zoom.
In an urban or suburban area, where those with the income levels required to properly express themselves in vehicular terms tend to cluster, the falsehood of this myth grows ever starker. I have enraged people simply by riding by them in traffic. Doing so compromises the economic potency of the guy in the Beemer. God forbid you should actually get in his way...
I am not a dogmatic anything, and have long regarded confrontational cycling advocacy tactics with a wary eye. (SF, July 1997: being in the middle of that, feeling sure only that this would not be good for anything.) But all it is, is an expression of a frustration that mirrors the driver's own: there is a cost to your preferred mode of transport that you refuse to confront, and by embracing this dream of perfect motile freedom you cost us (all of us) so much. I've attended planning meetings in which full or partial road closures are debated, in order to create that dreamlike environment that figures so heavily in the ads, a space free of speeding cars; there is always a component of the opposition who, living adjacent to the proposed auto-free zone, point out that such a restriction would necessarily cause their own streets to be more heavily trafficked, and therefore detract from their own quality of life. "I have kids," they'll say; and "they like to play in the street." They invariably cast themselves as realists. Small freeholders, looking out for their own.
Once in a while, one of those caught in the middle of this mytho-economic crux is going to snap. The example linked above is notable for its egregiousness, but it happens on a smaller scale all. the. time. All the time. There is no solution for this as long as cars are cars as we know them. Only mitigation: ride safely, and always wear a helmet.
posted by $0up at 8:32 PM on February 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


It's not illegal to open your door right into the bike lane without looking.--craichead

They had that one on a radio-lawyer show I listen to--the woman was calling about her daughter who did this very thing to a biker and is getting sued. The lawyer's opinion? She's going to lose big-time. You apparently do have a responsibility to look.
posted by eye of newt at 8:34 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


BUT...why does critical mass go so slow?

Wouldn't it be more effective if during a "rally", they rode safely and quickly not causing a huge buildup? All they kinda show is "we can be slow like cars on stuck highway...muah muah muah".


Exactly. They always seem to be childish, in-your-face affairs. Like Bart banging the saucepan on his head, trying to get attention.

I've cycled for exercise and transport since I was 10, including a few years where it was my only form of transport, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've ridden in a group. It just ain't my bag for a number of reasons.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:37 PM on February 28, 2011


It's not illegal to open your door right into the bike lane without looking.

Yeah, in my city, the opener of the door is at fault. There doesn't even need to be a bike lane. If you open your door on the traffic side of the road and anything hits it, cyclist or another car, the door opener is always at fault.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:38 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not illegal to open your door right into the bike lane without looking.

A couple years ago this happened in Toronto. The cyclist was killed after being thrown into traffic. The woman got something like a $120 fine.
posted by dobbs at 8:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why are some bike people so righteous? All I did was say that the current US road system was designed for cars and trucks, not bikes. I didn't say that I was happy about that, and in fact, I'm not. I have and use a bike. Yet now I am someone who runs over bikers on my way to my suburban house.

Because you're just wrong. Critical Mass happens in cities, not suburbs nor highways, rural routes, or interstates. The roads that Critical Mass uses were usually designed for people, carriages and horses, given the age of most large cities. The pavement was improved for bicycle use, and automobiles came later.

That, and even if the roads were designed for cars, it doesn't mean bicyclists should have no rights. If handicapped people were demonstrating toward better awareness of handicapped accessibility, you wouldn't say that the buildings were designed for legs.
posted by explosion at 8:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


Why are some bike people so righteous? All I did was say that the current US road system was designed for cars and trucks, not bikes. I didn't say that I was happy about that, and in fact, I'm not. I have and use a bike. Yet now I am someone who runs over bikers on my way to my suburban house

I didn't mean any offense against you. You just made a pretty strong assertion that was mostly wrong and you got corrected. I'm not really even a bike person. My bike's been broken for months. I usually walk or take transit. I drive too, when it is the mode that makes most sense. I'm not anti-car as much as I'm anti letting cars drive our lives the way we do in the US. They are amazing machines and make a lot of sense for things like taking a trip out to the beach or someplace inaccessible.
posted by floam at 8:45 PM on February 28, 2011


How can this possibly turn into a thread on the tactics of Critical Mass? Regardless of whether or not that group was following routinely disregarded traffic laws that is in no way relevant to whether or not they should be mowed down like corn stalks. For fucks sake everyone in that video was smiling, its not like this was a warpath. Should we also hold a referendum on how short a skirt must be for that to be relevant to an assault?

My comment had nothing to do with any kind of 'Yeah the driver was bad but...' sentiment. I was echoing mathowie's sentiment about why he doesn't participate in CM rides, an issue that is probably slightly a derail. Nothing about the behavior of cyclists or CM riders in general or the cyclists involved in this particular incident should mitigate what that asshole did.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:46 PM on February 28, 2011


Because you're just wrong. Critical Mass happens in cities, not suburbs nor highways, rural routes, or interstates. The roads that Critical Mass uses were usually designed for people, carriages and horses, given the age of most large cities. The pavement was improved for bicycle use, and automobiles came later.

I'm wrong that the roads we have are designed for cars and trucks to use? That's funny. When I ride my bike on them, it feels like it's all set up for the cars and trucks.
posted by Camofrog at 8:51 PM on February 28, 2011


This is in Brazil, so it's not that surprising, given the way your average Brazilian drives.

I've got no problem sharing the roads with bikes, but I'd like to start seeing bikes share the road with cars (i.e. don't be a bunch of dicks, follow the rules of the road, don't blow through stop signs and then flip me off when I nearly run you down, don't ride the wrong way up one-way streets, etc.). I think it's time to start licensing bikes and cyclists, and ticket them when they don't ride right.

Oh, and Blazecock, you're completely wrong about the bike paths on Nickerson. Traffic is completely screwed up on that road now. When it was 4 lanes plus a turn lane, people never approached the speed limit let alone went faster than it, now it's just a parking lot where you're lucky to nudge 25, let alone hit the speed limit of 30. And I've never seen many bikes on it. So the whole upshot is the traffic is just the same only slower, wasting time and running ICE engines longer, pumping more pollution into the air. But hey, you got a bike lane out of it.

What I never get is why cyclists insist on using busy roads already swamped with cars? Whenever I rode a bike much, I'd always just head a block or two over, make better time, and see fewer cars.

People got to think more, on both sides of this issue.
posted by Relay at 8:51 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm wrong that the roads we have are designed for cars and trucks to use?

You should drop this. That's not what you said. You said this:

"car-haters in this thread should bear in mind that without cars, there would be no roads for their bikes in the first place, so there's that."
posted by floam at 8:52 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


[Take "go fuck yourself" talk elsewhere. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:52 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


A couple years ago this happened in Toronto. The cyclist was killed after being thrown into traffic. The woman got something like a $120 fine.

That seems completely appropriate to me; people die in accidents all the time without anyone being found to have committed a crime. Cars hit other cars all the time, people are seriously injured or die, and no one side committed any crime. Where I practice law, to get jail time for an accident, you pretty much to be 1) drunk 2) grossly negligent(and have someone die) or 3) leave the scene. That seems pretty reasonable to me, it shouldn't be criminal to cause an accident just because someone dies; accidents happen. Bizarrely, its only when bicycles and cars are involved that anyone thinks you should go to jail for causing an accident. (I'm speaking of criminal liability, the person who causes the accident can be liable in civil court for damages)

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the incident in question, where it sounds like the driver has admitted that it was deliberate(not an accident), and so it would turn on his alleged self defense claim, however that's determined under Brazilian law.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd been in Germany about 3 days after having moved there. My ex and I were walking along a path, when she less than half my weight soaking wet, shoves me down on the ground. A bunch of bikes go whizzing by. The ex is pointing at red brick cobblestones paved into the sidewalk. "Bike path" she says. A while later I'm helping on a delivery truck. The driver gets pissed a bicyclist. Then he says "Don't tell the boss, I'll get fired". Everywhere I went on any well used road, were these red parts of the road. Were there more accidents? Yes and there was also a hell of a lot more bikes. I knew a lot more people with bikes than cars. I had a bike and rode it until I got stopped for not having a bell and light. Cops made me get off. Got back on and they stopped me again. I had to lock it up until I had a properly equipped bike. The point is, this was a part of the infrastructure. People were used to it and it had the support of the government. What Seattle is doing is right in starting and sets a precedent. As well as there being an institutionalized responsibility.

The arguments against bikes sharing the road or making paths are the same as those against health care reform. People are against it because they dont want to lose their habits. Their comfort.

My thoughts go out to anyone on a bike.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 8:57 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


BUT...why does critical mass go so slow?

Wouldn't it be more effective if during a "rally", they rode safely and quickly not causing a huge buildup? All they kinda show is "we can be slow like cars on stuck highway...muah muah muah".

I can't really speak for other rides, but on our (fairly small) local ride, going slow is a matter of safety and pragmatism. A community bike ride is going to have its share of young, old, inexperienced, or simply slower riders. Ensuring that the ride remains in a single group (to avoid the severe and immediate danger which arises when a car is trapped between masses of riders) means that in practice that group is going to move slowly.

Of course, no amount of care can defend a ride against something like what happened in Porto Alegre, and none of that can be laid at the feet of the riders.
posted by multics at 8:59 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unless you live in a truly rural area, driving is really hardly fun anymore. Shit, motorcycling is hardly fun anymore. There's just too much traffic.

I have the best of both worlds.

In rush hour, I cycle to work past all the cars sputtering in gridlock. I'm never delayed by traffic, the very concept of bad traffic is alien to me.

But when night-time rolls around, and it's time to go out to clubs or meet friends and have a good time, I hop into a sportscar and... the roads are empty, the freeways are mine, the car is FUN. (Ok, I'm often out a bit later than most people)

Every now and then, there will be an errand that requires I drive during the day, and HOLY CARP! HOW DO YOU DO THAT?! No, scratch that; HOW CAN YOU PEOPLE STAND TO BE STUCK IN A CAR IN THAT?!? THE TRAFFIC IS INSANE! My pure shock at being in traffic is what I mean by it's alien to me.

If I have kids, I hope I have the guts to have them cycle to school, because the thought of having to drive them there in daytime traffic every day?! How would you get anything else done in a day?!
posted by -harlequin- at 9:02 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because you're just wrong. Critical Mass happens in cities, not suburbs nor highways, rural routes, or interstates. The roads that Critical Mass uses were usually designed for people, carriages and horses, given the age of most large cities. The pavement was improved for bicycle use, and automobiles came later.

I've followed this debate since Moses was a boy, and it seems only v.recently I've seen this argument really being pounded. I know I must be mistaken, but for a while it felt like an I was the only one saying it.

But this is it. I have never seen a good counter argument to this.

[By the time you get out into "suburbs, highways, rural routes, and interstates" there's plenty of room for everyone to share anyway - or as the case where I live - bike paths being built next to footpaths and road reserves so there's no need to share at all.]
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:03 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a pedestrian, I'm glad to live in a part of Seattle where there's a lot of stuff related to bicycles not on the sidewalk. As a former New Yorker, I was terrified of the devices due to the number of people whose attitude seemed to be 'what the hell, slowpoke' for both bikes and cars.

(I can't drive due to eye issues; I can't ride a bike because of balance issues. But I can walk and use a bus, so I do.)

Anyway, this is horrible, and the driver should be taken off the roads and made to walk everywhere. I'm not sure, looking at the video, how you can find that group threatening unless you have a paralyzing phobia of human-powered mechanical constructs and anxiety disorders of epic proportions, in which case you shouldn't be driving anyway IMHO.
posted by mephron at 9:03 PM on February 28, 2011


Camofrog: "Why are some bike people so righteous?"

Even though you do bike, I suspect that we might see cars very differently. Where you might see a tool of expensive convenience, I see a 3000lb weapon in the hands of drivers who are often unbalanced, uncaring, and just plain unaware. When you get hit by a few and some of those flee with no consequences, when people you know get murdered by garbage trucks swerving into painted bike lanes, only to have the driver take a course to avoid a corner off his license, vehicles look strange and terrifying.

Paint a ghost bike or two and maybe you'll get it. Cyclists who don't care for cars cause drivers the occasional 15 second delay and a poor excuse for aggravation, drivers who don't care for bikes cause deep and lasting scars in human bodies and otherwise vibrant communities.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:05 PM on February 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


What I never get is why cyclists insist on using busy roads already swamped with cars? Whenever I rode a bike much, I'd always just head a block or two over, make better time, and see fewer cars.

Definitely, there are some streets that are less bike-friendly than others and getting onto a calm neighboring street is often going to give you a much nicer experience. I think the biggest reason people end up on the busy road is because these side streets have stop signs all over the place. Stopping and starting is tiring on a bike. I'm not sure if this is a generic term or some Portlandism, but one thing they're working on here is defining a number of smaller streets as "neighborhood greenways" (renamed recently from "bicycle boulevards", I guess to avoid scaring people) where they go through and remove the stop signs (and add stop signs on intersecting streets) and make other changes to try to reduce the auto volume, without adding bike lanes or anything. Then they mark them with sharrows. I think this is a good idea.
posted by floam at 9:07 PM on February 28, 2011


This really isn't an issue of infrastructure or culture. After watching the video, it's an issue of mental health and road rage. It would be nice if, during this discussion, these could be separated.
posted by tomswift at 9:07 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have never seen attempted murder on a personal scale before. Huh.

I think my life just got worse. I hope he gets the full 30 years.
posted by andreaazure at 9:07 PM on February 28, 2011


This really isn't an issue of infrastructure or culture. After watching the video, it's an issue of mental health and road rage. It would be nice if, during this discussion, these could be separated.

Well, it's probably got something to do with the fact that this lunatic's expression of road rage is on the (admittedly very far) extreme of a continuum of tension between drivers and cyclists that's obvious throughout this thread and to anyone who rides in traffic or drives amongst bicyclists. It's hard to separate what this guy did from the fact that he plowed through a Critical Mass ride, with all the baggage that designation carries. That tension, and Critical Mass itself, is a product of those cultural and infrastructure issues.
posted by multics at 9:13 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suspect the biggest force in getting this guy convicted is not what he did, but that it was captured and broadcast on youtube to horrify the world.

The world is changing. Sometimes in good ways. Ten years ago, the locals saying nothing will happen to him would have been right. Today... who knows.

I do hope we don't end up in a world where people can post that footage to youtube with a epilogue "The driver was never convicted of any wrongdoing. Be strong behind the wheel!"
posted by -harlequin- at 9:18 PM on February 28, 2011


Multics, I could accept that if we can know that he's even aware of Critical Mass and the related issues... as I watch that video (from the perspective of someone with a background in mental health) I can only assume that his behavior was just, frigging, crazy... I have a hard time beleving that anyone could make that decision based on a cognitive process as opposed to a bout of insanity... he could have killed many people.
posted by tomswift at 9:21 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blazecock, you're completely wrong about the bike paths on Nickerson. Traffic is completely screwed up on that road now.

I live in Magnolia and bike and drive down Nickerson almost every day. People would drive at a comfortable 40-45 mph or more on a road posted at 30 mph. No one wanted to admit that, but I'll personally cop to having gone with the flow of traffic without thinking.

After the lane went in, in my own experience, people drove slower, myself included, and this appears to be reflected in the followup measurements that were done.

As to traffic, the only time I see a backup is when the Fremont bridge is up, which blocks drivers and cyclists alike due to how the intersection lanes have always been laid out.

As far as I know, this has always been a problem, and the number of lanes near the bridge did not change even with the addition of a bike lane on Nickerson.

Beyond my own experience living and working in this neighborhood, traffic capacity remaining unchanged, too, was borne out in the DOT study.

I don't know what the bike capacity is on that road, but I use the lanes on both sides to get to and from work, and I am grateful to live in a city that had the courage and smarts to look at the facts rationally and decide to put them in.

Anyway, with further studies, I suspect the whole Nickerson debacle will prove to be a net positive for Seattlites, and a textbook case of how the city should think about traffic management that serves a greater number of residents more equitably and effectively.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:21 PM on February 28, 2011


in the vein of critical mass, i am curious how many cyclists ride medium distances in the city together in small or medium groups. bike-pooling would increase awareness of the cyclists and perhaps increase safety as well.
posted by oog at 9:25 PM on February 28, 2011


I'd rather not dip my toe into this cesspool of a thread, but I'm going to. What I'd really like to do is give a passionate defense of Critical Mass and explain everything I find positive about it, but that's not really the topic. What is the topic is one insane person and their insane actions.

So all I'm going to say is, as someone who often goes long periods without driving a car, those fucking things are dangerous and they're more dangerous when we take them for granted and make them the status quo. I know the feeling of sitting in traffic (or worse, inching along), just going out of my skull with impatience. But why? I've got a climate controlled interior with an ergonomic chair, I've got a radio or I can plug in my mp3 player, I could even roll down the window and strike up a conversation.

"Hey buddy, some traffic. Where ya headed to?"

I mean seriously, the only reason for that itching impotent sensation that sitting in traffic brings, is the knowledge that we could be zipping along at speeds that require specially designed road systems just to avoid fiery death. We know the power we have at the mere press of a pedal.

Cars are seriously powerful machines, and we take them for granted. Some people can't handle that. This guy was like someone who keeps a loaded gun on their desk, eventually they're going to want to shoot something.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:29 PM on February 28, 2011 [20 favorites]


I hold vaguely contained shock and horror at the way this discussion is flowing.
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish at 9:31 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Well, it's probably got something to do with the fact that this lunatic's expression of road rage is on the (admittedly very far) extreme of a continuum of tension between drivers and cyclists that's obvious throughout this thread and to anyone who rides in traffic or drives amongst bicyclists. It's hard to separate what this guy did from the fact that he plowed through a Critical Mass ride, with all the baggage that designation carries."

To paint this man's actions as being opposed to extremists is to provide it with some justification. There is no justification, nothing about the goals or tone or methods of that group, which could possibly mitigate plowing through 40 smiling non-threatening people. This man deserves a fair trial and a swift hanging.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:35 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


And for reference, this was the street they were on. Yup, no way he could have turned off onto another street.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huh Blazecock, that's interesting, because I work off of Nickerson by the Ballard Bridge, and when they halved the number of lanes, it increased my commute by 5 to 8 minutes each way. Which is nearly another hour my life wasted behind typical numskull Seattle drivers. And that's per week. Add it up over a working year, and adding those bike lines have cost me more than working week.

See, this is actually pretty easy to figure out: If you take away lanes, traffic goes up. If you're going to run x number of cars down a road, taking away lanes is just going to make the traffic worse. It's just going to slow things down. And if you want to mitigate traffic, if you want it to be smooth flowing, impeding the flow is the opposite of what you want to do.

And I never hit 40 to 45 on that road in traffic. When I was on my own, sure, but when other cars were around, no, never.

BTW, why do you insist on riding down a Nickerson when there are alternate routes to take?
posted by Relay at 9:38 PM on February 28, 2011


I know the feeling of sitting in traffic (or worse, inching along), just going out of my skull with impatience. But why?

[...]

I mean seriously, the only reason for that itching impotent sensation that sitting in traffic brings, is the knowledge that we could be zipping along at speeds that require specially designed road systems just to avoid fiery death. We know the power we have at the mere press of a pedal.


A lecturer once taught us that it had to do with "fight or flight." Animals want to deal with situations in either of those two ways. In a traffic jam we can't do either. So we get stressed and testy.

[He was a bit of a Deepak Chopra type, a lot of his opinions seemed to be uncited or something he cooked up, but that one doesn't seem too ridiculous to me.]
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:43 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


That seems completely appropriate to me; people die in accidents all the time without anyone being found to have committed a crime.

But we also have vehicular manslaughter, so clearly "it was an accident" is not exactly a universal, bullet-proof defense. Dooring accidents are so preventable, and the outcomes so grave, that it seems crazy to me that we routinely fail to charge people for the crime, or let them off with the financial equivalent of a smack with a newspaper.
posted by en forme de poire at 9:48 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and for further reference, here's the location of Epatur Square (where the ride started according to the second vid). Note that R. Jose do Patrocino is the road bordering it the the North. This means the ride had just started. This group had just pulled out of where they had gathered.

This Neis asshole wasn't stuck behind a bunch of cyclist slowly letting his rage build. No, he saw the group and just said, "fuck it" immediately.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:50 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're going to run x number of cars down a road, taking away lanes is just going to make the traffic worse. It's just going to slow things down.

Apparently, it slowed speeding drivers down to the speed limit. That seems like a good thing, to me, especially with the foot traffic around PSU.

BTW, why do you insist on riding down a Nickerson when there are alternate routes to take?

One alternate route requires going across Ballard Bridge. If you have done this on a bicycle, you'll know that getting onto the pedestrian overpass from 15th is incredibly dangerous, due to 40-50 mph traffic merging onto the crossing, and once you survive getting on the bridge, you are sharing a very narrow path with pedestrians. Further, crossing the bridge into Ballard goes somewhat north, before cutting back south to Fremont and the bike trail.

It's not safe for cyclists and is very inconvenient. It would be as sensible as suggesting to someone who lives in Fremont to drive up to Greenwood as a way to get to Ballard.

My experiences match that of the study. I suspect the positive results reflect the care and attention paid to the design and implementation details. Whatever else, this was not done on a whim. Smart city planning can be done, and I think CM can and should have a voice (among many) in that ongoing discussion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


A lecturer once taught us that it had to do with "fight or flight." Animals want to deal with situations in either of those two ways. In a traffic jam we can't do either. So we get stressed and testy.

Next time someone tells you that as an excuse for bad behavior, tell them to google prefrontal cortex. If they still don't get it, ask them if they're familiar with word "conscience."
posted by Panjandrum at 9:55 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"A lecturer once taught us that it had to do with ... "

Actually, what it has to do with is this: You ever go out walking with someone who moves just ... a ... little ... bit ... slower ... than ... you? That's why. It's called frustration. That's why you have more than two lane roads in higher traffic areas, so the faster people can get around the slower people and the slower people can get out of the way of the faster people (if they're paying attention like they should). It also allows people to slow down/speed up when entering or leaving traffic.

And no, we do not need or require " ... specially designed road systems just to avoid fiery death." We need safe vehicles and the goddamn brains to use them correctly.
posted by Relay at 9:56 PM on February 28, 2011


Panjandrum, his shtick was healthy living and reducing stress etc. He wasn't making excuses. It was more "now you know what is going on inside the animal in you, this is how you deal with it as a human..."

Lotus position. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:01 PM on February 28, 2011


I don't mean going over and around through Ballard Blazecock, I mean why not ride down the ship canal path?

Sure, smart city planning can be done, it's just that I have yet to see any done in Seattle for a long time, especially including what they did on Nickerson. There were much, much better alternatives to that.
posted by Relay at 10:03 PM on February 28, 2011


Relay: If you take away lanes, traffic goes up.

Traffic usually means the number of pedestrians or vehicles that go through a certain place during a specific period of time. Taking lanes aways does no cause traffic to go up, it may cause congestions if vehicular traffic remains the same.

The way I (and people who study traffic for a living) see it:

- If more people ride bicycles instead of driving, car traffic goes down.
- If car traffic goes down, congestions improve.
- Many people don't ride bicycles for transportation because it is unsafe*
- By taking away car lanes and creating dedicated bike lanes, you make it safer for people to ride bicycles.
- The problem is that you now have to convince people that bicycling is finally safe.

Idiots like Richard Neis, and anti-ciclyst attitudes like the ones displayed in this thread make this last step the most difficult part of this whole congestion reducing scheme.


I remember that was one of the top causes, below having a commute that is to long for riding, of people not riding bicycles to work on an SFBC survey, which I can not find. It was close to not having safe bicycle parking at work, not having showers / changing rooms at work, and the need to haul stuff.

An informal survey of why 9 coworkers don't ride to work, in a place with showers and secure parking, bears similar results: #1 too far, #2 unsafe to ride in the city, #3 don't want to have to change clothes at work, and finally, not very surprising, 2 people said "bicycles are for poor people".

posted by Dr. Curare at 10:03 PM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


I mean why not ride down the ship canal path?

You still have to use Nickerson to get there, as there remains, I believe, a sizable gap between Magnolia and that trail, due to an impasse with the rail people. Sharrows on Nickerson solve several problems more quickly, it seems.

If studies don't show problems, and show a net improvement for more residents, that seems like a good thing.

If it really turns out to be a horrible mistake, well, the world isn't running out of road paint any time soon.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:10 PM on February 28, 2011


I'd like to know how many ambulances and police cars were blocked from helping the injured bicyclists by Critical Mass participants.

It's sad to say, but attacks like these show why Critical Mass is necessary, as much as their rides occasionally inconvenience commuters.

It seems fairly obvious that emergency vehicles are also going to suffer along with "inconvenienced commuters." Which means that everyone suffers because of their self-righteousness.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:16 PM on February 28, 2011


There's a bunch of flaws in what you wrote Dr. Curare, and I have neither the time nor the inclination to go into why (and yeah, in case you're interested, traffic (actually transportation) is what I did for a living for quiet a while, so I do know what I'm talking about here).

But the one point where you're obviously wrong is this one:

"By taking away car lanes and creating dedicated bike lanes, you make it safer for people to ride bicycles."

Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. You don't take away car lanes, you don't convert them into bike lanes, you add bike lanes to the existing roads.

Add, don't subtract, add.

You don't force people onto bikes (or into public transportation or even into cars for that matter). You make x-mode of transportation more attractive, easier and convenient to use than other forms, and then people will use it.
posted by Relay at 10:17 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd like to know how many ambulances and police cars were blocked from helping the injured bicyclists by Critical Mass participants.

I'm going to guess "none". A crowd with bikes, especially a small sparse one as shown the video which I know you watched first, can pull over to the side or even off the road altogether quite quickly. As opposed to cars in busy car traffic.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:19 PM on February 28, 2011 [12 favorites]


You make x-mode of transportation more attractive, easier and convenient to use than other forms, and then people will use it.

If I remember correctly, in the case of the Nickerson road diet and general bike lane planning, increased ridership came first, according to one of the relevant city officials who was interviewed on a KUOW chat program last year. I could be misremembering but I think his comment was along the lines of, "How do we serve all of our residents more effectively?"
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:24 PM on February 28, 2011


When these discussions come up on metafilter, I'm always surprised by the animosity against cyclists, though I think my experience is shaped by the fact that I live in a small town and work in a smallish city.

At home, I ride a forty year-old Schwinn three-speed, doing my shopping, visiting the library, and otherwise wandering around for the heck of it because I like my little town. The only other cyclists out are Latinos and liquor-cyclists, it seems. Kids don't ride bikes anymore. I don't know what they do, but even on a warm summer night, you rarely see them. Drivers are completely oblivious to me on the road. They look at me, but they look through me. I signal my turns and stops with the hand signals I learned when we used to have bike safety days in Scaggsville, and people think I'm flipping them off or having a seizure. People will sit at an intersection, illegally talking on their cellphones, and will lurch forward as I cross. The bicycle is a miraculous invention, the first scientific way to generate both a reliable invisibility screen and an inexplicable rage intensifier field simultaneously.

I keep riding. I love my bike. There's a wholeness to the world when I'm riding, and I can see and hear and smell and feel. I love to come home from the farm market with my panniers packed, and I love to cut through the back lots of the racetrack, where my high school girlfriend and I would make endless figure eights in the red clay dust.

In the city, I ride a thirty-seven year-old Raleigh Twenty, a splendid little British three-speed from the fading glory days of the world's greatest bicycle industry. It's perfect for the city, sturdy as an ox and nimble as a goat, and doesn't arouse anger when I cheat the rules and ride on the sidewalk. I'm not supposed to ride on the sidewalk, I know, but in Baltimore, there are streets that may as well be paved with overturned lawn mowers, all running nonstop. They carefully painted markings on lanes all over the city, designating them as bus/bike lanes only, with severe penalties for errant car drivers. After a few panicked sprints with earth-friendly hybrid buses practically bouncing off my rear tire, I gave up and returned to the sidewalks. It's okay, I ride slow, and I know you're blind, handicapped, or easily frightened. I have a little bell that looks like a beehive, and I use it, and wave, say "excuse me, ma'am," and otherwise act like a civil citizen.

I manage two arts facilities in the city, and report to a headquarters in another building. I'm within a ten-minute ride of any of them, and I'm happy I don't have to get my car out of a garage (there's no parking downtown, and the meters are expensive and short) to get around. Some days, the cars seem bent on chasing me down, even on the little side streets. I've mapped out routes that are largely alleys, unloved byways, and depopulated sidewalks. I sometimes think I should be more militant, and stand up for the rights I'm guaranteed under the law, but in this country, four wheels win. I ride a scooter and a motorcycle, too, and the same automobile blindness follows me there. People just feel entitled in their cars, and angry that they're just not getting their way. When I've got a car behind me, for seconds, sometimes, I can see the drivers in that hyperactive cobra weaving panic in their seat, because I'm taking away those precious, precious seconds they could be using to write a poem, or to cherish their loved ones, or to spend more time planting tomatoes.

They'll really be watching TV, though. The car turns everything into TV, a distant, artificial thing you watch through glass, with windows rolled up hermetically tight even though it's seventy degrees and the air smells like baking bread from the H&S bakery on the other side of the harbor. You wrap yourself up in metal and plastic and you're this sensory-deprived iron homonculus, disconnected from the world. The dullness soaks in, into your bones and your muscles, and it's hard to shake. Most people never do, and go to the gym to ride simulated bicycles while staring at more screens.

I was a car guy, a real gearhead, but spending the last year and a half walking to the train, reading a book on the train, walking to my office, then biking around through the day before heading home has changed where my sympathies lie. I had to drive to work for December and January, because of temporary changes in my schedule, and I just felt off, with a temper always ready to flare up, and a sense of hopelessness when I'd pull out of the garage and into the locked-up mass of traffic. On the bike, criss-crossing the city, I felt a little sad, because every trip brought at least one reminder that I just don't count when I'm not a man in a machine, but in the car, I felt cut off and isolated, like someone had gone in and cut ninety percent of the nerves and tendons in my body.

The schedule's back to normal, and I've got my train pass and my helmet and my wonderful little bicycle to get around, and my stress level's already hit the noise floor of my workload and calendar. I've never ridden in a Critical Mass ride, largely because I've got to be on the last train out of Baltimore at 6:10 each night or I'll be stuck sleeping on the floor in my office, but I have a hard time seeing how the disruption could really be that severe as to invoke some of the venomous, seething anger and disgust that comes up in these conversations. If it's going up Charles Street, jump over and take Calvert. I don't understand the animosity, though I'll concede I'm only speaking from my own experience.

I suggest, sometimes, that people consider taking the bus, or the train, or riding their bike, or getting a scooter, and I often get the "you don't understand my problems" lecture, about how it's all well and good that I can take those alternate routes because of my career, but I've chosen my career based on things that seem simple to me. How will I get to work? How much time will it take? How much stress will it generate? I've got an absurdly high security clearance and could be making serious bank if I worked in Northern VA, but life's too short, and I don't want to live in Virginia, no matter how much I'd make. No one ever wants to settle for "less," even when it's not really less.

I've failed, utterly, to win converts, alas. I'd like to think I'm persuasive, and that I can make a compelling case, and maybe it's because I'm antisocial and a loner. Maybe riding in a group is a better way. Judging from mefi, I think possibly nothing will work, because I think of mefites as being cut from a finer cloth than most, but some of the kneejerk responses just seem so immutable. I just have a hard time seeing the obstructionist, rage-inducing, arrogant charge in something as basic and useful as a bicycle. Again, maybe it's the small town and the smallish city. I only have my own experience from which to judge.

I'll still be out there, a burly guy on a laughable small bike, cutting through the ballpark on my way to the other facility, a boat against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Sigh.
posted by sonascope at 10:27 PM on February 28, 2011 [64 favorites]


Fuck critical mass. They don't deserve to be run over, but the law should be changed to prevent their obnoxious behavior. I had sympathy for bikers' rights until I saw CM.
posted by jewzilla at 10:32 PM on February 28, 2011


See, this is actually pretty easy to figure out: If you take away lanes, traffic goes up.

No, it does the opposite - just not the very next day.
It's counter-intuitive, but it's also true. I'll give you a couple of example mechanisms for why it happens, but there are more.

Every time people look for a job, or a school, or when they move house, they limit their search to those options within a commute range that is acceptable to them. But the interesting thing is, that range is not determined by commute distance, it is determined by commute time. When more lanes are created, everyone's search radius widens, people end up taking jobs with similar commute times but greater distance, thus using more road-miles per day, and a new equilibrium is reached where those newly created lanes have simply generated more traffic, which now travels the same slow speed as before the lanes. The reverse is true also.

Another mechanism - cars and bikes generally operate independently. Cars can pass bikes on the straights, bikes can pass cars stopped in gridlock. Cars cannot pass cars. Thus, the more people you put on bikes instead of cars, the faster everyone else can get to work.

Like I said, there are more mechanisms, but just these two alone will result, in time, in traffic being more efficient in the area. The adjustment period sucks it's true, but adjusting always does. :-/

Soon, we'll be paying tolls for the 520. That will suck too, but a shiny new bridge that doesn't sink in a storm will be worth it.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:36 PM on February 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Fuck critical mass. They don't deserve to be run over, but the law should be changed to prevent their obnoxious behavior. I had sympathy for bikers' rights until I saw CM."

Actually jewzilla, I think that the laws are simply not enforced, not that there aren't laws.
posted by Relay at 10:39 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


My suggested punishment for this fuckwit: no more cars; must always travel by unicycle.
posted by chavenet at 10:47 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Relay: Do you believe the opposite, that by adding lanes congestion goes down? How's that working for I-5 up there? You can't build your way out of congestion because more people are just going to drive more.
posted by floam at 10:48 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Fuck critical mass. They don't deserve to be run over, but the law should be changed to prevent their obnoxious behavior. I had sympathy for bikers' rights until I saw CM."

Yeah? Well fuck the entirely unjustified and clearly lethal entitlement of drivers. I do my damnedest to be as out of the way as safely possible on the road, but slowing you down would make my day.

But really, check out the stories behind some ghost bikes CM represents a tiny minority of the biking community, and an equally tiny minority of the people murdered by our countries immediate disregard for human dignity the moment one realizes that the injured/dead party is a cyclist.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:49 PM on February 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Thus, the more people you put on bikes instead of cars, the faster everyone else can get to work."

Right ... but what if ridership doesn't go up? Or, as is more often the case, it doesn't meet the rosy predictions?

That's the same line of thinking I've seen around here for decades. This whole, "If we just make streets into more bike lanes, they will come!" doe-eyed thinking. And the bottom line that I see is bike ridership is marginally up, and traffic stays more or less the same or is even worse, and anybody having to deal with that traffic is even more pissed off.

Measures like this (and arguments like yours) assume that ridership actually goes up. And over time, even if ridership in Seattle has gone up some, it never goes up enough, and at the same time, so has auto traffic. More to the point, getting people onto bikes in a place like Seattle isn't going to come close to mitigating the traffic we already have. Having a workable public transportation system and teaching the clowns on the road how to drive, that's going to mitigate traffic.

And to answer Floam's question (and thanks to whoever came up with that cool update thing-o): No, adding lanes only works up to a certain point. Road size and carrying capacity has an optimal design point, and then after that, you get to the point of diminishing returns, and no matter how many lanes you add, you reach a stasis point of carrying capacity.

If the volume and density of traffic gets beyond x, you essentially have to shuffle the people into another mode of (mass) transportation.

And, sadly, since the public transportation system around here is nearly unworkable, there aren't many alternatives.
posted by Relay at 11:00 PM on February 28, 2011


" ... slowing you down would make my day."

Did you say something about entitlement, Blasdelb?
posted by Relay at 11:02 PM on February 28, 2011


I really wish they wouldn't have put bike lanes in when they did road diets, because everyone seems to think that that was somehow the only point.

It wasn't. SDOT even lays out the rationalization for Nickerson on their website:
In the summer of 2008, The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) removed three marked crosswalks along Nickerson Street. These crosswalks were removed because they no longer met national guidelines for unsignalized marked crosswalks. When the crosswalks were removed, SDOT made a commitment to the community that we would evaluate other pedestrian improvements along the corridor – including a possible rechannelization or ‘road diet.’
The same was true on Stone Way. In Seattle, road diets have primarily been about restoring crosswalks without adding additional signals and reducing stop-and-go traffic flow by creating the center turn lane. If they'd have just added planters in the leftover roadway or something instead of bike lanes people could complain about the stupid, entitled trees or whatever.
posted by lantius at 11:12 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


This whole, "If we just make streets into more bike lanes, they will come!" doe-eyed thinking.

You're still thinking short term. Cities should be planning and acting 50 years out.
You probably also think karma is a force of niceness and justice. No, karma is a bitch.

I'd suggest ridership will increase because when gas prices of $5/gallon are a distant pleasant memory and real wages are 20% less than they were, a lot of people will have to choose between driving and groceries. And most of them will choose driving, insanely enough. But the pressure will only keep ratcheting up and up.

We agree that alternatives are going to be necessary. Cycling is one of those alternatives, and like the light rail and the tunnels and the buses, creating the infrastructure needs to start 10-30 years in advance.

Plenty of people who funded the bridges never lived to use them, or to see what they enabled. They suffered as you are suffering. And they built a better city.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:22 PM on February 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


harlequin,

Insanely enough, eh?

I just checked Google maps. Driving to my last major contract was 20 minutes each way. Biking? One hour, forty seven minutes each way.

Light rail has a similar commute extending effect.

I can imagine the increasing popularization of scooters, vespas, and other two wheeled motorized transports, in regions of the country where weather allows. But that's about it.
posted by effugas at 11:31 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Insanely enough, eh?

I just checked Google maps. Driving to my last major contract was 20 minutes each way. Biking? One hour, forty seven minutes each way.


Normally in a city during rush hour it's the opposite - bikes get you there faster and more reliably than cars. (I assume that's why big cities often have cycle-couriers)

Once upon a time in a small mostly suburban city, my roommate and I worked at the same place. It would drive him nuts to wave goodbye to me, hunched over my computer as he walked out the door, drive home, and walk in to find me relaxing on the couch. I wasn't even trying.

Cars are much slower than people think they are, because people think of them on the open road, or on the freeway, and the reality of rush hour in cities is nothing like that.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:38 PM on February 28, 2011


You also have to remember that cycling saves you time twice - not only do you get to work faster than you would if you drove, but you got some exercise so now you don't have to waste 30 minutes of your evening in the gym, or going for a run, or whatever.

The amount of time you save by cycling is actually shockingly large.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:44 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


... in a city during rush hour ...

Yeah IN a city. The greater the distanced traveled, the efficacy of biking drops off considerably.

And yes, bicycling gives you a work out ... and I can think of s lot of 50 to 55 year olds in places like Rochester New York that just love getting that biking workout in late January. It's so bracing,y'know? Sort of the Northeastern equivalent of a 15 mile commute in some place like San Bernadino in August.

I got nothing against biking, and if that's what works for you, then great,more power to you. But don't think that everybody will or want to do it. A lot of people simply can't. And forcing them to, or making their transportation from point a to point b worse without giving them a useful alternative, or even worse, assuming they'll take up biking isn't going to make things better.
posted by Relay at 11:58 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I got nothing against biking, and if that's what works for you, then great,more power to you. But don't think that everybody will or want to do it. A lot of people simply can't. And forcing them to, or making their transportation from point a to point b worse without giving them a useful alternative, or even worse, assuming they'll take up biking isn't going to make things better.

This is so cliche. EVERYONE thinks they must drive everywhere. EVERYONE thinks they're the one that is special and that other people can only cycle because cycle-commuters must have things cushy, or their weather is magically better, or they're younger, or any of a hundred reasons that are invariably and demonstrably almost entirely self-delusion.

I'm not playing some game where I have some strange desire to make people conform to some random thing that "worked" for me. I don't care whether people drive or walk or shoot themselves (though I do sometimes speak up when people make factually incorrect statements about traffic engineering). It's no skin off my nose how many people can or do or won't or will drive or cycle. I don't care. I don't advocate cycling, I advocate less helplessness, and more options.

As I see it, I'm slightly ahead on an ugly curve that is starting to crush people.
People can straggle on that curve if they want. Not my problem.
I've already seen firsthand the difference it makes to have options.

Your landlord doesn't care if you fear the snow. Your bank doesn't care if you bought a home 20 miles from your job. No-one cares if you can't buy food. You owe them their pound of flesh just the same, and they will get it.
You may be doing well financially right now, I am, but the world is not what it was, and my friends whose plans always rely on prosperity, are the least prosperous of all my friends.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:25 AM on March 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


I also worked on traffic, as a graphic designer making maps for the experts. I may get the terminology wrong, but I got as involved with the experts as possible.

The project took place in a Latin American city with a population of several million. When I left 9 months after the implementation, bicycle ridership in the city had doubled two times. Below I explain how we made bicycling attractive, and made believers out of skeptics and even some haters.

Bikes lanes had been painted the year before I joined. Drivers did not respect them, so the increased bike usage they saw at the start declined to nothing after all the car vs. bike horror stories made it to the press.

I was hired along with a team of consultants who had done amazing stuff in Medellin. The first thing we did was institute bicycle only Sundays. More than 10 miles of main city streets are closed for half a day every Sunday. These are some of the streets with the worst weekday congestions. First Sunday saw about 1,500 cyclists. Second Sunday more than 10,000. When I left, we were getting more than 100,000 people.

This means you have at least 100,000 people who have seen by themselves how fast, easy and enjoyable it is to ride a bike on the streets they drive every day. Most people were amazed that on their first day on a bike in years, it took them 20 minutes to ride their 40 minute car commute.

This is a family friendly affair, with hundreds of volunteers, free bike mechanics, food stands, and the full cooperation of the authorities. It has done more for biek advocacy than every critical mass combined.

After a a year or so of these Sundays, the people started asking for bike routes. Because of Latin American bureaucracy, less than 1% of the planned routes have been implemented, but in the streets where lanes of car traffic were removed or narrowed in favor of bicycle lanes, bike use has been climbing steadily, car use has grown slower than car ownership in the city, and decrepit commercial areas have revived.

Something that might piss off people who think that adding 5 minutes to their car commute is not worth the benefit of thousands of people riding bicycles: One of our secondary objectives was traffic calming. Which is a polite way of saying "how do we stop most drivers from acting like assholes". On roads with bike lanes, drivers seem to pay more attention. I do not have the numbers, but attended a talk with the engineers where they showed how cars were closer to the speed limits and minor accidents had decreased on roads with bike lanes.

The results of the project can be summarized as: Hundreds of thousands of people benefited, a few drivers inconvenienced.

I am going to sleep now.


It is still dangerous to ride a bicycle in the city, specially due to mini bus drivers, who get paid the way cab drivers get paid in the US (I forget the terminology, they are either owners, or have to pay the owners a set amount of money after each shift). They have been blaming bike lanes for reducing their income, making them drive slower, and, as one driver we interviewed for the project said "making us have to pay attention to the road at all times, now we can't even chat up the hot passengers". They are outright hostile to bicyclists, so much that a newspaper kept a front page count of cyclists and pedestrians injured and killed by mini buses.
posted by Dr. Curare at 12:35 AM on March 1, 2011 [32 favorites]


The road diet is based on sound engineering, and as such is the option with the best chance of improving things for people, long term.

Waah waah, some people who refuse to change are inconvenienced by a changing world. But making these good evidence-based decisions is exactly what city planners are supposed to be doing.

You say people haven't been presented with useful alternatives to make up for the road diet. Well, there are useful alternatives. Globally proven ones. It's not our problem if people are too busy inventing spurious reasons for convincing themselves that the options aren't useful, to make use of them.

Give an able man a fishing rod, a lesson, and a lake full of fish. If he complains about starving, ignore his whining. You've done you bit. Either he'll get over himselves or he'll starve. Either way your conscience is clear. The world doesn't owe him a living.

Yeah, my attitude is acerbic and unhelpful in getting people to cycle, but as I said, I'm not a cycle advocate. I look at these things in terms of options and self-determination and security and power. And the winds of the future carry no end of hints that all these things are edging towards increasingly constrained supply.
posted by -harlequin- at 12:43 AM on March 1, 2011


I dislike Critical Mass and find it counterproductive. It's emblematic not of the plucky cyclist's fight for equal rights, but of a rather unpleasant self-righteousness. More importantly, it's incredibly self-defeating. If it does anything but make car drivers hate cyclists more, I'd be surprised.

I should add I cycle every day to work and back.

Where critical mass - the concept, rather than the movement - does make a difference is that it forces a change of behaviour among car users. Sure, you can be a dick to a cyclist as you drive by, but there are 100 more you'll have to drive past as you go to your destination. Similarly, as car drivers can't help but see cyclists, they have to learn to drive with them, not at them.

Despite the odd idiot - and you get on the end of those as a car driver too - this is exactly what's happened in London in my experience.

Now, the more important initial question is how to make cycling less dangerous while car drivers don't account properly for cyclists - cycle lanes, information campaigns, encouraging cyclists to use lights and wear fluorescent clothing, and to wear helmets.

Having seen a lot of that happen in London I'd add that in my experience it is cyclists that need a bit of re-education now. At times, whole swathes of cyclists jump red lights, cut up cars etc.

Also, Ricardo Neis is described as a bank clerk, not a banker, in many reports. I think it's enough that he is a murderous, insecure lunatic rather than implicating him by proxy in the global financial crisis, third world poverty, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart etc etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:56 AM on March 1, 2011


I knew this would be posted here, and this is the very predictable result. CM never changed one driver's mind and it never will. It's still mind fucking that there are people in this thread that are somehow justifying this person's behavior. You guys never disapoint me.
posted by fixedgear at 1:14 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


At 2:04 - 2:07 the injured man's auld fella is poking out the top of his shorts. The person attending him thinks about putting it back in his pants, but decides it looks better out.

IANAD, but I think that may be a sign of a serious spinal injury. That poor bastard may be paralyzed for the rest of his life. The guy attending to him wisely decided not to move him AT ALL until paramedics arrived.

The driver needs to be put away with attempted murder charges. Cars are weapons, and bikers (myself included) need to treat drivers as armed and easily distracted.
posted by benzenedream at 1:25 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is naturally disruptive to normal car/bike/pedestrian traffic and why I never participate in Critical Mass rides. Their goal as a group is to convert people into riders by having them watch the demonstration but I've found people in cars get really, really upset when they are late getting home or to an appointment while a 20min long traffic blockage holds them back.

God knows no-one's ever been held up for 20 minutes because there were too many cars on the road, right? That would be ridiculous!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


pompomtom : It's interesting that you cast this as the fault of the cyclists. They were there first.

And I find it interesting that you took my comment to imply fault on the part of the cyclists. Can you explain to me why you feel that way?

Because I said both can't peacefully exist (and even pointed out that I'd prefer the cars go away, not the bikes)? I just don't see the connection from that to blaming the bikers.

Now, if you found it unpleasant that I found a comment about safely sharing the road "funny" in a story about a driver plowing through a group of bikers deliberately creating a traffic jam, well, what more can I say about that. Pretty much de-facto evidence that both sides have issues and can't share the road.


odinsdream : It makes no sense at all to suggest that this is in any way, shape or form, a conceivable result of any set of traffic laws or social norms. It's unequivocally fucked up.

Unequivocally fucked up, absolutely. But a pretty direct result of packing too many territorial primates into the same place and then having one group intentionally antagonize another.

No possible justification exists for what the driver did, and I never excused (much less applauded) his behavior. But iterated over enough people people, I'd call this a predictable (not "acceptable"!) event. Sooner or later, one will snap, and respond by randomly attacking those around him.


regicide is good for you : cars are... designed and built with some sort of minimum travelling speed?

Playing dumb doesn't help much.

The road has a posted speed. Most cars go over that speed, when possible. Further, most cars drastically lose efficiency at speeds below 30ish (and I say that as a hybrid owner, painfully aware of how much my mileage goes down even in smoothly-flowing 25-30MPH traffic vs cruising at 45-60).

I'm a cyclist in a big city and 9 times out of 10 I'm moving faster than the auto traffic.

And I live in the 'burbs.


Buuuuut I'm guessing that axe was already pretty sharp before you got here.

Yet another person who took my explicitly stated preference for bikes as an axe to grind against cyclists. Yeah, lot of axes here, but I can't say I brought one to the party...
posted by pla at 3:52 AM on March 1, 2011


Unequivocally fucked up, absolutely. But a pretty direct result of packing too many territorial primates into the same place and then having one group intentionally antagonize another.

No possible justification exists for what the driver did, and I never excused (much less applauded) his behavior. But iterated over enough people people, I'd call this a predictable (not "acceptable"!) event. Sooner or later, one will snap, and respond by randomly attacking those around him.


I realise that Americans have different conceptions of space, and that suburban America in turn has more personal space than the average urban or suburban European would know what to do with, but I live in London and people are crammed together pretty tight here. That would still be seen as the inexplicable action of somebody either mentally ill or totally unsocialised. I don't think evolutionary psychology is a viable strategy here.
posted by DNye at 4:42 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can you explain to me why you feel that way?

Certainly; it's in the framing.

The cause, per your comment, is the "they" who can't or don't go fast "enough". My apologies if I've misinterpreted you.

Now, if you found it unpleasant that I found a comment about safely sharing the road "funny"

Not me, mate. I'm all about the inappropriate laughing.

That said is this:

The road has a posted speed. Most cars go over that speed, when possible.

an American thing? Where I live, we have posted maximum speeds on roads, and people get fines or summonses for exceeding said limits (trust me on this point).
posted by pompomtom at 4:48 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, that was inexcusable and he should be charged with attempted murder.

That said, man, do I hate "Critical Mass". It is massively dickish and provocative behaviour, and I'm somewhat surprised some nutter hasn't gone over the edge like this before.

I dislike Critical Mass and find it counterproductive. It's emblematic not of the plucky cyclist's fight for equal rights, but of a rather unpleasant self-righteousness. More importantly, it's incredibly self-defeating. If it does anything but make car drivers hate cyclists more, I'd be surprised.

That, in fact.
posted by Decani at 5:11 AM on March 1, 2011


So... massed like that, they're asking for it?
posted by DNye at 5:28 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


pompomtom : The cause, per your comment, is the "they" who can't or don't go fast "enough". My apologies if I've misinterpreted you.

Hmm, no, I suppose you correctly sensed my intended sharpness - I just didn't mean to point it in only one direction. If it came across that way, then I offer my apologies.


an American thing? Where I live, we have posted maximum speeds on roads, and people get fines or summonses for exceeding said limits (trust me on this point).

Heh, no, the US has posted maximum speeds as well. Most people, however, go 5-10 over them; Going below will get you aggressively honked at, flashed, and passed under normal road conditions.

That said, I've heard that many places outside the US actually post realistic speed limits - In the US, we have them so artificially low (largely for the purpose of revenue collection) that a Model-T could safely go that speed in the middle of an ice-storm, never mind a modern car with ABS and traction control.
posted by pla at 5:53 AM on March 1, 2011


So... massed like that, they're asking for it?

Not at all. But nobody changed hearts and minds by confirming every prejudice about a group they've always held.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:13 AM on March 1, 2011


Fact: Cyclists and drivers simply can't share the streets peacefully for one fundamental reason: They can't (or at least, don't), go fast enough. Even in a 25 zone, you rarely see cyclists keeping up with traffic (Well, until you come to a light, which they then run with gleeful abandon amidst a symphony of horns - But that goes into whole different category of lesser reasons why they can't share the road).

....Not unless there are dedicated bike lanes, and cars stay out of those lanes in exchange for bikers staying IN those lanes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:41 AM on March 1, 2011


Not at all. But nobody changed hearts and minds by confirming every prejudice about a group they've always held.

Isn't this the argument that people use against Gay Pride rallies? That they just confirm prejudices about gay men and lesbians being weird, flashy and evangelical? But presumably we don't feel it would be OK to ram the Gay Firefighters float because it was blocking traffic, right?

Right?

I feel like we're heading for a very dark place, here...
posted by DNye at 6:50 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Yeah, in my city, the opener of the door is at fault. There doesn't even need to be a bike lane. If you open your door on the traffic side of the road and anything hits it, cyclist or another car, the door opener is always at fault."

and

"It's not illegal to open your door right into the bike lane without looking.

A couple years ago this happened in Toronto. The cyclist was killed after being thrown into traffic. The woman got something like a $120 fine."


The shame is that I'm almost sure it WAS illegal at some point. When you parked on a roadway, you slid across the bench seat and exited at the curb.
posted by gjc at 6:50 AM on March 1, 2011


pla -- I am both a cyclist and a driver and while I live in the city now, I have also lived in the suburbs and commuted there from the city on my bicycle. I get your point about how bicycles are not in the same class of vehicles as cars, but I do not agree that this disparity invalidates the concept of 'sharing the road'. In most suburban areas, largely by virtue of recent construction and low population density, roads are built wide enough for a car going at 40 mph to pass a bicycle at 20 mph without danger to either vehicle operator. In most urban areas, roads are narrower, which makes bottlenecking between cars and bikes more frequent, but generally speaking due to the density of traffic and signal lights, most cars and bikes move at about the same speed.

I have been riding a bike for 12 years in a city that has been notorious in the recent past for being a terrible place to ride (Boston) and I haven't run a red light in 8 years. In rush hour, I am regularly able to keep up and pass most cars on my urban commute. When I used to commute into the suburbs, I could never keep up with auto traffic, but that wasn't a big deal because, aside from making a left turn or momentarily trying to dodge debris, I never took their lane. I had ridden on streets that were wide enough to allow coexistence and I've never had a bad interaction with a driver there. Most of my arguments or profanity exchanges or gestures thrown have been in urban traffic or near-suburban traffic where bottlenecks crop up and we get into right of way contention, and in many cases those were avoidable, either by me in planning ahead or the driver in being aware of a cyclist in their vicinity.

Overall though, the thing that I've learned in 12 years of riding, and the thing that I would never have learned from Critical Mass is that sharing streets is based very much on mutual respect. It isn't about us vs. them, but about you and I trying to get where we want to go on different vehicles, and doing it in such a way where neither of us inconveniences the other for more than is necessary. That may mean that I am allowed to put my bike ahead of your car at a red light when making a left because that ensures that I am visible to you, but that I should also get out of your way as we both make the turn.

I personally believe that you should drive less, but I will not accomplish that by telling you how bad your car is. I think you (and I mean 'you' in 'car drivers in general you', not necessarily 'you pla you') get a heavy dose of that sort of sermonizing already and have learned to shut that out (as shutting out contrary voices has become quite a refined skill in the 21st century). I will, instead, accomplish it by continuing to be an example of how awesome life on a bicycle is and steadily making more people jealous about my lifestyle.
posted by bl1nk at 6:52 AM on March 1, 2011


I'm not sure anyone is actually defending the driver's actions. They are deplorable. But criticizing Critical Mass is not the same thing as defending the guy who tried to kill them.

Getting into people's way rarely accomplished anything. Especially when it looks indistinguishable from a big party.
posted by gjc at 6:54 AM on March 1, 2011


DNye -- inaccurate metaphor. Pride is a permitted demonstration/march that is coordinated with the city and includes logistical support from the police to ensure that traffic is diverted and that the march wraps up in an orderly fashion.

Boston has an annual event called Hub On Wheels where the main urban artery of Storrow Drive is shut down so that a bunch of people can ride their bikes by the Charles River. There are similar annual rides in Chicago or Toronto for riding along the Lakeshore. Manhattan has the 5 Boroughs Centuries. Those are your cycling equivalents to Pride.

The Pride equivalent of Critical Mass would be an army of drag queens barhopping through the local sports bars near your stadium of choice and forcibly switching every big screen TV to karaoke for one song before moving on to the next bar, slapping the various ya-doods on the ass on the way out.

Kinda awesome, but probably likely to elicit similar reactions if news emerges that some stragglers from the barhopping got jumped by jocks (as in: seriously terrible that it happened, nothing excuse violence, but WTF, man?) There's sharing nature with bears and then there's poking those bears with a stick and saying, "see! share! share! RESPECT ME ASSHOLE!"
posted by bl1nk at 7:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the conflicts here seems to be different settings. In a smaller town, it is relatively easier to coexist. In a large city, it gets really difficult. There are too many of everyone around.

As a driver, I have nearly killed crazy bicyclists a dozen times. Not because I wanted to, but because they weren't paying attention or in some cases, willfully daring traffic not to hit them. Bike messengers, I'm talking about you. Headphones on, just plowing ahead and darting into and out of traffic as if it didn't exist. Running reds, making bizarre left turns, etc.

And I've nearly been killed just as many times by automobiles for the same reason. I am minding my own business on my bike, and some driver isn't paying attention.

The solution isn't to argue who has more right to the road, but for the rules of the road to be enforced and updated to account for current reality.
posted by gjc at 7:03 AM on March 1, 2011


bl1nk I'm not disagreeing with you at all (honestly, had never heard of Critical Mass prior to this), but if you look at the video, there seems to be a fire truck or something with lights following the cyclists. I could be wrong, but it looks like there was some sort of city coordination, though obviously not enough.
posted by Neekee at 7:09 AM on March 1, 2011


The solution isn't to argue who has more right to the road, but for the rules of the road to be enforced and updated to account for current reality.

*nods vigorously*

I'm a cyclist (on occasion) in Brooklyn. And I bristle at the people whinging about the bike lanes being put in in the city.

But I also bristle at the sight of fellow cyclists who:

* ride the wrong way down one-way streets
* don't stop for red lights
* ride on the sidewalk
* don't stop for pedestrians

And while we're at it, I also bristle at the sight of pedestrians who:

* walk in bike lanes
* stand in the bike lane trying to see if there's a car coming so they can jaywalk or cross the street

People in New York have proposed a license for cyclists, and I'm all for it, because I obey the traffic laws. The only questionable thing I do is not wear a helmet most times, but that is not a requirement. It's stupid of me, but it's not illegal yet; if it were to go all the way into being a requirement, I'd wear one. I want to see cycling scofflaws get targeted -- because they're making me look bad, and I'm sick of it.

But I equally want to see driving scofflaws get targeted, because they're also giving me problems. (If I have to weave into traffic one more time because some asshole is parked in the bike lane...)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


In the US, we have them so artificially low (largely for the purpose of revenue collection) that a Model-T could safely go that speed in the middle of an ice-storm, never mind a modern car with ABS and traction control.

So, I totally get that "I'm inconvenienced" feeling; I've often felt it myself to be honest. But I have trouble believing that you or I are more qualified to determine the safe speed of a roadway than someone with the relevant training and experience. I also suspect that there are more considerations to determining if a given speed is safe than "can *my* car handle it"? For example, it's not like we slow down in school zones because of outdated ideas of traction and stopping distance.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 7:26 AM on March 1, 2011


pla, you're a fool if you believe that traction control and anti-lock brakes automatically allows for higher speeds. There have been studies which have demonstrated that people tend to drive less safe with these electronic nannies as they believe themselves to be safer even in inclement conditions.
posted by drstrangelove at 7:28 AM on March 1, 2011


I feel like we're heading for a very dark place, here...

Well switch the light on, old chap. You've taken a personal hobby horse and inserted it into proceedings and got upset over nothing.

It would be counterproductive for a bunch of armoured car drivers or rodeo horse riders or monster truck drivers to deliberately drive slowly down the road too.

Put simply: blocking roads up to the exclusion of other road users is not an effective way to get the message across that bikes can/should share space and can do so with little or no negative impact.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:40 AM on March 1, 2011


Getting into people's way rarely accomplished anything. Especially when it looks indistinguishable from a big party.

Well, quite. (SLYT)

It's possible that you and I have been watching different news for the last few weeks, but haven't an awful lot of people been getting into people's way, recently, in places like Egypt and Tunisia, in a way that at times looked like a big party? Are there not people currently getting into people's way in Libya? And, for that matter, Wisconsin?

"Getting into people's way rarely accomplished anything." would normally be an easily falsifiable thing to say. But in the context of what's happening in the word right now, it seems actively bonkers.

DNye -- inaccurate metaphor. Pride is a permitted demonstration/march that is coordinated with the city and includes logistical support from the police to ensure that traffic is diverted and that the march wraps up in an orderly fashion.

That's very true - which was one reason why I possibly shouldn't have shied away from my immediate metaphorical response, which was the Greensboro sit-ins. Those were unscheduled events which caused considerable inconvenience to other people who just wanted to drink or serve coffee in Woolworths. Many would think that Critical Mass' campaign is for a cause far more trivial than that of Greensboro sit-ins, I believe. However, it's clearly something very important to them. So the question is maybe what level of inconvenience it is reasonable to endure on account of somebody else's deeply-felt beliefs before attempts at homicide become if not forgivable then at least understandable.

Also, I don't know about this one, but Critical Mass rides are usually organised on a regular basis. They aren't impossible to predict or organised in total secrecy. If you read the linked NPR article, it says that this one takes place once a month on a Friday. There's a blog which appears to advertise the rides in advance. And, in the greater scheme of things, the individual inconvenience caused by a Critical Mass ride is probably pretty low. That ride apparently had 150 bikes - so, about two city blocks' worth of cycle traffic? Unless there were no turn-offs, and you were stuck behind them for a prolonged period, I don't know how badly that would disrupt your journey or the infrastructure of the city. The anger at the idea of the impact on road traffic seems disproportionate to the amount of time any one road user might spend being inconvenienced by Critical Mass throughout their entire life.

There's sharing nature with bears and then there's poking those bears with a stick and saying, "see! share! share! RESPECT ME ASSHOLE!"

That's an interesting metaphor, suggesting as it does that the natural order is that sports fans and drivers are creatures of instinct, like bears, and that queerbashing and vehicular homicide attempts on cycling activists are the equivalent of attacks by provoked bears - inevitable responses to the disruption of the natural order, which the victims brought on themselves.

To be honest, when I thought we were heading for a dark place, I didn't expect it to be that dark.
posted by DNye at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Since this thread has predictably drifted away from the topic, might as well just go chatfilter.

I'm an engineer, so my pet theory about traffic is the 'dynamic equilibrium of danger'. Sort of like fluid dynamics or ideal gas theory. In the absence of laws or enforcement (which is most of the time), traffic flows so as to reach an equilibrium between convenience and perceived threat. This applies to Bikes and cars are very similar in their city capacity (1 person at average 12km/h). However, cars have 20-100x the kinetic energy, so are much more threatening and a result: Bikes, being less threatening, get One solution to getting more space to operate a bike is for bikes to exude more perceived threat so that people feel less comfortable blocking them for convenience. Not overt U-lock swinging threat, just a continuous 'pressure' exerted on surroundings. Riding close to cars to encourage them to move over, stopping abruptly behind cars blocking bike lanes, etc.

Another is for cyclists to adapt and ride where others perceive a threat. For example, shadowing a streetcar or other large vehicle. Streetcars are great because they are large, red, dangerous-looking, yet predictable. I have never had a close call with dooring when side-drafting a streetcar.

Unfortunately, my view is of an impatient, autistic engineer and of course people respond to inherent and induced threats differently. For example, nobody gets any sympathy if they forget to fold in their mirrors on a narrow street and some absent minded driver tears one off. However, if someone parked in a bike lane, and a passing cargo bike tore a mirror off, they would be outraged.

So, unlike EmpressCallipygos, I don't mind the scofflaw cyclists, in a way, since their craziness exerts a little pressure back on other road users and indirectly makes my life a little easier. They're only risking their own necks - one step above jaywalking, as it was said in one of the (many) grar-bike metafilter threads.
posted by anthill at 7:44 AM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Although I'm not at all surprised, I can't help but be taken aback by the numerous "THEY WERE ASKING FOR IT!" comments that always follow in the wake of this sort of thing. I understand, intellectually, that the US is a car culture and that cyclists are reviled by the majority of drivers. But this man DELIBERATELY PLOWED FULL-SPEED THROUGH A CROWD OF HUMAN BEINGS. If they'd been on foot, I doubt we'd be seeing this volume "fuck those assholes" reactions. It's as if their bikes magically transformed them into non-human irritations that just take up space on the road.

CRAZY.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:44 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


It doesn't have to be this way. Maybe not in South America or North America (yet), but there are places that do not take it lightly when cyclists are hit.
posted by parudox at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2011


I think my issue, EmperessCallipygos, has to do with which traffic laws are seen as real and which are seen as optional.

Pla has eloquently explained how many American drivers view the speed limit. It's the law, but it's an illegitimate law, and they are entitled to break it. In fact, they have a legitimate grievance against road-users who adhere to the law. A driver who defies the speed limit has more moral authority than a cyclist who inconveniences that driver by obeying the speed limit.

That's the attitude that drivers and, to a greater and lesser extent in different areas, the police have towards many traffic laws that are designed to protect cyclists and pedestrians. Speeding is tacitly accepted in the US. Where I live, double-parking is tacitly accepted as long as it's just a minute or two. When I ride my bike to work in the early morning, there are always delivery trucks double-parked in the bike lane, and they are never, ever ticketed. I have to swerve around them. Where I live, it's ok to stop in the bike lane to let someone out of a car. Nobody is ever ticketed for that. Similarly, I routinely walk my bike across an intersection where there's a sign that says "turning cars must yield to pedestrians," and I have literally never seen a car actually yield to me or anyone else. Those are all laws that are on the books, but drivers know they're allowed to break them.

These law-violations are tacitly accepted, because they benefit drivers and only inconvenience people who are seen as illegitimate road-users. But if a bike-rider treats a stop sign like a yield sign, that's not ok, even if it's safe and convenient. Bike riders don't get to benefit from the same kind of tacit license to break laws that drivers get.

In New York, it works a little differently, because pedestrians are seen as the default road users. There, pedestrians get to break the rules, and drivers are typically held to higher standards than pedestrians. You'd be laughed out of the city if you suggested that people shouldn't jaywalk or that pedestrians should need a license so they can be penalized for breaking the law.

As a bike-rider, I mostly follow traffic laws, because I mostly think I'm safer following traffic laws. I don't, though, come to a complete stop and get off my bike at stop signs, because most of the time it's safer to slow down and yield rather than come to a complete stop. When I tell drivers that, they lecture me. But I'm not going to apologize for that until drivers and pedestrians follow every single traffic law and until they lose the unwritten privileges that allow them to defy laws that are meant to protect road-users like me. I think there's a real double-standard about traffic laws in the US, and it doesn't particularly benefit bike riders.
posted by craichead at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is horrendous, anyone have word on the injured?
posted by misterG at 7:50 AM on March 1, 2011


But this man DELIBERATELY PLOWED FULL-SPEED THROUGH A CROWD OF HUMAN BEINGS. If they'd been on foot, I doubt we'd be seeing this volume "fuck those assholes" reactions.

Now, come on, Narrative Priorities. You're just getting upset over nothing.
posted by DNye at 7:51 AM on March 1, 2011


From The Guardian:

"There was an impatient driver behind the group, in a black VW Golf, who wanted to go faster," he said. "Some of the participants of the ride went to talk to the driver and ask for patience. The man than started threatening them, accelerating the car and pushing some bikes with it.

"Then he accelerated all he could as you can see in several videos.

"He ran over more than 20 cyclists, injuring dozens, of which four were severe; breaking bones, bleeding heads and losing consciousness. He then ran away."


I wonder what the jail term is for attempting to kill more than 20 people?
posted by misterG at 7:55 AM on March 1, 2011


Heh, no, the US has posted maximum speeds as well. Most people, however, go 5-10 over them; Going below will get you aggressively honked at, flashed, and passed under normal road conditions.

What a great reason to break the law and endanger yourself and others!
posted by shakespeherian at 7:57 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, DNye, you're getting upset over nothing. You've built up your own little strawman that gay pride marches are just like critical mass gatherings.

And you've evidently decided that any criticism of the productivity of critical mass tactics is de facto support for murderous lunatics like this Brazilian guy. What can I say? Who could argue with such nuanced rhetoric.

I think they're unproductive from the perspective of a person who cycles every day on the roads.

I'll leave you to battle your strawmen, in the dark, afraid.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


As a bike-rider, I mostly follow traffic laws, because I mostly think I'm safer following traffic laws. I don't, though, come to a complete stop and get off my bike at stop signs, because most of the time it's safer to slow down and yield rather than come to a complete stop.

Really? I stop at stop signs when I'm on my bike. (I don't "get off my bike" in the sense of a total dismount, though, but I do stop and put a foot down.) Personally, I think it's safer to stop and see whether a car is

* coming in one of the other directions, and
* going to see me when I start moving again.

Odds are the car's gonna obey the laws, but it's safer to double-check, I feel, because if the oncoming car is likely to plow right through, it'd suck for me.

And I hear you about "New York Streets belong to the pedestrians," and yeah, I've jaywalked myself. BUT -- I don't jaywalk if any vehicle is coming up the street. And I include "other cyclists" in that category. And if I am on my bike and some pedestrian acts like an idiot, I dont' just hit them or anything.

And I honestly don't get the thinking behind the idea that some traffic laws are "optional".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:02 AM on March 1, 2011


bl1nk : I personally believe that you should drive less, but I will not accomplish that by telling you how bad your car is.

Preaching to the choir, brother - If I considered it sufficiently safe, I would bike my daily commute (weather permitting). I just don't feel that I could realistically maintain 45+MPH on curvy, hilly, heavily wooded roads. Perhaps, though, that reflects my own shortcoming, not the mode of transportation itself - I could accept that possibility.


drstrangelove : you're a fool if you believe that traction control and anti-lock brakes automatically allows for higher speeds.

Agreed (personally, I hate hate hate ABS). I also realize that 4WD doesn't mean you brake any faster on ice. But in general, modern cars do handle massively better than those common when we established most modern speed limits.
posted by pla at 8:06 AM on March 1, 2011


And I honestly don't get the thinking behind the idea that some traffic laws are "optional".

It's descriptive (how things are) versus prescriptive (how things should be). You seem like a very principled, orderly person - if only everyone had the same attitude!
posted by anthill at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2011


I don't just barrel through stop signs without looking, EmressCallipygos. Are you familiar with the concept of "yielding"? I slow down to an almost-complete stop, I look and see if there's a car coming, and if not, I keep going. If there is, I put my foot down. This is technically illegal: you're supposed to come to a complete stop no matter what. But it doesn't make any sense to come to a complete stop on a bike, unless there's something coming.
And I honestly don't get the thinking behind the idea that some traffic laws are "optional".
If you jaywalk, you think that some traffic laws are optional. That's hard to realize in New York, because it's so completely accepted. But spend some time in Germany, and you'll get used to the idea that a "don't walk" sign means that you don't walk, even if there's nothing coming.
posted by craichead at 8:08 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I dislike Critical Mass and find it counterproductive. It's emblematic not of the plucky cyclist's fight for equal rights, but of a rather unpleasant self-righteousness. More importantly, it's incredibly self-defeating. If it does anything but make car drivers hate cyclists more, I'd be surprised."

This feels like a very very wrong thread for this uniquely puritan habit of judging the actions of others based on how well they achieve your goals the goals you imagine them to have. Critical Mass is an exercise in the fundamental human right to peaceably assemble, it doesn't need to justify itself. It is a community building event, a celebration of the power that people can hold collectively, it returns agency to road users who routinely have it stolen from them with the cost of individual resistance extremely high where there is no authority worth appealing to. Its not necessarily about you or drivers.

I have never been to a Critical Mass, but when I am on the road I yield to drivers who honk at and tailgate me as soon as it is safe to do so, often before. Every vehicle is a potential two ton rage monster, I deal with them on a weekly basis. I regularly surrender my lane, despite how really dangerous it is, because inconveniencing someone for the thirty seconds it would take for them to safely pass me can be so much more dangerous.

As a cyclist, the rationalizations and sharing of blame in this thread for drivers acting like inhuman and angry vindictive bears are deeply terrifying. Its never hit home just how many people would see it as my fault for existing and demanding my legal rights as a fellow traveler should someone kill me. The next critical mass in my area is in a few Fridays, I think I'll join it.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:12 AM on March 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


Dnye - just to be sure, are you not being a little purposefully obtuse in your interpretation?

Your description of Critical Mass kind of shows that you aren't all of that familiar with the phenomenon ... so, if you don't mind a little more real information rather than a superficial survey of some websites:
Mass is traditionally held on the last Friday of every month in every city where it is held. It is usually held around rush hour, but there is no set time and there is no set route. The Mass moves as a demonstration of consensual anarchy, where certain individuals who are regulars in the scene can tend to steer the mass in one direction or another. Folks peel off if they want to ride somewhere else. Others might join as the mass intersects with them.

Thus short of opting to leave work late or early it is impossible to plan your commute to purposefully avoid Mass, especially if you aren't a regular cyclist and are just peripherally aware of the phenomenon. You can go for months without it impacting you, and then one Friday, you're in the thick of it.

Eventhough I ride, I goddamn hate it when I cross paths with Mass because, like other commuters I'm just trying to get where I want to go, and they will hold up my intersection as they cross perpendicularly and when I ask them to make way or wait for the red, they give me some crap about not being a joiner.
all the same, I think that your choice of equating cycling advocacy to gay rights is still an imperfect one. Though, I must confess that my familiarity with gay rights is probably as incomplete as yours is about cycling advocacy. Still, from my impression, part of the reasons for sit-ins, demonstrations and civil disobedience is that it is because it was one of the few options open for a community that had little if no legal representation or advocacy within society. No politician at the time would have wanted to be associated with the movement because they didn't want to be accused of being a homosexual themselves. Cycling is different in that it is possible for the community to recruit full fledged advocates for themselves within civic or state government, and while, demonstrations like Critical Mass can be useful for maintaining community cohesion and energy, it can also be very counterproductive to the efforts of legitimate advocates.

fwiw, my idea of a bear is that it is a creature that will leave you well enough alone under most circumstances. What you left out in your response to me was the fact that I used an example where individuals performed actions that were specifically provocative. I think that two men who've had some drinks in them in a bar have a non-zero chance of getting into a fight if one of them does something disrespectful to the other (like unprovoked aggressive physical contact). If one of them happens to be gay, that doesn't automatically flip the fight into queerbashing.
posted by bl1nk at 8:13 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian : What a great reason to break the law and endanger yourself and others!

"The law" does not define reality. It describes a set of mutually agreed upon rules of conduct that (often) work to our benefit.

So when the reality disagrees with the rules, as anthill pointed out to EmpressCallipygos, do we passive-aggressively point to the law as justifying an aberration from the "real" rules of conduct, or do we behave in the way those around us expect?

Put another way - You might have the "right of way" as a pedestrian. You'll still physically lose, in a big way, vs the car that doesn't notice you.
posted by pla at 8:18 AM on March 1, 2011




You can't deny that the current network of maintained pavement is due entirely to car and truck traffic, though, come on.

I know I'm coming in late to this, but it's worth addressing for the sake of accuracy and curiosity.

Bicycle unions were apparently huge in advocating for the paving of streets. Sorry about the low quality link. They likely had more to do with the paving of roads than cars did.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:23 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, Blasdelb, if only Critical Mass were really only about peaceful assembly it would be so awesome ... I remember being part of a Mass in 2003, during the February anti Iraq war protests, and we stopped at red lights, only took up one travel lane, yielded to emergency vehicles and it was great. Plus, you know, riding around Manhattan as its utterly paralysed by protest marchers was probably the fastest way to traverse the island.

Modern Critical Mass doesn't retain that sense of respect. They will run red lights en masse to keep the mass together, with individuals staying behind to play traffic cop and keep other road users from exercising their legitimate right of way. They sometimes take multiple lanes of traffic if folks want to. It's not the way I want to ride or how I want to be treated in traffic.

I will take my lane and I will hold it if I am making a left or need the space for any reason. I will also signal when I am taking that lane and I will confirm that the driver is yielding to me. I will stop at reds and I will stop at stop signs. I will lunge out in front of a car if I feel that it is presumptuously taking my right of way. I will demand and defend my legal rights to use a road for which I had paid taxes.

But I still wince everytime I see another cyclist run a red light and nearly get creamed by a speeding motorist.
posted by bl1nk at 8:32 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


As a cyclist, the rationalizations and sharing of blame in this thread for drivers acting like inhuman and angry vindictive bears are deeply terrifying

You don't need to excuse asshole, or murderous, drivers to argue with what Critical Mass stands for. I don't excuse Ricardo Neis one iota. There's nothing contradictory in holding that belief while also disagreeing with what Critical Mass stands for.

I am, however, allowed a view on whether someone's exercise in, as you put it, the fundamental human right to peaceably assemble at rush hour on Fridays is something good for cyclists in general. I don't think it is.

As for community building? All road users are a community. It is, in my view, highly destructive to lots of cyclist and road safety organisations' goal of getting road users to respect one another.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:38 AM on March 1, 2011


Gosh, a straw man and a hobby horse, Muffin Man? Is the straw man riding the hobby horse? Is he riding it in a Critical Mass bike ride?

Slightly more seriously, I am sorry that you are so upset that you cannot think of an original way to express your hurt and anger beyond these rote terms, and I hope you feel calmer soon. But, really, you're getting upset over nothing. This is just a discussion on the Internet.

bl1nk:
fwiw, my idea of a bear is that it is a creature that will leave you well enough alone under most circumstances. What you left out in your response to me was the fact that I used an example where individuals performed actions that were specifically provocative. I think that two men who've had some drinks in them in a bar have a non-zero chance of getting into a fight if one of them does something disrespectful to the other (like unprovoked aggressive physical contact). If one of them happens to be gay, that doesn't automatically flip the fight into queerbashing
Except that's not what you said. Let's look at the replay:
The Pride equivalent of Critical Mass would be an army of drag queens barhopping through the local sports bars near your stadium of choice and forcibly switching every big screen TV to karaoke for one song before moving on to the next bar, slapping the various ya-doods on the ass on the way out.

Kinda awesome, but probably likely to elicit similar reactions if news emerges that some stragglers from the barhopping got jumped by jocks (as in: seriously terrible that it happened, nothing excuse violence, but WTF, man?) There's sharing nature with bears and then there's poking those bears with a stick and saying, "see! share! share! RESPECT ME ASSHOLE!"
That's not about two people in a bar, one of whom happens to be gay, having a fight. That's specifically about drag queens singing karaoke and touching straight men's bottoms, and it's about the jocks (the bears, somewhat ironically) then jumping the stragglers from the group of drag queens and beating them up because they are drag queens who have been singing karaoke and touching straight men's bottoms (or possibly physically attacking latecomers to the bar for the actions of their friends - that part is unclear). That's a bit of a fantasy situation - it usually doesn't take that much to inspire homosexual panic - but other than that it's pretty textbook. It's OK not to remember what you've written, but - really - it's right there. But no problem - feel free to substitute "violent act against gay men who have been provocatively gay".

So, yes. In your metaphor, jocks (and by extension drivers) are like bears. They have a natural comfort zone, and if you violate it (by unexpectedly appearing in it wearing women's clothing, by cycling slowly in front of them), you can expect to be on the receiving end of asymmetric violence as if it were a natural law. Poke a bear with a stick, get mauled. Grab a sports fan's bottom, get followed and beaten up. Cycle slowly in front of a car, get run over. The removal of moral agency (who would describe a bear which mauled somebody poking it with a stick as morally bad? It's just doing what comes naturally) is what made me feel like we were heading for a very dark place, and I still find that very disturbing. I think people are moral agents, which is a way in which people are not like bears.

The Greensboro sit-ins were not about gay rights. They were one of the first direct actions of the civil rights movement, in North Carolina in 1960. If you want a website to survey for more info, it's on Wikipedia, although the detail is a bit superficial. Good place to start, though.

I was put in mind of the Greensboro sit-ins as a result of gjc's assertion that getting in people's way never effected change, which seemed like a tremendously unsafe assertion. I am in no other way equating the civil rights movement or the gay rights movement with Critical Mass, except (as I have already said) that they are movements involving acts of non-violent direct action by people who, rightly or wrongly, feel passionately that their cause justifies non-violent direct action.

It's difficult when people don't read what other people write, and harder still when they don't read what they themselves have written. So, tl:dr - people are not bears. Bears respond instinctively to provocation. People have the ability not to respond on pure instinct, and that is baked into ideas of responsibility. Men in sports bars have the ability and the responsibility not to isolate and beat up gay men, even if they are in drag. Drivers in Porto Alegre have the ability and the responsibility not to run people over, no matter how annoyed they are. This is because they are not bears.
posted by DNye at 9:28 AM on March 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Gosh, a straw man and a hobby horse, Muffin Man? Is the straw man riding the hobby horse? Is he riding it in a Critical Mass bike ride?

I am awed by your rhetoric. No, really.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2011


All the avid car-haters in this thread should bear in mind that without cars, there would be no roads for their bikes in the first place, so there's that.

Yes, it's unfortunate for that position that the roads didn't exist until the invention of the automobile.
posted by Gelatin at 9:37 AM on March 1, 2011


"The law" does not define reality. It describes a set of mutually agreed upon rules of conduct that (often) work to our benefit.

I do not believe that peer pressure is a good reason to do something that you think is unsafe. If you do not believe that violating the speed limit is unsafe, I'm not sure why you tried to pin the blame for your violation on the mean ol' horn-honking of strangers.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:40 AM on March 1, 2011


Bah. See my comment.

But I'm not a car hater. I drive and cycle. Crrazzzzyyy I know, but that's how I roll.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:41 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dnye, I think we can agree that we should all strive for being civil towards each other and not beating each other up and, in an ideal world, we can block each other's forward progress in traffic or have our favorite social space be invaded by people who are not of our cultural tribe and shrug it off in a live and let live sort of way.

I think, however, in the real world, we should acknowledge that ideal behavior is not always abided by with every member of society and if we want to effect real change we should measure our desired actions by the real reaction that will be provoked by individuals who are subjected to that action.

The reason why I used the drag queens with karaoke touching men's bottoms imagery is because it is, to my mind, a particularly apt simile to Critical Mass in that, as you point out, it is a perfect fantasy of what every meathead jock may hate and be contemptuous about ... except in Critical Mass' case, it's the wonderful combination of

a) slowing the motorist down or cyclists demonstrating that they can be faster than cars in the city

b) cyclists appearing where they usually aren't (ie. filtering on your left instead of your right. weaving in front of and around you), sometimes putting their hand on your car or grabbing your mirror if they want to show off.

c) cyclists disobeying traffic laws

d) cyclists yelling at or demonstrating to drivers why their choice of transportation is a sin

I think that a couple of these points are worth making, much in the same way that I think that any person should be able to drink at a bar and be served and treated like any other customer regardless of their choice of dress and how that may clash with the bar's regular clientele. But like having a drink a bar, if one chooses to make that point by disrupting and changing the bar (much in the same way that a roadway under a Critical Mass becomes a completely different traffic experience) then there'd better be a worthwhile, revelatory moment added on to that disruption ("hey, I love this song!" or "hey, that bike looks really cool!") or otherwise it will tend to provoke resentment and anger which -- in this imperfect world will sometimes lead to violence. That violence should never be encouraged or justified or approved, but it's possibility must be acknowledged and weighed against the point that you're trying to make.

I think what most of us (or at least I) would point out is that the point that Critical Mass tries to make is generally not worth the resentment that it provokes and by extension not worth the risk of violence that is attached to it.
posted by bl1nk at 10:03 AM on March 1, 2011


I think this is not a winning rhetorical strategy for you, bl1nk. I don't think Critical Mass is particularly effective, but there are ways to say that without seeming to engage in weird, distasteful victim-blaming.
posted by craichead at 10:10 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here in New York, Brooklyn's recently-installed Prospect Park West bike lane caused a huge backlash from bike-haters. Here's an easy-to-read side-by-side comparison of the before and after.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:15 AM on March 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


Way upthread there was some discussion as to why won't cyclists move a block or two over and then use a side street. In my experience, this works for smaller commutes, and when it does, I embrace this tactic. Where it doesn't work is when your commute is 15.6 miles across a two state metro area divided by a major waterway. On a ride of that scale side streets often dead end against various structures and multi-lane arterials. Navigating perpendicular to the general route to get from side street to side street adds a a great deal to the length of the overall route. In my case, it turns that 15.6 mile ride into a 17.3 mile ride.

I think this whole conflict could go a lot smoother if both sides stopped projecting how they assume the other side should behave onto the actual situation and if everyone acted like responsible adults. If *everyone* followed the laws, this would be a non-issue and people wouldn't be so damned aggrieved by the imagined slights.

I honestly don't commute any longer because it is just too unsafe in my heartland metropolis now that I don't live off the bike path that runs just past my office. I'm too old and have too many responsibilities to be able to risk someone having a foul temper and deciding I was little more than an errant traffic cone. Getting hit by a car fucking hurts and I don't mend like I used to.

As for Critical Mass...I used to ride CM but tired of the overtly antagonistic riders these events seem to attract. By far and away, most folks just show up and quietly ride and this gets the point across rather well. The douchebags who linger at intersections, make lewd gestures, bray vitriol, and/or lack common courtesy are counterproductive and I get embarrassed for them. I hate being embarrassed for other people and confronting them never wendells in my experience.

But, ending on a topical note...this dude needs to go down for multiple accounts of attempted homicide. Lucky he got away because I think he would have been killed on the spot. Unbelievable.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:27 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


On a ride of that scale side streets often dead end against various structures and multi-lane arterials

Fezboy, this (toronto-centred) post might make you smile. Imagine if the suburbs weren't committed to the war on the car - you could ride on peaceful side streets all the way home.
posted by anthill at 10:47 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The motorist is now being investigated for attempted murder. The original charge was "criminal negligent injury". (All according to Google's translation).
posted by Triplanetary at 10:50 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bicycles and cars really don't belong on the same road. When I drive my car, I hate bikers, mostly because I'm terrified of hitting one. When I'm on my bike, I hate cars, for the opposite reason and more.

I don't have an answer other than let's hope the tea party craze dies down so we can build a crapload of bike paths.


I love bike paths. In warmer weather, I add 1.5 miles (each way) to my commute just to ride on a path rather than the streets. But fully separated routes are not the only answer. I ride for transportation not just recreation. I am trying to get somewhere. I love my city for it's intuitive and user-friendly grid network of streets. There's no way you could build a network of bike paths that's anywhere near as efficient as just allowing me to use the streets in a way that's safe for me, drivers, and pedestrians.

Chicago has a mix of bike paths, bike lanes, and shared routes (and streets that are so dangerous you couldn't pay me to ride on them). I think that having a mix of different types of bike infrastructure is ideal for a city. A recently released study showed that bike lanes DO make a difference - the busiest bike corridor in Chicago had over 3,000 cyclists pass a specific intersection in a 24-hour period. That was a 22% share of total traffic at that point. Amazing! Imagine if those 3,000 cyclists drove or even took public transit that day instead.

Our new mayor-elect favors creating separated bike lanes, lanes on the streets that have a row of parallel-parked cars between the cyclists and the car lanes. I'm not sure how I feel about that in practice (it's just more likely that the bike lane will be taken over by delivery trucks and pedestrians and rollerbladers) but I am so in favor of new bike infastructure in any form that I'll take it.

tl;dr: Sure, build more bike lanes, but don't ban me from the streets.
posted by misskaz at 10:52 AM on March 1, 2011



tl;dr: Sure, build more bike lanes, but don't ban me from the streets.


I'd go one step further. I think that bike lanes are counter productive, because they foster this notion that bikes don't belong in traffic. ;) Not to mention that every bike lane I've ever seen has been on some quiet back street where it didn't do any good at all, because hey, nobody drives there.

I'd be fine with killing bike lanes entirely, and just educating and enforcing the traffic laws that list bikes as a vehicle, with the same rights and restrictions as a car. Plus some hefty fines to asshole bike riders and motorists.

Unless they're recreational paths through green space, those are great. But I don't think those are what we're talking about.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:01 AM on March 1, 2011


For some reason people always act like Critical Mass is identical from city to city. It's not. Here in Edmonton the whole thing is much more sedate than what you folks are describing, and your experiences may not apply in Brazil either. Don't generalise from them.
posted by cdward at 11:03 AM on March 1, 2011


Not to mention that every bike lane I've ever seen has been on some quiet back street where it didn't do any good at all, because hey, nobody drives there.

In NYC they're putting bike lanes on some major city streets.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:21 AM on March 1, 2011


cdward Likewise in London - I mean, the well-coordinated exhibitionists may shake tambourines, but they are not particularly confrontational.
>That violence should never be encouraged or justified or approved, but it's possibility must be acknowledged and weighed against the point that you're trying to make.

I think what most of us (or at least I)1 would point out is that the point that Critical Mass tries to make is generally not worth the resentment that it provokes and by extension not worth the risk of violence that is attached to it.
1 I think this may be confirmation bias, but I haven't done a count.

This is sort of the inverse bear law, I think. The person who is cycling, or sitting in Woolworths in Greensboro in 1960 demanding a cup of coffee for that matter, probably has some sense of the possibility that they might incur a negative or violent response - because that person is also not a bear. Because people are not bears. They are taking a risk based on their assessment of the risk to them, and how much their point means to them, rather than to you. They may have miscalculated, but I think there is some ratiocination going on.

The other slightly difficult thing about this model, apart from the bears, is that it requires people to be psychic. To my knowledge, nobody has gunned their car through a Critical Mass bike ride before. So, the people on that bike ride not only had to weigh all the current risks but also all the risks that could possibly happen? If I did that, I'd never leave the house, much less go on a march.

Example: Up until the Kent State Massacre, it was probably reasonable for the students at Kent State to assume that being fired on by the National Guard was a relatively remote risk when considering whether or not to protest. It was shocking and unexpected that the National Guard opened fire on (unarmed, largely white) American citizens. I think it's fair to say that the fact that it happened did not mean that they automatically should not have protested in the first place, and also did not mean that they brought it on themselves, and should have known not to poke the National Bear Guard. From that point on, it was a more probable risk, and probably some people decided to stop protesting - although many more decided to start.

So, as far as I can tell, in order for a direct action protest to be valid, bl1nk, it has to:

1) Have aims with which you sympathise, at least to a level exceeding:
2) The possible worst-case scenario risk to the protestors, and:
3) Be conducted by people who have no representation in the prevailing political culture

Shriner procession, maybe? That doesn't feel like a good baseline for when to describe the victim of violence as having poked a bear, though.
posted by DNye at 11:30 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd go one step further. I think that bike lanes are counter productive

By and large in London, the cycling superhighways that have been created have been A Good Thing.

What slightly irks me on my route, however, is on big wide roads there is lots of space for cars and bikes in their own lanes. But at one point where the road narrows the cycle lane is still there... but... so is the car lane. I'm not sure what the point of a cycle lane is if it gets functionally scrapped the moment cyclists need it most.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:14 PM on March 1, 2011


The only way in which generalized driver displeasure towards bicyclists is relevant to the horror this FPP is the line of thinking that bl1nk beautifully reduced to what, I DEAR GOD HOPE, is absurdity on Metafilter. If your experiences with American and British CM are not relevant, which they arn't, all that could be is base victim blaming wrapped in a thick burrito of lot of weird anger.

This FPP is not about Critical Mass. Critical Mass not only does not present an excuse for the behavior of the motorist, but it also presents no sane rationalization for it.
posted by Blasdelb at 12:58 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, Blasdelb, this FPP has certainly gone on to provoke the same old "Bikers versus Car Drivers" flame war. I surely hope each side is aware of the baggage they are throwing on the thread.
posted by cavalier at 1:13 PM on March 1, 2011


This FPP is not about Critical Mass

With respect, if it's not about Critical Mass at all then it's reduced to outrage filter. It is an outrage, of course. But what else is there to say if the thread can't evolve any other way than to reiterate the point over and over again?
posted by MuffinMan at 1:54 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


this FPP has certainly gone on to provoke the same old "Bikers versus Car Drivers" flame war

Perhaps we can use this and future CM threads as an opportunity to work together and try to get drivers to see a cyclist's point of view — and vice versa.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:24 PM on March 1, 2011


I'd like to start seeing bikes share the road with cars (i.e. don't be a bunch of dicks, follow the rules of the road, don't blow through stop signs and then flip me off when I nearly run you down, don't ride the wrong way up one-way streets, etc.).

The notion that bicyclists violate the rules of the road more than cars do seem very unfounded to me.

The most dangerous moving violation is speeding (pdf) by automobiles:

"In 2000, the cost of speeding-related crashes was estimated to be $40.4 billion — $76,865 per minute or $1,281 per second."

How many people do you know who drive over the speed limit?

You drivers worry a bit more about speeding, and I'll worry about making a full stop and taking my feet off the pedals at the stop sign.

Modern Critical Mass doesn't retain that sense of respect. They will run red lights en masse to keep the mass together, with individuals staying behind to play traffic cop and keep other road users from exercising their legitimate right of way.

/heyyoukidsgetoffmylawn You do know that 2003 is in the era of "Modern Critical Mass." The huge 10th anniversary ride was in 2002. (As someone already noted) in 1997 we were doing a hell of a lot more than trying to keep other road users from exercising their legitimate right of way. We were trying to fucking shut down the Bay Bridge!
posted by mrgrimm at 3:17 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and just while we're here - Muffin Man, you being rude briefly distracted me from you being wrong, which I imagine probably works for you, but when you said:
>You've built up your own little strawman that gay pride marches are just like critical mass gatherings.
You appear not to have noticed that I had already responded to bl1nk's correction - which you favourited, remember?
>DNye -- inaccurate metaphor. Pride is a permitted demonstration/march that is coordinated with the city and includes logistical support from the police to ensure that traffic is diverted and that the march wraps up in an orderly fashion.
by saying
>That's very true
I guess that you were possibly too upset to have noticed that - judging from your tone, this is a very emotional issue for you, what with all those thundering metaphors about horses and men and being afraid in the dark - ooh, scary! - but no harm done. Maybe we can all learn something about how sometimes the straw man is in our own eye, eh?
posted by DNye at 3:23 PM on March 1, 2011


If you've cycled for a few decades, and haven't bedome an accident statistic, you'll recall that 30 years ago there were was no car/cycle rivalry.
Its a meme, and people like pla help perpetuate it.
Imagine how silly it is to be killed or maimed on account of a dark and nasty meme.
It won't stop until penalties for cycle hate are in line with the crime.
posted by Fupped Duck at 3:25 PM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems fairly obvious that emergency vehicles are also going to suffer along with "inconvenienced commuters."

Every Critical Mass ride I've ever been in (I usually joined if I saw them while I was out and about on a Friday evening) made plenty of room for emergency vehicles and buses. Admittedly, if you're in a car driving your pregnant wife to the delivery room, you're gonna have to stick your head of your window and yell something. I have seen cyclists communicate messages and let drivers pass.

CM never changed one driver's mind and it never will.

Yay! More completely baseless "facts" derived from personal perception! Drivers I've talked to about it say it's certainly made them "think about it." Whatever.

In the US, we have them so artificially low (largely for the purpose of revenue collection) that a Model-T could safely go that speed in the middle of an ice-storm, never mind a modern car with ABS and traction control.

Based on my cost of speeding stats above, I'd say speed limits are artificially high.

I think what most of us (or at least I) would point out is that the point that Critical Mass tries to make is generally not worth the resentment that it provokes and by extension not worth the risk of violence that is attached to it.

I'd say that as long as that risk of violence from drivers exists, Critical Mass is essentially necessary. ymmv (literally). Fwiw, I drive a car more than I bicycle ... ever since having my hip shattered by a taxi.

The #1 reason people tell me they don't bike (those who would otherwise) is fear of cars.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:34 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


My mind can't comprehend doing that. How could you keep going after hearing the repeated thuds of bodies hitting your car? If you can stand that, then you're obvisoulsy at least somewhat deranged. This man is probably verging on sociopathic. He needs to be put away for good. And the argument that he felt threatened is bullshit, for two reasons. 1)How can you feel threatened sitting comfortably in a giant, locked metal box? and 2) If he really was threatened, how is it okay that his first response is to plow through and destroy the "instigator" of his anxety? If that's your idea of a logical reaction, you need to be institutionalized.

I lived in chicago for years, and yeah, CM was a bit of a pain. But oh well. Bikes are good for people, cities, the environment. When I first moved to the city, I didn't like the cyclists, not because they were in my way, but becuase I was terrified of being close to them for fear of hitting them. They just seemed to vulnerable to be on the road. But after I got over it, I realized that we could totally coexist peacefully. The only problem I had after that was that a good majority of cyclists I encountered didn't bother to use turn signals. And a coupe of them, on occasion, like to use the fact that they were tinier and [it happens] going faster than traffic, to break the laws of the road. Like turning right from a left lane or speeding up the dotted line between two lanes. But you can't really blame this on them being cyclists. It's not the bikes, but the few assholes who ride them that cause me strife. It's like getting mad at a Ford if a douche runs a red-light or drives drunk.
posted by shesaysgo at 3:59 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb : If your experiences with American and British CM are not relevant, which they arn't, all that could be is base victim blaming wrapped in a thick burrito of lot of weird anger.

Of course it counts as relevant. It may not (it does not) justify Neis' actions, but this didn't happen in a vacuum. Barring the (incredibly unlikely) possibility that he had some sort of stroke leading to instant homicidal rage, this incident wouldn't have happened if, say, a kindergarten class had delayed him for 30 seconds crossing the street on the way to the museum.

I run into this mindset a lot on the Blue, where people post FPs that can lead to no possible commentary except dots and grar, then act all offended when some participants dare to move beyond the core topic to discuss the actual peripherals to the situation.*

So we can either discuss (and I think this thread has remained reasonably peaceful so far) the bikes-vs-cars issue as it relates to blocking traffic and/or pushing loose screws clear out of the hole... Or we can just post our dots and leave.


This FPP is not about Critical Mass.

Then it shouldn't have mentioned them... Except, good luck explaining what happened without discussing why this guy couldn't just go around them / turn around / turn off and choose an alternate route?


mrgrimm : in 1997 we were doing a hell of a lot more than trying to keep other road users from exercising their legitimate right of way. We were trying to fucking shut down the Bay Bridge!

...Oh, right. Thanks for the tidy answer to my above question, G.


Based on my cost of speeding stats above, I'd say speed limits are artificially high.

Your numbers show that 83% of the cost of accidents in the US involve people not speeding ($40B out of $230B annually). And it doesn't even claim that the 17% from speeding involve causation, merely that the "NHTSA considers a crash to be speeding-related if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash"... The first term of that extended disjunction gives a loophole big enough to ram two and a half "for the children" bills through with a tax-cut for the rich as a chaser.


For those who don't quite understand that "trolling" doesn't mean "I disagree", reread that sentence again for the correct definition.
posted by pla at 4:03 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm generalizing some here and the following is anecdotal, but there are many drivers that simply do not want to share the road with anyone. Even other cars.

Depending on what I'm doing or where I'm going I drive a truck, an electric car (NEV), a 49cc honda scooter, a bicycle or walk. And while I make a point to drive defensively and preventatively, with every vehicle or my feet - there has been someone at some time in a car who aggressively let me know I was in their way.

The weirdest ones are when I'm in the electric car or the scooter. I'm keeping up with traffic. But some people act as if they're offended or something: that I'm daring to be different, or as if I'm saying something to them by my choice for myself. I'm not! I'm not judging you. But they will speed up and swerve to get in front of me, then make an effort to then glare at me in their rear view mirror, just begging for some sort of angry response for them to spark off of. I don't give them that.

I'm not trying to provoke these drivers. I'm really trying to just get when I'm going. It's so weird and a little frightening that I often change my route and times to avoid any greater probability of running into these angry people which I shouldn't have to do. I have a right to be there.

But whatever. Walking and biking is a whole different weirdness in hostility.

That guy in the video could have taken a side street. He hadn't been waiting long. He was with his kid. That sort of rage in people behind the wheel of a car is horrific.

I do like doing things that are different. I like slowing down and seeing my neighborhood when I'm walking or on a bike. I like the way the air feels when I'm on the scooter. I love how quiet the electric car is. My latest wish is that I could do more errands with pedi-cabs. What an adorable way to get to work when I'm feeling lazy! I wish I could just walk out my door and hail one.
posted by dog food sugar at 4:05 PM on March 1, 2011


Here's hoping this guy gets some jail time. Horrific video.

I hate Critical Mass, even though I like the spirit of it. I want to know how to avoid it, is the problem - or at least they should have a police escort. I was burned once when my husband and I drove from Massachusetts to Chicago in one day, only to be delayed by Critical Mass right when we were less than 10 miles from our house. It took an extra two hours and it was 3 a.m. when we finally got to bed. I've been crabby about it ever since.
posted by agregoli at 6:25 PM on March 1, 2011


Car people get to have fun super-slow car parties where they all car together every day, twice a day! Before and after work. Thousands and thousands of them! Twice a day! For fun! (I know it's for fun, because even cities with awesome, super functional mass transit do it too! Even people with disabilities can ride transit!) Owning houses in the suburbs and living miles and miles from work is a fun life choice that people make that inconveniences other people who they block during their fun commutes!

I just want to have a bike ride with a few hundred of my bike friends once a month. We've determined from almost two decades of experience that breaking one rule (called corking, which is blocking cross traffic so that the entire Mass can stay together through one red light) is the safest way to do that. We know this because cars that get stuck in the middle of the Mass rev their engines and act threatening like the attempted murderer highlighted in this FPP acted before he used his car as a weapon.

I know I sound self-righteous. The flip side is that most people who self-identify as car owners are incredibly privileged and expect their life choices to be subsidized while not being inconvenienced by the life choices of other people. I'm not willing to sit around and take that lightly.

One thing that MeFis always get wrong about Critical Mass is that there is no "one point" to Critical Mass. Everyone who attends the Mass attends it for a different reason. For some people it's just bike fun. For others, it's one day out of the month where they don't have to feel like lonely victims. For others, it's a political statement. CM is based on the idea of xerocracy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerocracy). And it's a unique form of civil disobedience that works. You can't coral Critical Mass in a Free Speech Zone. CM groups made some pretty loud statements about the Iraq War through the (yes, I get it it, controversial and inconvenient for regular schmucks like you) shutting down of Interstate Freeways. CMs have also played a big part in confronting attitudes of police violence and have had a place in taming violence against protesters. They have also been fertile ground for the growth of other aspects of bike culture that are widely popular and that uniquely enrich city culture.

That is all to say, those of you who say "CM doesn't work, because it will only anger drivers," are seriously missing the plot. In the vast majority of cases, an angry driver is preferable to an oblivious/texting/distracted one. The biggest threats to me as a pedestrian and bicyclist are drivers who take the danger of their cars for granted.

There are also a heck of a lot more waving, smiling pedestrian bystanders during these
kinds of group bike rides than crazy car people. It's easy to see threat and malice when you're behind a wheel or a keyboard, but when you're not attached to a machine and you see a group of a few hundred people having fun on bikes fly by, it's actually pretty rad and empowering.
posted by Skwirl at 8:56 PM on March 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


As a regular bike commuter, I've seen all sorts of assholish behavior on the part of cars, and there definitely needs to be better enforcement of driver attention issues in my part of the world (SF, CA). Every time I've almost been hit by a car, it's been someone talking on their phone. (The one time I was hit was by a car full of drunk women on the way to a party) But the video above demonstrates real criminality not just rude inattention. This guy needs to go to jail for a long time.

And. Critical Mass fucking blows. I don't know anyone who thinks better of cyclists because of it and I believe that it makes cycling less safe. It's antagonistic and inflames the loonies who have a 100x kinetic energy advantage over me. Countless times I've heard someone boast in conversation or post in forums that they would "take out" a cyclist if they were given an excuse to do so, and they use CM as justification for it. CM is a shitty PR tool.
posted by scelerat at 1:03 AM on March 2, 2011


I bike to and from work every day in Minneapolis (it was -1 on my commute this morning). I also drive a car on the weekend to get groceries or pick people up.

I'm extremely safety conscious, bordering on paranoid, both when I drive and when I bike. I'm that guy who comes to a full and complete stop at stop signs while I'm biking. When driving I never speed on city streets, never talk on my cell phone, etc.

Nonetheless I have had a handful of close calls in which I came close to hitting a cyclist while driving -- mostly at night when the cyclist doesn't have any lights.

I've also had a few close calls on my bike. The most common situation is where debris or double-parked cars on the right side of the road force me into traffic where cars aren't expecting me.

I've never had a car-bike collision. My most serious accident so far was when I hit a pedestrian in the bike lane on a rainy night, with minor injuries on both sides. I had lights but was going too fast for the conditions. Cyclists can be dangerous to other road users too.

Drivers have to be more careful. The vast majority aren't sociopaths like the dude in the video, and would have extreme trauma and possibly PTSD if they ever killed a cyclist.

Cyclists have to be more careful too. Riding at night without lights is illegal and possibly suicidal. Riding on busy streets, while legal, is not terribly safe and should be avoided. Riding through stoplights is very very bad.

The most common excuse is that cyclists are "taking their lives into their own hands." It's true that in a car-bike collision, the person on the bike is going to suffer more -- but I assure you the vast majority of drivers would have a lifetime of serious psychological issues if they ever hit a cyclist.
posted by miyabo at 6:02 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Riding on busy streets, while legal, is not terribly safe

I completely disagree, at least if you mean what I think you do by "busy." Riding on streets that have a lot of traffic can actually be much safer if the traffic is not moving very fast. When cycling I can keep up with stop-and-go traffic on my town's main drag pretty easily. Nobody gets frustrated with me for taking the lane, so I'm more visible and there's less unsafe passing. Also, when there's more traffic to worry about, people are generally better at keeping their eyes on the road -- I make a lot more eye contact with people on that road, especially negotiating things like left turns, etc.

In contrast, the street I live on is pretty residential but also close to the highway, so while the road is not congested at all, people are routinely going 10-20mph over the speed limit and are extremely loath to slow down (good luck crossing the street as a pedestrian, for instance). Also, fewer drivers seem to be paying attention to the road, because they're expecting not to be interrupted by anything. The combination of higher speeds and distracted driving can be a real killer.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:15 AM on March 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Riding at night without lights is illegal and possibly suicidal.

I'm with you on this one, though. I often have trouble seeing lightless bikers at night even when I'm cycling.
posted by en forme de poire at 8:29 AM on March 2, 2011


I see plenty of idiot cyclists at night with no lights, plus some who had a minuscule single red blinking LED on the back of their bike, as if a single photon is going to alert anyone to their presence. As a cyclist and as a driver, that really pisses me off (along with those who ignore traffic lights).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:14 AM on March 2, 2011


Car people get to have fun super-slow car parties where they all car together every day, twice a day! Before and after work. Thousands and thousands of them! Twice a day! For fun! (I know it's for fun, because even cities with awesome, super functional mass transit do it too! Even people with disabilities can ride transit!)

This is...not really helping your case, dude. (And I say that as a cyclist.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:00 PM on March 2, 2011


Related from Outside: Rage Against Your Machine. Talks about cycling and culture.
posted by squorch at 1:50 PM on March 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The driver was arrested.
posted by tomswift at 3:35 PM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That such a horrifying video.

While some of the posts here are flamey, I think there have been a lot of interesting, well-spoken views expressed in this thread and I've learned a few things.

I've been a regular bike commuter in Boston for about a dozen years and it definitely changed my life for the better and make me see the world in a different way.

Still, the attitudes of many drivers -- both the way they drive and their sense of entitlement -- is terrifying. Recently a driver in Boston tried to run over a cyclist in the same manner as Neis, actually leaving the road and driving through plant beds in a public park. Scary stuff.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 9:02 PM on March 2, 2011


The driver was arrested.

Good.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:18 PM on March 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


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