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Peace, Love and Bicycles = Getting Arrested
October 30, 2004 11:15 AM   Subscribe

NYC Critical Mass ride dampened by heavy police presence Critical Mass, A peaceful demonstration that takes place on the last friday of the month at hundreds of cities around the world. The gathering of hundreds to thousands of cyclists to stress the importance of nonpolluting transportation alternatives and promote the cycling community. Last night's critical mass was faced with a very heavy police presence (including 3 helicopters that followed the cyclists on the route). I was there and the police were peaceful, but perhaps necessary and the helicopters were just intimidating. The whole aura assumed there was going to be some type of crime. There type of people that take part in Critical Mass are generally the opposite of violent. It felt violating to be followed around, by not one, but three helicopters and hundreds of officers on scooters. The Critical Mass was being treated as if we just shot up a building or robbed a bank. The whole thing was stupid, and people got arrested for stupid reasons. Thanks NYPD the Judge said we could be there. 33, 47, whatever, it was too many.
posted by Glibaudio (108 comments total)

 
whose money are they spending running three choppers gobbling rivers of fuel? see, you find the people who make these decisions, you fire them, you raid thier pensions for restitution, and after you do that a few hundred times, you experience a marked leap in the integrity and sensibilities of civil servants as a whole.
posted by quonsar at 11:23 AM on October 30, 2004


Isn't it strange to argue that the bicyclists should be allowed to peacefully ride where they choose to ride while deriding the helicopter operators (or those who commissioned the flight) for peacefully flying where they choose to fly?
posted by Kwantsar at 11:24 AM on October 30, 2004


Critical Mass, A peaceful demonstration

heh. Look, I'm a cyclist, attend local county cycling meetings, and have commuted to work via bike for years, but I have to admit it's not always "a peaceful demonstration." There are a lot of aggressive riders in CM that act like assholes. And aside from them, the entire point of CM is to take over the streets which pisses off a lot of drivers that get stuck in a 1-2 hour snarl that the mass leaves in its wake.

I always wanted to ride in one in San Francisco, but when I witnessed them going past my employer's office and my home on a few occasions, I could tell it was pretty chaotic and the threat of road raging drivers... sorry "cagers" honking and screaming at me for a couple hours lost all its allure.
posted by mathowie at 11:32 AM on October 30, 2004



Isn't it strange to argue that the bicyclists should be allowed to peacefully ride where they choose to ride while deriding the helicopter operators (or those who commissioned the flight) for peacefully flying where they choose to fly?


isn't it strange to argue that oranges are orange, while apples are not?
posted by quonsar at 11:34 AM on October 30, 2004


The police presence at the after party was completely insane.

They sent undercovers in, and someone asked them to leave, and then there were several hundered police officers with rifles blocking half of Houston (a very large) Street. They cordoned off 2 city blocks for at least 2 hours. There was literally nothing happening there. Passersby thought that someone had been murdered. Neighborhood people were yelling at the cops, for ignoring crime and wasting resources. I couldn't get my bike back for hours, and spent the night arguing with them about mike bike, being threatened with arrest, and trying to untangle tremendous logical gaffs.

They pushed the crowd to a corner, threatening us with arrest, and then said we were blocking pedestrian traffic (there were about 6 of us.) and they had blocked 2 city blocks to pedestrains.

I know it could seem that I am exaggerating, but I'm not.
posted by goneill at 11:38 AM on October 30, 2004


mathowie: the critical mass in nyc is a lot different than the one in San Francisco. There is never the kicking of cars, and stuff that goes on in the west coast. It's a ride with children, and yuppies, and everyone was dressed in halloween costumes. The purpose isn't to prevent cars from driving, it's to give bicyclists a chance to ride in the street without being afraid; there are oftentimes pissed off drivers. But there are always pissed off drivers in New York City. We don't have many bike lanes here, and it can be dangerous to ride your bike if you don't understand clearly how traffic flows here, so it's one nice 2 hour stretch where new yorkers can you their chosen means of transportation to get around in New York, their city. And it is peaceful.
posted by goneill at 11:44 AM on October 30, 2004


Would you like some cheese with that whine?
posted by Mach3avelli at 11:55 AM on October 30, 2004


The purpose isn't to prevent cars from driving

I'm sorry, I disagree. Critical Mass NYC went right past my apartment 2 months ago, and I watched them block traffic for 5+ lights (red-yellow-green at least five times). They had two guys at every intersection blocking any cars from getting through.

I don't see why you shouldn't get arrested or at least fined for that.

Also, as a NYC pedestrian, cyclists are as much of a pain in the ass (constantly ignoring traffic laws, running up the side walk) as cars. Screw all you guys and your wheels.
posted by malphigian at 11:59 AM on October 30, 2004


Would you like some cheese with that whine?

Would you like some an order of snide with that non-sequitur?
posted by Space Coyote at 12:25 PM on October 30, 2004


Also, as a NYC pedestrian, cyclists are as much of a pain in the ass (constantly ignoring traffic laws, running up the side walk) as cars. Screw all you guys and your wheels.

Critical Mass 2: Take Back the Feet
posted by Space Coyote at 12:26 PM on October 30, 2004


Quonsar vs. Kwantsar: Who Will Survive?!
posted by hughbot at 12:27 PM on October 30, 2004


Screw all you guys and your wheels.

further proof that New Yorkers are a dying species. aside from walking (you're telling me you're gonna walk from 190th St. to 34th?), nothing beats a bike, not even mass transit. ever heard of these things called fossil fuels? they're kinda running out and destroying our planet at the same time.

any city that refuses to accommodate bicycles deserves ridicule and, if necessary, peaceful revolution.

There is never the kicking of cars, and stuff that goes on in the west coast.

as a semi-regular SF rider, i'll have to disagree about our city (don't really know if there are rides in LA or Seattle or what, but i doubt it). it's pretty peaceful and only a mild delay for drivers most of the time. i've never seen anyone kick a car (not saying it's never happened). it's a much smaller city, however.

as malphigian correctly notes, we do block intersections, mostly b/c it's been shown that if you don't, the cars will drive through a mass of cyclists. cars are deadly weapons. what's the crime again? preventing a deadly weapon from hitting a cyclist? or disobeying traffic laws? fine, write us a ticket and shut the fuck up.

the only ugly confrontation i've ever seen was between two bicyclists in March 2003 - one anti-war with a U.S. flag on his back, and another pro-military who was enraged somebody with a flag could be "against our troops." even though he ripped the flag off and punched the guy, we bikers managed to calm them both down.

hang in there, NYC bikers! any revolution is never easy. and if you ever get sick of living in a police state (with no bike lanes to boot): move out here! we don't arrest people as much. well, at least not since '97.

that said, this is an odd fpp. local news?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:36 PM on October 30, 2004


They had two guys at every intersection blocking any cars from getting through.

CM has been discussed numerous times on MeFi before, but...

It sounds like what you witnessed was corking. This is actually a safety measure.

mrgrimm, there have been Seattle rides about 10 years now.
posted by gluechunk at 1:18 PM on October 30, 2004


btw, 6 people were arrested at last night's CM in Bellingham, WA.
posted by gluechunk at 1:38 PM on October 30, 2004


It sounds like what you witnessed was corking. This is actually a safety measure.


It's still obstructing trafic. On a red light, shouldn't the riders obey traffic laws, stop, and let the traffic with right of way go through?
posted by gyc at 1:39 PM on October 30, 2004


You drive every day of the month and proceed to help destroy the planet, but if someone slows down your commute for two fucking hours once a month (which you could, say, plan around), you start calling for arrests. I can't believe people care that much.
posted by The God Complex at 1:49 PM on October 30, 2004


This is actually a safety measure.

Seems like an even better safety measure would be to stop when the light turns yellow, and then stay stopped until it turns green again.

If you and a whole bunch of your associates want to run a bunch of lights in a row and block traffic while you do so, what you're doing is called a "parade." Get a permit like anyone else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:00 PM on October 30, 2004


You drive every day of the month and proceed to help destroy the planet, but if someone slows down your commute for two fucking hours once a month (which you could, say, plan around), you start calling for arrests. I can't believe people care that much.

A) taxi drivers probably have a good reason to be upset.
B) police and emergency response teams have a good reason to be upset.
C) anyone who witnesses the hypocracy emanating from both sides have a godo reason to be upset.

So, for all bikers out there: follow the laws and for all cops out there: fine and ticket the bikers who don't follow traffic laws, such as the the delivery boys who live in my neighborhood.

on preview: If you and a whole bunch of your associates want to run a bunch of lights in a row and block traffic while you do so, what you're doing is called a "parade." Get a permit like anyone else.

They're "protesting" so they're trying to be a pain in the ass. Plus, Bloomberg is probably asking for a higher police presence at these things for political reasons.
posted by Stynxno at 2:04 PM on October 30, 2004


On a red light, shouldn't the riders obey traffic laws, stop, and let the traffic with right of way go through?

Maybe you should suggest the same thing to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Let drivers through whenever they get a green light.

The point of corking is to keep the mass a mass. If you cut the 1000 riders into say 10 groups of 100 riders, you'll find that traffic would probably be a lot messier.
posted by gluechunk at 2:13 PM on October 30, 2004


On a red light, shouldn't the riders obey traffic laws, stop, and let the traffic with right of way go through?

Yes. In normal circumstances, yes.

In some other circumstances, following the law could result in one being dead. And in that circumstance, one sure as hell had better break the law. The Critical Mass ride is one such instance.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:15 PM on October 30, 2004


I'm starting this thing in Ann Arbor where, once a month, I drive my blazer in the bike lane.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:27 PM on October 30, 2004


More than 50% of vehicles sold in the United States are SUV's or trucks.
posted by The God Complex at 2:33 PM on October 30, 2004


You...proceed to help destroy the planet, but if someone slows down your commute for two fucking hours once a month (which you could, say, plan around), you start calling for arrests. I can't believe people care that much.

Since idling (and frequent starts and stops) are a serious drag on fuel economy, resulting in fewer miles traveled per gallon of gasoline burned, let those who bike and willfully congest suck down all NOx and CO that they needlessly create.
posted by Kwantsar at 2:38 PM on October 30, 2004


sorry, gluechunk. i've heard about Seattle b4. brainfart.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:47 PM on October 30, 2004


I saw a CM "demonstration" in Austin about a year ago; they blocked traffic going down Lamar (a major artery) for at least 30 minutes and were yelling obscenities at people driving SUVs. I understand that yeah, every group will have some assholes - but this really ticked me off (I got yelled at for driving a four-cylinder KIA Sportage!).

Sure, bikes have the same rights to the road as other vehicles - but only if you give us the same rights in return.
posted by mrbill at 2:48 PM on October 30, 2004


Since idling (and frequent starts and stops) are a serious drag on fuel economy, resulting in fewer miles traveled per gallon of gasoline burned, let those who bike and willfully congest suck down all NOx and CO that they needlessly create.

Perhaps instead of complaining, these people could take an alternate work to route and walk a few blocks on this day (once a month).
posted by The God Complex at 2:52 PM on October 30, 2004


Yeah, God Complex, I care that much. First, it's two hours that I'll never get back and sometimes I don't have control over when I leave a client's facility. Second, I really don't give a flying fuck about byciclists, or anyone who's got such a big, burning agenda for something that they're willing to inconvenience others who don't care to try and make them care.

Critical Mass might have a good message in some ways, but it's impolite. That's a big offense in my book.
posted by SpecialK at 2:55 PM on October 30, 2004


Oh, and GodComplex, when you work in an area that's accessed by 7 bridges and two major road arteries, and Critical Mass bolluxes all of them, there's not much of an alternate route. I sit in traffic for a few hours. And I leave my car running so that I can at least listen to the radio.

Critical Mass just plain sucks ... not because it's a bad idea, don't get me wrong, but the implementation is horrible. If you want to make a difference in the world, you first need to get good ambassadors.
posted by SpecialK at 2:57 PM on October 30, 2004


I always wanted to ride in one in San Francisco, but when I witnessed them going past my employer's office and my home on a few occasions, I could tell it was pretty chaotic and the threat of road raging drivers... sorry "cagers" honking and screaming at me for a couple hours lost all its allure.

that's too bad, because for all it's faults, critical mass is a lot of fucking fun.

and it's usually the only time I can ride my bike in san francisco and feel safe.
posted by fishfucker at 3:10 PM on October 30, 2004


The point of corking is to keep the mass a mass

Then get a parade permit like Macy's, or anyone else who wants to do that. There are well-established procedures in major cities for closing off streets in order to have a parade or demonstration. Use them. If you won't use them, follow the traffic laws and obey the signals and signs.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:13 PM on October 30, 2004


Isn't it strange to argue that the bicyclists should be allowed to peacefully ride where they choose to ride while deriding the helicopter operators (or those who commissioned the flight) for peacefully flying where they choose to fly?

Since idling (and frequent starts and stops) are a serious drag on fuel economy, resulting in fewer miles traveled per gallon of gasoline burned, let those who bike and willfully congest suck down all NOx and CO that they needlessly create.


Ah Kwantsar, the dimmest bulb in the Metafilter galaxy, didn't you forget to mention that your great great grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War?

Quonsar, kill Kwantsar.
posted by sic at 3:31 PM on October 30, 2004


B) police and emergency response teams have a good reason to be upset.

Critical Mass (NYC—the ones I've been on) lets ambulances & fire trucks through. Always. I've never been to one where a cop car was there for any reason but to follow us.

I'm starting this thing in Ann Arbor where, once a month, I drive my blazer in the bike lane.

Only once a month? Fuck, that'd be an improvement.

TGC is right. Take the subway on the last Friday of every month. (And shut the fuck up.)

Or: Give me some dedicated bike lanes and ticket drivers that think I haven't a right to ride my bike, and I will never, ever snarl your precious traffic again.
posted by dame at 4:16 PM on October 30, 2004


Is attacking my arguments too stressful for you, sic?
posted by Kwantsar at 4:21 PM on October 30, 2004


I've been biking in NYC for over 20 years and have absolutely noticed that cars are MUCH more biker friendly today than 20 years ago. Going out of you way to get drivers to hate bikers again is just stupid.
The best action for better biking would be to go out and become a pedocab biker. Those have positively affected attitudes towards bikes more than any other single thing, IMO.
posted by HTuttle at 4:40 PM on October 30, 2004


More than 50% of vehicles sold in the United States are SUV's or trucks.

Err, actually... In the year 2000, the most recent for which I can find stats, more bicycles were sold in America than cars (including SUVs).

Then get a parade permit like Macy's, or anyone else who wants to do that.

Here is more information about the city's legal attempt to get an injunction to stop the ride. They did use the argument that it's an activity that requires a permit, but that didn't fly. But the case ain't over yet.

Anyway, I've never seen one, but it doesn't seem much like a parade. They do tend to break a lot of traffic laws, though.

Kwantsar, if you've made any arguments in this thread, they're far too subtle for me to detect. All I saw were insults.
posted by sfenders at 4:42 PM on October 30, 2004


police and emergency response teams have a good reason to be upset.

I rode critical mass in London a few times. If an emergency vehicle came along you wouldn't believe how amazingly fast the street cleared if you hadn't witnessed it. Almost instantaneous. Far, far faster than it would take the traffic that was on those same streets to clear any other day of the month.
posted by normy at 4:53 PM on October 30, 2004


By the way, bicycles are traffic, too. They just happen to take up far less space, do far less damage, kill far fewer people, get their riders where they want to go in a city more easily and more cheaply than any other mode of transport, don't require entire city blocks for their mass storage, and have the tangential bonus of not fucking up the air we all have to share. They're a solution, not a problem.
posted by normy at 5:01 PM on October 30, 2004


Critical Mass (NYC—the ones I've been on) lets ambulances & fire trucks through

How can CM let one through that's four blocks away from the route, invisible from the route, caught bumper to bumper in the gridlock that results from unpermitted, uncontrolled road closures? Do they use their Jedi powers to levitate it to the hospital or the scene of the victim? Or do all of the bicyclists rush over, pick it up on their shoulders, and carry it along?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:01 PM on October 30, 2004


Let me say up front, I am a road cyclist. I obey laws and behave as traffic.

I have had multiple arguments with CM types, and they will not or cannot see the inherent contradiction in
their "corking" activities. Pedestrians also may cross when there is a red. By running this red the CM cyclists are stepping on the rights of Pedestrians, just as they claim cars do to the cyclist. Protest by screwing another altogether innocent group the way you are screwed isn't protest, it is idiocy and wins none to your cause.

Don't believe this happens, look at this picture, or this one. Zoom in and you can see a couple of elderly people trying to cross in the middle of the "mass."

I have had this argument until I am blue in the face, and it seems to do no good. I dislike critical mass, lance armstrong wannabes and any other rider that runs stoplights and disobeys traffic laws. If I mention I cycle to a non cyclist they either go on and on about guys in spandex blowing stop signs, or being snarled up in CM. You guys are hurting the cause of law abiding cyclists more than you are helping.

But, keep having your one day a month to say "up yours" to the man, don't mind us actual cyclists over here that you are hurting far more than the drivers you momentarily inconvenience. Bicycles are part of the solution, CM is part of the problem.
posted by jester69 at 5:15 PM on October 30, 2004 [1 favorite]


So that's what all the ruckus outside was last night - I didn't feel like going out to check.

No-one got arrested who wasn't breaking the law, and no-one who got arrested got roughed up, and no-one who didn't get arrested lost their bike, and you're just mad because there were a lot of cops around? And after all that legal wrangling, they wouldn't cut you any additional slack? Look, when it comes to large disorderly groups in the streets, NYPD isn't having any this millennium - surely this doesn't come as a surprise?

dame, speaking as a NYC cyclist born and raised (you wouldn't believe the flimsy cardboard contraption I sat in over my Dad's back wheel when I was wee) and an ex-messenger, bike lanes have never worked here because they're full of trucks, cabs, carts, pedicabs, and (at least on 6th Ave) people pushing clothes racks. Unless by "dedicated" you mean Class-I lanes with physical barriers, which just isn't going to happen downtown.

sfenders, the district court denied the city the injuction it requested on laches - that is, on the grounds that it had made at the last minute a request it could have made earlier, and left too little time for counter-suit or action by the state court. So it didn't settle the issue of whether since the Critical Mass riders would block traffic, they should be required to get a parade permit.
posted by nicwolff at 5:20 PM on October 30, 2004


Run over the people on bikes! Hit a monkey, win a prize!
posted by bargle at 5:28 PM on October 30, 2004


If you lived in any mainland Chinese city, you'd get a first-hand look at how traffic works.

Anything goes on the streets: cargo trucks, buses, microvans, cars, taxis, three-wheeled motorcycle taxis, motorcycles, scooters, electric bicycles, bicycles, three-wheeled utility vehicles, delivery tricycles, people pushing huge carts filled with goods or produce, donkey carts and pedestrians.

There's your critical mass.
posted by bwg at 5:33 PM on October 30, 2004


And I leave my car running so that I can at least listen to the radio.

Must be one mean soundsystem to be requiring so much power that your car battery (about 5000W worth of energy available) would need to be continually recharged.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:47 PM on October 30, 2004


jester69 - woohoo! That's the most well expressed, thought out opinion in this argument. Good for you!
posted by bakiwop at 6:03 PM on October 30, 2004


NTY non-registration link - NYC Critical Mass ride dampened by heavy police presence.
(Anyone else have a helluva time with the NYT and Bugmenot these days?)
posted by Blue Stone at 6:16 PM on October 30, 2004


I saw a woman who was filming the police, get her camera smashed, and thrown against a car by four officers. She was certainly not breaking a law. They cut people's bike chains and took their bikes - they had no idea whether they had been arrested or not.

I get that there are security concerns. But there were many, many parties in private spaces with 200 people last night. Very few had tons of police officers with rifles at them for NO REASON.
posted by goneill at 6:37 PM on October 30, 2004


My $.02 as a cyclist who used to log 300-350 miles per week:
If you're blocking intersections and running red lights, you are a parade - get a permit. As a cyclist trying to get across in the other direction, I'd be just as pissed at a buch of cyclists blocking the intersection, as a bunch of SUVs.

If you want to keep the mass a mass, then ride a tight formation, and time the lights. There's room for about 5-600 bicycles in tight formation on a typical NYC north-south block.

What if cars practiced corking, to 'keep it a mass'? (Actually, it's called 'blocking the box' and they get ticketed and points on their license and maybe a tow).
posted by bashos_frog at 6:59 PM on October 30, 2004


As a small town person who recently visited NYC, I don't understand why anyone would want to drive in Manhattan. The subway and bus system was more than useful and having a bike would just add to the utility of public transportation.
posted by asterisk at 7:21 PM on October 30, 2004


In Winnipeg, cars do practice corking.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:23 PM on October 30, 2004


You might consider that the police don't do things "for no reason". There's always a reason. You might just not be in the mood to consider that you're blocking traffic and creating a gridlock that will take hours of work by the police to clear, running the risk of emergency traffic getting caught in that gridlock which will span many blocks, potentially endangering yourselves if some Expedition driver finally gets fed up, creating a billion and one complaints to the police department that they've got to handle administratively, etc. so on so forth. Those are just the police reasons, those have nothing to do with me sitting on the Steel Bridge in downtown Portland and having a large ship be unable to pass underneath the drawbridge because I and and about three dozen other commuters were sitting on the drawbridge.

Critical Mass participants have blinders on. It's so much like a cult it's funny.
Biker: "Freedom for bicyclists! It's great, it reduces congestion and pollution and it's exercise!"
Commuter: "Gee, so why do you show that off by GRIDLOCKING AN ENTIRE FUCKING CITY?"
Biker: "Dude! Because we've got to make sure you see us and don't run us over!"
Commuter: "Well, until I sat in my car for two hours yesterday, I wasn't really interested in running you over, but now that you mention it..."
Biker: "Want some kool-aid?"

Quite honestly, I wish the police would just put a stop to it. I wish they'd just pull out their jackboots, cordon you off, and arrest the lot of you for obstructing traffic.
What Critical Mass does in most cities is not legal. It's not nice. It ruins the message that you're trying to present and causes hospility towards those that prefer alternative forms of transportation.

If you want to make a political statement, that's fine. Ride to your local county or city planning commission and request more bike lanes and trails. If there's enough of you there, they'll take you into consideration. Do something positive. Sponsor or build a float in your local parade ... and tow it with bicycles. Send a message that says, "hey, we're bicyclists. We do this because we like it and it's good for us and the environment. Please watch out for us. We're friendly. Hi."

Stopping traffic of any type, for whatever petty agenda you have, sends a very negative, hostile message. It sends a "FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING GAS-HOGGING BUSH-LOVING CAPITALIST PIG!" message. Which, you know, most people don't react positively towards.

Look, you should realize you're in the wrong when you're hearing from others who share your same transportation preferences and they're also saying, "Uh, dude, not cool." It's not cool. Stop it.
posted by SpecialK at 7:33 PM on October 30, 2004


(Oh, the aforementioned blockage of commercial marine traffic from Critical Mass blocking traffic on the bridges cost the City of Portland something like $10,000 in fines per bridge. When the Portland Police have a hostile critical mass event these days, they pass out these really cool bottles of pepper spray that are the size of residential fire extinguishers. It's fun to watch. Oddly enough, they didn't have that particular bit of police equipment before Critical Mass got started here.)
posted by SpecialK at 7:36 PM on October 30, 2004


What Critical Mass does in most cities is not legal.

Can you further explain this statement?
posted by gluechunk at 7:37 PM on October 30, 2004


The reason I don't think it's much like a parade is that parades generally have pre-planned routes, lists of participants, an organizing committee of some kind, and they typically involve people walking in the street where they otherwise aren't allowed to. None of that is true for critical mass. I mean, maybe some group came to an agreement with the police for a route they'd follow, but they clearly don't represent eveyone who showed up for a ride, and they have no way of getting everyone to follow it.

I'm all in favor of giving them traffic tickets when they break the rules, but mostly it just seems like harmless fun. Maybe it doesn't help the public image of bicycles, but as a cyclist myself, I really don't care.

I admit that I would probably feel less sympathy for the idea of CM if it weren't for all this police harrassment of it.
posted by sfenders at 7:55 PM on October 30, 2004


Well, the linked articles don't mention goneill's examples, but NYPD has a long history of grab & smash with cameras and if that happened last night then I hope she files a complaint and it gets some attention. The cops were enjoined from taking bikes that belonged to people they were not arresting, so if they were taking them at random they are in some trouble.

Busting the afterparty certainly seems like a petty retributive move. And if they really closed down Houston in the East Village for two hours on Friday night of Halloween weekend, then obviously they caused a whole lot more inconvenience to drivers than the riders did. But if an emergency vehicle had needed to get through, the cops have radios and can tell each other, whereas the riders don't - which is why intentionally blocking traffic was a crime on the riders' parts.

PS. Hi Grainne!
posted by nicwolff at 8:02 PM on October 30, 2004


Ahh, entertainment abounds on the new and improved mefi I see (thanks matt)

After reading this whole thread, I am inclined to agree with specialk's comments.

Well said SK

Honorable mention: Pink Stainless Tail for:

I'm starting this thing in Ann Arbor where, once a month, I drive my blazer in the bike lane

Why all the hostility people?!!! Can't we all just get along?
posted by a3matrix at 8:15 PM on October 30, 2004


hi!

They can arrest us all when we commit an arrestable offense. Going through a red light is not an arrestable offense. It just isn't.

I'm not complaining about them arresting people for going through red lights, though. I'm complaining about them shutting down the afterparty. Although you are right, they do have their reasons: they are super pissed about losing in court.

They caused way more problems for both pedestrians and vehicles last night than critical mass did.
posted by goneill at 8:15 PM on October 30, 2004


What sort of NYC jobs are available that: (1) pay enough to *live* in manhattan (2) don't care if you come to work dripping with sweat or rain (3) have a place for you to store/lock your bike?
posted by b1tr0t at 9:46 PM on October 30, 2004


Here's why you're not getting through to the "cult" of Critical Mass: You're approaching it like it's some coordinated, centralized system. It is not. No two people go to Critical Mass for the same reason. There is no organization of Critical Mass. It's a spontaneous gathering of bicyclists. Period.

If you're pissed off about snarled traffic, then go rant in the bathroom mirror. You're traffic. The bandwidth of 600 cyclists per block going 15-20 MPH is utilizing the streets a heck of a lot more efficiently than you are. The reason the cops don't arrest us en masse is because we're on the streets legally. Corking is as much of a cortesy to drivers as it's a safety measure: getting caught in the middle of a mass would be no fun and corking absolutely causes the Mass to cruise through with less delay for all parties. When you have 1000+ riders of varying ability, you can't keep it all as a tight group. When the cops inhibit corking, they slow down traffic. Portland has tried getting a parade route (not that it makes any sense when you're purposefully creating a xerocracy) and the police blocked the preplanned route. Portland Police routinely block more traffic than we do.

The harassment of Critical Mass certainly does correlate to the number of calls to 911 and the resources devoted to CM and other peaceful protests show exactly where the police priorities lie and it sure as hell isn't with real crime and murder in Portland, where the homicide budget has been slashed (mostly because of Homeland Security) to the point where the solution rate has dropped to 50/50.

Anyway, I'm tired of rehashing this old discussion right now. Just keep in mind that oil, energy, heat and fertilizer will always be getting more expensive in your lifetime because, by most scienfic (do your own googling) accounts, we're hit peak oil.
posted by Skwirl at 9:59 PM on October 30, 2004


Is anybody else hoping that one day a Critical Mass has a deadly collision with a Flash Mob? No? Okay.
posted by Stan Chin at 10:36 PM on October 30, 2004


Now that you mention it, Yeah, Stan, I do. ;)

(a3matrix: Thanks! It's nice to have someone outside of my little clique of friends here in Portland admit in something higher than a subvocal whisper that I actually make sense.)

Skwirl: Oh, I know. But if people stopped posting flyers and all that shit for it, it'd kind of die out. I just want to make all the people that think of CM as an easy way to "make a statement" and be all alternative and indy and anarchist and shit to fucking stop doing it. Really, what I want is for people to stop being sheep and to think for themselves ... to examine issues from both sides and to just admit when they might be wrong and open to exploring something. Many of the CM participants I've talked to aren't willing to do any of that.

I beg to differ with you about the corking. We've been over the corking thing so many times in this thread. If you want to stop traffic, apply for a parade permit. Oh, but wait, that would require central organization, and that isn't indy and anarchist and shit.
Yes, I've gotten mixed up in the middle of a CM on a motorcycle (And fended off kicks from bicyclists... I don't know why they think that their 30 lbs + rider weight trumps my 500 lbs + rider weight ... and I was covered from head to toe in armored leather. Duh. ... ... but I've already pointed out that we're not dealing with mensa material here.)

Yes, the resources of the Portland Police do correlate directly to 911 calls, and the number of citizen complaints directly impacts the priorities of the Portland Police. Good job identifying that! Did you ever consider it from the other side? If 'Pepper spray canisters' wasn't a line item in the budget because of the constant protests, the amount that goes into that, plus officer overtime, plus arrest and detainment costs ... would be able to go into solving REAL CRIME! Wow! Amazing, isn't it?
Side rant: I love this city. Protestors bitch about the budget overruns that THEIR asshat behaviour causes, then they bitch about the police brutality during those protests (Well, gee, you really didn't need to block the Hawthorne Bridge to make your "statement", now, did you?!), then when the police department reshuffles their budget the next year to spend more money on protest enforcement, the protestors THROW A PROTEST which costs YET MORE POLICE DEPARTMENT MONEY to protest the fact that they're costing the police department so much!!! *head explodes* When I moved here, I was completely aghast at this. I'd never heard of such stupidity in my life, and that took some doing. Now, I'm so used to it that it scares me.

(Oh, and someone's going to point out that the actual protesters aren't the problem, it's all the anarchist types that show up for a good mid-street bonfire and tagging party that the police need to be there for. May I point out that those types don't typically gather in one place unless there's a protest happening?)

Re: the environment stuff...
There's many sources of oil, heat, energy, and fertilizer. I have no problem with paying more for products that aren't petrochemically based, and I do when and where it makes sense. Bicycling doesn't make sense for me, because I work as an independent contractor and I'm often at client facilities. There's no way to strap a 4u rack-mount server to the back of a bicycle. Bicycling doesn't make sense for many people because our time costs a lot of money and is one of our most valuable commodoties. It never will. Saying it should just makes CM'ers and alternative transportation enthusiasts look clueless.

The best part is ... What all the hippies don't understand is that we're in the middle of an equilibrium-building cycle ... oil and gas prices keep going up, and that's a good thing for the future of alternative energy. It's making fuel cells and other alternative reaction forms of energy cost effective in their bootstrapping phase. Advocacy of them is necessary, but look at it another way: advocating that we conserve petrochemicals will only lengthen the time until they actually get here. When the alternative forms of energy are cheaper than petroleum, they'll suddenly take over and we'll all be using the cleanest forms of energy possible! (Until we find problems with them, of course...) Personally, I'd *love* to see gas prices go up to $5 per gallon or so. You'd be surprised at the changes that happen overnight as far as the sustainability of our economy goes ... you'd see local stores reappearing, you'd find that the things on the shelves of those stores were produced locally...

Of course, $5/gallon means that you won't be able to drive your twenty year old Subaru wagon that gets the same MPG as a Suburban and hasn't passed emissions in 20 years, but... hey, we all make sacrifices!
posted by SpecialK at 11:07 PM on October 30, 2004


What Critical Mass does in most cities is not legal.

--Can you further explain this statement?


In "most" cities, it is not legal for random people to block intersections because they feel like it. Nor it is legal for people to blithely ignore traffic signals.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:13 PM on October 30, 2004


You might consider that the police don't do things "for no reason". There's always a reason.

Ha ha! That's funny. How about, "There's always a reason--even if it's a bad, illegal, misguided, or assholish one."
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:23 PM on October 30, 2004


Mo Nickels, are you suggesting that it is "bad, illegal, misguided or assholish" for police to respond when traffic is obstructed for blocks and blocks through midtown and downtown Manhattan?
posted by Dreama at 1:02 AM on October 31, 2004


Here in sunny Eugene (and, from my understanding, in many other places), Critical Mass won a number of disputes with the police, and it was determined that CM was completely legal. So now the police just threaten to ticket anyone without headlights if we piss off enough people.

Way I sees it, every Martin Luther King needs his Malcom X off on the side raising the rabble and just pissing peple off. Nothing ever gets done by asking nicely. There's simply no reason to listen to a movement that's easy to ignore.

I find the peple so pissed off by their minor inconvenience amusing. I think they need to get out of their cars and chill the fuck out; it's amazing how much angrier people get once they're in a car. I mean, taking your time to get from one place to another, take in the scenery, and breathe in the air is a basic life skill - if you can't be bothered to slow down your day a bit without getting angry as hell at everything around you, methinks its time to restructure your life a bit.

Or, as I like to chant, Cars are Coffins, are you Dead? Get a bike and ride instead!
posted by kaibutsu at 1:14 AM on October 31, 2004


I live in Chicago and I've only missed two Critical Mass rides this year. During the summer the ride grows easily to 1,000-2,000 or more riders. In the harsh winter there may only be a few hundred or so.

I've helped "cork" intersections before and I've witnessed both angry and supportive drivers.

For the most part the Chicago ride is mellow and good natured. I almost always see 2-3 bicycle cops who accompany the ride. For the most part we enjoy having the cops with us, they are friendly and its good to know that if someone does get hurt or there is a problem with motorist that the cops are nearby to help.

Only once since I've been riding has there been a concerted effort by the police to curtail the ride and that was when the people in the front were trying to take the mass onto Lake Shore Drive (a freeway) - a dangerous and stupid attempt that was unsuccessful. Indeed, for a week after that mass the mailing list was on fire with people bitching about the boneheaded attempt.

For the most part the cops go pretty easy on the riders. In part I think this is because Chicago is a very bicycle friendly city and the Honorable Mayor Richard J. Daley is an avid bicyclist himself. A lot has to do with the layout of the city itself. Traffic seems to be able to easily route around the mass. I don't drive, so I'm not sure what it's like to try to get around town in a car, but the mass doesn't seem to cause too much trouble.

Thing is, I've watched a lot of the video (from independent sources like Indymedia) from the NYC masses and I agree it seems like many in the crowd are just out call cops pigs, kick cars and in general create a hostile environment. If the Chicago Mass ever took on that tone I think I'd call it quits.

I'm a big proponent of Critical Mass and I'm always trying to get new people to come try it. It's a great way to spend an hour or three and see the city.

BUT, I participate in the Mass knowing full well that we're breaking nearly every traffic law in the city. And frankly, I'm not willing to go to jail because I think owning a car in the city is stupid... nor do I want to get my head cracked open by some cop who was just called a fascist pig by a dreadlocked bum. I participate in the Mass simply because the Mass has an unofficial truce with the CPD. They are easy going on the riders and in turn the riders for the most part stay out of trouble.

I think the NYC mass should take a month off, let everyone have a break and then come back with a more polite and mellow attitude.
posted by wfrgms at 1:18 AM on October 31, 2004


Why do "unaffected" car drivers get upset when a cyclist runs a stop sign?

This is very childish.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:38 AM on October 31, 2004


People would be happier and healthier if they cycled more and drove in cars less.

Cars do their equivilant of Critical Mass everyday on motorways and inner cities, blocking pedestrians and cyclists.
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:57 AM on October 31, 2004


I bike commute everyday, and I dread Critical Mass. A bunch of people who bike once a month (largely, tho I do see a very decent percentage of the regular bike commuters on the road have stickers or flags on their bikes and bags), and leave a bunch of ill will for me to deal with in their wake. The more I see the event, the less I like it. It may be fun to ride it, but it is not doing any good for anyone.
posted by thirteen at 8:37 AM on October 31, 2004


every Martin Luther King needs his Malcom X

Yes, because road systems being set up in ways that aren't maximally convenient for your hobby is exactly like centuries of slavery, formal and informal oppression, and frequent lynchings.

Why do "unaffected" car drivers get upset when a cyclist runs a stop sign?

I get cheezed because more than once I've been nearly hit by a bicylist blowing through a stop sign, or nearly hit a bike doing so. Even when I'm not in any danger of doing so, it still pisses me off because I think about how unspeakably shitty it would be to smack into some idiot kid and kill them; even if it's adjudged to be entirely their fault, it'll still ruin your year/decade/life.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:49 AM on October 31, 2004


I lived on the usual CM path in Manhattan for four years. Never, ever, ever, ever did CM hold up traffic for more than about 20 minutes. Ever. I lived in one of the top three worst traffic areas in the city and I can easily attest to the fact that traffic in my area was often gridlocked CM or not. If you spend any time at all on the streets of Midtown you know that traffic is bad to very bad between 5-7pm on weekdays, every day. The worst gridlock I've ever seen in my life was caused by two motorists having a fender bender in the middle of 34th and 3rd and refusing to move their cars while they yelled at each other for 45 minutes. Traffic into the tunnel was backed up for hours and hours.

The reason why people 'cork' is that the mass passes faster that way. If bikers were to stop at all the red lights the traffic *would* gridlock. That is why the NYPD has, until recently done the corking *for* the CM riders with their scooters. They want the group to get no longer than it needs to and to pass quickly.

Now: I am a tax paying citizen of NYC. I live here. I do not own a car. I hate cars. Hate them. I think that they ought to be illegal in Mid and lower Manhattan. Yet I patiently put up with them and their red light running, and their killing of hundreds of peds and cyclists a year, and their pollution, and their over use compromising my countries security and all that stuff that makes the world suck more because people can't be bothered to take a train or even to carpool. I put up with all of this patiently. And yet some of you scream hypocrisy because of a group of 800-2000 riders decide to ride their bike for two hours once a month?! Do you have ANY idea how many cars are on the road in Manhattan? Do you have any idea how many lights are run, how many peds are cut off, how many cars going 50mph down out city streets there are in one day? Any at all? Do you know how infrequently cars are pulled over for traffic violations (basically never)? I doubt that you do, because if you did you would not go on about the illegality of this ride.
posted by n9 at 9:35 AM on October 31, 2004


(just for reference I commute by bike 15 miles a day, year round.)
posted by n9 at 9:37 AM on October 31, 2004


From the Critial Mass page: "The ".org" domain notwithstanding, Critical Mass is not an organization, it's an unorganized coincidence." That sentence is followed by a comprehensive list of events, locations, dates, mailing lists, flyers, etc. "unorganized coincidence"? Not hardly. Why the juvenile word games?
posted by Potsy at 9:43 AM on October 31, 2004


I just want to say I am astonished by the level of irrational and visceral hatred the car drivers in this thread seem to have for cyclists.
posted by chicobangs at 10:10 AM on October 31, 2004


Potsy, it's because if they were an 'organization' they couldn't be all indy and anarchist and shit. ;)

Why do "unaffected" car drivers get upset when a cyclist runs a stop sign?

"Unaffected" car drivers live in fear of not being able to drive anymore, because in many ways our life depends on it. A good way to get that little plastic card that says it's OK to drive, or that little slip of paper in the glovebox that says you're worth a certain amount of money to some big company and they'll pay if you damange something, is to run over someone like a cyclist. And you know what? When cyclists run stopsigns and stoplights and enter intersections that I had the legal right of way to enter and was, indeed, about to enter ... it makes it REALLY easy to run their asses over. And that'd be really, really bad. (And let me point out that I'm in my mid twenties, with nearly perfect eyesight, high performance driving training, good knowledge of traffic laws, and a high performance vehicle that is impeccably maintained. Compare my potential reaction times with an 80-year-old woman with cataracts who drives a Buick that's only maintained once a year whether it needs it or not...)

One of the points that I think I need to make to CM suporters is that the CM is very different from city to city. In Portland, it can get pretty hostile. It sounds like in Chicago that it's decent. It sounds like in NYC that it used to be decent, but something happened. In many other cities it really isn't decent at all.

People would be happier and healthier if they cycled more and drove in cars less.

BRILLIANT, space cadet! Just brilliant! Wow, why didn't I think of that?! Um, did it ever fucking occur to you that SOME PEOPLE CAN'T?! As I pointed out in an earlier rant .. it's *really* hard to strap a 4u rackmount server case to the back of a bicycle. Like, *really* hard. And half the time that I'm in a city, that's what I'm delivering.
Oh, and banning cars in cities? Yeah, that's BRILLIANT too. Gee, that'd make it *really* easy for those of us who... say, do business in cities? to get around.

it's amazing how much angrier people get once they're in a car.

Yeah, because I'd rather not be in the car, stuck in traffic, for two hours while you assholes have your fun and make your childish, ill-considered "point." I really don't like being in a car. Transportation is a waste of time for me ... I could be at home, relaxing or at work actually getting work done. Instead, I'm sitting in a metal coffin waiting for traffic to clear.

All the CM'ers in the crowd have pointed out very nicely that they Just Don't Get It. Here's a clue. People aren't in cars because they like them. People are in cars because they have to get from point A to point B, point A and point B are some distance apart from one another, and they need to get there as soon as possible. When you make them have to sit in their car for longer than they normally would have to, and waste more of that commodity that they don't already have enough of (time) in an environment that they don't particularly like, they tend to get riled up just a wee bit. And telling them to "chill" will probably get you the reply, "I'll 'chill' at home with a nice bottle of wine when you get OUT OF MY FUCKING WAY YOU HIPPIE!" ...

chicobangs:
I don't think it's hatred. It's frustration. It's frustration because CM keeps us from going about our business and getting out of our cars at our destionation as soon as possible. It's frustration because CM's message often doesn't apply to us; we may be in an urban area because we work there, but it's impossible to expect that many of us would be able to take alternative forms of transportation. It's frustration because as often as we see a cyclist behaving themselves and being good, cautious, and careful in traffic ... we see another one that runs a stopsign in opposing traffic, causing us to have to skid to a halt, and then flips us off and aims a kick at our vehicle ...
Yeah, there's some hostility. But it's based on frustration.
posted by SpecialK at 10:32 AM on October 31, 2004


Gah, must preview better... a good way to LOSE your license or insurance is to run over a cyclist. And some cyclists sure ain't making it easy to miss them sometimes...
posted by SpecialK at 10:34 AM on October 31, 2004


Why do "unaffected" car drivers get upset when a cyclist runs a stop sign?

There's a strong habit of many car drivers to be easily annoyed by other people on the road. My mom, who is otherwise peaceful and quite normal, will get very indignant if anyone tailgates her car, or otherwise drives in a manner that she thinks unsafe. I get annoyed at different things than she does and only when I'm in a bad mood. The only guy I knew doesn't ever get even slightly annoyed at anything in traffic is this older vietnamese dude who just kinda cruised along, below the speed limit, to all appearances to those in and outside the car like he's not giving much thought at all to driving.

For some reason, city driving just brings out the worst in people. I mean, maybe there are other reasons why people get annoyed at some particular thing, but I think they're 90% rationalizations for the fact that driving somehow enhances one's ability to be easily outraged. Maybe it's because so many people just aren't very good at driving, which makes everyone else annoyed and also makes the bad driver himself feel some kind of subconscious need to blame everyone else. Sort of a viscious circle in there.

So anyway... In real life, as opposed to here, I don't see any greater hostility to cyclists than I see directed at everyone else on the road.
posted by sfenders at 10:51 AM on October 31, 2004


chicobangs: not cyclists, Critical Mass. CM is in that particularly annoying group of "activist" organizations that, even when you'd otherwise agree with some of their points, tend be such sanctimonious prigs or disruptive assholes that I find myself detesting them. The PETA of the cycling world, and similarly useless to counterproductive.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:55 AM on October 31, 2004


SpecialK, ROU_X, I guess I see your point, and even as a longtime CM participant, I won't even bother to defend the hooligans and knuckleheads that do way more harm than good to Critical Mass' greater message (those antisocial freaks drive me nuts too), but -- if cars are that unpleasant, and gas is only going to get more expensive, then doesn't it follow that once we figure out the questions of heavy transportation and access to human-powered vehicles for the elderly and the infirm (which in my mind are both very fixable), that human-powered transportation is actually going to be the future, especially in cities?

And given that, why tie yourself blindly to a form of transportation that you openly admit makes you miserable to use, has as much capacity to kill people at random as any on the planet right now, and is only going to get more expensive to keep maintaining as the world's gasoline supply runs dry?

I'm asking seriously here.
posted by chicobangs at 11:46 AM on October 31, 2004


I'm pro-bike, pro-pedestrian, pro-mass transit, live in New York City, and don't own a car.

I don't hate cyclists, and I don't hate cars. I hate discourteous, dangerous, and obnoxious behavior.

This applies as much to the taxicabs that cut through active crosswalks without checking first to see if there are people using them (which is guaranteed to get a bang on their trunk lid from yours truly) as it is to the messengers and other careless bicyclists who ride on the sidewalk and run lights.

Cars can be obnoxious, yes. But bikes can be obnoxious, too...and in the context of Critical Mass, it can be really fucking annoying when I can't cross the street because of your "corking" maneuver. My thoughts tend to run along the lines of "I'm following the law. You're not. It's not your turn to use the crosswalk. So get out of my way."

I'm not apologizing for the NYPD's behavior here, but inconveniencing people unnecessarily to make your political point isn't exactly the best strategy to win hearts and minds. Particularly, as SpecialK points out, when you're pissing off people who already agree with your aims.
posted by Vidiot at 1:37 PM on October 31, 2004


I don't think it's hatred. It's frustration. It's frustration because cars keeps us from going about our business and getting to our destination as safely as possible and in clean air. It's frustration because roads aren't designed to apply to us; we may be in an urban area because we work there, but it's impossible to expect that urban area to be able to accomodate nothing but cars for transport. It's frustration because as often as we see a driver behaving themselves and being good, cautious, and careful in traffic ... we see another one that runs a stopsign or jumps a red light, causing us to have to skid to a halt, and then flips us off or tries to run us down.
Yeah, there's some hostility. But it's based on frustration.
posted by normy at 1:49 PM on October 31, 2004


once we figure out the questions of heavy transportation and access to human-powered vehicles for the elderly and the infirm (which in my mind are both very fixable), that human-powered transportation is actually going to be the future, especially in cities?

Two separate questions here, so I'll answer them independently. No, human powered transportation is a part of our future, but it is not *the* future, even in cities. I would put it in the class of "a good idea", but here's the kicker ... it takes work for people to power a bicycle, and many people don't want to do the work. You're facing a huge hurdle to mass adoption of bicycles as a main form of transportation. That, and it requires a higher-density area for it to work well ... I mean, you try telling a mom with three kids that she's got to ride on a bicycle back and forth to the grocery store that's (in the case of my neighborhood, five miles away up and down a *really* steep hill) enough times per week to keep the family fed. She certainly can't take the kids with her in that situation ... so what's she going to do?
If we're going to see anything happen in the next few years in cities that will change the transportation infrastructure, we're going to see small areas get closed off to cars and be bicycle and public trans-only areas. These areas won't have that many families living in them ... it'll mostly be couples and singles of varying ages.
However, we're NOT going to see any changes in the suburbs or the countryside. Those areas still need vehicles just for basic survival. We will see alternative forms of energy, like electric and fuel cell vehicles, adopted in those areas ... and as technology progresses, both of those vehicle types will get cheaper and cheaper until they're comparable with today's energy prices.

And given that, why tie yourself blindly to a form of transportation that you openly admit makes you miserable to use, has as much capacity to kill people at random as any on the planet right now, and is only going to get more expensive to keep maintaining as the world's gasoline supply runs dry?

Why? Well, I really hate using myself as an example, but it's the only thing I can speak of honestly because I haven't talked to a lot of people about it ... but I live in a suburban apartment complex that's at the top of a really really big hilll. (I'm about 1000 feet above the surrounding area, approximately 1700 feet above sea level.) I love the view and the different climate that's up here, and I don't think I'd live anywhere else. However, this area was designed with a car in mind. The closest convenience store is at the bottom of the hill, about 3 miles away. The closest large grocery store is at least 5 miles away on the other side of the hill. It's possible to get by here with public transportation, but it takes a lot of planning and a friend with a car when you realize that you forgot to get garlic for tonight's dinner.
It was hard to get used to, because I used to live in an urban area where I could walk to *everything*. But rents went past what I can afford on my current bootstrapping-a-startup salary. I can only walk to one or two friends houses here, and that bums me out.
As far as business use goes, I couldn't survive without a car, although I do use a motorcycle about 70% of the time when it's warm enough and is appropriate to do so. There's two reasons I can't live without a form of motorized rapid transit right now: 1) I have to provide support for my customers. That means that I might be tweaking some settings on someone's server in Gresham, and then I get a call on my cell phone and suddenly need to be in Beaverton, approximately 30+ miles away, in a half hour because someone's mission-critical application is down and it can't be fixed remotely. If I were to take public transportation, it would take me approximately three hours to complete the journey. 2) I often have to deliver rather large, heavy pieces of equipment. It's not worth it for me to have a delivery truck when the trunk of my car will suffice quite nicely, but I do need *something*. I couldn't carry one of these pieces of equipment on public transportation or on a human-powered vehicle. It wouldn't be cost effective for me to have someone haul it ... it'd be like $200 to have a delivery service cart the thing out there, and then I still have to show up to hook it all up.

There is no way in hades that I could potentially get away from having a car for both business and personal use without moving, changing careers, or destroying the neighborhood I live in and doing a little bit of urban renewal so that I don't need a car.

It's really easy to shout, "Cars are Coffins, are you Dead? Get a bike and ride instead!" ... but why are you protesting when you can't provide a liveable, workable solution for 99% of the people that you're demonstrating in front of? I don't care about your petty little slogans or how well you're "showing up the man" ... if you've got a solution for me, let me hear it. Otherwise, you're wasting my time. And I HATE wasted time... I bill by the hour, and that one hour you cost me is an extra hour that I need to find from a client or project to cover my expenses.

On Preview: Normy, you're so cute and creative. Try original thought someday, I hear it's great fun.
posted by SpecialK at 2:17 PM on October 31, 2004


why tie yourself blindly to a form of transportation that you openly admit makes you miserable to use?

Well, me, I *like* driving. It's fun. So it doesn't make me miserable at all. Granted, I don't drive in downtown areas of major cities or in nasty rush hours very often, but then I chose my profession in part to avoid things like that.

I'm not "tied blindly" to it, though. If there were a more convenient route to work, and if it weren't over 90F most of the year here, I'd probably ride or walk to work. If I buy a house here, it'll almost certainly be in a part of town where riding or walking are easy, and will do so when climate permits.

I've nothing against bikes. I'd be happy if more people rode bikes. I'd vote to tax myself to fund better bikes lanes and a network of bike paths, and I'd *love* to see people driving badly and breaking traffic laws ticketed more often and stripped of their licenses far sooner. Nothing I've said here has anything to do with liking or disliking bikes. All I've said is that CM is, as a collectivity, a schmuck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:32 PM on October 31, 2004


I *like* driving. It's fun.

...

I get cheezed because more than once I've been nearly hit by a bicylist blowing through a stop sign, or nearly hit a bike doing so. Even when I'm not in any danger of doing so, it still pisses me off

Yeah man, sure sounds fun. Classic case of repressed road rage there, dude. The first step is admitting it.

Just kidding, though. Actually I agree that driving is (usually) fun. Although bicycling is more fun when the weather is nice, its disadvantages as a mode of transportation, compared to the motor vehicle, are pretty damn obvious. The disadvantages of the Ford Explorer, for those who can afford one, are far more subtle and hard to see, unless you've worked for years to train yourself to see them.

It's hard to believe that anyone could fail to see the immediate appeal of the internal combustion engine, but just in case you really mean it there chicobangs, .... cars go (on average) faster, they can carry more stuff, and go they longer between refuelling stops. All of which makes them very good at, you know, the usual goals of transportation. There are certainly some situations in which bicycles do better, and too many people who make the "wrong" choice out of ignorance. But even in the downtown core of the Gotham City, the average citizen will frequently have transportation needs for which petroleum-based assistance is quite obviously useful.

It is almost always possible to meet one's basic survival needs fairly well without having a car. It's just that it's somewhat inconvenient, which means (as SpecialK demonstrated) about the same thing as "impossible" to many people.
posted by sfenders at 3:52 PM on October 31, 2004


Fair enough, both of you, though I kept meaning to mention something about public transportation picking up a large part of the slack. Any post-car setup requires both a beefed-up public transportation system, which if car use was pulled back could be paid for with the money saved from not having to deal with constant problems like re-paving roads and filter pollution.

Also, I know that this is a car-driven culture. I may not be exactly thrilled about it, but I'm not questioning the way things are in the present tense. But understand that for a lot of people, cars are not an option. They're expensive to maintain, keep gassed up and parked in the city, and bicycles (or public transportation) is a safer, faster, cheaper, more efficient option.

That's the message I always thought the Critical Mass people were trying to get across. The fact that it's not getting heard means that the way it's presented and operated needs to be looked at. Because Critical Mass demonstrations have worked rather better in many of the other cities it runs in, as a consciousness-raising exercise, as an instrument of advocacy of civic planning, and as a way of making sure that cyclists feel safe on roads they have as much right to as any other vehicle.
posted by chicobangs at 3:54 PM on October 31, 2004


Well, SpecialK, one amazing solution recently implemented in London is to set up a daily-use car fee (About $8 if I recall correctly) for the downtown area. This cut traffic in half in the downtown area and reduced accidents to a quarter of their previous numbers. The fee makes it more attractive to use public transit or walk or bike in the downtown, and cuts unnecesary car traffic to virtually nil. Put in a couple bylines about reduced-rate yearly passes for business use and something for the disabled and you've got a perfect fix for the problem.

Yes, because road systems being set up in ways that aren't maximally convenient for your hobby is exactly like centuries of slavery, formal and informal oppression, and frequent lynchings.

Maybe by 'Hobby' you mean "Only mode of transportation." Other than that, though, you're right except for the timespan involved, but steadily getting righter: The Iranian theocracy doesn't stay in power selling sand, you know. Oh, and remember all that violence over the Venezulan pipeline a couple years back? And city dwellers don't have higher rates of asthma due to all the fresh air. Cars are a perfect example of how our advanced society just pushes its barbaric tendencies (mostly) out of sight and out of mind. We are all complicit in these evils to the extent that we participate in their perpetuation.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:54 PM on October 31, 2004


and I think that *you* are very short sighted because you opt to point out CM as exceptional. *I* think that the traffic that rolls down Queen's Blvd everyday that kills and injures most of 100 people a year is a schmuck. You, however, have decided that auto traffic is ok and that a once a month bit of bike traffic that you have about a (as a random ped or motorist in Manhattan on a CM day) 2% chance of encountering or beeing delayed by is unacceptable.
posted by n9 at 3:58 PM on October 31, 2004


My cuteness isn't really the point, SpecialK, but you knew that. Thanks, anyway. There's hostility on both sides. Throwing around ad hominems and calling people names isn't going to cure that. Until bicyclists and drivers start to empathise and see the use of either mode in terms of their appropriateness, nothing will change.

I haven't been on a Critical Mass in years, but last time I was involved I knew of a doctor, a journalist, a lawyer, some teachers, some students, a couple of programmers, a painter, an actor, a mathematics professor, an off-duty policeman, a high ranking civil servant, a TV cameraman and an insurance actuary who had all participated. About the only thing Critical Mass participants have in common is their participation in Critical Mass and that they own a bicycle, in my (admitedly dated) experience. Your stereotyping is comically blinkered.

The truth of traffic congestion in major cities is that has got nothing to do with Critical Mass, what you (or I) think of it, or how much you (or I) bill an hour. It's a systemic failure of design, planning and urban culture. Our cities simply can't cope with the volume of private auto traffic within them and no-one seems willing to address the problem. Bicyclists are simply not a variable with any measurable effect, currently. One early idea of Critical Mass was to attempt to draw attention to that. It's failed.

Critical Mass is an irrelevant sideshow. That so many folks are devoting so much energy to controlling it and condemning it seems like a classic case of ignoring the elephant in the living room. Improvement will only come when people in cities decide that single-user, short-distance car trips can't be sustained as the common denominator transport option, and realize that in many cases there are more efficient, cheaper, faster and more pleasant ways to move human beings around. The problem is that everyone recognizes the problem while simultaneously accepting no responsibility for their part of it. We are all traffic.
posted by normy at 4:31 PM on October 31, 2004


Kaibatsu - Yeah, a lot of areas are doing things that are similar. Or, like Portland's Metro Council, they're changing planning rules to limit the number of parking spots. Parking in downtown Portland is a royal pain in the ass... it's expensive as all heck and hard to find unless you're right near the downtown mall ... in which case it's just expensive. A VERY large percentage of the people that commute into downtown on a daily basis use public transportation, but that doesn't work for many people because public transportation takes so long to get from A to B. It's a catch-22, but Portland's got one of the better balances I've seen. They've also managed to make it safe for pedestrians by developing some very strict crosswalk laws and enforcing the heck out of them using motorcycle police. The only major lawbreakers they've got left are the cyclists.

Normy, did you read this thread or did you just jump in with your tuppence? Just about everything you said has already been beaten to death and turned into glue. Let me reiterate that I'm not against bikes, and not against alternative transportation ... I use both, frequently. But there has not yet been a good solution planned for those of us who are downtown and need rapid transport from one area of an expanded city to another. Public transportation takes too long. The distance is too great for bicycles or walking. What do you do, besides drive? That's the quandary I've faced and worked to settle.

You do raise a good point about road networks. The thing is, there isn't enough money in the world to provide 100% flow 100% of the time. There's just too many cars on the road at peak times, and too many bad drivers. Engineers have settled for optimizing roads by looking at them as a network as opposed to individual pipelines, but that means that when something like a bad CM ride snarls traffic in one end of the network, it'll have unintended consequences as far out as the network goes. If you've got a practical solution, let's hear it ... but bitching because it doesn't work and making some statement like "everyone should use public transit or a bicycle instead" ... is just plain stupid and very arrogant and short-sighted. Let's just stipulate that it won't work, and move on. Next?

There are a lot of people that are trying to take responsibility and come up with solutions. In fact, if I knew where you lived, I'd guide you towards an organization like that near you... involvement with sustainability resources is kind of a hobby of mine.
posted by SpecialK at 5:10 PM on October 31, 2004


Just about everything you said has already been beaten to death and turned into glue.

Except for, perhaps, my questioning of your ridiculous stereotyping of Critical Mass participants. Or maybe the part about how immeasurably small an influence bicycles currently exert on transportation strategies might have still had a pulse, not sure. Sorry if I wasted your time, all the same. Is this billable?

If you've got a practical solution, let's hear it ...

I'm not a transport engineer or city planner, so I haven't any solution on a city-wide scale, but that doesn't mean as an individual I'm doomed to inaction. What I mostly advocate is voting for the local politicians most likely to be imaginative about transport and urban planning and who aren't in the pocket of the construction and automotive lobbys.

but bitching because it doesn't work and making some statement like "everyone should use public transit or a bicycle instead" ... is just plain stupid and very arrogant and short-sighted.

I didn't see anyone say that, but then I must not have read the entire thread. What I did suggest is that, as individuals, we all take responsibility for our transport choices in terms of their appropriateness. Some might choose to cycle when they can, for example. I own a car and use it without guilt. But I've introduced several friends and coworkers to cycling who previously never imagined themselves using a bike. They still ride, some years later, for the same reasons I do. That's my solution. Just asking people to think about their choices and supporting them when they decide to try something else. It's not going to save the world, but I like to think that just a little positive encouragement on a local level can make a difference.
posted by normy at 5:49 PM on October 31, 2004


If you really want to get to know what car-driving is all about, you need to start riding a motorcycle. Get Motorcycle Safety Foundation training first, though.

Once you're on a motorcycle, doing true traffic speeds in real traffic conditions, you start to understand how many drivers are dangerous, clueless, aggressive, blind, and plain mean-spirited. You realize that the only reason car drivers survive each other is that their vehicles are so damn big and so damn safe that they can afford to take the risk of being careless and unaware.

Then your own car-driving habits take a change for the better.

IMO, everyone should start off learning to drive a motorcycle. If everyone had to ride bike for a year, they'd develop a much safer attitude toward driving.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:05 PM on October 31, 2004


FFF: Sport-touring rider here, and I agree wholeheartedly.

Normy: Scroll up...

SpecialK @ 10:32am, 31Oct04:
One of the points that I think I need to make to CM suporters is that the CM is very different from city to city. In Portland, it can get pretty hostile. It sounds like in Chicago that it's decent. It sounds like in NYC that it used to be decent, but something happened. In many other cities it really isn't decent at all.
posted by SpecialK at 6:48 PM on October 31, 2004


Nothing happened in NYC. It is still decent; the police are just cracking down.
posted by goneill at 7:49 PM on October 31, 2004


Goneill, reference the earlier conversation about police not 'cracking down' without a good reason to do so (like complaints from stranded motorists, or emergency vehicles stranded in unnecessary gridlock a few blocks away), which is why we've had this whole conversation. :-P
posted by SpecialK at 8:08 PM on October 31, 2004


I specifically said "unaffected". So anyone who answered "coz I could hit a cyclist who runs a stop sign right in front of me" immediately is "affected" and has a right to be ticked off.

I'm talking about occasions where I might blow past 20 waiting cars and slowly cross with the pedestrians while the little green man is flashing. I've had pricks yell at me for doing that!

The real reason is folks: Life is one big circle jerk. Me blowing 100% safely past 20 waiting cars and cautiously crossing with pedestrian traffic means I get circle jerk points.

The people waiting in the cars get zero circle jerk points. We can't be having that now, can we? Anger is the solution. Pretending that you are concerned for the safety of "the next" cyclist who does that is often the lame excuse for that anger.

You're not fooling me.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:35 AM on November 1, 2004


I know specialk - you're just wrong.
posted by goneill at 5:09 AM on November 1, 2004


Uncanny - How about you decide whether you're a pedestrian or a vehicle? You can't be both, the law doesn't allow for that. Go read the rules again.

goneill - No, you're wrong!

(Metafilter: You're wrong! No, YOU'RE wrong!)
posted by SpecialK at 8:21 AM on November 1, 2004


goneill: Nothing happened in NYC. It is still decent; the police are just cracking down.

Exactly, and the reason they have been cracking down was the 5-10 thousand folks who showed up for the RNC critical mass ride. The police were completely overwhelmed and have been flexing their muscles ever since, even though the numbers have decreased to the normal 500-1000 folks. I'd go way out of my way to say that CM in New York is still decent. It takes less than 20 minutes for us to go by, the only conflicts arise when cars or people try to pull into the middle of the mass.
posted by lips at 8:54 AM on November 1, 2004


Uncanny: I get annoyed like hell when bicyclists do that because they're don't behave consistently.

Either stay on the sidewalk and behave like a pedestrian, so that I can predict what you're going to do; or stay on the road and behave like a car, so I can predict what you're going to do.

The most important part of defensive driving is knowing what's going on. When you behave erratically, you make it dangerous for me.

I know how much space I have between me and the curb and I know no car is going to fit into it, so I know that I have safe space beside me: in an emergency situation I can move into it instantly without concern. Except that a jackass cyclist like you is going to decide that he doesn't have to behave like a predictable automobile, the decide to break the law and suddenly use that space to pass me on the right.

That is why I get upset: because you are making it more dangerous for me.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:17 AM on November 1, 2004


What, this topic isn't dead yet?

I know how much space I have between me and the curb and I know no car is going to fit into it, so I know that I have safe space beside me: in an emergency situation I can move into it instantly without concern.

The situation described was a bicycle passing cars that are stopped waiting for a light. In that case, since your car is stopped, you are not going be be able to instantly make it move sideways. Sure, the guy on the bicycle might time it badly and end up in a bad spot when cars start moving again. But then again, he might not.

Because breaking traffic laws is sometimes dangerous doesn't mean it always is. In fact there are many common situations where it's perfectly safe, though still illegal. It's those cases that are the topic I think people are trying to get at. So, as your italicized bit about the law indicates, I submit that you are not in those cases annoyed because of any real danger, but simply because you perceive a violation of the law as "cheating", and hence unfair. The divide is between people who see "the rules" as a convention that should be inviolable, and those who see them more as general guidelines that can be broken without shame when they don't make sense in a particular situation.

Since bicylces are smaller, slower, and more manoeuverable than cars, the situations where they can safely break the rules are more common, but the same thing happens with cars too. And with pedestrians of course. Jay-walking is socially acceptable to most people in most cities I've been to. Driving through a red light isn't, except maybe in Montreal. Bicycles passing cars on the right is somewhere in-between, and hence more contentious.

To me, this is one of the innumerable problems for which the phrase "Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send" suggests a good way to behave.
posted by sfenders at 9:56 AM on November 1, 2004


No, the horse is not dead yet, it's come back for a second life as glue. :-P Something to do with Halloween, I think ... attack of the zombie MeFi threads. Rawr!

sfenders - The problem with "rules as flexible" is that it's relative. To you, the rules about crosswalks and red lights and all that stuff is flexible. To me, it's not, because I'm not driving something that's as maneuverable as you are. The people who get pissed at that thing... our point is that you're a lot squishier than we are, and it's really hard to buff out the chips in our paint that your bone fragments will leave. We can't watch 360 degrees at all times, so when we're about to make that right turn and you blow through the intersection because you couldn't see the turn signal on the far side and we clip you, don't blame us. We, quite simply, weren't expecting something small and squishy and fast-moving to enter the space that we were about to legally occupy.
Or, you could just, y'know, follow the rules.
posted by SpecialK at 10:44 AM on November 1, 2004


And the rules do allow for that -- in Massachusetts, at least, the traffic laws are written such that bikes on the road are vehicles, but they can cross roads on pedestrian crosswalks as pedestrians. That's perfectly legal.
posted by occhiblu at 11:25 AM on November 1, 2004


Right. Well, maybe I wasn't clear ... personally, I usually do follow the rules when piloting any type of vehicle. When I'm on a bicycle in the city, I pretty much always follow the rules. (I might sometimes fail to come to a complete stop for a stop sign, but only when nobody's around to be annoyed by my irresponsible craziness.)

I just don't particularly care if other people don't follow the rules. I respect their decisions unless they're doing something really exceptionally stupid.

I *do* try to watch 360 degrees at all times when I'm driving, with pretty good success. It's a habit I learned a few years ago and have cultivated since. It's extremely rare that I'd fail to see a cyclist in the situation described -- unless it's at night and he has no lights, which did happen once. Though the baseline level of annoyance at other people's driving is different for everyone, I'm convinced that anybody can follow my example and lessen theirs greatly by paying sufficient attention to everything on the road so that surprises are very rare.

I've seen three traffic accidents happen in the past two years, two of which involved one party running a red light, and all of which could have been avoided by either driver if they'd been paying attention. (bad luck that I happened to see that many, but by good luck nobody was seriously injured in any of them.) I was told by my driving instructor way back when I was learning, that almost all of the scenarios that lead to motor vehicle accidents can and should be recognized and avoided by a good driver, even though good drivers are by that definition rare. In other words, she told me that if I got in a crash, it would almost certainly be my own damn fault, no matter how stupid the other guy was. I didn't believe it at the time, but many years of experience later, I am firmly convinced that she was right. I think it's a healthy attitude.

To the extent that I do regard traffic laws as inherently flexible and suspect, even though I follow them, I think it helps me be a better driver. It makes it easier keep up my habit of never going through an intersection without looking both ways when I am instinctively aware that the signal light isn't what controls traffic, and that people, whether they're in a Hummer, on a tricycle, or staggering around in a drunken stupor, are not in any meaningful way bound to following its commands.

All of which is what I meant to imply by that last sentence in my previous post. :)
posted by sfenders at 11:56 AM on November 1, 2004


Ha ha ha ha.

The law?!

Any of you pricks obey 100% of EVERY SINGLE OTHER LAW 100% of the time then you have a right to lecture me. Otherwise don't make me laff. Quoting THE LAW is for morons.

(Just to clarify: I normally dismount with one foot remaining on a pedal and roll thru with my momentum. I do this to try and fool any cops who may be watching. But the bottom line still remains: It's not affecting any motorists – yet still some get angry. No circle jerk points for you Mr Motorist! In fact it actually improves traffic flow and safety. But that's another argument.)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:56 PM on November 1, 2004


Because breaking traffic laws is sometimes dangerous doesn't mean it always is. In fact there are many common situations where it's perfectly safe, though still illegal. It's those cases that are the topic I think people are trying to get at. So, as your italicized bit about the law indicates, I submit that you are not in those cases annoyed because of any real danger, but simply because you perceive a violation of the law as "cheating", and hence unfair.

This is exactly what I am trying to say about "circle jerk points" and quoting THE LAW when it's convenient. Except it's said in a much more polite and erudite way. God I'm an ornery bastard sometimes.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:04 PM on November 1, 2004



One last thing - swap "cyclists" with "black people" and I think the howls of indignation would have been deafening.

Some generalisations are more equal than others. Arroooooooo!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:45 PM on November 2, 2004


[rolls eyes]

What an embarassingly dumb thing to say, UH.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 PM on November 2, 2004


So there is a common idea among bikers that this situation, where the blue arrow indicates a bike which rides through an intersection between motor vehicle traffic and the curb is okay? Because I've heard that assertion before. I just can't believe it.

Bike Woes
posted by Dreama at 12:38 AM on November 3, 2004


So there is a common idea among bikers that this situation, where the blue arrow indicates a bike which rides through an intersection between motor vehicle traffic and the curb is okay? Because I've heard that assertion before. I just can't believe it.

Common? Not in my world. That's just plain stupid. (I gather the car is turning right in your picture?)

What I'm talking about (and what sfenders put much better) is when it's illegal but safe.




Hey, five fresh fish: The truth hurts, doesn't it? Arroooooooo!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:16 AM on November 3, 2004


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