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Critical Mass Arrests
September 1, 2007 1:34 AM   Subscribe

Police overreact, and attack bikers with no provocation at Minneapolis Critical Mass. Responses from witnesses tell one picture of what happened, but local news says "nobody was hurt" despite squad cars knocking bicyclists from their bikes. What gives?
posted by taursir (206 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
More at the WCCO site, with video.


It seems the guy who "strayed over the line" was driving aggressively at traffic, and insulting drivers who had their windows open (according to someone I know who was driving near the ride.) I think that's the guy who the police were originally arresting. Watching the 'CCO footage, I can kind of get an idea of how things escalated. That said, I also think things got way out of hand and the use of force escalated beyond what was necessary.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:02 AM on September 1, 2007


Whoa, he was riding aggressively and insulting drivers? Heavens to Betsy! Did . . . did he use the "F" word?
posted by fandango_matt at 2:11 AM on September 1, 2007 [6 favorites]


Hippie beatdowns never go out of style...just like the cop moustache. Critical Mass is cool and 99% of the people who show up are great but there always seem to be a few complete mental adolescents who show up and use the pack as leverage to play chicken with any car in the vicinity. I've been on a number of these and there always seems to be at least one guy doing everything possible to dare cars to hit him. I have no idea what actually happened in this case but it certainly sounds like overreaction by the police. Fearing for your safety from a pack of white kids riding fixies that were their parent's ten speeds sounds embarrassing.
posted by well_balanced at 2:14 AM on September 1, 2007


Sadly, given the reputation of the Minneapolis police, this comes as no surprise to me.

Having been a person who has used a bike in the city for transportation, and having many friends who have done so, the fact that some of the very issues that Critical Mass are trying to highlight, namely the appalling way that Minnesota drivers act toward bikers such as DRIVING INTO BIKES, were used against them is shocking.

What will the police do next month? Open their car door to intentionally hit the bikers coming their way?
posted by triggerfinger at 2:14 AM on September 1, 2007


"'CCO" sure knows what they're talking about:
AMELIA SANTANIELLO. We begin tonight with 19 arrests and a group of bicyclists who were protesting in the streets of Minneapolis. Jason DeRusha is back from the scene. Jason, what happened?

JASON DERUSHA. Amelia, the group calls themselves Critical Mass, the last Friday of every month they protest riding down the streets of Minneapolis blocking traffic; they are anti-automobile. Well, armed with their bikes and with cameras, some argue that they want attention and want problems -- tonight they got both.

It started in the heart of Downtown Minneapolis. Hundreds and hundreds of bicycles riding slowly and filling up one side of 10th Street. (Sound - Siren) Then, Minneapolis Police hit their sirens, trying to arrest one of the bicyclists. Police say that guy was riding directly at cars, provoking them. That's when the crowd started to sound more like a mob. (Sound - Bikers: "Let them go!") The bicyclist escaped into the group, then a couple of blocks away police try again. This is video from one of the rider's friends. You see the officer trying to make an arrest, and Critical Mass gets critical at the cops. As the crowd grows louder, the officer takes pepper spray, and goes after some of the bikers.

UNIDENTIFIED MINNEAPOLIS POLICE INSPECTOR. "There were individuals physically trying to pull officers off of the individual who was under arrest."

JASON DERUSHA. Amelia, nobody was hurt in this entire incident, and normally these rides, according to police, are very calm and controlled. Police tell me that the arrest of nearly twenty people should not detract from the rest of the group. The Inspector told me that he actually agrees with reducing reliance on automobiles, but he doesn't agree with illegally provoking drivers. I should say we did talk with a number of the people out there riding the bikes, and they present, of course, a different story saying it was the police doing the provoking.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO. Alright, Jason, thank you.
"Anti-automobile"? That's hardly the point.
posted by taursir at 2:14 AM on September 1, 2007


posted by well_balanced Fearing for your safety from a pack of white kids riding fixies that were their parent's ten speeds sounds embarrassing.

Care to explain yourself, there?
posted by fandango_matt at 2:19 AM on September 1, 2007


there was a large
overreaction in both the crowd and by the police.


Unfortunately, overreaction by police is a fact of life. If you are the recipient of it, and I can't say this strongly enough, but please, please, undereact. Unless of course you are expecting to violently overthow the government right then and there.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:30 AM on September 1, 2007 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I know, the commentary is kind of dumb, but watching the video gives some idea of how things escalated.

BTW, I also know at least one of the people who was maced - she's the first person who told me about this. I was just curious how things had gotten to that point, and hearing from someone who was in the thick of it was not going to give me that perspective.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:31 AM on September 1, 2007


Do I need to? I think it's pretty obvious that most cops fear black kids, especially when there are two or more in the same place while simultaneously not fearing the typical collegiate types that show up for CM. If you want to see some scared cops imagine 200 black kids showing up for CM.
posted by well_balanced at 2:34 AM on September 1, 2007


The point of pepper-spraying bicyclists is...what? Or chasing and taking down a biker is....? I assume the police were witnesses to actual individual crimes that necessitated a suspect's immobilization before they assaulted the bikers. Otherwise, it just sounds like the police were pissed that the 'rowdies' could just peel off and disappear.
posted by toma at 2:34 AM on September 1, 2007


louche mustachio: All I find interesting is that of all the sources that there are for information at this point, the WCCO/Popo account of things seems to differ the most.
posted by taursir at 2:39 AM on September 1, 2007


posted by well_balanced I think it's pretty obvious that most cops fear black kids, especially when there are two or more in the same place while simultaneously not fearing the typical collegiate types that show up for CM. If you want to see some scared cops imagine 200 black kids showing up for CM.

Interesting viewpoint. A group of black kids on bikes is more frightening than a group of white kids on bikes. Thanks for clearing that up.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:41 AM on September 1, 2007


In this country, to American cops, yup. Duh.
posted by well_balanced at 2:43 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Taursir, I guess that's the official press version. All accounts I've heard from inside the melee and from witnesses were quite different.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:48 AM on September 1, 2007


Don't want to start a thread here, but I live in L.A. and plenty cops are black (or latino, asian, gay...) and I don't perceive the 'fear blacks' thing much any more. And don't ask me to praise the LAPD.
posted by toma at 2:51 AM on September 1, 2007


There must have been a half dozen times in this past month where people have told me that Minneapolis' enlightened urban planning and public attitude towards bikes puts their home town to shame.

It feels odd to read exactly the opposite all of a sudden. I expect I'll see some riders reports on the event soon.
posted by ardgedee at 2:53 AM on September 1, 2007


That local news clip is just oozing with contempt for cyclists.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:56 AM on September 1, 2007


For all the negatives, I thought this was nice: "Deputy Chief Allen said, his department has never had a problem with Critical Mass riders in the past, and he hopes the actions of a small portion of the group doesn't tarnish the positive message the group is trying to spread."
posted by alexei at 2:56 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Y'know, biking in the TC is usually pretty nice. We have tons of paved trails and bike lanes and motorists, for the most part, are relatively understanding. It throws the bad incidents into really stark relief, but for the most part, it's still the best way to get around the city.

That said, there's also this going on which may or may not be related to police jumpiness.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:03 AM on September 1, 2007


posted by well_balanced Fearing for your safety from a pack of white kids riding fixies that were their parent's ten speeds sounds embarrassing.

Care to explain yourself, there?


I don't know what he's talking about. I'm terrified of white children.
posted by Avenger at 3:07 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


It seems the guy who "strayed over the line" was driving aggressively at traffic, and insulting drivers who had their windows open...

If that's true, other bicyclists ought make sure he and any other "complete mental adolescents who show up and use the pack as leverage to play chicken with any car in the vicinity" aren't tolerated. Shut those guys down for the duration, even if you have to separate them from their bikes for a few hours. Friday rides can do bicyclists good only if they ride peacefully.
posted by pracowity at 3:08 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


yo, 10 or so years ago, i was one of 119 people arrested as a part of an extremely large critical mass in sf. who knows what they were trying to prove by arresting us? crazy cops...
posted by garethspor at 3:19 AM on September 1, 2007


so yeah, essentially, i've given up on the idea of convincing cops and the non-bike riding public that bikes are a valid form of transportation. so i just ride like a lunatic, stay out of the way of cars and accept the idea that my bike labels me as a deadbeat. i just do my best to stay out of trouble. most of the time, riding alone, cops just ignore me, and that is fine by me...
posted by garethspor at 3:30 AM on September 1, 2007


What StickyCarpet said. Cops always react with more force than they receive. If you grab a cop's arm, he will try to make you wish you hadn't. If one is surrounded by people acting hostile, anything he perceives as aggression is going to get a disproportionate response. If you don't expect that, then you're ill-prepared for encounters with cops.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:35 AM on September 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


If that's true, other bicyclists ought make sure he and any other "complete mental adolescents who show up and use the pack as leverage to play chicken with any car in the vicinity" aren't tolerated. Shut those guys down for the duration, even if you have to separate them from their bikes for a few hours. Friday rides can do bicyclists good only if they ride peacefully.


Really? You mean that critical mass riders should act as police without any authority and detain people or steal their property in order to further their cause?
posted by srboisvert at 3:41 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


garethspor: I was on that ride, too--July '97? Wasn't that the one Willie Brown tried to break up?
posted by fandango_matt at 3:46 AM on September 1, 2007


Cops just love coming down on people for acting anything but normal. I was in Las Vegas over the summer, walking down the strip. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the entire punk kid population of LV and environs comes skateboarding down the strip. Hundreds, if not thousands, of skateboarders going past all the Vegas tourists. I think this was actually some sort of worldwide thing, World Skate Punk Day or something. But anyway, the sheer unexpectedness of this makes it awesome. Everyone loves it - my friends and I are highly amused. Drunk guys are cheering them on and giving them high fives.

So of course, the cops have to come down and start grabbing whatever kids they can. Unlike the sticker says, skateboarding apparently is a crime. What's still funny is that I guess they didn't hear about this in advance, because all they can do is grab a random few kids and throw them against squad cars - there's nowhere near enough cops to make an effort at shutting the thing down.

Still, as I observed it in NYC, Critical Mass is douchebaggery. It's a great way to protest against cars and champion alternative travel, by BLOCKING ALL PEDESTRIAN TRAVEL for your private parade. Remember that in NYC getting in people's way or slowing them down is a nasty insult to the social order. Maybe it's better in other cities.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:23 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


posted by TheOnlyCoolTim Still, as I observed it in NYC, Critical Mass is douchebaggery. It's a great way to protest against cars and champion alternative travel, by BLOCKING ALL PEDESTRIAN TRAVEL for your private parade.

As opposed to the critical mass and public parade of cars, trucks, and buses that block pedestrian and most bicycle travel the other 29 days out of the month.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:34 AM on September 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


Four wheels good. Two wheels better!
posted by public at 4:36 AM on September 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


I use my bike for practical purposes often. Mostly obey the laws-- when I run stop signs I do it cautiously, red lights rarely.

I was just at the SF critical mass, second time I've done it. Last time was ages ago.

I don't know if critical mass is good publicity. I'm sure there were annoyed people, but I saw lots of people smiling and waving too. It's an absolute blast to ride. The problems come from drivers who think they can inch their way through the mass-- that's just not going to work well, and so I felt grateful to the blockers who very effectively stopped that sort of thing.

There was a police presence. Bike police rode in the mass the whole way, while bunches of motorcycle cops seemed to defend certain roads, mainly the entrances to the bridge (which is understandable--with it closing tonight a lot of people wanted to go, but with the construction going on and their incredibly tight schedule, I doubt they wanted any unknowns).

Pedestrians are inconvenienced. Some bikers were trying to organize a crossing, but not very successfully.

Best bit: a fake cable car tourist bus was stopped in the middle of the rode, so people hopped off their bikes and carried them through the middle of the bus (it's open on the sides).
posted by alexei at 4:50 AM on September 1, 2007


Really?

Let's say, just for example, we were with MLK, marching through town just as peaceful as can be, to show that there is no such thing as a whites-only sidewalk or a whites-only section of town, but one or two guys supposedly with us were always being aggressive and obnoxious, shouting at the white folk and so on, and the cops were using their behavior to help justify shutting down the march, cracking heads, and arresting people. I'd suggest to you, as one marcher to another, that we quietly shut down our own troublemakers before they cause us all trouble.

In Critical Mass, maybe cull those dickheads from the herd for a moment and put some old bike locks on their bikes so they have to walk home. Or just shame them, if they have any.

By the way, I'm not saying Critical Mass compares with the black civil rights movement. But the strategies ought to be similar if you want to face down a large and powerful establishment.

Critical Manners:
A bunch of bike riders pedaled through San Francisco on Friday night, and nobody got mad at anybody.

The cyclists were polite. The motorists were respectful. The pedestrians were happy. The cops were incredulous.

And it all comes, said ride organizer Reama Dagasan, from stopping at red lights, which is not at all a bad thing to do.

"We're making a statement tonight," she said. "We believe in sharing and being nice." [...]
posted by pracowity at 4:55 AM on September 1, 2007


As opposed to the critical mass and public parade of cars, trucks, and buses that block pedestrian and most bicycle travel the other 29 days out of the month.

At least all the cars, trucks, and buses stop and let me pass after I've waited a very short amount of time, if there's even enough of them to force me to wait.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 4:57 AM on September 1, 2007


posted by TheOnlyCoolTim At least all the cars, trucks, and buses stop and let me pass after I've waited a very short amount of time, if there's even enough of them to force me to wait.

The same is true with the cyclists.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:01 AM on September 1, 2007


Not at the Critical Masses I've ever seen in NY. If I had to cross that street I was stuck until the whole parade went by.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:10 AM on September 1, 2007


That's odd, because every Critical Mass in which I've participated, and in every video I've seen, pedestrians who attempt to cross the street are allowed to do so. But I'm sure your experience is different, and I know it's much more convenient to blame the cyclists for some perceived inconvenience without recognizing the fact that statistically you've probably been forced to wait just as long for other random traffic anomalies at any given point during that thirty-day period.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:17 AM on September 1, 2007


I don't see any bikers. I see bicyclists.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 5:22 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow, sounds like NY. Except no cops grabbing people on bikes with that orange hurricane fencing. Or helicopters. That's always fun.
posted by fet at 5:27 AM on September 1, 2007


I, and everyone else stuck waiting for the bikes to go by, made no attempts to cross the street, just like we wouldn't attempt to cross against the traffic light when the road is full of cars. Self-preservation.

I've truly never waited anywhere near as long to cross NYC streets for any other reason, especially not any explicitly organized reason. If you wanted to add up all the time I waited to cross the street each month, sure it probably exceeds the time I would wait to cross Critical Mass, but that doesn't mean much. I don't get to punch people in the gut and tell them to stop whining because the sum total of times they stubbed their toe this month adds up to more pain.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:35 AM on September 1, 2007


God, local news is always such a turd.

From the video:
some argue that they want attention and want problems -- tonight they got both.

What does that even mean?

I should say we did talk with a number of the people out there riding the bikes, and they present, of course, a different story saying it was the police doing the provoking.

Well then why didn't they get one of those people on the air? The police were allowed a bit of airtime. There really is a lot of contempt for bicyclists in that clip.
posted by splatta at 5:42 AM on September 1, 2007


Your favorite mode of transportation sucks.
posted by Kibbutz at 5:50 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I call foul on that officer's assertion that they usually don't have a problem with Critical Mass. I went to college in St. Paul, and every year after the ride, I could count on seeing at least one or two of my classmates bloodied or bruised from a run-in with the cops. This is certainly one of the larger escalations, but the yearly ride is always marred by unnecessary force.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 6:01 AM on September 1, 2007


In Critical Mass, maybe cull those dickheads from the herd for a moment and put some old bike locks on their bikes so they have to walk home. Or just shame them, if they have any.

And of course there is zero possibility of them being police provocateurs.
posted by notreally at 6:14 AM on September 1, 2007


Which yearly ride? Critical Mass is a monthly event.
posted by splatta at 6:14 AM on September 1, 2007


Don't talk shit about my moon boots, kibbutz.

Seriously, this wasn't completely out of left field or anything. If the cops want to arrest somebody they're going to, period, and as mentioned above trying to dissuade or prevent them (by surrounding and chanting or anything else you can think of) is probably going to provoke an overreaction. Minneapolis cops are not the ones you want to mess with in this kind of situation:

A few years ago I lived in an upper duplex with 3 other people, in south Minneapolis. One of the guys hooked his friends up, which is to say he sold buds but not in massive quantities. Basically he'd buy an ounce, sell 3/4 of it, and keep the other 1/4 for himself. Not really a profit operation, just selling to friends and such, and your quarter ends up being free. He trusted me enough that if he was out of the house, I was allowed to make transactions for him. The bags are all weighed out so I just took them out of the jar and put the cash in.

So one afternoon my sister and her boyfriend stops by- she wants a bag before she goes to work, and he wanted to hang out, so I made the exchange and we smoked a bowl. After she left, her boyfriend and I busted out the Magic cards, and as our game is getting underway my girlfriend (a tenant) walks in.

"Hey guys, there are a bunch of cops outside."

Boyfriend and I look at each other, the look that passes between us is a little freaked out. We go to the large window facing the street to assess the situation. Below us and directly in front of the house, on both sides of the street, the MPD is Getting Ready For Something. We count 3-4 squads and 2 unmarked police vehicles. They're strapping on body armor, thigh holsters, and generally getting heavily armed- shotguns, the whole deal, basically everything short of the SWAT gear. Guys are shouting into walkie talkies, the whole thing is just intense- and me and my guest are officially near panic. There are probably 12-15 cops outside. At this point I'm seriously ready to lay down on the ground with my ID out next to me. I casually (read: panic) mention this and am eventually calmed down. Remember, I sold my sister a bag and she drove off not 5 minutes previously.

Nonetheless ready for trouble, my girlfriend keeps an eye on the situation out front as things start to calm down. Eventually the cops pack up and leave, but not before photographing the front door. Curious and confused, we called the precinct to find out what the hell was going on- it turns out they'd chased a suspect into our back yard. The photographer apparently has to document where the suspect went and what he touched (including, apparently, our front door).

Sorry for the long derail, but the point is that the MPD doesn't take things very lightly.
posted by baphomet at 6:21 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I ride a bike in Toronto everyday and have no problem with the cops stopping a cyclist for crossing into oncoming traffic and then resisting arrest.

Most cyclist drive through stop signs and red lights; myself included when I think it's safe. If a cop gave me a ticket for riding into oncoming traffic then he would be doing his job. Cyclists have the same rights and responsiblities as drivers of other vehicles.
posted by disgruntled at 6:26 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


baphomet--look for your vignette to end up as a plot line in an upcoming Judd Apatow movie.

And were you wearing the moon boots at the time? Please say yes.
posted by Kibbutz at 6:38 AM on September 1, 2007


It seems the guy who "strayed over the line" was driving aggressively at traffic, and insulting drivers who had their windows open

Of course, nowadays one never knows whether that might be a police provocateur as discussed here recently in relation to the Montebello protests...
posted by fairmettle at 6:41 AM on September 1, 2007


Back in June, the police had another incident with a bicyclist. A guy was tased and arrested for riding his bike out from the airport. That story grabbed the attention of a US Congressman, probably because the cyclist was a classical violinist and very respectable. I'm guessing James Oberstar isn't going to be writing these filthy hippies any letters.
posted by felix betachat at 6:44 AM on September 1, 2007


Wait, the police car license plates all say "POLICE"?
posted by parudox at 6:45 AM on September 1, 2007


How to Not Get Your Ass Beat by the Police
isn't perfect, but is useful.
posted by elpapacito at 6:47 AM on September 1, 2007


Let that be a lesson to you to not use forbidden cards in Magic: The Gathering play. The influence of Wizards of the Coast should not be underestimated. They define "tournament play" very loosely.


"So one afternoon my sister and her boyfriend stops by- she wants a bag before she goes to work, and he wanted to hang out, so I made the exchange and we smoked a bowl. After she left, her boyfriend and I busted out the Magic cards, and as our game is getting underway my girlfriend (a tenant) walks in.

"Hey guys, there are a bunch of cops outside."

Boyfriend and I look at each other, the look that passes between us is a little freaked out. We go to the large window facing the street to assess the situation. Below us and directly in front of the house, on both sides of the street, the MPD is Getting Ready For Something. We count 3-4 squads and 2 unmarked police vehicles. They're strapping on body armor, thigh holsters, and generally getting heavily armed- shotguns, the whole deal, basically everything short of the SWAT gear. Guys are shouting into walkie talkies, the whole thing is just intense- and me and my guest are officially near panic. There are probably 12-15 cops outside. At this point I'm seriously ready to lay down on the ground with my ID out next to me. I casually (read: panic) mention this and am eventually calmed down. Remember, I sold my sister a bag and she drove off not 5 minutes previously."
posted by craniac at 6:58 AM on September 1, 2007


And of course there is zero possibility of them being police provocateurs.

If that's true, you'll expose them and get plenty of "bad, sneaky cops trying to cause trouble with the nice bicyclists" PR out of it. If it's not true, you'll get the worst Critical Mass riders out of the way.
posted by pracowity at 7:02 AM on September 1, 2007


splatta, the ride in Uptown is monthly? That can't be right. I'm sure I would have heard 1000% more complaining if bikers clogged the streets once a month. I was under the impression that there was one large, well-attended protest every year; that seemed to be about the frequency with which motorists complained and cyclists became unnecessarily injured.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 7:20 AM on September 1, 2007


In Critical Mass, maybe cull those dickheads from the herd for a moment and put some old bike locks on their bikes so they have to walk home.

You're out of your mind.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:44 AM on September 1, 2007


"And it all comes, said ride organizer Reama Dagasan, from stopping at red lights, which is not at all a bad thing to do. "

The bike advocacy group here in Athens, GA takes a similar approach. They call their monthly rides "Courteous Mass" rther than "Critical Mass".

Athens has the most bike-hostile general populous of any place I've ever been. The first topic of conversation among bikers here is what harrowing encounters they've had with drunken SUV-driving frat boys that week. I wish I were exaggerating when I say there are some who will actively try to kill you here.
posted by ewagoner at 7:47 AM on September 1, 2007


Cyclists have the same rights and responsiblities as drivers of other vehicles.

I'd say we have neither. Automobiles and bicycles differ in size, physics, means of propulsion and stopping, protection, top speeds, environmental impact, balance of risk, and, no less importantly, pyschology. This does change things, which means that not only are our responsibilities going to differ (whether the law recognizes this or not), but that we don't actually get all the rights commensurate with the reality of what we're driving, or in similar proportion to what motorists get.

I'm not saying cyclists should get away with whatever the hell they want, but... well, ok, I almost sort of am, short of riding on the sidewalk or in/through a busy crosswalk. I mean, come on, they're bikes.

If I drive on the wrong side of the street, I'm going to occasionally inconvenience another cyclist. If a motorist rides on the wrong side of the street, it's a Bruce Willis movie. They are radically different forms of transportation.
posted by regicide is good for you at 7:54 AM on September 1, 2007


traffic should obey traffic signals. this means when the light turns green, autos simply mow down the corkers after which the police scrape up whoever remains and duly charge them with whatever traffic violations apply, as well as disorderly conduct.
posted by quonsar at 8:00 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's a pretty interesting mixture of need for order and desire for murder there, quonsar.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:08 AM on September 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


Cops always react with more force than they receive. If you grab a cop's arm, he will try to make you wish you hadn't. If one is surrounded by people acting hostile, anything he perceives as aggression is going to get a disproportionate response. If you don't expect that, then you're ill-prepared for encounters with cops.

This is correct, and this is in fact how law enforcement and correctional officers are trained to react to regain control of a situation. The formula is essentially "level of force used by suspect +1".

I'm certainly not here to defend the actions of the police in this case or in general, but if you're going to involve yourself in these sorts of encounters this is a very good rule to remember. As StickyCarpet said above, unless you're ready for a major showdown, do yourself (and those around you who may be punished as well) a favor and under-react.
posted by rollbiz at 8:13 AM on September 1, 2007


Discussion at the site I edit, MnSpeak, including a comment from the WCCO reporter.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:29 AM on September 1, 2007


traffic should obey traffic signals. this means when the light turns green, autos simply mow down the corkers after which the police scrape up whoever remains and duly charge them with whatever traffic violations apply, as well as disorderly conduct.

That's all well and good, but have you seen the corkers at an SF Critical Mass? Those guys are gnar. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see them strip an entire car to parts in 15 seconds with nothing but Leathermans and Park tools all without ever leaving the saddle and maintaining a perfect hands-free track stand. Or while rolling.

Either way it'd be like shoving a car into a wood chipper. Cyclists own this city. Cars can't even compete.
posted by loquacious at 8:36 AM on September 1, 2007


Critical Mass's message is lost in how incredibly annoying it is to people that are just trying to get home after a long week of work.

Philosophically, I applaud Critical Mass but in reality, its just a colossal hassle. And the hooligan element really detracts from any peaceful intentions.

And yeah, fighting with the cops never ends well for the non-cops.
posted by fenriq at 8:38 AM on September 1, 2007


What StickyCarpet said. Cops always react with more force than they receive.

Well, duh.

Would you have it any other way, really? Police are not social workers. Their job is not to turn the proverbial other cheek, or to absorb abuse on society's behalf.

I'm a cyclist, riding for fun and semi-regularly commuting by bike. I haven't yet participated in a CM ride, but I've seen a few go past in Toronto. CM rides are supremely annoying to drivers (that's the point, right?) and if you know anything about uptight Toronto drivers, you'd know it 's a potentially explosive situation. I'm surprised that a driver hasn't yet gone postal and driven into the ride.

Anyway the RIDE is the point, not the aggravation of drivers. The point is made by just having a lawful mass ride, not by taunting cars and cops. Anyone heard of a little guy named Ghandi? Or MLK?

If some shitheels were riding in a grossly unlawful or dangerous way, or being abusive, and if the CM riders prevented the lawful arrest of said shitheels, then I can't fault the cops, disproportionate response or not.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:41 AM on September 1, 2007


strip an entire car to parts in 15 seconds with nothing but Leathermans and Park tools

Wow, I think I've just found a new life goal. Takes me 45 min right now and I hafta use air-tools.
posted by Artful Codger at 8:44 AM on September 1, 2007


That's odd, because every Critical Mass in which I've participated, and in every video I've seen, pedestrians who attempt to cross the street are allowed to do so.

Most drivers will stop when I run out into traffic, also, but guess what? I still prefer using pedestrian crossings and generally avoid stepping into heavy traffic. Crazy, I know, but then we've all got our little quirks.

But I'm sure your experience is different, and I know it's much more convenient to blame the cyclists for some perceived inconvenience without recognizing the fact that statistically you've probably been forced to wait just as long for other random traffic anomalies at any given point during that thirty-day period.

Even if this were true, which I doubt, you're either being disingenuous or you're just insane if you claim to be unable to distinguish between the inconvenience of having to wait thirty seconds for a light a couple times a day, and the inconvenience of having to wait a fucking half hour when you're trying to get home, or to work.
posted by enn at 8:45 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


hooray for the police!

here on the west coast, critical mass events typically involve a long parade of cyclists ignoring red lights and stationing confederate cyclists to block intersections during rush hour. cars that try to inch forward on the green light are attacked by the cyclists, their drivers abused, and the cyclists always whine about how the car struck them first. i believe that breaking the traffic laws to bottle up car traffic during rush hour is a form of false imprisonment, and that like all false prisoners, the car drivers have the right to use reasonable force to free themselves. that means inching forward anyway, and if the cyclists escalate, the drivers have the right to escalate further from there.
posted by bruce at 8:54 AM on September 1, 2007 [6 favorites]


Police are not social workers. Their job is not to turn the proverbial other cheek, or to absorb abuse on society's behalf.

That, apparently is our job.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 8:55 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would love to give an IQ test to people who always support the cops and people who have had enough of their bullshit- and see which group scores higher.
posted by wfc123 at 9:00 AM on September 1, 2007


Why are cyclists so aggressive about their rights?

"Did you feel something dear"?

"Probably just a pothole"
posted by srboisvert at 9:12 AM on September 1, 2007


We don't have CM here in Detroit. I think the last time anyone tried it was 2003, and it was "target practice day".

Also, anyone who wears a spandex suit and helmet that match their bike? Yeah, you're a target, I don't care how politely you're accommodating my rights as an automobile driver. Jesus christ, that's just annoying as hell. I'm hucking a can of Coke at you "just because".
posted by disclaimer at 9:23 AM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I would love to give an IQ test to people who always support the cops and people who have had enough of their bullshit- and see which group scores higher.

I think it would be people who support the cops. I assume you agree, because anyone who was actually intelligent wouldn't post such a stupid statement with any seriousness.
posted by Snyder at 9:44 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Drivers do not want to kill you. They will, in fact, swerve out of the way and wreck their multi-thousand-dollar investment rather than hit you. The fact that you make drivers feel like they might have to make this kind of choice (by, for example, riding on the wrong side of the road or running red lgihts) stresses them out and makes them not like you.
posted by hob at 9:50 AM on September 1, 2007 [11 favorites]


Thanks for that link, fff. Poor guy.
posted by anthill at 9:54 AM on September 1, 2007


I would love to give an IQ test to people who always support the cops and people who have had enough of their bullshit- and see which group scores higher.

You're not going to give a lot of gang members this test, are you?
posted by Cyrano at 10:00 AM on September 1, 2007


If I drive on the wrong side of the street, I'm going to occasionally inconvenience another cyclist.

If you ride on the wrong side of the street, you're significantly more likely to get hit by a car. Because you're moving faster than a pedestrian and you can't stop as quickly you're much more likely to show up in a driveway at the same time as someone pulling in or out. Drivers don't, and shouldn't have to, anticipate cyclists coming the wrong direction down the street.

I'd say cleaning your blood off the bumper is a pretty big inconvenience. Please follow the simple rules, they will save you life and limb.

The worst combo is riding against traffic on the sidewalk. It's called a sidewalk right? Most bike accidents either happen from the front or side, not from overtaking traffic. Barring the occasional insane driver, you are safer riding in the street. You are more visible and other vehicles are more predictable when you ride in the street where you're supposed to be.

If you get yelled at to ride on the sidewalk by aforementioned insane drivers I recommend cutting some cross streets, following them to their destination, and committing vandalism. Not that I've ever done that. Ahem.
posted by polyhedron at 10:05 AM on September 1, 2007


My instinct is that this overreaction by the police and some in the biking mass is directly related to the ongoing anti-rnc activities. I've never before seen the narcs swooping around taking pictures, the incessant helicopter drone, and that many cop cars before and after. Lake street area was swarming with cops after the event.

My guess is that the people staking out the meetings followed everyone as they left to attend the critical mass and accordingly directed the interest of the larger police presence towards the bikers. In fact this could have been a preparatory exercise, a predetermined plan of action, for the cops. A taste to whet the appetite..
posted by kuatto at 10:05 AM on September 1, 2007


It's illegal for bicyclists to ride their bikes on the sidewalks of Minneapolis, and Minnesota state law gives bikers the same rights as vehicles on roads. In fact, vehicles must stay at least three feet away when passing a biker.

So, bikers are thrown in the middle of a really bad situation every day. Critical Mass is for adding bike lanes and just general realization of a huge problem. Bikers, as a whole, are not a nuisance by any means.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting that the Critical Mass event is a mêlée, which means: 08/31 NEVAR FORGET. But in all seriousness, a Minneapolis Police Officer had stated to one media agency that the actions of a few individuals from out of town, who were participating in pReNC activities, destroyed it for everyone.

Interestingly, of the 13 currently being held without bail on suspicion of rioting, 12 of these people are Minneapolis citizens or attend a local University.
posted by kedster at 10:22 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


It seems like CM attracts at least enough wackjobs and bad behavior to give cyclists a bad name. Sure the cops were probably out of line, but I also don't buy the "totally unprovoked" attacks either. If my little city ever had a Critical Mass event, I doubt very much I would participate. I'll just keep "asserting my rights" by riding peacefully to work and on errands, obeying the traffic laws* and being courteous.

*Where possible. Yes, I do run some red lights after a complete stop and when it's totally clear for a long way in all directions. My bike simply will not trigger the light to turn green, ever. By the time I go to the sidewalk to push the walk button, I could be across. I do however HATE other cyclists who come at me on the wrong side of the road. That is a recipe for disaster, and it won't be someone in a car that gets hurt or killed.
posted by The Deej at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2007


well, it's really not much different than a rather large conspiracy to disrupt the city. can't see as i blame the police for treating them like the terrorists they are. i say, declare them all enemy combatants and ship em off to guantanamo.
posted by quonsar at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2007


Ahh!, I meant that it's illegal for bikers to be on SIDEWALKS, not streets. They can be on streets.

Oh, that is one good thing about my city: It's legal to ride on the sidewalk as long as you give pedestrians the right of way.

There are long stretches of sidewalk where you never even see a pedestrian, and if that gets me off of a busy street with no shoulder, I use it. Carefully.
posted by The Deej at 10:28 AM on September 1, 2007


Why are cyclists so aggressive about their rights?

"Did you feel something dear"?

"Probably just a pothole"
posted by srboisvert at 9:12 AM on September 1


Hey, that's great. Hopefully you're joking and I'm just missing it somehow with my underdeveloped Canadian sense of humour. Because threatening to run me over is, y'know, moronic. Hopefully you're not a moron.
posted by monkeymike at 10:29 AM on September 1, 2007


regicide is good for you : If I drive on the wrong side of the street, I'm going to occasionally inconvenience another cyclist. If a motorist rides on the wrong side of the street, it's a Bruce Willis movie. They are radically different forms of transportation.

I appreciate your sentiment, but I think I have to disagree with you. The problem becomes that when a vehicle (car, motorcycle, or bicycle) on the road is not following the traffic patterns, everything else has to react to it. If you are riding on the wrong side of the road, then I, as a driver, have to dedicate more attention to you, and that means that I'm paying less attention on everything else.

The risk of accident for everyone climbs.

I have nothing but respect for bicyclists, but I expect them to follow the same rules of the road that I have to.
posted by quin at 10:30 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Quin, that's clearly a statement coming from someone who doesn't bike. If you expect cyclists to follow the rules of the road just like a car, then it would only be fair to let cyclists take the lane all the time, and never have to ride on the shoulder. I could live with that. But we can't do that. We'd be lynched. The other day, I was riding down a relatively quiet street, taking up the lane because there were cars parked all along the shoulder. A driver who decided he didn't want to wait half a block until I could let her by leaned on the horn, and passed me in the oncoming lane, around a blind corner.

My point is that cyclists are not driving cars. The are using a fundamentally different means of transportation. That the laws don't acknowledge this is just one more example of how bikes are ignored as a means of transportation in North America.

Oh, and next time you turn right, check you mirrors, signal, and fucking shoulder check.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:48 AM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


that's clearly a statement coming from someone who doesn't bike.

Not so much anymore, no. And when I did, it was in a fairly rural area so it was easy to follow the road laws, (stop signs, crosswalks, etc.)

I think the problem here is the classic 'vocal minority' issue. Most cyclists are fine, and follow the rules enough to not cause issue, most drivers recognize cyclists rights and respect them. But then there are those assholes (both in cars and on bikes) that think that the road only belongs to them and everyone else should recognize that. These people fuck it up for everyone.

Oh, and next time you turn right, check you mirrors, signal, and fucking shoulder check.

Always do. But then, I've been on a bicycle and been burned by someone who didn't.
posted by quin at 11:09 AM on September 1, 2007


i once encountered a group of bicyclists going down division street in chicago, in the gold coast. as i attempted to cross the street, however, i discovered i was out of luck; there was no stopping. i was less than happy, i must report.

the relationship between bicyclists, motorists and -- ironically, when you consider common motiviations for bicycling -- pedestrians, given these critical mass demonstrations, seem to me most firmly rooted in anecdote; strikingly so. most bicyclists seem to have stories of dickhead motorists, and most motorists seem to have stories of dickhead bicyclists. that many bicyclists choose to ride bicycles out of ethical concern seems to me to stoke the flame higher. it's quite sad.
posted by moz at 11:11 AM on September 1, 2007


In the end, there is what CM actually accomplishes, as opposed to its stated mission:

Shitty CM riders give automobile drivers what the public feels is a reasonable excuse to badly injure a cyclist's body with an automobile.

As someone still recovering from a shattered kneecap from being doored, with a colleague in the hospital who suffered internal injuries from a recent collision, I can't count the number of times I've been yelled at to "get the fuck off the road" despite riding lawfully.

I don't sympathize with people — on both sides — who cause an environment where that kind of attitude is generally acceptable. I wouldn't ever wish that kind of bodily harm on any fellow cyclist.

Asshole CM riders, for better or worse, give asshole drivers a free pass to punish all cyclists — who are not all CM riders — with severe, maiming, at times life-threatening injuries.

That sucks, and yes, it is the fault of the driver for hitting a cyclist, but that's what CM accomplishes.

Perhaps they should rethink their public relations strategy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


Always do. But then, I've been on a bicycle and been burned by someone who didn't.

Most people don't. I wonder if anyone who hasn't taken a bike on the road does. My point is that bicyclists aren't the only ones who break the rules of the road. The problem is, when drivers more often than not break rules that keep cyclists safe, it's hard to expect cyclists to be exactly respectful of rules that weren't exactly written with them in mind.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:14 AM on September 1, 2007


Having been on some mass rides before, I have suspicions about the lead-up to all this. Usually the sort of person the police describe also swerves back in forth in front of other cyclists and is a hazard to navigation for us.

At St. Louis' Moonlight Ramble there were a couple clowns who, if the police tried to arrest them, the crowd would have been shouting, "Beat his ass!"
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:19 AM on September 1, 2007


Just to explain my bitterness, someone who failed to check or signal took out a friend of mine last summer. She has permanently lost her sense of taste and smell, most of her balance and most of her hearing in one ear.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:20 AM on September 1, 2007


MNSpeak says that we're filled with ire.
posted by taursir at 11:23 AM on September 1, 2007


Again, I would like to point out that this incident, riot whatever, resulted from combination of events.

This is not just an issue of biker's rights viz cars and car culture. The conflating issue here is a clash of political ideology with regards to the upcoming convention.
posted by kuatto at 11:24 AM on September 1, 2007


I feel pretty fortunate that I can do most of my commuting and recreational cycling with minimal interaction with traffic. And I have still had stupid inbred rednecks shout at me out of their beater trucks to get off the road, even when I was not at all in their way or impeding their progress. Stupid people will be stupid, they just look for something to be stupid about, thereby proving their stupidity and protecting their stupid pedigree.

Almost worse are those who are hyper-sensitive and think they are "helping" by stopping for you when you have the stop sign and they don't. Yes, that's great, wave me on into traffic coming the other way, confuse all the other motorists, risk getting yourself rear-ended. I don't need your "help," just follow the rules.

Also, I am thinking of trying to get the local bike community to abandon the "share the road" bumper stickers and billboards and replace them with something like "it's their road too." Sharing sounds like they are doing me a favor. I have as much a right to the road on my bike as in my car.
posted by The Deej at 11:25 AM on September 1, 2007


We actually have bike lanes and bike routes on some streets in Portland, which I consider a great benefit to the biking community and the smog level. The attitude towards cyclists can get quite fierce at times.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends swerved slightly out of the bike lane for a few feet to avoid a branch, was pulled over by a motorcycle officer and given a $240 fine. The officer said he would go back to see if there was any debris in the road, but that my friend could try to contest in court. None of our bike commuter group had ever heard of such a law or statute -- you can't get out of the bike lane, seriously? What if you need to pass a slow cyclist? What if there's a UPS truck parked in the road? Is the amount of the fine really fitting to the violation? (Is it the same amount for a car driver whose wheels cross over the lane line? Or if you run a stop sign on your bike?) And moreover, why does the policeman feel the need to enforce this? He did contest in court, the cop showed up, and said, "nope, didn't see a branch, but go ahead and give him the minimum fine." $160
posted by asfuller at 11:41 AM on September 1, 2007


"Quin, that's clearly a statement coming from someone who doesn't bike. If you expect cyclists to follow the rules of the road just like a car, then it would only be fair to let cyclists take the lane all the time, and never have to ride on the shoulder."

I agree with quin and I biked up to 10mi p/day for 5yrs, until circumstances led to giving up my bike for a few years.

As a cyclist, I realised I was much more agile than people in cars, so I had no problem with making room for them to pass instead of taking up entire lanes. I don't need to take up an entire lane. I'm on a bike. That's part of the point of the thing. I can be on the road and not significantly increase the tail of traffic or the lingering of exhaust in an area, because I can be curbside most of my ride.

Drivers can be assholes, though, I know. I was threatened by many and bumped by a couple. Even followed by some, which worked out less well for them than they thought it might. That fact doesn't give cyclists the right to act like jerks and pretend their choice of transportation is incapable of making compromises with other vehicles, though. It's a bike. The danged thing is pretty much a rolling manifestation of compromise.
posted by batmonkey at 12:25 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I try really hard to not hurt anybody when I'm driving. For that reason, it makes me really angry when bicyclists plow through stop signs as if they weren't there. If you want to kill yourself, please don't make me your weapon! (And yes, I always check behind before pulling out, carefully respect bike lanes, pass very cautiously, etc. And I get just as mad at idiot drivers for similar things. And I think the US needs to have far more bike lanes in general.)
posted by jiawen at 12:48 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: A rolling manifestation of compromise.

(I always wanted to do one of those)
posted by Bonzai at 12:51 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


posted by enn Most drivers will stop when I run out into traffic, also, but guess what? I still prefer using pedestrian crossings and generally avoid stepping into heavy traffic. Crazy, I know, but then we've all got our little quirks.

Well, then you're really in no position to complain. The next time you need to get across the street and your light is green, try crossing. I think you'll be surprised at how many cyclists will either ride around you or stop. I can't speak for everybody, but I always give pedestrians the right-of-way or ride around them.

posted by enn Even if this were true, which I doubt, you're either being disingenuous or you're just insane if you claim to be unable to distinguish between the inconvenience of having to wait thirty seconds for a light a couple times a day, and the inconvenience of having to wait a fucking half hour when you're trying to get home, or to work.

I strongly doubt you've had to wait more than ten or fifteen minutes standing on the curb while Critical Mass rolls by, but if waiting that long once a month on a Friday evening is disrupting your life to a high degree, you have bigger issues that eliminating Critical Mass is not going to solve. Since you know Critical Mass is going to start at 6:00 on the last Friday of the month, try leaving work early or planning a different route if you want to avoid it.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:10 PM on September 1, 2007


... didn't see it mentioned, but Critical Mass Chicago is in limbo right now, as some have called for an end to the monthly central ride (the last one is supposedly this month), in favor of breaking out into smaller neighborhood rides. To me, this is smart.
posted by pfafflin at 1:12 PM on September 1, 2007


Why are you so defensive about the CM thing, fandango_matt?
posted by batmonkey at 1:12 PM on September 1, 2007


I don't deny that there are some assholes on bikes who genuinely make the roads less safe for others, but they are a tiny number compared to the vast numbers of drivers, some assholes, and some well meaning but confused (as The Deej points out), who make the roads less safe for cyclists.

By and large though, I'm more than happy to share the road with cars. It helps that now I'm living in a town where bikes are on the roads everywhere, and this makes drivers a little more aware. The only ones to look out for are the confused tourists. Whistler has convinced me that the easiest way to make the road safer for cyclists is just to get enough people on their bikes that they can be no longer ignored. This is more or less the idea behind critical mass. While, like BP, I have my doubts as to whether they help or harm their cause, I certainly can see the appeal of mass rides as protest.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:22 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've been bicycle commuting in New York for years and the only horror stories I have are about inconvenient flat tires. I've found drivers to have, at the least, no interest in harassing me verbally or physically.

In fact, of the two non-tire-related problems I've had over the years, one was a pedestrian who crossed against the light without looking and was consequently bowled over by me. The other is the pedestrians in the morning around Grand Central who don't seem to think a speeding bike can seriously injure them.

Okay, well, make that three problems: I don't like all my sanctimonious compatriots.
posted by Captaintripps at 2:02 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Bonzai, I'm tickled that I unwittingly provided the means for you to give it a go :)
posted by batmonkey at 2:06 PM on September 1, 2007


After arresting one biker for allegedly "driving straight towards cars," Massers turned back and swarmed the cops, chanting "let him go." Unsurprisingly, since they were outnumbered 2 to 500ish, the cops let him go.

I think this is the key to the whole mess. Typical testosterone-based escalation. This is why Cuba is still embargoed, why Iraq had to be dismantled, and why a dozen squad cars had to be called in to rough up some cyclists. They tried to push the guy in charge around.
posted by mek at 2:12 PM on September 1, 2007


posted by batmonkey Why are you so defensive about the CM thing, fandango_matt?

Probably because I've been riding in Critical Mass for well over a decade, and I've heard every argument against it and people (most of whom have never ridden in Critical Mass) trying to label the event with a mission statement or a purpose. I do, however, agree with [expletive deleted]--as he succinctly pointed out, the easiest way to make the road safer for cyclists is just to get enough people on their bikes that they can be no longer ignored. I should point out I ride in the San Francisco Critical Mass, a ride that routinely has more than 3000 bicyclists and a police escort.

The bottom line is bicyclists have the same rights as cars. That means we're allowed to ride in the street--one, twenty, or a thousand makes no difference. And if you're going to complain about a bunch of bicyclists riding together for a few hours one day of the month, well, I'd remind you cars and trucks get to have their own Critical Mass several hours a day, 29 days of the month. And as I've pointed out earlier, the ride starts at 6:00p on the last Friday of every month. If you can rememeber to plan ahead for rush hour traffic, you can remember to plan ahead for Critical Mass.

When people complain about cyclists running red lights, I like to point out when over a thousand people are riding together on bikes, running red lights is the quickest way for them all to get through the intersections. Now, if you want us all to stop at the lights, we certainly can and I'll happily obey the traffic laws, but you should be aware this means the mass of cyclists will take about twenty times longer, and even more time will be added to your wait.

I do not support the violence, vandalism, or the antagonistic and sanctimonius hooliganism in which some people engage, and the idiots who think Critical Mass is an excuse to smash windshields and dent fenders as part of their own personal monthly war on automobiles--well, those assholes should be in jail. I'm happy to share the road, and I'm not on some mission to eliminate cars. I'm out here to ride my bike, period. I'm not demanding you get out of your car and ride a bike, but don't expect me to have a whole lot of sympathy for you if you're stuck in traffic because you refuse or forget to plan for an event that happens at the same time every month, just like rush hour.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:15 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ah, the razor-sharp logic of CM.

1) People who drive cars are assholes
2) We can be assholes too!
3) ???
4) WE WIN!!!

If CM organizers were smart, they'd do something that really helps to make cycling more popular -- maybe start an organization along the lines of a cyclist AAA.

Offer discounts on bike products and related services, bike & injury insurance, local political lobbying, maybe even start a community credit union and offer discounted loans for new bikes.

I daresay something like that would probably get more done towards helping cyclists than this ZOMG TAKE BAK TEH STREETZ protesting which seems to only bring the hammer down even harder.
posted by Avenger at 2:22 PM on September 1, 2007


fandango_matt wrote: "The bottom line is bicyclists have the same rights as cars. That means we're allowed to ride in the street--one, twenty, or a thousand makes no difference. And if you're going to complain about a bunch of bicyclists riding together for a few hours one day of the month, well, I'd remind you cars and trucks get to have their own Critical Mass several hours a day, 29 days of the month. And as I've pointed out earlier, the ride starts at 6:00p on the last Friday of every month. If you can rememeber to plan ahead for rush hour traffic, you can remember to plan ahead for Critical Mass. "

This might be a debate between different protest styles: Community Awareness vs. Direct Action. I tend to think that the two are fundamentally incompatable.

Hijacking a church service and having hot, gay sex on the altar is not the best way to convince Christians that it's okay to be gay. Protests like that only create more enemies than friends, and only serve to reinforce the insularity and elitism of the "protest group". Thats why most mainstream gay advocacy groups don't protest like that anymore, if they ever did.

It's pointless to piss off the people that you're trying to reach, or to convince them that their notions about you (cyclists are dangerous, law-breaking assholes) seem to be correct.

Note that I _agree_ with the goals of CM: more people should ride bikes, treat cyclists with respect, cars are bad for the environment, etc. But Direct Action against car owners (~90% of the American population) isn't going anywhere. It's DOA.

There are things you can do, even protests you can make that don't involve pissing off commuters and getting smacked around by roid-rage'd cops. But none of those things strongly reinforce group identity the way that Direct Action does, which is why they're not as popular.
posted by Avenger at 2:52 PM on September 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


"I was threatened by many and bumped by a couple. Even followed by some, which worked out less well for them than they thought it might."

batmonkey - As a cyclist who's been yelled at and "bumped", I'd really like to hear more about that!!

Oh yeah... And Critical Mass, I'm not a fan.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 3:06 PM on September 1, 2007


All of that neatly ignores the fact that Critical Mass does not have a goal. Many people try to assign goals to it or use it to promote their own cause or agenda, but ultimately Critical Mass is simply a bike ride, which is why whatever message people try to send with Critical Mass becomes hopelessly muddled and irrelevant.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:11 PM on September 1, 2007


(that was for Avenger)
posted by fandango_matt at 3:11 PM on September 1, 2007


fandango_matt wrote:

Well, then you're really in no position to complain. The next time you need to get across the street and your light is green, try crossing. I think you'll be surprised at how many cyclists will either ride around you or stop. I can't speak for everybody, but I always give pedestrians the right-of-way or ride around them.

That's missing the point. "Just step into traffic and people will probably stop" is not an acceptable solution.

When people complain about cyclists running red lights, I like to point out when over a thousand people are riding together on bikes, running red lights is the quickest way for them all to get through the intersections. Now, if you want us all to stop at the lights, we certainly can and I'll happily obey the traffic laws, but you should be aware this means the mass of cyclists will take about twenty times longer, and even more time will be added to your wait.

No, it won't; as a pedestrian, my wait will be reduced to the duration of the light cycle. But I'm glad you're so willing to compromise; yes, we do want you to stop at the lights during lengthy group rides which trap people on the sidewalk. Glad we've cleared that up.

Really, I'm not trying to bash Critical Mass too hard. It's pretty low on the list of obnoxious cyclist behaviors, far, far below the sub-morons who come whooshing past me inches away on the sidewalk (a near-daily occurrence around here), or, worse yet, the ones who call out "On your left" and expect me to dive for the verge as they barrel past on their ridiculous overbuilt mountain bikes with suspensions better suited to the back forty than to the residential side streets of Chicago. (For some reason, it's nearly always mountain bikes — "the SUVs of bicycles," as our Dear Leader once described them.) Nevermind the responsibility of an overtaking vehicle to cede the right-of-way, as set forth in every code of traffic and navigation regulations I've ever seen.

Critical Mass riders seem, generally, to be less clueless than that. What rankles is the combination of self-righteous indignation at the arrogance and entitlement of drivers at the same time as the participants are displaying that selfsame arrogance and entitlement in their interactions with lowly pedestrians such as myself. Just as Critical Mass riders are (justly) unwilling to accept second-class status on the street, I'm not going to cede my right to the sidewalks and crosswalks to the cyclists who regard me as an interloper.
posted by enn at 3:16 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I like to point out when over a thousand people are riding together on bikes, running red lights is the quickest way for them all to get through the intersections.

I guess you don't like to point out that when over a thousand people are driving together in cars, running red lights is the quickest way for them all to get through the intersections.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:42 PM on September 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


posted by enn "Just step into traffic and people will probably stop" is not an acceptable solution [...] as a pedestrian, my wait will be reduced to the duration of the light cycle. But I'm glad you're so willing to compromise; yes, we do want you to stop at the lights during lengthy group rides which trap people on the sidewalk.

Of course it's an acceptable solution. Pedestrians have the right-of-way, but cyclists aren't mind readers. If you want to cross the street, start crossing the street. But you can't have it both ways. If you want the bicyclists to obey all the traffic regulations, you can't complain when the traffic is snarled even worse than it already is.

posted by Kirth Gerson I guess you don't like to point out that when over a thousand people are driving together in cars, running red lights is the quickest way for them all to get through the intersections.

I'm talking about bicycles, not cars.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:53 PM on September 1, 2007


The lack of organization in CM rides is done for tactical purposes, so I don't consider that an excuse for the troublemakers who seem to always glom onto it. Rather than being an excuse for it, it's the reason it happens over and over again.
posted by erikharmon at 4:01 PM on September 1, 2007


Incidentally, I think the argument is a little different here, Kirth. When cars are driving as a group, like in a parade or funeral procession, they don't stop at stop lights until the whole group is through, either. However, large groups of cars like this take the courtesy of actually getting permits and stuff. I guess funeral processions normally don't but ones with 4,000 people in them do. CM shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. If it's just an unorganized group of bike riders, they should be stopping at the lights. If they are a group of bikers, they should be planning their rides.
posted by erikharmon at 4:06 PM on September 1, 2007


posted by erikharmon CM shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. If it's just an unorganized group of bike riders, they should be stopping at the lights. If they are a group of bikers, they should be planning their rides.

I would agree, except that 4000 bicyclists obeying all the traffic rules--particularly stopping at red lights--is going to snarl the traffic to a much greater degree than if you simply just escort them through. And without a organizational structure, there's no way to obtain a permit--but a permit would be irrelevant, because you don't need a permit to ride your bike down the street.

The best way I've found to deal with Critical Mass (and, just so you know, I once missed a flight because I was stuck in traffic) is to simply accept it as any other unorganized phenomenon for which people gather, like surfing or a Jubilee. It simply happens, and you move on.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:19 PM on September 1, 2007


The bottom line is bicyclists have the same rights as cars. That means we're allowed to ride in the street--one, twenty, or a thousand makes no difference.

...

When people complain about cyclists running red lights, I like to point out when over a thousand people are riding together on bikes, running red lights is the quickest way for them all to get through the intersections.

So you want to assert your "same rights as cars," but are also trying to disclaim what is perhaps the most basic responsibility of cars, that is stopping where traffic law says you have to stop? You know red lights aren't optional, right? Drivers of road vehicles are bound by law to stop at them -- stop signs, too. It's pretty basic stuff.
posted by aaronetc at 4:24 PM on September 1, 2007


I heart bike threads @ MeFi.

Two things: I just want to repeat what [expletive deleted] said, especially regarding the right to a lane: if cyclists were getting equal rights, we could take up whole lanes. In fact, if rights are tied, as some seem to suggest here, to protecting folks (though I'd rather it be myself, and not a traffic ticket, that takes responsibility for my safety), we would be encouraged to do so. Being passed or cut off by people doing the math on the fly in the hopes they can whiz by me with an inch to spare is probably one of the biggest sources of stress in my life.

Also, the idea that traffic safety can only be accomplished by people having to pay as little attention to things as possible - and instead defer to laws and traffic lights - is understandable, but not a universal one. Wired did a great article a couple of years back called Roads Gone Wild, in which an urban planner proposes mixed traffic zones without the typical delineations; and I'm sure many of us have seen the videos, mostly from Asian countries, where this is often more or less the norm, officially or otherwise. When I've got a bit of time later in the day, I'll try to find links. I'm not saying that's the way, but I am inclined toward any system which encourages personal responsibility and awareness and discourages outsourcing of attention.

Oh, and: It's a bike. The danged thing is pretty much a rolling manifestation of compromise.

Beautiful.
posted by regicide is good for you at 4:26 PM on September 1, 2007


Of course it's an acceptable solution. Pedestrians have the right-of-way, but cyclists aren't mind readers. If you want to cross the street, start crossing the street.

I don't know how they do things out there on the left coast, but where I live, some clever fellow has come up with an ingenious solution to this problem. By means of an intricate system of timed and colored lights, we are able to allow both pedestrians and vehicles to cross an intersection at regular intervals! No mind reading is required. Perhaps you might suggest such a system to your local representative.

You seem to have the idea that crossing a street is a privilege which is yours to extend or deny at your pleasure, and you don't seem to understand why pedestrians are not filled with gratitude to hear that you would, maybe, if you saw them, stop before actually running them down in the crosswalk, or that you will deign to permit them to cross streets on times other than those during which you have chosen to reserve the streets for your exclusive use. It might behoove you to give some more thought to this idea.

But you can't have it both ways. If you want the bicyclists to obey all the traffic regulations, you can't complain when the traffic is snarled even worse than it already is.

I have made and will make no such complaint. I have never owned a car. It is exceedingly unlikely that I will ever own a car. Pedestrian traffic is rarely snarled, except when a cohort of cyclists decide to block it for half an hour at a stretch.
posted by enn at 4:26 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


posted by aaronetc So you want to assert your "same rights as cars," but are also trying to disclaim what is perhaps the most basic responsibility of cars, that is stopping where traffic law says you have to stop? You know red lights aren't optional, right? Drivers of road vehicles are bound by law to stop at them -- stop signs, too. It's pretty basic stuff.

Not at all. In fact, I've repeatedly answered this several times in this thread. Do you want the cyclists to stop at all the red lights and snarl traffic further, or do you want them escorted quickly through the interesections (I really like the analogy of a funeral procession) so they disrupt the traffic as little as possible? I was under the assumption the chief complaint from motorists about Critical Mass is the fact they get stuck in traffic, so quickly escorting the cyclists through the intersections would appear to be the most prudent and logical answer to that complaint. Otherwise, the cyclists will snarl traffic to a much greater degree. It's pretty basic stuff.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:33 PM on September 1, 2007


Is this a video of someone from Critical Mass getting their ass beat? Because I would totally watch that.
posted by dhammond at 4:34 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


or do you want them escorted quickly through the interesections?

Yeah, the funny thing is most of us don't really care, so long as everyone has to follow the same rules. Last time I checked, the right for thousands of cyclists to pass through an intersection at once en masse without anyone getting in their way wasn't a protected one. Nor should it be.
posted by dhammond at 4:37 PM on September 1, 2007


posted by enn You seem to have the idea that crossing a street is a privilege which is yours to extend or deny at your pleasure, and you don't seem to understand why pedestrians are not filled with gratitude to hear that you would, maybe, if you saw them, stop before actually running them down in the crosswalk, or that you will deign to permit them to cross streets on times other than those during which you have chosen to reserve the streets for your exclusive use. It might behoove you to give some more thought to this idea.

I'm not familiar with the traffic laws in Chicago and the state of Illinois, but perhaps this is the source of our disagreement--here in California the pedestrian always has the right-of-way (even if they're jaywalking, I believe). The second they set foot off the curb, you're supposed to stop for them.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:38 PM on September 1, 2007


Regicide: it's interesting that you point out the movement toward mixed traffic zones, which I think are a great idea. When a hurricane disabled most of the traffic lights in a town in which I lived, navigating the busiest intersections (on a scooter) was both faster and less stressful than when the lights were functional. Now, as a pedestrian, I find crosswalks where there is no light or stop sign to be some of the best; cars seem happier to wait for one or two people to cross than to wait for a traffic cycle, and no one guns it at the last minute to beat the light.

I think Critical Mass is pretty much the antithesis of mixed traffic zones, though. Look at the pictures from the Amsterdam bike culture link the other day; it's possible for bikes, cars, and pedestrians to coexist in the same space without Critical Mass-style monopolization of the street.
posted by enn at 4:39 PM on September 1, 2007


posted by dhammond Yeah, the funny thing is most of us don't really care, so long as everyone has to follow the same rules. Last time I checked, the right for thousands of cyclists to pass through an intersection at once en masse without anyone getting in their way wasn't a protected one. Nor should it be.

Bullshit. You do care, otherwise you wouldn't be so enraged by a bunch of cyclists. And you'd care even more if Critical Mass was twenty or thirty times longer because everyone obeys the traffic lights.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:40 PM on September 1, 2007


Otherwise, the cyclists will snarl traffic to a much greater degree.

I'll take the law-observant snarling, thanks.
posted by aaronetc at 4:44 PM on September 1, 2007


Critical Mass is passive-aggressive bullying with a bicycle. If you're going to make it twenty or thirty times longer, that's your right and, as long the same rules apply, I'm fine with that. My problem is that Critical Mass doesn't really affect much in area of positive change, unless you consider a once-a-month "fuck you" to drivers something constructive. Which you might, I guess.
posted by dhammond at 4:45 PM on September 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


I would agree, except that 4000 bicyclists obeying all the traffic rules--particularly stopping at red lights--is going to snarl the traffic to a much greater degree than if you simply just escort them through.

Slow-moving vehicles causing snarls by just being slow-moving vehicles is far, far, far better than slow-moving vehicles causing problems by violating basic and actually important traffic-control laws. So, yes, stop at the fucking lights, even if that causes more delays.

Frankly, I think you're being disingenuous here. The problem with stopping at lights, from a CM-ish perspective, is not that it might inconvenience drivers more. It's that it would break up the big wodge of bikers into many much smaller ones. But while bicyclists have every right to be on the road, they don't have any right to travel as an integrated group any more than a bunch of cars do.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:48 PM on September 1, 2007


If I drive on the wrong side of the street, I'm going to occasionally inconvenience another cyclist. If a motorist rides on the wrong side of the street, it's a Bruce Willis movie. They are radically different forms of transportation.

It doesn't matter that they're different forms of transportation. The traffic laws (where I come from) treats them both as vehicles that have the same rights and responsibilities. Same goes for tractors, horses, and rickshaws. The only difference is that slow moving vehicles must keep to the right to let faster moving vehicles pass.

Riding a bike on the wrong side is antisocial and dangerous. You're guaranteed a collision with another cyclist that could result in a serious injury. Mosty likely there will be damage to the bikes. Do you want to pay to replace someone's $2000 carbon fiber frame? Because you would have to if they sued you. You were breaking the law.
posted by disgruntled at 4:56 PM on September 1, 2007


Also, the idea that traffic safety can only be accomplished by people having to pay as little attention to things as possible

It's likely that I am misunderstanding you, but I'll defend my point anyway; I'm not suggesting that I want to be able to drive around without paying attention, just that attention is a finite resource. If my eyes flick to track an object that is operating near the edge of a road in a non-typical way, like a child or an animal that is moving in such a way that it may pass in front of my car, then I am not fully paying attention to everything else that is around me, because I'm concerned that I may have to react to it.

In this respect, bikes are no different. If someone is riding down the wrong side of the street or running traffic signals, I'm paying them more attention than I am everything else, because I want to make sure that if they do something near the front of my car, I can react to them.

In a way, a parallel can be drawn to the point that [expletive deleted] brought up earlier about making sure that drivers check their blind spot when turning. When you, the cyclist, are riding along side a car, and you approach an intersection and the automobile does something that makes you suspect that it may turn into you, you are suddenly dedicating a huge portion of your attention to what the car is doing so that you can react accordingly. So much so that you might miss the big chunk of rock in the road that catches your front tire.

Now you are probably a good enough cyclist that you can both watch the car and mind the rocks in the road, just like I'm a good enough driver to see the bike on the wrong side of the street and not hit the car that suddenly stops in front of me. But I'm sure you'll agree that we are exceptional in this regard, and that there are many others out there that need to make certain that their full attention is dedicated to what's right in front of them, and not on some distracting behavior.
posted by quin at 4:58 PM on September 1, 2007


It's amazing that bicyclists, who demand such respect from motorists, so consistently refuse to extend that same respect to pedestrians, who, from where I am standing, have come up with a means of travel that uses even less resources and is less disruptive to our environment than bikes.

If there is a red light, and I have the green, and I am crossing the street, you had better well stop your fucking bike and not plow through, missing me by inches. I don't care if there is one of you hundred thousand, and I don't care if it inconveniences the traffic you have backed up for three miles, and I don't care that you seem to think that I should simply step into the streets in front of bikes and hope they stop. If the green light is with me, and I am at the cross walk, whose street is it?

It's my street.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:20 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


And I say this as a pedestrian who has nearly been hit by bicyclists at least three times in the past two months -- a far greater number of near-misses than I have experienced with automobiles.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:21 PM on September 1, 2007


Is this a video of someone from Critical Mass getting their ass beat? Because I would totally watch that.
posted by dhammond at 4:34 PM on September 1 [+] [!]


Metafilter: filled with ire.
posted by mek at 5:52 PM on September 1, 2007


Do you want the cyclists to stop at all the red lights and snarl traffic further, or do you want them escorted quickly through the interesections ... so they disrupt the traffic as little as possible?

You seem to be laboring under the impression that the only traffic being snarled is going in the same direction you are. It isn't. Traffic trying to cross your path is relying on you to stop for those lights. That traffic includes pedestrians, cars, and bicycles, none of which can get any closer to where they want to go so long as you pretend that your needs take priority over theirs.

Go visit Beijing, where you will see a major fraction of a population larger than New York's riding bicycles every day in very heavy mixed traffic. Their flocks of bikes make your Mass look paltry. Guess what? They are expected to stop at traffic lights, and they mostly do.

Your tactics seem calculated to cause maximum disruption and aggravation. The subject of this post seems to indicate you're succeeding in that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:58 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Guess what? They are expected to stop at traffic lights, and they mostly do.

This statement makes me seriously doubt you've been to Beijing, unless by mostly you mean around 55% or so.

On a more serious note, I don't really understand where all this hatred for Critical Mass comes from. All this anger directed towards an event that might be a minor inconvenience once a month at most. I can't imagine anyone who commutes in a car being more inconvenienced by cyclists than other cars. In Beijing, sure. In North America? Give me a fucking break. A few minutes a month aside, cyclists are giving drivers a break by not contributing to congestion.

As for those of you who want the mass to be broken up at stop lights, you clearly have no idea just what a clusterfuck that would become. Imagine what happens when a column of cars turning off the cross street find themselves sandwiched between 1000 bikes in front and 1000 behind. Repeat until it's just an undifferentiated mass of cars and bikes, with nobody getting anywhere fast. Then someone loses it and just plows through a few hipsters on fixies. Then all hell breaks loose. Srsly.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 6:52 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


An interesting blog entry (via MNSpeak) from someone who was there. Interesting because he mentions protesters involved in the pReNC activities. Also consistent with another account I read that involved some of the more aggressive cyclists, including the fellow who was riding at cars and yelling in people's windows (fandango_matt: HE DID! HE DID! HE DID USE THE F WORD! He was yelling "fucking pathetic" into people's vehicles!) It definitely sounds like there were some shit-stirrers in the midst of the normal riders. The account I read mentioned three riders who made a point of covering their faces who seemed particularly interested in agitating motorists. Hmmm.



Also: Video and video and video. Maybe not as graphic as some might like, but I think they were all from still cameras and phones.


It's a bike. The danged thing is pretty much a rolling manifestation of compromise.
Ain't that the truest of truths. I'm going to paint this on at least one of my bikes.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:54 PM on September 1, 2007


As for those of you who want the mass to be broken up at stop lights, you clearly have no idea just what a clusterfuck that would become.

As a pedestrian, that's a big pile of not my problem. If you want a parade, get a permit.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:40 PM on September 1, 2007


All of that neatly ignores the fact that Critical Mass does not have a goal.

This is a curious assertion, since CM riders very clearly organize for some common purpose, whatever that might be. It's not a collection of cyclists who by chance happen to be in one place at the same time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:58 PM on September 1, 2007


The main problem I have with CM is they seem to be trying to prove how right and normal it should be to share the street with bikes by bringing out a wrong and abnormal quantity of bikes all at once, reinforcing the wrong-headed idea that cyclists are a nuisance.

The streets are not meant to accomodate a thousand cycles in a pack all at once any more than they are meant to accomodate 10 times the normal amount of cars all at once. Purposely crowding the steets with more bikes than the streets are made for proves nothing except that 1000 bikes shouldn't ride together in a pack.

Years ago, when the 55 mph speed limit was introduced, a group of UofM student had the idea to prove a point they would drive 55, 3 abreast on the interstate between Detroit and Ann Arbor. It got plenty of press coverage, and left most people with the opinion that the students were self-righteous jerks, not that everyone should obey the speed limit. True, they did not technically break the law (although they were ticketed for creating a hazard, if I recall), but they really didn't prove anything positive either.

It may be that CM has a wonderful positive imact that goes unreported because only negative news is "news." If you have fun doing it, go for it, it's your right.

But the best way to show that bikes and cars can integrate on the streets, is to go about your business, ride your bike, and integrate. If you want more visibility, you don't have to ride with 999 other bikes. You can put an orange flag on your sissy bar.
posted by The Deej at 10:08 PM on September 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, anyone who wears a spandex suit and helmet that match their bike? Yeah, you're a target, I don't care how politely you're accommodating my rights as an automobile driver. Jesus christ, that's just annoying as hell. I'm hucking a can of Coke at you "just because".
posted by disclaimer at 9:23 AM on September 1

Drivers do not want to kill you. They will, in fact, swerve out of the way and wreck their multi-thousand-dollar investment rather than hit you. [...]
posted by hob at 9:50 AM on September 1
*head explodes*
posted by hades at 10:14 PM on September 1, 2007


As for those of you who want the mass to be broken up at stop lights, you clearly have no idea just what a clusterfuck that would become. Imagine what happens when a column of cars turning off the cross street find themselves sandwiched between 1000 bikes in front and 1000 behind. Repeat until it's just an undifferentiated mass of cars and bikes, with nobody getting anywhere fast. Then someone loses it and just plows through a few hipsters on fixies. Then all hell breaks loose. Srsly.

what i've learned from this thread is that roads aren't really built for bicyclists. motorists are often at odds with bicyclists, and the feelings are generally mutual; with critical mass, bicyclists have additionally discovered a way to put themselves at odds with pedestrians, with (what i consider) questionable purpose.

at the end of the day, i suppose, i feel like many bicyclists and motorists sharing the same road is a lot like a square peg struggling to fit in a round hole. the critical mass group, in that analogy, would be some guy with the hammer, repeatedly smashing the peg, complaining: "see! it doesn't fit!" as he hammers again.

i like the idea of a bike lane, which has been done in many areas of chicago, but hardly exists outside the city limits. that might be the best compromise so far -- aside from proper bike paths.
posted by moz at 11:31 PM on September 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


posted by dhammond Critical Mass is passive-aggressive bullying with a bicycle.

Well, now you know how bicyclists feel about cars and trucks the other 29 days of the month.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:32 AM on September 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


posted by me & my monkey If you want a parade, get a permit.

Critical Mass is not a parade. You do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:34 AM on September 2, 2007


posted by Blazecock Pileon CM riders very clearly organize for some common purpose, whatever that might be. It's not a collection of cyclists who by chance happen to be in one place at the same time.

Apparently you didn't read the other half of my post you're quoting, in which I said "Many people try to assign goals to [Critical Mass] or use it to promote their own cause or agenda, but ultimately Critical Mass is simply a bike ride, which is why whatever message people try to send with Critical Mass becomes hopelessly muddled and irrelevant."
posted by fandango_matt at 12:57 AM on September 2, 2007


posted by The Deej The main problem I have with CM is they seem to be trying to prove how right and normal it should be to share the street with bikes by bringing out a wrong and abnormal quantity of bikes all at once, reinforcing the wrong-headed idea that cyclists are a nuisance.

The only people who think the streets "cannot handle" a "wrong and abnormal" quantity of bicycles are people who do not think bicycles have an equal right to the road.

posted by The Deej The streets are not meant to accomodate a thousand cycles in a pack all at once any more than they are meant to accomodate 10 times the normal amount of cars all at once. Purposely crowding the steets with more bikes than the streets are made for proves nothing except that 1000 bikes shouldn't ride together in a pack.

Seems to me a street that can't handle 1000 bicycles isn't capable of handling cars at all.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:05 AM on September 2, 2007


Apparently you didn't read the other half of my post you're quoting

I did, but it doesn't seem to jibe with what I understand from other CM participants to be the general understanding of what riders are there for.

ultimately Critical Mass is simply a bike ride

Are you saying that a majority of Critical Mass participants are riding without wishing to further any common political, moral, ethical, philosophical etc. agenda whatsoever?

Near as I can tell from documentary and written materials published by CM participants, there seems to be some core message behind the organization of and conduction of any given bike ride, with meaning beyond simply the event itself.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:17 AM on September 2, 2007


Let me explain this for you one last time.

1. Critical Mass is a bicycle ride. The ride has no meaning or goal.

2. People ride in Critical Mass and try to use it as a way to promote their own agendas or causes. However, these agendas or causes are not the goals of Critical Mass. See #1.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:32 AM on September 2, 2007


fandango_matt:
  • "when over a thousand people are riding together on bikes, running red lights is the quickest way for them all to get through the intersections."
  • "Critical Mass is not a parade. You do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street."

    It seems to me that "when over a thousand people are riding together on bikes, running red lights," that's the very definition of a fucking parade. Get a permit if you don't want to follow traffic laws. The thousand bike riders would be making a much stronger point about co-existence by riding to and from work every day along their own separate routes than by gathering together once a month and clogging a single path for recreation—not commute.

  • posted by stopgap at 2:07 AM on September 2, 2007


    posted by stopgap It seems to me that "when over a thousand people are riding together on bikes, running red lights," that's the very definition of a fucking parade. Get a permit if you don't want to follow traffic laws.

    You do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street. In the San Francisco and Berkeley Critical Mass rides, the police escort bicyclists through the intersections. No permits are needed, no laws are broken.

    posted by stopgap The thousand bike riders would be making a much stronger point about co-existence by riding to and from work every day along their own separate routes than by gathering together once a month and clogging a single path for recreation—not commute.

    Bicyclists have the same rights as cars. This means bicyclists are free to use the road, regardless of whether their purpose for doing so is recreation or transportation.
    posted by fandango_matt at 2:19 AM on September 2, 2007


    "Bicyclists have the same rights as cars."

    Seriously, have you thought about what you've posted here at all? You assert that bicycles have more rights than cars. Specifically, the right to run red lights at will.
    posted by stopgap at 2:30 AM on September 2, 2007


    posted by stopgap Seriously, have you thought about what you've posted here at all? You assert that bicycles have more rights than cars. Specifically, the right to run red lights at will.

    Seriously, have you read what I've posted here at all? The police are escorting the Critical Mass cyclists through the intersections in the interests of minimizing the impact on traffic. See [expletive deleted]'s post about the alternative.
    posted by fandango_matt at 2:40 AM on September 2, 2007


    [expletive deleted] is wrong; I have been to Beijing several times. My wife grew up there, and her family still lives there. Beijing traffic looks chaotic, but there is an underlying logic to it. Bicyclists who run red lights stand a good chance of winding up under a King Long bus.

    I don't really understand where all this hatred for Critical Mass comes from.

    With a couple of exceptions, there isn't any "hatred" in this thread. Most of the people arguing against the wonderfullness of the event are just questioning its utility and point.
    posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:20 AM on September 2, 2007


    I'm not familiar with the traffic laws in Chicago and the state of Illinois, but perhaps this is the source of our disagreement--here in California the pedestrian always has the right-of-way (even if they're jaywalking, I believe).
    Ah, but you see, that's the problem with picking and choosing which traffic laws you're going to follow. Pedestrians aren't mind-readers, either. Given that you've unilaterally decided that the law about stopping at lights doesn't apply to you, how am I supposed to know that you haven't made the same decision about laws pertaining to pedestrians having the right of way?

    I'm with Astro Zombie: I'm primarily a pedestrian, and I have much more frequent run-ins with bikes than with cars. I don't know whether this is because there's a culture of entitlement among bike riders or whether it's just that we're still working out a workable system for urban bicycling. At any rate, CM seems to reinforce the idea that bike riders are over-entitled jerks who don't care about sharing urban space, and if I were a bike rider I don't think I'd be especially thrilled about them.
    posted by craichead at 7:37 AM on September 2, 2007


    The only people who think the streets "cannot handle" a "wrong and abnormal" quantity of bicycles are people who do not think bicycles have an equal right to the road.

    f_m, you have obviously not read a single thing I have written. If you had you would know: I communte by bike every day. I bike wayyyyyyy more than I drive. In fact, I haven't in over a week. Bikes have as much right to the road as cars.

    But it IS a fact that 1000 bikes all at once is abnormal. By definition. That is a fact. If it were the norm, it would happen every day, and the infrastructure would be changed to handle it, like, say Amsterdam. It's my OPINION that it's also the wrong way to go about getting more acceptance for bikes as traffic.

    Oh, but wait. CM is not trying to say anything. It's just a bike ride.

    Whatever, CM is your thing. Go for it. But don't assume that everyone who doesn't agree with you and CM automatically thinks bikes have no rights. It's insulting.
    posted by The Deej at 7:50 AM on September 2, 2007


    Let me explain this for you one last time.

    1. Critical Mass is a bicycle ride. The ride has no meaning or goal.

    2. People ride in Critical Mass and try to use it as a way to promote their own agendas or causes. However, these agendas or causes are not the goals of Critical Mass. See #1.
    posted by fandango_matt at 1:32 AM on September 2


    Friend, no matter how many times you explain it, you're still talking shit there.

    CM rides are (de facto) Organized Events . Whether or not there were monogrammed invitations, t-shirts or catering, it happens at a set time and place, and has a set route. The authorities, without being formally asked, provide logistical support. It's not like they get a 911 call every month from someone who says "help! there's a whack of anarchist cyclists out here" and the police respond with "gosh, we should immediately control all intersections and let them through so that they don't cause 10 times the disruption".

    Yes it is a bike ride. But it's not JUST some folks out for a ride at the same time and in the same direction; it has a political purpose (or many purposes) and it deserves to be treated like any other organised mass protest, whether the organisers bother to get a permit or not.

    You can't have it both ways.

    It's interesting to compare the North American status of cycling with that of Europe as portrayed in that Amsterdam photo thread, as someone else mentioned. The bikes themselves typify the difference. The Amsterdam bikes are plain, modest, utilitarian, almost banal... and everywhere. Here, the bikes are double-sprung mountain bikes, or titanium-framed single-speed track bikes, or triathlon bikes with aero-bars. Matte-black urban hybrids. Fat-tired retro cruisers. Just about anything except plain ole bikes. And bikes are used regularly by only a minority of the population. That's the main problem right there.

    As someone else mentioned, we really need an AAA/CAA for cyclists, to help us speak with a single strong voice. Cycling in North American cities has to be seen as a completely normal mainstream activity, not just a kids toy/jock's toy/lefty affectation.
    posted by Artful Codger at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2007


    Critical Mass is the reason I make it a policy to door as many cyclists as possible.
    posted by Danelope at 9:51 AM on September 2, 2007


    Kirth, have you ever had to commute in Beijing? That was a fucking nightmare that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

    Perhaps certain areas are worse than others, but there were a few intersections I had to get through to get to work where basically nobody was obeying the rules of the road, and it regularly became a snarl that would stop traffic entirely at the intersection for 15 minutes or sometimes more. Once a few too many people try to turn left from the right lane, or some black taxi tries to run a red, then everyone in a car is stuck and the cyclists pour into the intersection from all directions, along with pedestrians, of course.

    I'm sure you've seen this, so I don't really know why you used Beijing as an example of lawful and orderly cycling. Ultimately though, Beijing's real problem is their newfound love affair with cars. While you don't see bikes clogging main arterial roads, you will see registered taxis barreling down a segregated bike lane with the horn blaring continually. I'm sure Zhongnanhai would like to see the bicycle done away with, and everyone in a private car, because they're insane.

    One thing I can say for Beijing though: the streets were designed with cycling in mind, and that makes a huge difference.
    posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:31 AM on September 2, 2007


    To be fair, a good deal of Beijing's traffic problems could be solved by planning intersections a little better.
    posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:33 AM on September 2, 2007


    Fuck these people. I've had to deal with their bullshit riding in all lanes of traffic, head on, and generally fucking up the entire road while they bitch and yell at you as they pass. They are dangerous, annoying, and breaking the law. I have no sympathy.
    posted by Muddler at 10:35 AM on September 2, 2007


    One of the aims of arranging for a large number of cyclists to ride together during rush hour must surely be to raise the profile of cycling and force debate of the issues related.

    Critical Mass (or Manners) seems to achieve this.

    I personally do not think that cars and bicycles should be on the same road, unless absolutely necessary. I wouldn't go as far as one of my friends who has just taken up cycling, and is now of the opinion that anyone who lives within 4 miles of their workplace should be prevented from driving there in a vehicle powered by internal combustion, but the transport issue is an important one that needs discussion.

    As any fule kno, building more road space for automobiles simply increases the number that use them, so that cannot be the solution.

    Governments around the world are promoting healthier lifestyles on paper, whilst still acting at the behest of the multinational companies who produce cars, roads and etc. As the price of petrol continues to increase, they may find that they have to actually do something constructive to help the situation to get the votes in, as many people will be looking for alternatives to driving to places and driving vehicles with internal combustion engines may become the domain of the rich.
    posted by asok at 10:37 AM on September 2, 2007


    Better World Club is a roadside assistance and travel club for bikes, like AAA for bikes (and cars).
    posted by katinka-katinka at 10:38 AM on September 2, 2007


    posted by craichead Given that you've unilaterally decided that the law about stopping at lights doesn't apply to you, how am I supposed to know that you haven't made the same decision about laws pertaining to pedestrians having the right of way?

    I have not unilaterally decided that the law about stopping at lights doesn't apply to me. The police decided to escort cyclists through intersections in the interests of reducing the impact on traffic.

    posted by The Deej But it IS a fact that 1000 bikes all at once is abnormal. By definition. That is a fact. If it were the norm, it would happen every day, and the infrastructure would be changed to handle it, like, say Amsterdam.

    No, it's not a fact. If you agree that bikes have the same rights as cars, and the streets can handle daily rush hour traffic of cars, then the streets must also be able to handle a rush hour of bicycles. Unless, of course, you disagree because you think the streets belong to cars first, and bicycles second.
    posted by fandango_matt at 11:14 AM on September 2, 2007


    (insert heavy sigh)

    f_d, sorry, but I won't debate the definition of "normal" with you.

    I can indeed believe and act as though bikes have as much right to the street as cars, and at the same time know that a 1000 bikes riding in a group, with some of the group corking the intersections, is not normal.

    Excuse me... I have to go now. I'll be riding my bike for a while. On the street. Like I normally do.
    posted by The Deej at 11:24 AM on September 2, 2007


    Better World Club is a roadside assistance and travel club for bikes, like AAA for bikes (and cars).

    Interesting. They seem to be a "green" car club/business with a bicycling support program.

    I suspect they wouldn't be interested in being the lightning rod for national bicycle advocacy. Also, their current bike advocacy seems, umm, a bit skewed towards bicycling nekkid. Critical Ass, indeed.
    posted by Artful Codger at 11:31 AM on September 2, 2007


    But it IS a fact that 1000 bikes all at once is abnormal. By definition. That is a fact. If it were the norm, it would happen every day, and the infrastructure would be changed to handle it, like, say Amsterdam.

    But that is exactly what a good deal of Critical Massholes, like myself, would want. I want thousands of bikes on the road. I want the infrastructure changed to accomodate bikes. Even in lefty ol' Vancouver, there is no end to the bitching of drivers every time bike lanes are proposed. Since thousands of bikes on the road isn't the norm (and it won't be until planners consider bikes at least as an afterthought) we are going to be a minor inconvenience one afternoon a month. Oh noes!
    posted by [expletive deleted] at 11:36 AM on September 2, 2007


    posted by Artful Codger CM rides are (de facto) Organized Events . Whether or not there were monogrammed invitations, t-shirts or catering, it happens at a set time and place, and has a set route. The authorities, without being formally asked, provide logistical support. It's not like they get a 911 call every month from someone who says "help! there's a whack of anarchist cyclists out here" and the police respond with "gosh, we should immediately control all intersections and let them through so that they don't cause 10 times the disruption".

    Yes it is a bike ride. But it's not JUST some folks out for a ride at the same time and in the same direction; it has a political purpose (or many purposes) and it deserves to be treated like any other organised mass protest, whether the organisers bother to get a permit or not.


    Critical Mass is not an organized event. Critical Mass has no organizers, no set route, you do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street, and the last time I checked, we have the right to assemble peacefully.
    posted by fandango_matt at 11:43 AM on September 2, 2007


    Maybe the League of American Bicyclists is more of an advocacy group.
    posted by katinka-katinka at 12:04 PM on September 2, 2007


    The Deej, you and I are both comfortable riding on the street, but many people aren't. This is part of the appeal of CM for me. While not everyone participating is necessarily engaging in protest, there certainly is an element of protest present at most rides.

    Until things change, only a few brave souls will ride on the street, and until we get a certain critical mass of cyclists on the road at all times, cycling will continue to be a marginalized form of transportation, whether or not hooligans on bikes cork intersections one hour a month.

    As far as I am concerned, Critical Mass is succeeding as long as it makes cycling more visible, and makes at least a few people watching think "hey, that looks like fun." My first encounter with critical mass was as a pedestrian on Main street in Vancouver. At least some people who see a Mass go by are inspired, otherwise, it wouldn't exist.
    posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2007


    Critical Massholes

    Critical Mass Debaters?
    posted by Grangousier at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


    force debate of the issues related

    I suspect if you try to the force a stressed-out public on matters of getting to and from work, they will come out on the side of drivers, rather than their antagonists.

    Beware who you choose to alienate, because it affects all cyclists, not just CM riders.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:42 PM on September 2, 2007


    [expletive deleted] writes "As far as I am concerned, Critical Mass is succeeding as long as it makes cycling more visible"

    Succeeding at what?

    I thought it was just a ride.

    Why all this debate and energy, then?

    fandango_matt writes "Critical Mass is not an organized event. Critical Mass has no organizers, no set route, you do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street, and the last time I checked, we have the right to assemble peacefully."

    That's true. As an individual, you don't need a permit. A planned protest requires permits. Unplanned protests of any size usually don't fare very well with local authorities. Any other vehicles riding in a group, blocking traffic, apparently require permits, too. I am not sure why the exception must be made for bicycles. I say this as someone who sympathizes with the ride.

    It's disingenuous to do this and then feign ignorance of any purpose behind it, or the need to be subject to the same rules and regulations we all are. I can see why we shouldn't need to petition the government to speak, but this isn't a debate about that. It's just a ride, right? At that level, what if it's an issue of right-of-way, rules of the road and public safety? Surely the participants would want it to go smoothly, right? Bike races on roads require permits. Why not permits?

    Or why not just come out and embrace the very nature of the ride? The fact that it's called "Critical Mass" implies a definite purpose. I don't see anything wrong with that.
    posted by krinklyfig at 1:17 PM on September 2, 2007


    posted by krinklyfig As an individual, you don't need a permit. A planned protest requires permits. Unplanned protests of any size usually don't fare very well with local authorities. Any other vehicles riding in a group, blocking traffic, apparently require permits, too. I am not sure why the exception must be made for bicycles. I say this as someone who sympathizes with the ride.

    Critical Mass is neither a protest, nor is it planned. Critical Mass has no organizers, and therefore has no one who will obtain a permit, which it doesn't require in the first place, because you do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street. At its most basic level, Critical Mass is a group of people exercising their First Amendment right to peacefully assemble--and, to a lesser extent, their right of free speech--two rights for which you do not need a permit.

    posted by krinklyfig It's disingenuous to do this and then feign ignorance of any purpose behind it, or the need to be subject to the same rules and regulations we all are. I can see why we shouldn't need to petition the government to speak, but this isn't a debate about that. It's just a ride, right? At that level, what if it's an issue of right-of-way, rules of the road and public safety? Surely the participants would want it to go smoothly, right? Bike races on roads require permits. Why not permits?

    Critical Mass riders are subject to, and should follow the same traffic laws as everyone else. The police escort facilitates quick transit through intersections so the impact on traffic is reduced.
    Critical Mass is not a race. See above.

    posted by krinklyfig Why all this debate and energy, then?

    Probably because people like you keep insisting we're breaking the law and we need a permit to exercise rights for which we need no permits.
    posted by fandango_matt at 1:36 PM on September 2, 2007


    Critical Mass is the reason I make it a policy to door as many cyclists as possible.
    posted by Danelope at 9:51 AM on September 2
    And attitudes like that are a reason some Critical Mass participants make it a policy to antagonize as many drivers as possible. At least here in Seattle, though, I haven't heard of many CM riders sending auto drivers to the hospital.

    I'm a bicycle commuter, not particularly driver-antagonistic, and I see that my regular commute takes me through your neck of the woods. If I happen to get doored by you, I'll be sure to bring up that comment when the police ask me why I want to press charges for what was clearly an accident.
    posted by hades at 1:41 PM on September 2, 2007


    It seems like Critical Mass is like a Rorschach test. People see in it what they want. I was talking about my feelings about it, not any stated goals of the event. Fandango_matt is right to say that the event itself isn't really planned, aside from a place and time. People get different things out of it, and people see different things in it. I can only speak for myself.

    Critical Mass Debaters?

    Metafilter: Mass Debate
    posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:46 PM on September 2, 2007


    People see in it what they want.

    I agree with the general goal of making cyclists more visible, and making cycling a more attractive alternative to automobile use. I say this as a cyclist who commutes to work every day, rain or shine, who has suffered injuries from careless drivers.

    While a group event might let most Critical Mass riders temporarily work out their frustrations with drivers, I just don't think that the evidence shows that Critical Mass is going about this in such a way that their organization genuinely benefits all cyclists, either in the long- or short-term.
    posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:57 PM on September 2, 2007


    posted by [expletive deleted] Critical Mass is like a Rorschach test.

    God damn it, Critical Mass is not a Rorschach test. Critical Mass is a... oh, wait. Sorry.
    posted by fandango_matt at 1:57 PM on September 2, 2007


    BP, I was doored a few years back and stopped riding my bike for a while. Seeing a Mass go by was kind of a catalyst. It had a bit of a protest atmosphere to be sure, but it also looked fun and cheeky. It made me want to get back on a bike. A month or so later, I had a new bike, and I was back on the road.

    If that story gets repeated, maybe just once or twice a ride, I don't give a damn who it momentarily inconveniences.
    posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:13 PM on September 2, 2007


    Critical Mass riders are subject to, and should follow the same traffic laws as everyone else.

    Agreed. My complaint is when they don't follow the same rules. Last time I ran into CM in Los Angeles, there was no police escort and the riders were corking, including one rider who saw fit to put his foot on the hood of my car while I was stopped at a green light.

    Anyway, I'm glad to see that you are also opposed to this sort of behavior (since corking isn't allowed by law, after all).
    posted by dhammond at 2:24 PM on September 2, 2007


    Critical Mass is not an organized event. Critical Mass has no organizers, no set route, you do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street, and the last time I checked, we have the right to assemble peacefully.

    Hey FM, I'm not after removing your (and my) right to assemble peacefully. I don't even care if CM rides get a permit or not. And I think it's a sensible, real-world policy that escorts and intersection control are usually provided.

    I totally understand that CMs are now a tradition, a known thing that can now happen without any overt organization, now that the precedents are set.

    But, hey, Critical Mass rides happen the last Friday of the month, they assemble at a known location, and they start at a known time. Hardly a spontaneous occurrence.

    Matt, the only reason I'm belabouring this point is that you seem to be saying that cyclists should have the same rights as motorists to occupy the streets (no disagreement there) but you get all coy when it's pointed out that the CM rides are policed and that intersections are held open for the riders. Like most other protests.

    Parades, funerals, motorcades, marches, rallies - the police control intersections so they can pass unhampered. Oh, and CM too, which as you know ISN'T just a ride, it's a collective act of relatively mild civil disobedience, given the way the riders choose to ignore many traffic regulations and antagonize drivers.

    Personally, I think CMs should continue. I would just like to see some separation between promoting cycling as a good choice for everybody, and indulging some hobby-anarchist brats.
    posted by Artful Codger at 4:27 PM on September 2, 2007


    I'm a bicycle commuter, not particularly driver-antagonistic, and I see that my regular commute takes me through your neck of the woods. If I happen to get doored by you, I'll be sure to bring up that comment when the police ask me why I want to press charges for what was clearly an accident.

    Ahh, but I don't own a car. I am a pedestrian and daily rider of the illustrious Metro Transit, unfortunate enough to require transferring downtown, who finds himself reguarly inconvenienced by Seattle's Critical Mass and their refusal to either obey traffic laws or permit pedestrians to go about their business unimpeded. Having a U-lock swung at one's head for the unforgiveable act of trying to make it to Third before your bus pulls away causes joy to overflow from one's heart after yet another 60-hour work week.

    My outright troll, as regrettable as it was, is a response to fandango_matt's disingenuous and deliberately obtuse "Critical Mass is not organized" word games despite all evidence to the contrary. Next up: "Critical Mass does not exist! It is a contrivance of the vast right-wing conspiracy!" And then some Chuck Palahniuk quotes.
    posted by Danelope at 4:44 PM on September 2, 2007


    Oooh, bicyclefilter! These threads always end well.

    I'm not sure what's been written above, but I assume its almost exactly the same as every other time.

    I'm gonna throw in 2c - as a daily cycle commuter & casual weekend rider - and then duck out of the way of the trainwreck.

    I used to go on Critical Mass rides semi-regularly, until I decided that the group does more bad than good for the cycling cause. Skimming upwards, Blazecock puts it well:

    While a group event might let most Critical Mass riders temporarily work out their frustrations with drivers, I just don't think that the evidence shows that Critical Mass is going about this in such a way that their organization genuinely benefits all cyclists, either in the long- or short-term.

    Mostly, I just see something akin to the revenge of the bullied, a rather adolescent glee at having, for one hour a month, some degree of power over one's stronger antagonist. Meh to that. I prefer to indirectly promote cycling by merrily gliding past gridlocked traffic every morning & evening. Cutting across reds, using traffic-controlling measures like cul-de-sacs & speed humps to my advantage, and switching to pedestrian routes to bypass logjams just adds to the cheeky fun.

    Two Critical Mass rides remain on my calendar, though: the annual summer fully-coordinated-with-police Sydney Harbour Bridge ride, and the ride out to Bondi Beach. These are more like fun-run type events, and lack much of the snotty, aggressive 'protest' elements of the regular rides.
    posted by UbuRoivas at 4:48 PM on September 2, 2007


    Arguing that CM isn't "planned" is a goddamn laugh riot. To anybody who has made this claim thus far in the thread: Do you know, off the top of your head, when and where the next ride is going to start? Or the one after that? Can it be found printed up in the events section of my local weekly newsmagazines? Have you already, in this thread, admonished drivers because they should "know when it's going to happen and be able to plan around it?" Profound levels of disingenuity abound! (aside as to how bullshit that argument is anyway -- if you know ahead of time that I am going to show up outside of your house at 3am on the first Saturday of each month and blast deafening music for two hours, hearing me say "well you know when it's going to happen every month! It's not my fault if you don't plan around it!" probably won't comfortyou much. It's a nuisance I don't have to put you through either way, even if you know when it's going to happen.)

    fandango_matt, if Critical Mass isn't some organized group, if it's just a random haphazard collection of thousands of people that happened to all show up in the same place at the same time and do the same thing, then you have got to quit telling people what the purpose of it is or isn't. If it's completely decentralized and uncollectivized, then your opinion of what it is or isn't about is no more valid than the opinion of the thousands of other riders, many of whom talk about what it IS about, in person and in interviews for articles on web sites and in newspapers.

    And although I can't claim to know the intentions of all of those thousands of other people, it is blatantly clear that they are not taking steps to AVOID antagonizing others. If they were, maybe they wouldn't choose to monopolize all lanes of unidirectional traffic every month in the middle of rush hour. You'd think that would be about the worst possible time to try to have a fun ride, and way more space then they'd need to do it peacefully! Don't you think maybe, just once, all these total strangers who happened to bump into each other by accident, maybe they'd all bump into each other in the middle of the day on a weekend, and maybe they'd peacefully raise awareness by leaving at least one other lane open, perhaps SHARING THE ROAD, so to speak, so that drivers would see what an impressive mass of bicycling enthusiasts there are, but would still be able to get around? Maybe all these random riders would also refrain from running stop signs and red lights (and no, the riders aren't escorted in every city, so please quit parroting that line over and over and over again), so that even if they did get separated, they wouldn't further inflame the goodwill of people who may have otherwise thought positively or indifferently towards cyclists.

    Also, maybe you'd try to keep people from attacking the cars you encounter along the way, doing, say, $2200 worth of damage to a MeFite's less than one month old car, in my case.

    Disclaimer: I am a cyclist, and in my opinion, CM does nothing but make cyclists look bad.
    posted by cobra_high_tigers at 4:49 PM on September 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


    Seeing a Mass go by was kind of a catalyst. It had a bit of a protest atmosphere to be sure, but it also looked fun and cheeky. It made me want to get back on a bike. A month or so later, I had a new bike, and I was back on the road.

    If that story gets repeated, maybe just once or twice a ride, I don't give a damn who it momentarily inconveniences.


    (actually, Critical Mass was largely responsible for getting me cycling again, after many years of public transport. initially, i took part on borrowed bikes for the fun & because i sympathised with the cause on an abstract greenie level. then i just kept on riding)
    posted by UbuRoivas at 4:54 PM on September 2, 2007


    Critical Mass is the reason I make it a policy to door as many cyclists as possible.

    Comments like this are the reason i ride with my u-lock in my hand to smash in the windows of dicks like you...

    Btw, I don't ride in CM's any more, but i have been hit by three cars, in the last 2 years...none being my fault...endless harassment and endangerment of my life equals me always being on DEFCON 5...

    I am unafraid of doing several hundred dollars worth of damage to your vehicle after following you around and waiting for you to park and go inside some building...

    (i only do this to the people that nearly kill me, then somehow decide it was all my fault)


    that said, most drivers are not out to kill you...but sometimes thats how it feels...
    posted by schyler523 at 7:12 PM on September 2, 2007


    schyler523: wouldn't you be safer with both hands on the handlebars, with better stability & access to both front & rear brakes?
    posted by UbuRoivas at 8:57 PM on September 2, 2007


    posted by cobra_high_tigers if Critical Mass isn't some organized group, if it's just a random haphazard collection of thousands of people that happened to all show up in the same place at the same time and do the same thing, then you have got to quit telling people what the purpose of it is or isn't. If it's completely decentralized and uncollectivized, then your opinion of what it is or isn't about is no more valid than the opinion of the thousands of other riders, many of whom talk about what it IS about, in person and in interviews for articles on web sites and in newspapers.

    Nowhere in this thread have I stated what the purpose or mission of Critical Mass is or is not.
    posted by fandango_matt at 9:01 PM on September 2, 2007


    A good thing, too, fandango, because otherwise I would be compelled to report you to the San Francisco chapter for violating the rules of membership.
    posted by UbuRoivas at 9:24 PM on September 2, 2007


    Yes, well, the first rule of membership is there are no members.

    [NOT CABALIST]
    posted by fandango_matt at 9:37 PM on September 2, 2007


    ememberay: eway avehay onay ethmay abslay. apeechkay?
    posted by UbuRoivas at 9:52 PM on September 2, 2007


    Fidelio.
    posted by fandango_matt at 10:02 PM on September 2, 2007


    critical mass is probably the second most stupid way of getting attention that I've seen. Way to automatically make the 70% of people who have no opinion on biking dislike you and justify the actions of the remaining 20% who are actively looking for ways to hurt you.
    posted by concreteforest at 3:26 PM on September 3, 2007


    Wait, 70% + 20% = 100%? President Bush, is that you?
    posted by fandango_matt at 3:58 PM on September 3, 2007


    I assumed the other 10% were those with a favorable opinion on cycling.
    posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:38 PM on September 3, 2007


    And I assumed the remaining 10% were merely the people languishing in US prisons, whose opinion doesn't count for anything.
    posted by UbuRoivas at 5:08 PM on September 3, 2007


    Oh, no. Those people are almost certainly in the 70%, but CM's activities fail to provoke dislike in them.
    posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:55 AM on September 4, 2007


    fandango_matt writes "Critical Mass riders are subject to, and should follow the same traffic laws as everyone else."

    Finally, no, they are not. No other vehicles can travel en masse and block traffic, requiring police escorts, without permits.
    posted by krinklyfig at 8:35 AM on September 4, 2007


    Finally, yes, they are. Cars, trucks, and buses all travel en masse every single day. Individually, Critical Mass riders are subject to, and should follow the same traffic laws as everyone else. If ten drivers run a red light, each of the ten drivers would get a ticket--the ticket will not be given to the drivers as a group.

    Critical Mass does not require police escorts. The police are providing escorts to get the cyclists through intersections as quickly as possible. If they didn't, traffic would be snarled to a much greater degree. Aside from obvious issues of public safety, the police escort is for the benefit of motorists.

    I wish I knew what this permit you keep referring to is, because you do not need a permit to ride your bikes down the street. Critical Mass is, at its most basic level, people exercising their First Amendment rights--peaceful assembly, and free speech.
    posted by fandango_matt at 11:14 AM on September 4, 2007


    Why are the police escorting invidual bike riders? Why are they not issuing hundereds of tickets for running lights? Just because the car in front of me runs a red, doesn't mean I can run it too, right? You say that CM riders are subject to the same laws as everyone else, then why are they allowed to run lights and get escorts? I assume that if I ride my bike on a different day than the organized CM rides, I would not get a police escort or be allowed to run lights? All these questions, assume, of course, that you're not being disengnous, when all evidence appears to show that you are.
    posted by Snyder at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2007


    Some of these questions have been answered upthread, but I'll address them all.

    Why are the police escorting invidual bike riders?

    They aren't. They're easing the impact the group of cyclists would otherwise have on traffic. (answered upthread)

    Why are they not issuing hundereds of tickets for running lights?

    Probably because issuing citations for (in a typical SF CM) 2000 cyclists will suck up an enormous amount of police time and effort and jam the traffic even worse.

    Just because the car in front of me runs a red, doesn't mean I can run it too, right?

    No disagreement from me there.

    You say that CM riders are subject to the same laws as everyone else, then why are they allowed to run lights and get escorts?

    Probably because issuing citations for (in a typical SF CM) 2000 cyclists will suck up an enormous amount of police time and effort and jam the traffic even worse. The quickest way to alleviate the traffic congestion is to escort them through the intersection. The police have three options, each of which has a degree of impact on traffic:

    1. Escort the cyclists and issue citations for only the most egregious infractions (minimal impact on traffic)
    2. No police escort (medium-to-heavy impact on traffic)
    3. Rigidly enforce all traffic laws and issue citations for each and every infraction (heavy-to-severe impact on traffic)

    Option 1 is the most prudent, logical, and least expensive choice and it is the current way in which San Francisco and Berkeley handle Critical Mass. I am not familiar with police policy and procedure in other cities. (answered upthread)

    I assume that if I ride my bike on a different day than the organized CM rides, I would not get a police escort or be allowed to run lights?

    You're probably correct.

    All these questions, assume, of course, that you're not being disengnous, when all evidence appears to show that you are.

    Hardly.
    posted by fandango_matt at 3:42 PM on September 4, 2007


    Option 1 is the most prudent, logical, and least expensive choice and it is the current way in which San Francisco and Berkeley handle Critical Mass. I am not familiar with police policy and procedure in other cities.

    #1 in Sydney, from my experience, although I've never seen the coppers charge a cyclist for anything.
    posted by UbuRoivas at 4:58 PM on September 4, 2007


    Do you want the cyclists to stop at all the red lights and snarl traffic further, or do you want them escorted quickly through the interesections (I really like the analogy of a funeral procession) so they disrupt the traffic as little as possible?

    I am a bicycle commuter most of the time, though I still drive in sometimes. I want everyone to obey traffic laws. The traffic lights are designed to be fair to everyone. If a large group of cars, bikes, pedestrians, or bison ignores the traffic lights, then cross traffic is held up. It does not lessen the disruption to run red lights; the lights are ignored so the group can remain one group. I WANT THE LAWS TO BE OBEYED. It's simple. That's how people keep from getting killed, and that's how traffic moves best in all directions. There's a bunch of traffic engineers who are quite smart who've already solved this problem, and the traffic lights are programmed to their recommendations.

    Critical Mass is not a parade. You do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street.

    Jogging and walking is not a parade, either. But if I get a few thousand of my close friends together and take the streets for our own, I damn well will need a permit. If I get a few thousand cars together and drive at 30mph down a busy street, it's likely that some citations will result.

    The point is, cyclists in large groups do have obligations because of the large group they're in. Also, while cyclists have equal rights to the road they do not have equal obligations. If I were to drive a street-legal tractor on the road I have both legal obligations and standards of courteousness that dictate that I have to occasionally yield to the traffic that's "normal" speed, etc., etc.
    posted by RikiTikiTavi at 11:43 PM on September 4, 2007


    posted by RikiTikiTavi Jogging and walking is not a parade, either. But if I get a few thousand of my close friends together and take the streets for our own, I damn well will need a permit.

    Yes, because you aren't allowed to jog in the street. If you wanted to jog on the sidewalk, you wouldn't need a permit. You do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street.
    posted by fandango_matt at 12:23 AM on September 5, 2007


    Probably because issuing citations for (in a typical SF CM) 2000 cyclists will suck up an enormous amount of police time and effort and jam the traffic even worse. The quickest way to alleviate the traffic congestion is to escort them through the intersection.

    So, if I use whatever magical organizing scheme that makes CM riders morph back and forth, as needed, from individuals who need no permit to ride to a mass group who have no obligation to follow traffic laws, to create a group of automobile drivers to drive down the street at 30 mph (as Riki suggested,) I would have the same protections, for example, no need for a parade permit and no need to obey lights? Is that right?

    Yes, because you aren't allowed to jog in the street. If you wanted to jog on the sidewalk, you wouldn't need a permit. You do not need a permit to ride your bike down the street.

    Dude, that is disingenous hairsplitting and a willfull ignoring of Riki's point.
    posted by Snyder at 12:53 AM on September 5, 2007


    posted by Snyder So, if I use whatever magical organizing scheme that makes CM riders morph back and forth, as needed, from individuals who need no permit to ride to a mass group who have no obligation to follow traffic laws, to create a group of automobile drivers to drive down the street at 30 mph (as Riki suggested,) I would have the same protections, for example, no need for a parade permit and no need to obey lights? Is that right?

    No, not quite. Assuming you have a valid driver's license and a vehicle with current registration, you already have the ability to drive down the street en masse with all the other cars and trucks at any time of the day, provided you obey the traffic laws of the city and state in which you're driving. In fact, the "Car Critical Mass" happens every day. It's just called "Rush Hour."

    posted by Snyder Dude, that is disingenous hairsplitting and a willfull ignoring of Riki's point.

    Dude, no, it isn't. Jogging is not bicycling. But I'm not sure if a group of people need a permit to march (walk) down the street. It happens all the time, and I believe that too falls under the protections of the First Amendment.
    posted by fandango_matt at 1:08 AM on September 5, 2007


    posted by RikiTikiTavi The point is, cyclists in large groups do have obligations because of the large group they're in.

    Wrong. A large group of cyclists does not have rights or obligations, just as a large group of cars and trucks does not have rights or obligations. The rights and obligations apply to the individual cyclists/motorists.

    posted by RikiTikiTavi Also, while cyclists have equal rights to the road they do not have equal obligations.

    Wrong again. Cyclists have equal rights to the road, and equal obligations. (addressed several times upthread)

    posted by RikiTikiTavi If I were to drive a street-legal tractor on the road I have both legal obligations and standards of courteousness that dictate that I have to occasionally yield to the traffic that's "normal" speed, etc., etc.

    Critical Mass is a bicycle ride, not someone driving a tractor. (addressed several times upthread)
    posted by fandango_matt at 1:36 AM on September 5, 2007


    Ah, progress! F_M finally acknowledges that Critical Mass is a First Amendment exercise, aka a group protest. Hmmmm, that would explain the police supervision and escorts, then.
    posted by Artful Codger at 5:23 AM on September 5, 2007


    In fact, the "Car Critical Mass" happens every day. It's just called "Rush Hour."

    Rush hour would go a heck of alot faster if the traffic wasn't required to stop at every red light. Could one of the (non) organizers of CM tell us how we can get police escorts too?
    posted by Artful Codger at 5:26 AM on September 5, 2007


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