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Wheels on fire, rolling down the road...
July 29, 2008 4:12 PM   Subscribe

From New York City to Seattle, Critical Mass cyclists are not having a good week. In Seattle, some question the motivations of Critical Mass, some report conflicting stories, while others suggest foul play.
posted by Blazecock Pileon (115 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
I actually don't like Critical Mass very much.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:17 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Critical Mass is a giant rolling troll. I commute on my bicycle and have no desire to have these people represent me. Thanks for giving all us bicyclists a bad name, guys.
posted by jsonic at 4:27 PM on July 29, 2008 [13 favorites]


From the third link: So, what should happen to Critical Mass? It needs to stop being used as a way to intentionally piss off the drivers in this city by flaunting the laws.

Yup. Here in Vancouver, there was a similar bike protest a couple of months ago and it basically shut down downtown for an hour. Cyclists were intentionally blocking through traffic, and preventing drivers even from turning around to find another route. I was a passenger in a car coming out of a hotel breezeway (trying to find parking for a movie) only to see the flow of cyclists. We figured that we'd do a 180, go back through the breezeway, come out the other side and avoid the traffic. Nope. We got blocked on all sides by cyclists who dismounted and stood there. I looked around: the same thing was happening to other cars -- and we weren't even on the road! The cyclists absolutely were the aggressors.

I don't drive. I walk or cycle everywhere. I am thus sympathetic to non-drivers' issues. But as far as I'm concerned, if you participate in, embrace or support bike protests, fuck you. The evidence is mounting that these are not isolated incidences, and I've got no sympathy for protesting cyclists getting the shit beaten out of them by the cops, even if they're factually innocent. If it scares enough cyclists to stop participating, so much the better. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that these cyclists are organized and violent and are providing false testimony to support each other. Yeah, the guy who got roughed up in New York may not have deserved it, but I betcha one of his buddies would have.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:28 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've got no sympathy for protesting cyclists getting the shit beaten out of them by the cops, even if they're factually innocent. If it scares enough cyclists to stop participating, so much the better. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that these cyclists are organized and violent and are providing false testimony to support each other. Yeah, the guy who got roughed up in New York may not have deserved it, but I betcha one of his buddies would have.
That's a fundamentally disturbing statement.
posted by Flunkie at 4:31 PM on July 29, 2008 [12 favorites]


That's a fundamentally disturbing statement.

Nah. Centesimation is still a useful tool in some situations. We punish people all the time who aren't factually guilty of those crimes. If you rob a bank with your buddies and one of your buddies kills someone, you go down for murder. If a hundred of your buddies go out and riot and one of them assaults someone, why shouldn't the punishment be applied to someone at random if they can't pick out the guilty party?
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:36 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am a daily bike commuter. I do not like critical mass.
posted by Hicksu at 4:36 PM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


I'd love to hear from any eye-witnesses to the Seattle incident. The CBC had a pretty even-handed (IMO) account that put initial blame on the driver, but then shifted the blame to a mob of Critical Mass thugs who went ape-shit on the guy and his girlfriend.

Anyone see it happen?
posted by bardic at 4:37 PM on July 29, 2008


Anyone see it happen?

Some eyewitness accounts, if unverified, are collected in the "conflicting stories" and "foul play" links.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:38 PM on July 29, 2008


Critical Manners
posted by jjj606 at 4:39 PM on July 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


As a cyclist, I explictly reject Critical Mass and their methods.

I am a cyclist. I am traffic. Thus, like everyone else who is traffic, I *stop for the red lights.*
posted by eriko at 4:40 PM on July 29, 2008 [8 favorites]


I'm not a fan of critical mass, but the cop in NYC was out of line. From reports, the guy has less than six weeks on the job. Sounds either dumb or just inexperienced. Most times I've been at protests or events in NYC, the cops usually just sit there with a look on their face that says 'screw it, I'm getting overtime.' I'd say that the wisest attitude.
posted by jonmc at 4:41 PM on July 29, 2008


ten pounds of inedita: why shouldn't the punishment be applied to someone at random if they can't pick out the guilty party?

Uh, seriously?
posted by ryanrs at 4:46 PM on July 29, 2008


Possibly related: "U.S. driving down 11 Billion miles in March, the sharpest drop in history"

IMO Critical Mass has a right to make their point, but for fuck's sake, with gas prices being what they are and people desperate to trade in their SUV's for economical sedans, you'd think they'd chill out for a bit with the douchebaggery. Pity that they sound like sore winners.
posted by bardic at 4:46 PM on July 29, 2008


Of course hearing the kid's response kinda makes me want to hit him.
posted by jonmc at 4:47 PM on July 29, 2008


jonmc is a petro-fascist.
posted by bardic at 4:48 PM on July 29, 2008


CRITICAL MASS CAN KISS MY ASS

(Actually I don't care one way or the other, I just wanted to get that slogan out of my head.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:49 PM on July 29, 2008


Critical Mass is a pretty cool thing. Yeah, if you are driving near them it sucks. Suck it up dorks; your gas guzzling vehicle is killing the planet. We should have a much better bike/car integration but we don't. Dumb ass soccer moms keep driving over cyclists, and cops keep hassling cyclists who are following the rules. Critical Mass brings some attention to these issues. Sure, they step over the line, but then so does that pig who pushed the cyclist to the curb in NYC. I hope he gets fired for that. He's not worthy of the badge. It's an honor to wear that, and it requires honorable behavior. Pushing kids off of their bikes for no good reason fails the honorable test.
posted by caddis at 4:50 PM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you rob a bank with your buddies and one of your buddies kills someone, you go down for murder.

More likely, you'd be an accessory or an accomplice to murder, and there are different degrees of each.

If a hundred of your buddies go out and riot and one of them assaults someone, why shouldn't the punishment be applied to someone at random if they can't pick out the guilty party?

Because that's not how justice works, dude! This ain't the 18th century -- we're long past picking names out of a hat and killing the unlucky ones, which is the literal meaning of centesimation. There are such things as degrees and nuances, which is why legal libraries are ginormously huge.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:53 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


it requires honorable behavior

Yes, yes it does.

Critical Mass brings some attention to these issues. Sure, they step over the line...

Sadly, though, in your view, Critical Mass does not require honorable behavior.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:54 PM on July 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


We should have a much better bike/car integration but we don't

Critical Mass makes the situation worse by pissing off the people you are trying to influence.
posted by jsonic at 4:55 PM on July 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


caddis: that attitude is why Critical Mass in particular and activists in general, are seen by many people as annoying brats. As a wise man once said, 'there's a thin line between activism and simply being a huge pain in the ass.'
posted by jonmc at 4:55 PM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm a former bike messenger who still rides around NYC like one, but these guys seem like total dicks. And, my best friend is NYPD, but that cop seems like a total dick. I forget, if I can't decide who to hate, do I hate everyone or no-one?
posted by nicwolff at 4:57 PM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


This is actually a pretty good Critical Mass post, but that doesn't really matter since no one reads the links.
posted by smackfu at 4:58 PM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dumb ass soccer moms keep driving over cyclists, and cops keep hassling cyclists who are following the rules. Critical Mass brings some attention to these issues.

No, not really, since any drivers stuck in the middle of a Critical Mass ride don't have any better awareness of your issues and now have an excellent example of why bike riders are worthy of their contempt.
posted by meowzilla at 4:59 PM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


Critical Mass is a terrible idea. Can anyone point to a single person, formerly an automotive commuter, whose mind was changed by one of these events? No, they just make everyone hate everyone else all the more. It's one of those 'protests' that's done strictly to make the protesters feel better rather than to accomplish anything.

You want to encourage cycling as a means of transportation? Excellent. Stop for red lights, don't run down pedestrians, be courteous, and give friendly advice when asked on what's a good bike or your favorite routes. Let rising gas prices do the rest.
posted by echo target at 5:00 PM on July 29, 2008 [14 favorites]


I ride my bike all week long and only drive on the weekend for big errands. I consider myself more of a cyclist than a driver and I still can't stand the critical massholes. There are always people looking to use the event as an excuse to antagonize the gasoline-impaired. There has to be a better way to get the point across that the roads need to be shared. I've never ridden in a CM and I don't think I ever will

Now, having said that, I'll admit that I blow thru more than my share of red lights. Well maybe not 'blow thru' - it's more like pedal thru after slowing down and making sure there are no cars anywhere near the intersection - but the effect is the same.
posted by djeo at 5:00 PM on July 29, 2008


Critical Mass brings some attention to these issues.

I'm trying to be as circumspect as possible here, but what if granny needed to get to the hospital in an ambulance? Or little Timmy was going into peanut allergy shock and his "dumb ass soccer mom" needed to get him to an ER? If a group of bikers were intentionally holding up traffic that included one of these vehicles, I sincerely hope they'd be tried for manslaughter and put away for a long time.
posted by bardic at 5:01 PM on July 29, 2008 [5 favorites]


NY Cop lost his badge and gun during his investigation: NYPost
posted by Chris Brummel at 5:02 PM on July 29, 2008


Critical Mass brings some attention to these issues.

No it doesn't. It just pisses people off.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:05 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dear Critical Mass,
You are not helping, please stop.
Love,
Lifelong Cyclist.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 5:22 PM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


The red light thing really bothers me. If a cyclist wants to be accepted as a fully privileged user of the road - and this should certainly be the case - the cyclist must follow the rules of the road, even when these are inconvenient. If someone runs red lights in a car, even if they slow down and look both ways first, they'll eventually get their license taken away. If you want respect, you gotta give a little to get a little.
posted by echo target at 5:32 PM on July 29, 2008 [11 favorites]


ten pounds of inedita Cyclists were intentionally blocking through traffic, and preventing drivers even from turning around to find another route.

caddis Yeah, if you are driving near them it sucks. Suck it up dorks; your gas guzzling vehicle is killing the planet.

I am not a driver. I am a cyclist. And if I saw what tpoi described, I would fucking lose it. (as I did when I saw transit strikers in Van block cars (I was on foot) from leaving parking lots -- your right to free expression ends when it interferes with others' right to freaking mobility, already, asshole) Just in case some people think it only matters when it happens to you. No, actually: it matters, period.

If this becomes a regular aspect of C.M., then they're PETA on wheels. Fuck em.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:36 PM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


How do you propose to stop critical mass? By design, there is no mechanism for stopping it.
posted by ryanrs at 5:37 PM on July 29, 2008


I organized a Critical Mass ride in the early days (1994) in Carbondale, Illinois, because the city council was ignoring bicycle issues and because I was intentionally run down by an asshole in a truck (it went to court and he lost thanks to eyewitnesses).

But all it took was one bike-riding asshole in the CM ride to make me realize it wasn't going to work. A guy intentionally provoked a car driver and kicked the side of the person's car. Never organized one or participated since.

CM started as an honest-to-goodness "safety in numbers" way to bring attention to the needs of cyclists but then the assholes infiltrated.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 5:44 PM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


When I was a 25-year-old, I was simultaneously aggressive, self-righteous and overly sensitive. I was an asshole on the road, whether I was in a car (rarely), on a bike (often), or walking (often). Now I live and work in Berkeley, and I see little models of my former self on bike blowing through stop signs while cars wait or riding two or three abreast to block traffic, etc.

About a decade ago, I went to Portugal, and loved, loved, loved it. I especially admired the traffic. Everyone drove crazy fast and took risks, but people were looking out for one another. People 'waved in' waiting traffic. The whole vibe was "quick, get in front of me! I want you to go fast too."

Now I ride a motor-scooter most of the time. When I'm going fast, I try to be 'Portuguese.' It helps my state of mind if nothing else.
posted by ferdydurke at 5:53 PM on July 29, 2008 [6 favorites]


Critical Mass was one of the things that got me back into cycling, having put down my racer of teenage years almost as soon as I got myself a drivers licence.

Initially, it seemed like a fun way to indulge in a leftie protest against more motorways & cars (despite having a licence & a car, I would walk or take public transport 95% of the time), and riding through city streets safely amongst a bunch of cyclists was an exhilarating experience. I used to actually borrow my sister's bike just to go along for the ride.

These days (now an almost 100% bike commuter & recreational rider) I wouldn't go near a Critical Mass protest for anything.

The turning point came when - in response to an aggressive driver trying to plough through the mass - a bunch of riders slowed down to almost a trackstand speed through a tunnel, blocking drivers who had no option to get out of the situation. The drivers were slowed to a crawl for more than half an hour.

At that point, I had distanced myself from the pack & was waiting patiently at the far end of the tunnel, wanting nothing to do with such asshattery. When the cars finally cleared, some totally innocent woman pulled up beside me & in her immense frustration could only manage to stammer "Why?!?? Why?!??".

Naturally, I had no response, because I was already in agreement with her.

So yeah, in spite of the fact that the rides can entice people into getting onto a bike again, they seem utterly useless as a form of advocacy or protest - they only serve to alienate people who would otherwise be neutral towards cyclists or even vaguely supportive.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:56 PM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


But all it took was one bike-riding asshole in the CM ride to make me realize it wasn't going to work.

I hear you, sldt. I found the same thing with the "Anti-globalization" movement. And I have absolutely no idea what you can do about it.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:17 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


You want to encourage cycling as a means of transportation? Excellent. Stop for red lights, don't run down pedestrians, be courteous, and give friendly advice when asked on what's a good bike or your favorite routes. Let rising gas prices do the rest.

Do you want to foment change? Being a passive nice guy doesn't do that. It doesn't hurt, and it helps, but to get people to sit up and think about a situation requires something more.

The CM haters here all remind me of the folks I heard during the 60's race protests. "Man those black people just want to cause a disturbance. What the Hell is the matter with them? They are just trouble makers." I heard this so many times I wanted to puke.

CM, well they want you to feel some pain, they slow the road, they take over the road. If that bothers you, then great they have succeeded. You, well you can just go suck eggs. I care not for you. You are the problem. When you become part of the solution then we can talk. I hope your commute home Friday is lengthened by twenty minutes behind a phalanx of CM riders moseying down the road. I further hope your blood pressure goes way up, your veins rise in your neck and you curse. I laugh at you, you gas guzzling fuckers.
posted by caddis at 6:18 PM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


The CM haters here all remind me of the folks I heard during the 60's race protests. "Man those black people just want to cause a disturbance. What the Hell is the matter with them? They are just trouble makers." I heard this so many times I wanted to puke.

....and this yet another reason why people hate CM. Jesus. You wanna make a comparison of "cagers" to Nazis, caddis? Or tell us how that guy getting pushed by that cop is like Gandhi?

Self-righteous doesn't even begin to describe it.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:22 PM on July 29, 2008 [18 favorites]


Crowds attract assholes, film at all the fucking time.

I don't hear much clamouring for outlawing minor league baseball. What about John Mayer concerts? Bars? No? How about birthdays? More people got hurt in the last week at any one of those things than they did at Critical Mass. Hell, let's just blame everyone, everywhere, who's ever attended any sort of event, for the violence that has inevitably occurred there.

If we're going to play Correlation & Causation, let's at least be interesting about it: Ban rush hour! I mean, it was rush hour when these incidents occurred, right? So, ban rush hour. Stop leaving work, everyone. That makes just about as much sense.

Or little Timmy was going into peanut allergy shock and his "dumb ass soccer mom" needed to get him to an ER? If a group of bikers were intentionally holding up traffic that included one of these vehicles, I sincerely hope they'd be tried for manslaughter and put away for a long time.

Hey you're right. While we're at it, let's ban the Santa Claus Parade. And 4th of July celebrations. And buses/trolleys that break down. And protests. And everyone who ever gets in an accident or tries to make a last-minute illegal turn and gets caught in the middle of the intersection should be summarily shot. And let's pave all the parks. And eliminate speed limits. Start handing out the smog masks now, it's time to bend over fucking backwards to make sure there is always the greatest freedom of movement that's physically possible for every single fucking motorist that's out there because THINK OF TEH CHILDREN.

Incidentally, have you ever seen four lanes of car traffic all move to the side and leave three lanes clear for an ambulance or fire engine within the space of 10 seconds? Probably not. But I've seen four lanes of Critical Mass do it dozens of times.

The only people who are more pissed off by the minority of unskilled asshole cyclists than motorists are the majority of skilled, considerate cyclists. Believe me. And I count myself among the latter, but I love Critical Mass. And the thing that almost irks me as much as the asshole cyclists is the people, be they participants or detractors, who think Critical Mass is a protest. Trying to make Critical Mass a protest against cars is like trying to credulously paint a night of dancing as a rally against sitting.

It's a social event, and maybe a bit of ad hoc street theatre here and there, but it's not political. Every now and then some new folks show up and use it as a place to spout off about car culture and the insanity of urban design, and my heart goes out to them, but it's the wrong place to address those things, and anyone who keeps coming tends to figure that out.

It's a party. It's in motion. And yes, some people will take the opportunity to tweak motorists' metaphorical nose by getting out of their way more slowly than they have to, or cracking wise, or whatever. Most of us are daily cyclists, and have been disrespected, demeaned, toxified and injured with some regularity by the system of privatized automobile transport which forces people in to the mindset of selfish little toadies just to get to work. Many of us know people who've been crippled or killed. And we decide we're not having any of it for two hours a month. If you don't like it, tough shit, sit tight, we'll be out of your royal fucking way in three minutes tops, feel free to move out of the city if you're not big on unexpected things damaging your calm, because the choice to live among millions of tightly-packed autonomous beings with countless divergent plans and desires was not the best one.

Most of us long time CM riders make a point of calling any yahoos out for confrontational behaviour - not only because it does make us all look like arses, but because it just makes for a shitty party. I think anyone who's ever been part of any sort of collective happening knows what it's like to have to do this occasionally. The only difference would seem to be that Critical Mass is far enough from the status quo that people actually notice.

And as for going through red lights and such, well, other parades do that all the time. We can stop, of course, even if the light goes red when the group is halfway through - but then you're going to have a much harder time making that turn when the light goes green, and you'll have to deal with multiple Critical Masses since the main one's been split up. Corking intersections is the lesser evil for you, and it's a safety issue for us. But please, get angry and violent about it, if that's your thing. It's not like anyone will question your choice to drive in one big group with other motorists as a result. That privilege is apparently reserved for the cyclists.
posted by regicide is good for you at 6:24 PM on July 29, 2008 [20 favorites]


cm make a mess for an hour. the effect of cars, and unthinking car drivers, goes much deeper than that. set against the damage that cars and car drivers have done and continue to do, cm is nothing.

why don't we get a post here trashing car drivers each time someone is killed by a car?
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 6:26 PM on July 29, 2008


At every single Critical Mass ride I've ever seen (dozens), going back ten years in DC and elsewhere (though I haven't been to one in SF or NYC), the same thing happens.

That guy shows up. He is loud and bossy. He exploits the anarchic non-organization to his own ends, he takes over. He steers the course of the ride, with his megaphone if he is prepared: he uses it to start inane chants and to yell at people (cyclists and motorists both) for perceived slights.

He is often on an ostentatious bike, the type of which changes with the tides of expired fashion: in the nineties it would be an expensive full-suspension mountain bike with slick tires and the logos covered with inner tubes; in the aughts it may have been a poorly made tall bike covered in pink fur; in the last few years it would be an overwrought fixed-gear, an old heavy poorly-handling keirin frame, powdercoated deep-V rims, pointlessly expensive Phil Wood parts, 10" wide riser bars on an NJS-certified drop stem. That guy usually has parental funding for his fakenger affectations.

It may even be his first Critical Mass ride! That guy tends to jump into things head first based on agitprop he swallowed whole from the internet. Often he will show up at his first ride in a city, and there will already be one or more of him there. Hilarity ensues as they one up each other, if they do not acknowledge each other as bona-fide the ride can bifurcate as they both try to lead independently.

Always with the douchebaggery. It'll never go away: agitprop is resistant to shame, and immune to dissent.
posted by blasdelf at 6:27 PM on July 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


The red light thing really bothers me. If a cyclist wants to be accepted as a fully privileged user of the road - and this should certainly be the case - the cyclist must follow the rules of the road, even when these are inconvenient.

If cyclists were truly recognized as fully privileged users of the road, the rules of the road would reflect that.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 6:28 PM on July 29, 2008


caddis: Yeah, if you are driving near them it sucks.

Unfortunately, as a pedestrian I have to say that walking near a Critical Mass event sucks too. I'm extremely sympathetic to efforts promoting non-car transportation methods, but from my perspective Critical Mass detracts from the advancement of cyclists' rights.
posted by lalex at 6:29 PM on July 29, 2008


I think the error with your analogy, caddis, is that the the 60s race protests both had a clear, distinct aim- equality in law- and that their main purpose was not to disrupt others but to raise awareness.

From what I know of CM, there isn't a singular purpose (is it to have more bike lanes? less cars? more cyclcists?), and it seems that for many who take part the purpose of the event is to make life worse for others, not to further their own cause. Deliberately blocking traffic to "get people to sit up and think about a situation" is as ridiculous as motorists slashing bike tyres as a way to make cyclists stop for red lights.
posted by twirlypen at 6:30 PM on July 29, 2008


Suck it up dorks; your gas guzzling vehicle is killing the planet. We should have a much better bike/car integration but we don't.

Indulge me an comparison I think of in these situations: on the left, you've got PETA, Greenpeace, Critical Mass. On the right, you've got all manner of religious fundamentalists. The common thread?

Both sides are trying to force morality upon people. They're counting on making people feel so guilty that they'll have no choice but to change their mind. Problem is, it doesn't work; 999 times out of a thousand it just. pisses. people. off.

It does a great job, though, of reinforcing the beliefs of the group itself, no matter the inconvenience to others. I agree with caddis' statements above about why bicycles would be a good idea, etc., etc. But the methods of Critical Mass are a genuine problem.
posted by zardoz at 6:36 PM on July 29, 2008 [17 favorites]


Most of us long time CM riders make a point of calling any yahoos out for confrontational behaviour
posted by regicide is good for you at 6:24 PM on July 29


And some, like caddis, revel in it. Congratulations, caddis. You know that asshole in the SUV? He's just ignorant - but you're ignorant and malicious, which is much worse, and much sadder.

And if this is the behavior you're going to exhibit, you're only going to make it worse for you and other cyclists. You want to compare yourself to a civil rights protester? Civil rights protesters didn't go out of their way to antagonize the white majority. They were polite, humble, dressed well, and followed the rules. They refused to stoop to the level of those who hated them. And we owe them a debt of gratitude for it, because they won, and they won fair and honorably. I hope that you reconsider your behavior.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:46 PM on July 29, 2008 [15 favorites]


critical mass may have been fun when it started but now the only thing it is successful at is increasing the amount of drivers who want bikers either dead or off the road. I say that while being someone who uses a bike about 80% of the time to get around a major city. They exacerbate problems between cars and bikers tenfold.
posted by concreteforest at 7:02 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was in SF last year, going to my girlfriend's house on the MUNI, the bus system, and I got held up for 20 minutes by Critical Mass. I mean, I appreciate what they were trying to do, but it kind of pissed me off because hey, I'm on public transportation, were they protesting me to take the BART instead?
posted by bertrandom at 7:04 PM on July 29, 2008


Indulge me an comparison I think of in these situations: on the left, you've got PETA, Greenpeace, Critical Mass. On the right, you've got all manner of religious fundamentalists. The common thread?

Both sides are trying to force morality upon people.


While environmentalist and bike activists* might prefer that you change your behaviour for moral reasons, their main goal is to get you to change your behaviour for the common good. If we can keep everyone from making a mess of the environment or make the streets safer for things other than cars, everyone wins. These aren't moral issues; they are practical issues. Evangelicals, on the other hand, want you to change your behaviour for their own moral reasons. There is an important difference between trying to bring about change for the common good and trying to bring about change for personal moral reasons.

* Let's just leave PETA out of this.
posted by ssg at 7:13 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


But ssg, most evangelicals truly believe that they are changing things for the common good. For some there may be a selfish aspect ("if I convert more people I'm a better Christian"), but for many there is just the belief that if more people shared their faith, the world would be a better place.
posted by twirlypen at 7:17 PM on July 29, 2008


Most of us long time CM riders make a point of calling any yahoos out for confrontational behaviour
posted by regicide is good for you at 6:24 PM on July 29

And some, like caddis, revel in it.


I don't see caddis' comment as an indication that he necessarily engages in confrontational behaviour, just that he has pretty tightly-wound rhetoric. I'm sickened by the prison system, and don't exactly hide the fact, but that doesn't mean I'm all oops there goes my frozen yogurt whenever I'm beside a cop.

I find caddis' sort of anger perfectly understandable; I just try to temper it in myself with the understanding that there are often a lot of people who have to be driving (due to work, due to insufficient public transit in poor areas, whatever) or who just haven't been convinced yet.

That said, the amount of temperance has an inverse relation to the apparent value of the car (and a correlation with the number of passengers), and slowly gets harder to maintain as it slowly becomes harder to not be exposed to facts on the irresponsibility of participation in car culture. I try to have intelligent conversations with folks, but often it seems motorists' brains just warn them CYCLIST DETECTED; DISENGAGING HIPPOCAMPUS; COMMENCE VITRIOLIC SHOUTED NONSENSE as soon as they see I'm going to open my mouth. Half the time I chalk it up to vestigial guilt, to be honest. I'm sure a few have also had a really bad interaction with a dickhead chainmonkey, but what am I supposed to do, kowtow to them for being prejudiced?

And now and then people need to experience repercussions; I'm probably not going to be nice to you if you're driving an SUV or a Hummer. Some folks could be mollycoddled right to the brink of armageddon and not change one iota. Manhattan's a particularly special case. If you're an able-bodied sort driving a car in Manhattan, and you're not moving house or being a taxi driver: fuck you. Straight up. I don't care who you are. When you're surrounded by possibly the greatest subway system in the world, I don't see how there's any excuse outside contempt or outright hazardous ignorance.
posted by regicide is good for you at 7:21 PM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


I laugh at you, you gas guzzling fuckers.

You don't listen so well, do you? Hear:

I AM NOT A DRIVER. I AM A CYCLIST, AND YOU ARE WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE MOVEMENT.

Go make friends with a movement that can afford your kind.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:22 PM on July 29, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's a damn shame that critical mass, like peta and greenpeace, manages to be such a bad ambassador for an otherwise good cause. I love riding bikes and the general idea of more people on bikes is a good one, but critical mass doesn't further that goal.

Here in LA we have a thriving bike scene in the form of midnight ridazz, and it's undoubtedly influenced by critical mass, but it's a rolling party rather than a rolling political statement. I've been going on rides with them for months and it's a blast. Making people envy the fun you're having is far more likely to get them on your side. Making them sit in traffic while you cork the intersection at rush hour...not so much.
posted by mullingitover at 7:27 PM on July 29, 2008


The red light thing really bothers me. If a cyclist wants to be accepted as a fully privileged user of the road - and this should certainly be the case - the cyclist must follow the rules of the road, even when these are inconvenient.

Sounds like something you say in a padded seat surrounded by steel and air conditioning.

Every bicyclist has their own relationship with the law, just like every motorist. But most of us acknowledge that traffic laws are meant to protect people and cars from other cars, and act accordingly. It's ridiculous for a bicyclist going 9 MPH, who is responsible for generating his own go-power, to treat stop-signals the way cars do. Perhaps this is why you'll note that cops RARELY give tickets for these offenses. Having the letter of the law to go by is important in cases where people actually ARE endangered or injured by cyclists, but everyone who's ever biked in populous areas knows that the number one rule is to stay alive, and the second is to conserve energy. Everything after that is mere courtesy.

Hurf durf.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:37 PM on July 29, 2008 [9 favorites]


i've been to 3 critical masses, and all of them were fun, mostly consisted of non-assholes, and a damn good time riding without fearing taxis. don't knock it till you've tried it.
posted by Mach5 at 7:38 PM on July 29, 2008


But ssg, most evangelicals truly believe that they are changing things for the common good. For some there may be a selfish aspect ("if I convert more people I'm a better Christian"), but for many there is just the belief that if more people shared their faith, the world would be a better place.

Of course they do, but I think the application of logic is warranted here, rather than a comparison of states of mind.
posted by ssg at 7:43 PM on July 29, 2008


Well, I simply hate idealistic young people, so that should be reason enough to write this off.
posted by jonmc at 7:48 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was in SF last year, going to my girlfriend's house on the MUNI, the bus system, and I got held up for 20 minutes by Critical Mass. I mean, I appreciate what they were trying to do, but it kind of pissed me off because hey, I'm on public transportation, were they protesting me to take the BART instead?

See, I had kind of a cute experience with this....I was in public trasit along a crit mass ride the other day in my city and the CM people waved to the bus riders and gave us the thumbs up like it was a genuine "gabba gabba one of us" thing.

They were also being herded by bike cops that day due to previous complaints of asshattery...always by the one or two "that guy"s on fixies or steampunk (no really) bikes.
posted by availablelight at 7:53 PM on July 29, 2008


From what I've seen around here lately, $1.30 a litre gas has done more to make people cycle conscious than any ten million Critical Mass events.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:56 PM on July 29, 2008 [4 favorites]


everyone who's ever biked in populous areas knows that the number one rule is to stay alive, and the second is to conserve energy. Everything after that is mere courtesy.

Yeah sorry, no.

You seem to be a thoughtful individual. Are you just deciding you don't want to think this through? Because I know you can do the math. How is this any different than a driver sitting at a red light with no opposing traffic? There's nothing at risk. And a cyclist who behaves erratically isn't only taking chances with him or herself. A driver who has to veer -- even nervously, unnecessarily -- away from an asshat cyclist puts everyone in danger. Come on.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:08 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


A lot of these problems come from trying to force this artificial view of a bicycle as "a vehicle", equivalent to a car or motorcycle or whatever. It's not, it's a bicycle. It's not a pedestrian, not a motorcycle, not a car, and especially not a truck. What it is capable of, and more importantly, not capable of, needs to be taken into account when designing roads and traffic laws to accommodate it. A cyclist can easily hop off and wheel it across a footbridge, or cross at a pedestrian crossing, or similarly take advantage of its light weight and agility to avoid traffic problems. Everybody wins if they do this; the cyclist gets where they're going sooner, the cars get to have the cyclist not in their way and get to where they are going sooner.

I'd like to see them exist in a happy legal "grey zone", where they can take maximal advantage of their hybrid pedestrian/vehicle nature: broadly speaking, anything a pedestrian wouldn't be cited for, a cyclist shouldn't be cited for; anything a driver wouldn't be cited for, a cyclist shouldn't be cited for; but anything it's specifically stupid for a cyclist to do, they should be cited for. Examples: riding on a crowded footpath, or riding further into the outer lane than the middle on a highway, or riding two or more abreast on a one-lane road in such a way that they leave no space to overtake. (All "without lawful excuse", of course.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:11 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most of us long time CM riders make a point of calling any yahoos out for confrontational behaviour - not only because it does make us all look like arses, but because it just makes for a shitty party.

Then I'm eager to see the press releases and news stories of the Critical Mass riders publicly shaming those members of their congregation for their part in the Seattle brouhaha, and the steps they'll take to make their next event safer and more palatable.

I'll be waiting over here. Take your time.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:33 PM on July 29, 2008


From what I've seen around here lately, $1.30 a litre gas has done more to make people cycle conscious than any ten million Critical Mass events.

Agreed, and the thing that pisses me off to no end is that the Critical Mass people are in an excellent position to help those clueless schmucks learn fundamental bike operation, safety, and maintenance, but are too busy being snobs and assholes to bother doing something that could actually be productive.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:35 PM on July 29, 2008


You seem to be a thoughtful individual. Are you just deciding you don't want to think this through?

What aeschenkarnos said.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:36 PM on July 29, 2008


cops keep hassling cyclists who are following the rules

All ten of them?

An overwhelming majority of cyclists is either completely ignorant of traffic rules or just doesn't give enough of a shit to do anything but flout them constantly and then complain when they get called on it.

CM, well they want you to feel some pain, they slow the road, they take over the road. If that bothers you, then great they have succeeded. You, well you can just go suck eggs. I care not for you. You are the problem.

If you really believe this, you're not too smart (and yes, you are part of the problem if you engage in purposeful traffic-slowing, road-blocking activities). Let me know the court dates and locations when you try to fight your hard-earned traffic tickets—I want to bring popcorn.
posted by oaf at 8:41 PM on July 29, 2008


It's ridiculous for a bicyclist going 9 MPH, who is responsible for generating his own go-power, to treat stop-signals the way cars do.

Not when most bicyclists ignore the fucking crosswalks the way 90% of cars do.
posted by oaf at 8:48 PM on July 29, 2008


I've been too busy today to follow this thread...have people started the slanging match yet between "cyclists should follow all the road rules like motorists" and "cyclists should use their own judgement to prioritise their safety"?
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:23 PM on July 29, 2008


Hey Ubu, I'd normally be on that bandwagon, but this:

and I've got no sympathy for protesting cyclists getting the shit beaten out of them by the cops, even if they're factually innocent. If it scares enough cyclists to stop participating, so much the better.

is so fucked up that today, I think I'll leave it out.
posted by pompomtom at 9:32 PM on July 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


ten pounds of inedita writes "I've got no sympathy for protesting cyclists getting the shit beaten out of them by the cops, even if they're factually innocent. If it scares enough cyclists to stop participating, so much the better. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that these cyclists are organized and violent and are providing false testimony to support each other. Yeah, the guy who got roughed up in New York may not have deserved it, but I betcha one of his buddies would have."

Totally agree. That's how I feel about those anarchist and Wobblies trying to unionize the coal mines and the steel plants. Send in the Pinkertons like Carnegie did at the Homestead strike, I say, and remind those Micks and Bohunks who's boss! And those Negroes trying to sit in at lunch counters and integrate our schools? Set the dogs on those coons. Not to mention the faggot riots at Stonewall. A good beating will keep them off the streets. And those dirty hippies at Kent State....

I and ten pounds of inedita have nothing to fear, we're white and Protestant and straight and wear ties, and the cops are our friends, keeping the riff-raff down and out of sight of us upstanding citizens.

Nothing to fear, and no need for empathy. Or justice, so long as we get ours.
posted by orthogonality at 10:12 PM on July 29, 2008 [7 favorites]


ten pounds of inedita writes "If a hundred of your buddies go out and riot and one of them assaults someone, why shouldn't the punishment be applied to someone at random if they can't pick out the guilty party?"

Yeah, like at Lidice or Oradour-sur-Glane. Or Rosewood, Florida.

You're in great company, ten pounds. Adolf Hitler, the Der Führer Regiment of the 2nd Waffen-SS Panzer Division Das Reich, and a bunch of redneck Klansmen all agree with you.
posted by orthogonality at 10:22 PM on July 29, 2008


Ignoring all the arguing and derailing, I just wanted to make a comment about this (but the comment I'm making is not directed specifically at the person who said this):

It's ridiculous for a bicyclist going 9 MPH, who is responsible for generating his own go-power, to treat stop-signals the way cars do.

See, here's the problem: the rules of the road work, in large part, because it helps people predict behavior even before they can observe it. Approaching an intersection with the right-of-way via a green light? You go through, rather than slowing to a crawl and looking both ways first, because you have an expectation that other people will be following the same rules that you are, and so traffic can move. This happens in nearly all truck/car/motorcycle/bike/pedestrian interactions. Heck, that's all a turn signal is, a device to help other road users predict what your next action will be, right?

Now, there are some who say that fewer rules, rather than more, would be a good idea because it forces you to pay more attention, and I'm actually in that camp. Nevertheless, we don't have that right now, and we have to play with the cards we're dealt.

So when you blow through a red light, you need to understand that nobody is expecting you to do this, not the pedestrians or the drivers or anyone else who isn't you. Even if bicyclists "always" do that where you live and ride, there are drivers and pedestrians who aren't going to be expecting it. And, when you do something unexpected when other road users are around, one of two things happens: best case scenario, one or more people you're sharing the road with are first startled, then relieved, then annoyed that you engaged in reckless behavior -- and worst case scenario, you get hit by a car or you hit a pedestrian, because neither the driver nor the walker were expecting you to do it.

It doesn't matter if you like the rules or not; it doesn't matter if you think they should apply to you or not. What matters is that you, and everyone else, obey the rules so that we can all do a better job of predicting each other's behavior and act accordingly, so that we can keep traffic moving and be safe.

If your goal is to use safety in numbers to feel powerful and superior, I suppose you'll keep doing this Critical Mass stuff, but if you want to make genuine change, work on changing the rules to better accommodate you, so that we can all agree to alter our behavior via those laws, and those who that will not do so can get tickets or lose their license.

Oh, and remember: it isn't just about you. Motorcyclists hate drivers for many of the same reasons you do; drivers hate motorcyclists and bicyclists because they are difficult to see and split lanes in awkward places and at high speeds; drivers hate pedestrians because they step off the curb in the middle of the street without looking; pedestrians hate bicyclists because they can't hear them coming as they step off of the curb, and on and on it goes.
posted by davejay at 11:50 PM on July 29, 2008 [14 favorites]


Civil rights protesters didn't go out of their way to antagonize the white majority. They were polite, humble, dressed well, and followed the rules.

Yeah, those darkies knew their place.

An overwhelming majority of cyclists is either completely ignorant

enough said.
posted by caddis at 12:59 AM on July 30, 2008


I saw a guy riding a bike in rural Indiana. I yelled: "GO LANCE GO."

He flipped me off. I'd do it again.
posted by Cyclopsis Raptor at 1:38 AM on July 30, 2008


caddis: Yeah, those darkies knew their place.

You're actually comparing your "struggle" to the fucking civil rights movement? You're not a civil rights protester, you're a brat on a bike.

Though you've shown yourself to be deplorable in this thread, solace can be taken in the fact that, if you actually back up your talk with CM-like action in real life, you'll probably get run over. You'd then, one imagines, get taken to the hospital in a gas-guzzling ambulance, which- please, oh please- will be seriously delayed by a group of smug cyclists.
posted by spaltavian at 2:24 AM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Orthogonality: "I and ten pounds of inedita have nothing to fear, we're white and Protestant and straight and wear ties, and the cops are our friends, keeping the riff-raff down and out of sight of us upstanding citizens.
Nothing to fear, and no need for empathy. Or justice, so long as we get ours."


Ortho, 99% of the time I agree with you. But this is way over the top.

By claiming the history of the civil rights movement as the spiritual ancestor of something like CM does an injustice to the people who suffered and fought to have their rights recognized.

First of all, CMers (from my experience) are almost always white people, urbanites, new city gentry-types with dreadlocks and all manner of cultural appropriations to decorate their hip, urban bodies. They are not some poor, oppressed minority suffering from the tyrannical whims of the majority.

They are people on bicycles. That's all.

Stop trying to equate "owning a bicycle" with "being an oppressed minority." There is no moral equivalency between the struggle of blacks and other groups in America with "young white people who like to ride bicycles." And while you're at it, stop equating people who get pissed off when CM makes them late for work with Nazis.

I was at Yad Vashem yesterday. I saw fucking nazis. People who own SUVs and yell at traffic-stoppers are not nazis. And people who like to ride bicycles are not an oppressed minority.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:31 AM on July 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Or what spaltavian said with brevity whilst I was cautiously composing my reply.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:33 AM on July 30, 2008


The last time I got stuck in a critical mass I was on my way to to ecological sensitivity monitoring for endangered species of frogs. Moving slowly, burning gas, preventing me from saving the planet... fuck you critical mass. You are stupid. You break the rules for what...? Cyclists rights? Showing car drivers that 'we are here too'?

What moron thought this up? Instead of pissing off people, why don't you show them how viable a cycle can be. You know, by following the rules, riding fast and hard, stopping at lights, being friendly, avoiding the overdramatic use of whistles.
posted by maxpower at 6:17 AM on July 30, 2008


My main recollection of CM rides I observed during college was this bearded guy loudly proclaiming "Look, I am being arrested for following the law!" as he was taken into custody. Um, no, asshole, you're being arrested for obstructing traffic, same as I would if I were driving down the center of a busy four-lane city street at 2 mph during rush hour.

This is the same guy that would harass other cyclists whenever he saw them on the sidewalks, yelling "Bikes in the street!" despite the fact that the sidewalk 95% of the other bikers were on was a designated, paved 2-lane bike path.

I never saw the point.

When I'm in the street, I stop for red lights and stop signs and signal my turns. Because I am a biker, in the street with cars, and I have a responsibility to protect my own ass by giving drivers some sense of what I am up to. When I'm in a bike path, I watch out for pedestrians that can't seem to figure out bike paths are for bikes; I slow down if I have to if it helps me avoid hitting them, can't say I don't get annoyed but I try not to act like an asshole even if they're standing in the bike lane.

That's kind of the main point I guess. Try not to be an asshole. It makes everyone happier in the long run. Watching out for others is just a common courtesy, which should be observed no matter what form of transportation you prefer.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:38 AM on July 30, 2008


If your goal is to use safety in numbers to feel powerful and superior, I suppose you'll keep doing this Critical Mass stuff

Whoa, whoa. You can disagree with how I bike, but don't lump me in with all that mess. I'm not into CM at all.

And just because I don't automatically stop at reds doesn't mean I "blow through" them either. I slow, I look, I go. If there are pedestrians in the crosswalk, I stop or slow until they're clear. If a car is behind me, I try to make sure that all my movements are smooth and predictable so I don't freak them out-- but otherwise, I have to conduct myself as if a car hasn't seen me at all, which usually it hasn't. For every 1 driver that grumbles seeing me forge ahead while they're stuck at a red, there are probably five at the same intersection who don't notice me at all.

By the way, in NYC street traffic, drivers know -- not suspect, but KNOW -- that even with a green light, pedestrians and cyclists cross against the light, and not just in the crosswalks. It has the benefit of making drivers slower and more cautious, so that a green light doesn't encourage you to punch the gas and scream through the streets the same way it does in other settings. In an urban environment like NYC, cars are the minority, and the fact that the streets have been designed for them is an accident that is slowly being repaired by neighborhood groups and city planners. In the meantime, it's a fairly self-policing situation, where everyone still (mostly) gets where they're going.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:02 AM on July 30, 2008


enough said.

I'm sorry?
posted by oaf at 7:28 AM on July 30, 2008


The vast majority of drivers engage in one or more of the following behaviors routinely:

* speeding
* turning without a signal (especially right)
* running red lights if it was yellow while they were within 50' of the intersection
* double parking in the bike lane
* rolling stops at stop signs
* opening doors while exiting the vehicle without checking traffic
* changing lanes without a full blind spot check
* driving while sleepy

Every one of these endangers everybody else on the road, and especially cyclists, so where is the corresponding outrage, condemnation, and hatred? Every single time anything remotely related comes up it's "blah blah blah cyclists all run red lights; fuck them". The routine automobile accidents caused by idiot drivers and the poor construction scheduling around here cause more traffic delay time in a week than a decade's worth of Critical Mass rides (even if they are annoying and hijacked by twits).

The fact is, most people suck at piloting any vehicle and obeying the rules. At least the cyclists don't have a thousand pound semi-intelligently-guided missile.

(For the record, cyclists who run reds annoy me to, but mostly because they're usually so slow that I have to merge into traffic to pass them again, endangering myself)
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:42 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's kind of the main point I guess. Try not to be an asshole.

Quoted for emphasis. It goes for drivers and cyclists alike. Also about 95% of all other contentious topics.
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:01 AM on July 30, 2008


Critical Mass brings some attention to these issues

No, sorry, caddis, it doesn't. It hasn't changed a single mind, or encouraged one person to give up their car for a bike. The cop in the video should be quickly fired, not only for body checking a random cyclist, but for being so fucking stupid that it didn't occur to him that everybody has a cell phone camera.
posted by fixedgear at 8:20 AM on July 30, 2008


[NOT HERMITOSIS-IST], it's awesome that you're aware of pedestrians, but speaking as a pedestrian, I can't tell that you're going to be aware. I see cyclists approaching the red light while I'm in the crosswalk and I think, Oh no, I don't know if they've seen me, I don't know if they're going to stop for me or if they're just going to blow through it and hit me, I don't know what rule they're choosing to obey today.

davejay's comment above sums it up best for me - predictable behavior and rules that people expect help everyone.
posted by cadge at 8:24 AM on July 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


I ride my bike to work every day, and I ride a road bike on weekends, and I fucking hate critical massniks. They are not helping at all.
posted by everichon at 8:37 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


It has the benefit of making drivers slower and more cautious, so that a green light doesn't encourage you to punch the gas and scream through the streets the same way it does in other settings.

BA HA HA HA HA HA HAHHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA HAA WOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Oh, good one. Man, thanks for that - I needed a good laugh to get over the royal ass fucking I got from AT&T this morning after waiting in a three hour line to buy an iPhone only to be told that I was ineligible for the 'incentive' price. Now I feel better.
posted by spicynuts at 8:39 AM on July 30, 2008


Read Officer Pogan's affidavit in which he states that the bicyclist deliberately steered into him.
posted by caddis at 8:52 AM on July 30, 2008


I bike commute most days. Usually I take a shared trail and cross a couple major streets; sometimes I get fed up with the sameness and just take surface roads. What seems different lately is that drivers -- while still looking sullen and half-awake -- when they do notice cyclists, sometimes smile or frown thoughtfully as if thinking, "I wish I could ride my bike, but I live too far from work" (rather than just dismissing us as "not an immediate threat"). Even more interesting, sometimes they'll slow down and wave me across when traffic is otherwise quite heavy. They never used to do that.

That, of course, and the fact that the trail is getting more heavily used. And I'm rather healthier than I was last year (when I worked at home).

So, I guess I'm rooting for gas at $2 a litre.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:55 AM on July 30, 2008


Well, I'm serious. Drivers are (more) alert to pedestrian and bike traffic here, because it's all around them all the time. There are still reckless and speedy drivers, but I've actually driven a car in NYC quite a lot, and one rarely gets above 35 on any street or avenue.

Sorry about your ass though.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 8:55 AM on July 30, 2008


Well, I'm serious. Drivers are (more) alert to pedestrian and bike traffic here, because it's all around them all the time.

I live here. And I drive here. And I walk here. And I'm sorry, but I disagree.
posted by spicynuts at 8:59 AM on July 30, 2008


There's more about That Guy that ruins everything in The Tyranny of Structurelessness. See also evidence of Portland's ongoing Seattle envy by googling "portland bike fight." Been bike and foot and bus only for 10+ years, will walk blocks away to avoid the cyclists.
posted by eccnineten at 9:04 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


but I've actually driven a car in NYC quite a lot, and one rarely gets above 35 on any street or avenue.

Furthermore...really? Have you driven in Brooklyn? Or, more importantly, Queens? I've driven a cube truck and a car in most of NYC, not just Manhattan. I also walk around most of it. And again, I disagree. I can point specifically to 4th Ave and 3rd Ave, which have bike lanes, in Brooklyn. I cross 4th Ave every morning to get to the subway. There are ALWAYS cabs, trucks and cars barreling through red lights at 50 mph. My experience has been that drivers are MORE aggressive due to pedestrians and other traffic as well as lax enforcement of traffic laws by police. Bikers included. I was nearly run over by a biker today on Prince/Broadway who was speeding to get through a yellow light and was 20 feet from the intersection when the light turned red and continued speeding right across Broadway. He was actively attempting to beat both the pedestrian traffic that was starting to move across Prince and the car traffic that was starting to move down Broadway. Complete obnoxious move.
posted by spicynuts at 9:05 AM on July 30, 2008


If you guys are so angry why don't you do something about it? I find this mind-boggling. Honestly I think that the sort of spittle flecked anger that not moving in your car creates is apparently no good for actual political change.

When the shit hits the fan there will be hundreds of cyclists who have never fought anyone, who are normal people who will come out and support CM and they will be/are/apparently a more substantial force than the stuff you see here. I've been following this on SLOG as well and the level of hatred and anger. I mean, come on, it's not just "CM is bad" there's about 25%, "I WILL KILL THEM!", "COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT!". Seriously take a chill pill.

CM moves along, they are not blocking people in indefinitely for kicks, they're moving. There's no guarantee that the pesky presence of other people won't make it difficult for you to drive your dying loved one to the hospital in a timely manner, sucks to be you.

Anyway CM goes on every month with hundreds of people and there's an occasional fight. Big fucking deal. "Right of way", parking, speed, etc cause many many fights all the fucking time with no help from CM or bikes for that matter.

CM is not about changing minds. It's about two things. First of all it's about power. I bike commute and it's scary. You're always in danger, small, you can get abused intentionally or unintentionally. Having a large group is the only way to feel secure.

Second, it's fun. Oh well, I'm sure that the spittle just flecked a little higher. Please, do something, agitate, talk to your representatives or you whatever, or I guess just do like so many posters want to and kick some fucking ass. Be the change you want to see in the world! It's going to be hard to beat us in a group so just let the anger build up and throw something at me when I'm commuting. After all my fellow bike commuters will just blame CM for antagonizing drivers. After all they were good people but because of CM they turned into someone who screams at commuters, who can't accept going slow behind a bicyclist when it's not safe to pass.

Anyway as to the law, here's a bone: I follow it. I was taught to ride seriously when I was very young, I wore a helmet and a mirror and I signaled. I still do. I stop at lights. If I'm going to run up a line of stopped cars I generally stop and then do it extremely slowly.

Hey, got any spittle left? Because I do break the law on my bike. I don't speed as much as in my car but I undoubtedly blow through stop signs when I can look and traffic is light. I've ride a block on a one-way street near my place that's never got any traffic on it. (I wouldn't do it if there was traffic because well that wouldn't work.)

Nonetheless I am a thousand times better than many of my friends. If someone wants to crackdown on cyclist infractions that'd be OK with me. The roads are too dangerous. I've never in my life seen or heard of anyone get busted for weaving or doing any number of crazy things in a car but that's not critical. I think I'll be OK because like I said I'm fairly conscientious. If I'm not OK I'll adapt. I'd like to think that a real hard crackdown on cycling and traffic laws would come with some corresponding benefits but whatever.

Anyway I'll do Seattle CM next month. I haven't been in a fight since I got beat up as a little kid and I'm pretty sure that'll be true after CM. I understand your anger though, listening to people defend that NYC cop, that lying sack of... anyway I'm not going to fight anyone so I'm trying not to talk on the internet like some sort of tough guy. Let's just say it's weird to see when mefites will defend a lying abusive cop.
posted by Wood at 9:08 AM on July 30, 2008


I've read this entire thread pretty closely, and I didn't see anybody defending that NYC cop.

But I do feel entirely justified in saying the following: I think it'd be great if more people biked to work, and with gas prices so high, that's actually happening around the country. I can see it myself during my morning commute (by car, I'm afraid to admit, but I strive to be kind to my bicycling comrades), so that's a good thing overall.

Oh, and Critical Mass and their supporters are complete fucking douchenozzles in every way imaginable.
posted by bardic at 10:16 AM on July 30, 2008


The evidence is mounting that these are not isolated incidences, and I've got no sympathy "for protesting cyclists getting the shit beaten out of them by the cops, even if they're factually innocent. If it scares enough cyclists to stop participating, so much the better. It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that these cyclists are organized and violent and are providing false testimony to support each other. Yeah, the guy who got roughed up in New York may not have deserved it, but I betcha one of his buddies would have.

Third post super genius.
posted by Wood at 10:54 AM on July 30, 2008


davejay: See, here's the problem: the rules of the road work, in large part, because it helps people predict behavior even before they can observe it.

That's the problem: the rules of the road do not work all that well for cyclists. Cyclists are hit by vehicles all the time. Cycling on city streets is dangerous, partly because of the rules of the road and the design that goes with those rules, all of which is intended for cars. Blind adherence to the rules that are designed to keep drivers safe will make you, as a cyclist, a lot less safe. Not only that, but when cyclist do act like cars they tend to anger a certain proportion of drivers (and the last thing I want behind me when I'm trying to make a left turn across traffic is an angry person piloting a ton and a half of steel).

And, when you do something unexpected when other road users are around, one of two things happens: best case scenario, one or more people you're sharing the road with are first startled, then relieved, then annoyed that you engaged in reckless behavior -- and worst case scenario, you get hit by a car or you hit a pedestrian, because neither the driver nor the walker were expecting you to do it.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that running a red into oncoming traffic is a good idea. If you roll a stop sign or a red light when there isn't anyone there to startle, then I don't really see the harm.

If your goal is to use safety in numbers to feel powerful and superior, I suppose you'll keep doing this Critical Mass stuff, but if you want to make genuine change, work on changing the rules to better accommodate you, so that we can all agree to alter our behavior via those laws, and those who that will not do so can get tickets or lose their license.

All the cyclists who participate in critical mass could sit at home and send letters all day, but they would have no chance of actually changing the rules of the road. In order for change to happen, the problem needs to be visible to more than just the cyclists. I'm not sure that CM is the best approach to that goal, but suggesting that cyclists just get the rules changed without bringing any attention to the problem is naive.
posted by ssg at 11:28 AM on July 30, 2008


Bike Snob NYC on this incident. It's a good read.
posted by fixedgear at 11:44 AM on July 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I once saw a cyclist plow into a pedestrian at the intersection between Soldier's Field Road and Harvard in Cambridge/Allston. The pedestrian picked himself up, helped the cyclist up, asked the guy if he was okay, then calmly threw the bike into the Charles River.

So while people in cars can be reckless douches, cyclists need to remember that if they are reckless douches, their vehicle is light enough to be picked up and tossed away.

There was no fight following the bike toss. The tosser was a guy I'd seen at the gym a few times and was pretty big. The cyclist, while no physical slouch himself, decided it was better to try to rescue his bike than take a swing. I am not condoning playing SINK with other people's property, however the look of shock on the cyclist's face was priceless.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 12:06 PM on July 30, 2008 [10 favorites]


Well, I'm all for bike lanes and suchlike, but ...

Isn't riding around in giant herds to annoy drivers to draw attention to cyclists kind of like stalking someone to get their attention? In both cases, yeah, you might get some attention, but it's not the good kind of attention.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:45 PM on July 30, 2008


Instead of pissing off people, why don't you show them how viable a cycle can be. You know, by following the rules, riding fast and hard, stopping at lights, being friendly, avoiding the overdramatic use of whistles.

The best thing that you indignant motorists can do then is to donate to groups like Transportation Alternatives, which do this very thing. There are groups like this in most major cities. Honestly, that's the best way you can make a statement about those CM'ers, instead of just writing off the entire issue because of a small group's highly publicized bad behavior.

Unless it's really just all about complaining so you can feel more comfortable about doing nothing. In which case, I'll step aside...
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 12:57 PM on July 30, 2008


indignant motorists

Are you reading this thread? A lot of us are cyclists.
posted by everichon at 1:01 PM on July 30, 2008


indignant motorists

Are you reading this thread? A lot of us are pedestrians.
posted by oaf at 1:22 PM on July 30, 2008


Great, I'm sure TransAlt will be hauling it in today, then!
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 1:48 PM on July 30, 2008


I, too, pedest walk.
posted by everichon at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2008


The vast majority of drivers engage in one or more of the following behaviors routinely:

* speeding
* turning without a signal (especially right)
* running red lights if it was yellow while they were within 50' of the intersection
* double parking in the bike lane
* rolling stops at stop signs
* opening doors while exiting the vehicle without checking traffic
* changing lanes without a full blind spot check
* driving while sleepy

Every one of these endangers everybody else on the road, and especially cyclists, so where is the corresponding outrage, condemnation, and hatred?


Hey, I scream, curse, and give other drivers the finger all day! Just doin' my part... ; )
posted by stifford at 1:53 PM on July 30, 2008


So, I guess I'm rooting for gas at $2 a litre.

Fuck, over here, we *wish* it was that cheap. Not seeing much downturn in car use though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:55 PM on July 30, 2008


Whoa, whoa. You can disagree with how I bike, but don't lump me in with all that mess. I'm not into CM at all.

Hey, [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST], I wasn't singling you out...which is why I said at the top of my comment "I just wanted to make a comment about this (but the comment I'm making is not directed specifically at the person who said this)" before I quoted you. So smile and wave as you ride by, and I'll do the same. ;)
posted by davejay at 5:35 PM on July 30, 2008


I'm sure TransAlt will be hauling it in today, then!

Not Hermitosis-ist, but apparently New Yorkist. This is how we rock it out here.
posted by everichon at 6:38 PM on July 30, 2008


What if bikes were allowed to carry an infrared traffic light changer. Getting traffic lights to work in support of bicyclists, by giving them the right of way through intersections would do a lot to support cycling in big city traffic.
posted by acro at 10:23 PM on July 30, 2008


Yeah, but you'd really be hoping that the motorists don't come up with the ingenious brainwave of getting hold of them & installing them in their cars as well...
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:17 PM on July 30, 2008


The solution to cyclists running red lights isn't to install a device that makes the lights change for every cyclist. I'm fairly certain that would make for horrendous traffic conditions. I think what's required is simply a better definition of what a cyclist can and cannot do- at the moment (in Australia, at least), I find myself, on a bike, having to behave like a car in some situations, but not others. Bike lanes are handy, but are not everywhere.

In the states, you can turn right on a red light, IIRC? That is showing some flexibility for cars- if you can see the lane is free, the red light can be ignored. I think something along these lines would make life easier for cyclists and motorists alike.
posted by twirlypen at 5:19 AM on July 31, 2008


robocop is bleeding: that's ... that's beautiful.

i've had several near-misses with reckless bikers in that part of town as a pedestrian. and i think that's one of the places where i've been the driver in a car/bike collision. every time that happens to me (i think it's happened three times so far), my car has been stopped in traffic, immobile, and been nailed on the mirror by a lane-splitting bicyclist.

also, i have no point but must share this photo.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:02 AM on July 31, 2008


haha, no, not that photo. THIS PHOTO

stupid cutting and pasting errors
posted by rmd1023 at 12:33 PM on July 31, 2008


There should be a critical mass every day, in every city. And a critical manners, every day, in every city.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:45 PM on August 7, 2008


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