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March 4, 2010 3:26 PM   Subscribe

SFPD's new chief, George Gascon, is reportedly considering putting an end to Critical Mass, the group cycling event that occurs the last Friday of every month. There has been speculation, after a January ruling that New York City can force groups of 50 people or more on bicycles to get a parade permit, that similar action may be taken in San Francisco. Critical Mass appears unworried. (Previously)
posted by ActingTheGoat (140 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Why not get a permit like everyone else? Not sure why this will "end critical mass."
posted by Ironmouth at 3:27 PM on March 4, 2010


Why not get a permit like everyone else? Not sure why this will "end critical mass."

As I understand it, one of the key 'features' to a critical mass ride is that they don't have a planned route ahead of time, and just take each turn as they come to it. Permits usually require a scheduled route and time.
posted by nomisxid at 3:29 PM on March 4, 2010


Settles in for long, contentious, well-rehearsed thread...
posted by fixedgear at 3:30 PM on March 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


Because they aren't a group. They have no leader. They make np plans. They are individual cyclists. They are the traffic.
Do we require car traffic to get a permit when there are a bunch of them on the street?
posted by cccorlew at 3:31 PM on March 4, 2010 [16 favorites]


Do we require car traffic to get a permit when there are a bunch of them on the street?

Yes, we call it a parade.
posted by muddgirl at 3:33 PM on March 4, 2010 [21 favorites]


As I understand it, one of the key 'features' to a critical mass ride is that they don't have a planned route ahead of time, and just take each turn as they come to it. Permits usually require a scheduled route and time.

I think that's to reduce the inconvenience to others with whom they share the road and to regulate the ability of persons to exerciese their rights at the same time others do.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:36 PM on March 4, 2010


However, the judge wrote in his ruling that “their lack of predictability and their tendency to try to stay together in a moving column, even if this means going through a red light … endanger other travelers and disrupt orderly traffic flow.”

This is a rather ignorant ruling. This particular quirk of CM is actually by the request of law enforcement - by clumping together and ignoring red lights, intersections can be better controlled and the potential for collisions is greatly reduced. The priority for police during a CM ride is harm reduction, and this has proven an effective strategy. Obeying all traffic signals has been experimented with in several cities, and usually ends in a heavily fractured ride and/or tears. This ruling will just cause SF Critical Mass to split into groups of <50, and will endanger other travelers and disrupt orderly traffic flow.

Mayor Gavin Newsom has repeatedly cautioned that the potential backlash from a major crackdown would not be worth the hassle.

Quite right. Most importantly there is no real way to crack down on CM as it has no top-down organization to attack.
posted by mek at 3:37 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yes, we call it a parade.

Your morning commute sounds a lot more interesting than mine.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:39 PM on March 4, 2010 [17 favorites]


Your morning commute sounds a lot more interesting than mine.

I didn't realize that my morning commute involved "meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets on bikes."
posted by muddgirl at 3:43 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Your morning commute sounds a lot more interesting than mine.

What, you don't take the Mulberry Street route?
posted by brundlefly at 3:43 PM on March 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


I'm feeling a little cranky with my new Chief of Police. So far in his tenure he seems to want to harrass my favorite clubs, crack down on Critical Mass, and buy a bunch of tasers (while somehow not understanding why folks might be suspicious of them).

Would prefer attention to homicide and robbery reduction, please.
posted by feckless at 3:43 PM on March 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


I didn't realize that my morning commute involved "meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets on bikes."

Who said anything about bikes? We were talking about cars.

And yes, my morning commute does involve "meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets." This is the nature of (rush hour) traffic.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:47 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do we require car traffic to get a permit when there are a bunch of them on the street?

If they're not planning on stopping at stoplights, then yes, they are required to get a permit.
posted by zsazsa at 3:49 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


If they're not planning on stopping at stoplights, then yes, they are required to get a permit.

I think this is a very valid point. The defense I've always heard is "we don't block traffic, we are traffic." Well, ok, fine, then follow the same rules as traffic.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 3:53 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Do we require car traffic to get a permit when there are a bunch of them on the street?

I remember thinking like that. Before I moved to San Francisco, I'd hear about Critical Mass and think, "Wow! That's great! They're just being the traffic! You can't stop them because they're not doing anything wrong!"

But they do many, many things wrong. As soon as you take the step of not letting buses through, you go from being a political protest to being a mob. Let alone actively assaulting bus riders (I've been on a bus that Critical Mass tried to tip over, and seen another one). Sometimes there is no baby, sometimes it's just dirty water.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:54 PM on March 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


zsazsa: "If they're not planning on stopping at stoplights, then yes, they are required to get a permit."

See above. It would be an even bigger mess for everyone if the mass was split up into many masses.

I don't ride on critical mass because I feel like it creates more drama than is necessary to get the point across. However, I do sometimes ride with a bunch of people late at night on weekends. The problem is the same. I don't keep track of the number of times I've run a red light in front of a police officer on my bicycle, but I'm sure it's over a hundred, and they were fine with it because the impact to car traffic would be greater if every light was observed.
posted by mullingitover at 3:54 PM on March 4, 2010


Settles in for long, contentious, well-rehearsed thread...

C'mon, I'm trying to get across this thread already.
posted by dhartung at 3:55 PM on March 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


I did CM once in college, it was kind of fun but I was the only guy wearing a helmet -- I felt a little geeky.

At my old house my room mates and I always made a point of being on our front porch and shouting "get a job!" as the CMers rode by.

This is the extent of my critical mass experience.
posted by Think_Long at 3:55 PM on March 4, 2010


Critical Mass appears unworried.

Of course they unworried. Empty-headed narcissists generally are.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:55 PM on March 4, 2010 [15 favorites]


Well, Gascon is certainly flexing his new-chief muscles. But the Police Commission just gave him the thumbs-down on tasers, so he won't be able to zap CM cyclists.

I wonder what will happen when Pride comes? The Dyke March - held the day before the Pride Parade - has never gotten a permit. Organizers (I was one for a while) work with the cops, but the marching is all done without official sanction.
posted by rtha at 3:56 PM on March 4, 2010


Most importantly there is no real way to crack down on CM as it has no top-down organization to attack.

It will be interesting to see what is done with enforcement of a 'non-sanctioned' CM event.
Will they all be stopped and give tickets?
If so, will some of them try and ride away, thinking that there is not enough police to ticket everybody?
Will some of those who ride away are arrested for 'fleeing from police' or 'disregarding a police order', will bikers play the 'outraged,persecuted, innocent victim' card?
They did willfully collude to break the law(no permit), willfully evaded police from enforcing the law(ticketing, evasion, disregarding a police order, disturbing the peace, etc.)
Will they then play the 'persecuted by police' angle? Seems disingenuous to me. But even if it doesn't go to court, man, what a show!
Who will cave first to public pressure, the city, or the bikers?

It will be an interesting show. I have no dog in this race. Bikers have their points I agree with, and the city does as well. Have fun, everyone, and don't get caught. If you're caught, buck up and pay the fine, you made your point. Buy the ticket, take the ride.
posted by chambers at 4:01 PM on March 4, 2010


It would be an even bigger mess for everyone if the mass was split up into many masses.

Sure, but that's why it shouldn't be treated the same as a normal traffic, and needs a permit. If the cops want this behavior to control traffic better, it means the police have to be aware of (and probably change normal staffing / whatever) the event to handle it properly --- hence a permit.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:01 PM on March 4, 2010


I'm conflicted about this critical mass thing. On the one hand: hooray cyclists! Demanding that they be recognized as real vehicles. Visibility is always a good thing in cycling.

On the other hand, it creates ill-will from the general public, which is a bad thing.

So I'm thinking that cyclists should just keep their heads down and be good little commuters, but something inside me shouts that they most certainly should not accept treatment that is unfair.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:03 PM on March 4, 2010


What I'm happy about is that finally the SFPD is getting their priorities together. They've been fighting violent crime for much too long. Fuck bikes!
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:04 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The cops like to detain and arrest people in situations where they enjoy overwhelming advantage."

It's called "tear gas".

"They know that Critical Mass has become part of the colorful (and sometimes disruptive) fabric of San Francisco’s social life..."

Apparently no one has a memory stretching back more than 2 years.
posted by clarknova at 4:06 PM on March 4, 2010


Having been through many a Critical Mass as a rider at times, as a pedestrian at times, and as a guy just trying to frickin get home on the goddamn bus so I can eat my fucking dinner my thoughts on it are simple enough:

Yay cyclists! Boo hooligan assholes!
posted by majick at 4:07 PM on March 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


Also, "agreement between citizens and police" does not equate law. There is a difference. They're breaking the law, it's just not being enforced, no matter what safety logic is being used to sugar coat it. I would hope that the same police that agree with the bikers show up to support those same bikers when they go to the city to argue their case. If it really can be shown that this practice makes for safer streets, fantastic, then work to make it law. Just flaunting the law and then not doing anything further is not going to fix the main problem, or get more people to support their cause.
posted by chambers at 4:09 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


If they're behaving in a parade-like organized fashion it makes sense they should get a permit, even if they're not centrally-organized. If they're behaving like traffic it would make sense not to.

If they're riding in big clumps and ignoring traffic signals (even if they've been asked to) that really strikes me as more parade-like than traffic-like behavior.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 4:10 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sure, but that's why it shouldn't be treated the same as a normal traffic, and needs a permit.

There's no way you'd get a permit for a monthly event like that. So, permit required = no Critical Mass. Which might be what some people want, of course. But just saying "they should get a permit" is kind of pointless.
posted by feckless at 4:13 PM on March 4, 2010


There is no way you can deny that Critical Mass participants use passive-aggressive tactics to disrupt traffic and make their point - these riders are not part of the traffic.

However, a 2000 pound hunk of metal on wheels is far from passive, and is certainly aggressive to cyclists and pedestrians.

Whenever there's a critical mass ride in Vancouver everyone knows about it, and the local media does a good job of letting car drivers know about the Ride routes and which streets to avoid.

In short, Critical Mass is certainly annoying, but it's no big deal. It's just for 2 hours a month, right?
posted by KokuRyu at 4:14 PM on March 4, 2010


I am very sympathetic to the goals of the Critical Mass riders. Having sat at a Chicago intersection for more than 20 minutes while a never ending stream of bikes rolled past I can also say that Critical Mass events are the one time I am tempted to excuse driving over bikers. Thus I don't believe that Critical Mass does anyone any good.
posted by Babblesort at 4:18 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


The easiest way to stop Critical Mass would be for the government to simply change the road rules to state that vehicles - by definition - must have gears.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:19 PM on March 4, 2010 [11 favorites]


... vehicles - by definition - must have gears.

Well, they'd stop those goddamn penny-farthing Critical Mass rides, but everything else would be the same.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:23 PM on March 4, 2010


This bike has two gears, one in the front and one in the back.
posted by fixedgear at 4:23 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has Critical Mass been successful at anything besides organizing Critical Mass bike rides? Have municipalities changed laws or provided bike lanes or made other accommodations because of the awareness raised? Any studies showing that bike ridership has gone up or down in response to the presence of Critical Mass rides?

The intent is noble, and the execution and consequences sometimes problematic, and anecdotes about either are legion. What I've never seen is any indication that Critical Mass is meeting its larger goals (or failing to do so).
posted by fatbird at 4:24 PM on March 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thus I don't believe that Critical Mass does anyone any good.

Is it their goal to win hearts and minds?
posted by DU at 4:27 PM on March 4, 2010


Have municipalities changed laws or provided bike lanes or made other accommodations because of the awareness raised?

I've found it pretty interesting how much hatred a person in 3 tons of metal hurtling down the road at 50 MPH can have for a defenseless person on a 20 lb bike at the side of the road going 10 MPH.
posted by DU at 4:29 PM on March 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


Fuck the PO-lice. That being said, there's a lott CM stuff that needs to get changedl
posted by nevercalm at 4:29 PM on March 4, 2010


Well, there are at a minimum 200 people at Critical Mass, and on a warmer evening, easily over 1000. You can see right there that the department just can’t afford the time, the manpower, the expense to even put a dent in a group our size. Add to that the mobility and agility of Critical Mass, and you can see it’s a headache no cop — or no cop interested in stopping real crime — wants to bother with.

At least until the PD pull out the tear gas and fire hoses on a few blocks where the route may follow. I'm not a fan of what San Francisco is trying to do here, and I generally sympathize with the larger points in CM's agenda, but more or less daring the cops to get violent — which is where the government goes when there are no other alternatives — will end badly for cyclists. Getting hurt on a bicycle is no joke. I hope that doesn't happen here.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no way you can deny that Critical Mass participants use passive-aggressive tactics to disrupt traffic and make their point

I haven't taken part in Critical Mass for years - there are better ways to promote cycling & increase motorists' awareness of cyclists than by deliberately pissing everybody off.

But it's so hard to get that passive-aggressiveness out of your system! These days, it takes the form of obeying all the road rules, which people never tire of demanding:

- I exercise my right (under our road rules) to trundle to the front of any queue of cars stopped at the lights.
- I obey the red, instead of getting a nice break on all the motorists.
- Then, I exercise my right to take up the entire lane, at my own bikey pace.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:31 PM on March 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


fatbird, I don't think there's a way to show whether Critical Mass rides have been helpful or harmful, but San Francisco has seen ridership go way up and a definite improvement in bike accommodations over the past 10 years. My sense is that Critical Mass has helped more than it's hurt, and that more generally the combination of Critical Mass (lively! fun! sometimes annoying!) and the SF Bike Coalition (polite! law-abiding! tenacious!) along with external factors like the economy have collectively made quite a big impact.
posted by feckless at 4:33 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, they'd stop those goddamn penny-farthing Critical Mass rides

I don't mean to be a derailer, but I'm obliged to mention that I'm mates with the newly-crowned third-time Australian national penny farthing champion!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:37 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't think there's a way to show whether Critical Mass rides have been helpful or harmful

True, but there have been huge number of improvements in cycling infrastructure here in NYC that seem to have coincided with Critical Mass getting lots of attention. Maybe it makes organizations like Transportation Alternatives look much more reasonable.
posted by Drab_Parts at 4:43 PM on March 4, 2010


I've found it pretty interesting how much hatred a person in 3 tons of metal hurtling down the road at 50 MPH can have for a defenseless person on a 20 lb bike at the side of the road going 10 MPH.

It's also interesting on the internet, no matter what the topic, how much hatred a person traveling at 0 mph in front of a computer can have during a disagreement against someone else moving at 0 mph behind a computer?

/snark, but with no malice intended.
posted by chambers at 4:46 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


As soon as you take the step of not letting buses through, you go from being a political protest to being a mob.

Are we confusing "not letting through" for "tipping over and setting fire to"? Because last time I checked, a LOT of protests stop traffic, buses included.

Whether it's a useful form of protest for the stated goals is a good question, but "Wahh, civil disobedience is inconvenient" as the boundary of validity is a shit poor way to consider running a democracy.
posted by yeloson at 4:48 PM on March 4, 2010


Great. As usual this comes down to drivers vs cyclists, and as usual neither gives a good god damn about us pedestrians. WONT SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE PEDESTRIANS.

Havent seen Critical Mass in a long time in Vancouver, but last time I encountered them I had just run across the street from the pub to buy a pack of smokes. I'm waiting at the intersection for the light to change so I can get back to the pub and pee, when a 10-minute long caravan of spandex and sweat comes barreling down the road, ignoring all traffic lights and crosswalks.

Critical Mass made me do the pp dance at a downtown intersection on a Friday evening, and for that I will never forgive them.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:48 PM on March 4, 2010 [9 favorites]


Are we confusing "not letting through" for "tipping over and setting fire to"?

Did you read the rest of my comment? That wasn't a joke. I've feared for my life in a bus during Critical Mass. If you weren't one of the people trying to tip it over, then thanks. But yeah, the level of hysteria is genuinely scary.

Because last time I checked, a LOT of protests stop traffic, buses included.

It's framed as a protest of automobile ownership and use. Their website and other places say that they let buses through. But they don't do any of that; as far as I can tell, it's not a protest of anything.
posted by roll truck roll at 4:56 PM on March 4, 2010


Yes, thanks critical massers, for so selflessly and effectively putting yourselves on the line to make my daily bike ride to work safer.

 _    _          __  __ 
| |  | |   /\   |  \/  |
| |__| |  /  \  | \  / |
|  __  | / /\ \ | |\/| |
| |  | |/ ____ \| |  | |
|_|  |_/_/    \_\_|  |_|
	 ____  _    _ _____  
	|  _ \| |  | |  __ \ 
	| |_) | |  | | |__) |
	|  _ <>

posted by everichon at 4:57 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


DAWW MY BEAUTIFUL SARCASM
posted by everichon at 4:57 PM on March 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


WONT SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE PEDESTRIANS.

Heh. I think that every time I have to wade through them at their starting point at the top of Market, on my way home from work. The irony of a bunch of protesting cyclists thoroughly blocking a pedestrian center is never lost on me. But I suppose they have to start somewhere. And where would I be without some cross to bear? I just wish I'd remember to try to work from home on the last Friday of the month.

vehicles - by definition - must have gears

Erm...
posted by Brak at 4:58 PM on March 4, 2010


A couple years ago, Critical Mass in Toronto decided to ride the Gardiner Expressway. Goddamn, was that ever crazy. I am sympathetic to the cause, but stunts like that just make me question their sanity.
posted by emeiji at 5:05 PM on March 4, 2010


WONT SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE PEDESTRIANS.

I have a somewhat reactionary friend who seeks out Critical Mass when they're nearby, and makes a point of obliviously crossing the street, causing a lot of swerving, if not a near pileup. When he gets dirty looks, he looks them straight back in the eye and says "Share the streets!"
posted by fatbird at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2010 [34 favorites]


I haven't taken part in Critical Mass for years - there are better ways to promote cycling & increase motorists' awareness of cyclists than by deliberately pissing everybody off.

Having frequently attended Critical Mass Vancouver, I don't even think this is true. The number of people directly pissed off by CM is vanishingly small. A couple disgruntled drivers will be nasty, but the majority are supportive and cheerful. The difference in city policy is noticeable, as well; Gregor Robertson actually appeared at the CM before his election to praise the event, and campaign for the cyclist vote.

I have a somewhat reactionary friend who seeks out Critical Mass when they're nearby, and makes a point of obliviously crossing the street, causing a lot of swerving, if not a near pileup.

He should try that when CM isn't on the road.
posted by mek at 5:20 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


NYPD will show the SF cops how to handle this!
(please forgive if this has already been posted above)
posted by squalor at 5:25 PM on March 4, 2010


There was a decent article way back in 2003 comparing Sacramento's bike coalition progress to that of San Francisco.

Personally I think Critical Mass is symptomatic of the laziness and ADD tendencies in SF political action. You get a lot more done by sitting in boring civic meetings and doing paperwork than by doing stunt rides.
posted by benzenedream at 5:37 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


I see that some people have already jumped in with the tired 'I saw some Critical Mass riders being jerks, therefore the whole protest is invalid' argument. I'm also amused by the idea some have put forward that if the CM people were more just constructive and sat in meetings they'd get things done. This ignores that the SF legislature and public system is pathetically unresponsive and massively broken which is why CM came into being in the first place.

I own a large pick-up truck that guzzles gas like a drunken sailor but even I know that automobiles are increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to handle in a city environment; we simply can't all have cars because there's not enough room on the planet. I'd love to have San Francisco limited to motorcycles, bicycles and an improved bus system. Hell, considering how awful the damn traffic is on most days I don't think it'd be any slower to walk.
posted by Vaska at 5:51 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Having frequently attended Critical Mass Vancouver, I don't even think this is true. The number of people directly pissed off by CM is vanishingly small. A couple disgruntled drivers will be nasty, but the majority are supportive and cheerful.

I also frequently attend critical mass Vancouver, but I've stopped going. The last couple of rides I was on both had multiple incidents of aggressive drivers trying to push their way past corkers. As soon as that happens, a mob of cyclists usually moves towards the car to immobilize it, but sometimes they keep going. I saw a lot of near misses and I came about six inches from being hit myself, as I happened to be corking near one of these drivers. Testosterone and adrenaline were high on both sides. Fortunately the police were there (they always are, bicycling along with the ride) to prevent it from escalating.

After such incidents I've felt the mood in the crowd shift from jubilant to defiant. The threat of violent confrontation hangs in the air. It's not a scene I really want to be part of. I'm hopeful that things go back to peaceful and jubilant but I'm going to stay away for a while.
posted by PercussivePaul at 5:54 PM on March 4, 2010


will bikers play the 'outraged,persecuted, innocent victim' card?

You've never ridden a bike in traffic, have you?
posted by gauchodaspampas at 6:01 PM on March 4, 2010


PP, I've definitely seen similar incidents. But those aggressive drivers are a tiny minority of otherwise positive people. The smiles outweigh the frowns.
posted by mek at 6:15 PM on March 4, 2010


They say you attract more flies with honey, yet CM continually serves up a shit sandwich.

Wait, last I heard flies love shit... oh for the love of Christ, what thread am I in?
posted by keep_evolving at 6:30 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Critical Mass is not the answer. What America needs to become more bike friendly is more bikers. When there are enough bikers (sadly, far more than exist now in most places), then local city governments will feel the pressure to adapt traffic towards this growing constituency. Namely bike lanes, bike parking lots, etc. And with more bikers, eventually, drivers will become more accustomed to dealing with bikers. By that I mean drivers will learn to watch the fuck out for bikers.

Obviously, this is tricky; in dense cities like New York, you'll find more bikers than in rural places. But there's also a lot less room on the roads to make these changes. The smaller the city, the more space there is, but fewer bikers. Catch-22.

How do we increase the number of bikers? I have no idea, but Critical Mass sure the hell isn't it. If anything, I think that would reduce the number of bikers.
posted by zardoz at 6:43 PM on March 4, 2010


As it stands, in St. Louis, we don't do Critical Mass. However, we do have the FBC and though we are rowdier and definitely slightly more illegal, i.e. drinking while riding, there is one thing I should mention at least as applied by St. Louis law: If there is a green light the WHOLE group of bikers acts as ONE car even if the light turns red in the middle we are still one huge limousine.

Also, we are very friendly to cars, we helpfully get in one lane when cars approach from the rear, generally don't cross red lights if cars are coming and just wait for the next green, and we don't antagonize them either. We mostly get cheers and honks of support as they got used to us every full moon every month.

The maximum amount of riders has been around 500-600 so far I believe. No problems with the police...other than occasional confusion. We never announce to them ahead of time about anything. We just exercise our right to ride at night throughout town.
posted by lizarrd at 6:50 PM on March 4, 2010


I don't mean to be a derailer, but I'm obliged to mention that I'm mates with the newly-crowned third-time Australian national penny farthing champion!

This summer I was walking down the street in California when a guy rode by on a bike with a huge rear wheel and a tiny front wheel.

"Hey, nice penny-farthing!" I shouted.

"It's a farthing-penny, moron," came the response.

What an asshole, I thought, and he isn't even right. But I looked it up later, and he was right after all. He had indeed been riding the exact opposite of a penny-farthing.
posted by decagon at 6:56 PM on March 4, 2010 [8 favorites]


I've feared for my life in a bus during Critical Mass.

Oh, come on!
posted by ovvl at 7:18 PM on March 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


They say you attract more flies with honey, yet CM continually serves up a shit sandwich.

Mixed metaphor aside, it actually attracts many people. People on bikes. And those people are who it is for. If you are not one of those people, don't come. And if it crosses your path, take some deep breaths, it will be gone in a few minutes.

And, if you are one of those people, but you also believe raging on motorists is Fighting The Man, don't come either.

Critical Mass is not activism. I humbly suggest people stop trying to understand it as such.
posted by regicide is good for you at 7:40 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


lolbikes
posted by bam at 7:58 PM on March 4, 2010


Because they aren't a group. They have no leader. They make np plans. They are individual cyclists. They are the traffic. Do we require car traffic to get a permit when there are a bunch of them on the street?

They're a flock of people who like bicycles and who like to (a) give it to the man and (b) engage in flock behaviour. San Francisco is famously full of people of that nature.

In San Francisco, it is probably lower-cost and just overall easier to live with the flock. Maybe try to hem it in a bit, maybe try to get everyone who isn't part of the flock to just mellow out for the X minutes it takes for the fuckers to fly by, and avoid a big mess.

On the other hand TPB could treat them like passenger pigeons and hunt them to extinction. Unlike passenger pigeons, the Mass Effect cyclists are capable of retaliation. Does anyone really want that?

Heck, the Mass Cyclists need to find themselves a wealthy benefactor and start really marketing a once-a-month, end-of-month Mass in every city and town. Promote American-built bicycles, too, why not? Hold all the Masses at exactly the same time, say noon—1PM. Encourage everyone to participate. It's healthy! It's green! It's fun! It's social and joyous and happy! etcetera. Nothing but good would come out of it in the long run.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:13 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, mobs need outlets. This is a good outlet for mob behaviour, and the benefits of allowing people to blow off their steam by hopping on a bike and soaring through the streets safely and without stopping, surfing the environment that's normally so hellish are worth 1000x the hassle automobile and bus traffic experiences for X minutes.

People need to play.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:16 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


For a while I was seen as one of the "leaders" of Berkeley Critical Mass. Mostly this was because I had a huge bike with a sound system. It was pretty much bullshit, though. I never once handed out a route sheet, posted a flyer, or sent out invites (for other events yes, but not CM). It's not as if I had any control over who showed up or what route we took.

One time a police officer with a hidden video camera followed me for the entire ride. Once back at the station, he reviewed the video and mailed me tickets for all the red lights I rode though. It was something like $3000 in fines. The judge pretty much laughed it out of court.

I don't really understand where they're going with this permit business. What are they going to do, pull over random biker and say "You! You were the one responsible for submitting the paperwork for all these people!" They can't really order people to disperse since the ride doesn't stop in any one place. It's more or less continually dispersing.

About the only things the cops can do is bust heads. That's been tried before and it was pretty much a fiasco until the cops gave up.
posted by ryanrs at 8:18 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


What America needs to become more bike friendly is more bikers. When there are enough bikers ... then local city governments will feel the pressure to adapt traffic towards this growing constituency.

I hate your argument -- that more people need to throw themselves into unsafe traffic conditions in order to get the attention of government. Clued in governments recognize that bike commuting is a dirt cheap way to reduce long term infrastructure spending and energy demands, and they support it. If your local government doesn't have a handle on basic growth issues, then it's probably not going to be a very nice place to live.
posted by eddydamascene at 8:22 PM on March 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Judging by the popularity of electric and 50cc scooters up here in the North, cities are going to have to become more 2-wheel friendly before a lot of dumbshits get themselves killed. Bicyclists are saintly and skilled in comparison to scooter drivers.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:27 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fuck critical mass. Their bullshit antics alienate people who may otherwise agree with them.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:37 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


What? 71 comments and no-one has posted BikeSnobNYC's funny take on Critical Mass's latest (very similar) success in NYC.

This is another great success for cycling for which we can thank Critical Mass. Just to review, it's always been perfectly legal to ride a bicycle in New York City. Moreover, nobody was really counting how many people were doing it at a single time. Still, a bunch of people decided for some reason that they needed to assert some rights that we already had, and thus Critical Mass was born. This in turn made the authorities question whether we should have those rights in the first place, and unfortunately the answer they came up with is that we shouldn't. So basically, Critical Mass advocated for something that was already legal and in the process made it illegal. This is almost exactly like the "Seinfeld" episode where they get a sitcom pilot offer from NBC and George manages to negotiate their fee down. Nicely done.
posted by pascal at 8:43 PM on March 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


The irony of a bunch of protesting cyclists thoroughly blocking a pedestrian center is never lost on me.

It's been said before: SUV:car::Cyclist:Pedestrian.

Also.

But it's so hard to get that passive-aggressiveness out of your system! These days, it takes the form of obeying all the road rules, which people never tire of demanding:

Yeah, see, I think taking cycling advice from the guy who did his best impression of "man having a psychotic break" in defence of the Melburnians who ran a red light and killed an old guy is probably suboptimal.
posted by rodgerd at 10:58 PM on March 4, 2010


Sure is a lot of concern trolling in here. You people complaining that CM alienates potential supporters or is politically ineffective—you really don't get it. Few people ride CM to woo political allies. Few people ride CM to gain the support of motorists and pedestrians. Maybe a few do, but not many.

The reason people ride CM is to have fun. Biking through the city in a huge throng of cyclists is amazing, empowering, and fun. That's why people do it, honest!


I think I should also clarify something about this "leader" business. That website? It's just a website by some guy. He's not the leader. It's not as if the ride would be canceled if he didn't show up. Nobody would even notice except maybe some of his friends.

CM can't get a permit because nobody is in charge. Even if some person did file for a permit, it wouldn't matter. It's not like they would be able to influence the route. Here's how the route is determined:
The tail of the ride follows the middle.
The middle follows the head.
The head is a bunch of crazy aggro 20-yo punks.
What are you going to do, arrest the crazy aggro punks? Fine! Nobody cares—those guys are assholes anyway. And it's not like we're going to run out of 'em.
posted by ryanrs at 10:59 PM on March 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Giant cardboard bicycles with boomboxes and seats twelve feet high covered in artificial moss trailing hand-knit streamers sure do a lot to legitimize cycling as a mainstream means of transport.
posted by setanor at 10:59 PM on March 4, 2010


Anyway, to call out the police for trying to do something to enforce a law only because it seems you've concocted a situation where they can't enforce it without making themselves look worse and making things worse for everyone?

If a few CM riders (whoever, you know, just for fun, cuz' they're aggro or whatever the fuck) decided to start running down pedestrians, would you still want the police to stay out? I mean, what would they do, ticket everyone? Follow everyone?
posted by setanor at 11:03 PM on March 4, 2010


Other riders would probably yell at them and maybe shame them into stopping. If a cop sees it, they would probably grab the rider and arrest him or something. What do you want me to do about it?
posted by ryanrs at 11:13 PM on March 4, 2010


Anyway, to call out the police for trying to do something to enforce a law only because it seems you've concocted a situation where they can't enforce it without making themselves look worse and making things worse for everyone?

Why not? I call them out on the drug war, which has a similar dynamic. The police are here to make shit better, not worse. And like with the drug war, they should be focusing their efforts on harm reduction, not criminalization. When the freeway is backed up, they don't go out and give everyone tickets for blocking the road and driving too slowly.
posted by ryanrs at 11:28 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, in Providence, R.I., the cops are too busy dealing cocaine to worry about cyclists.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 11:33 PM on March 4, 2010


they should be focusing their efforts on harm reduction

In this voluntary act, why shouldn't the task harm reduction fall on the participants?
posted by setanor at 11:35 PM on March 4, 2010


Yeah, see, I think taking cycling advice from the guy who did his best impression of "man having a psychotic break" in defence of the Melburnians who ran a red light and killed an old guy is probably suboptimal.

Was that supposed to be me? I have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:36 PM on March 4, 2010


Meanwhile, in Providence, R.I., the cops are too busy dealing cocaine to worry about cyclists.

Meanwhile, in Seattle, a cyclist hit a young boy and then rode off. Clearly, this is representative of the character of all cyclists.
posted by setanor at 11:38 PM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why shouldn't the task harm reduction fall on the participants?

It does: every man for himself. Each individual is responsible for their own behavior and should look out for their own safety. That's how the cars do it, right?
posted by ryanrs at 11:43 PM on March 4, 2010



ryanrs
: Biking through the city in a huge throng of cyclists is amazing, empowering, and fun. That's why people do it, honest!

I find it amazing, empowering and fun to masturbate on your lawn, especially if I have 400 of my co-masturbators with me. Sure, it's annoying to you, or perhaps inconvenient if you have to wait 10 minutes to leave the house to avoid getting something unmentionable on your best suit, but the important thing is that I'm empowered and having fun, and the bylaws being broken are unfairly slanted in the homeowner's favor anyway. And shouldn't we be more accepting of masturbation regardless?

Seriously, the political argument for CM is better. I can appreciate it, and use it to quell my irritation when I'm stuck watching a seemingly neverending flow of dreadlocks and spandex preventing me from getting home, especially if I feel like it makes my own cycling safer. But pissing a bunch of people off to have empowering fun is not a great way to gain acceptance of that fun.
posted by fatbird at 12:07 AM on March 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


I find it amazing, empowering and fun to masturbate on your lawn, especially if I have 400 of my co-masturbators with me.

I live in downtown SF. I don't have a lawn. But if you can get 400 people to jack off on Bush Street in front of my apartment, more power to you. I doubt you can out-gross St. Patrick's Day, but don't let that dissuade you.
posted by ryanrs at 12:35 AM on March 5, 2010


I find it amazing, empowering and fun to masturbate on your lawn, especially if I have 400 of my co-masturbators with me.

An odd analogy, but Critical Masturbation may be just what we need to get people to relax about cycling.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:31 AM on March 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


This Gascon fellow should take a hint from the Mayor. Newsom knows a loser when he sees it. Remember the Governor's race?
posted by ryanrs at 2:00 AM on March 5, 2010


I don't mean to be a derailer

I think you mean derailleur (snrk)
posted by nonspecialist at 2:45 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


i'm glad that somebody saw what i did there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:51 AM on March 5, 2010


Biking through the city in a huge throng of cyclists is amazing, empowering, and fun.

Yeah, at the complete expense of the pedestrian. We get it.

Fuck your fun.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:11 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Cant's see. Why? Because this thread is filled with heat, but very little light.
posted by fixedgear at 4:48 AM on March 5, 2010


Just remember... every Critical Mass that they try to stop could very well equate to a year of effort put forward by a single officer to try to solve homicides, search for missing children, arrest those violating their parole, etc.
posted by markkraft at 4:54 AM on March 5, 2010


"I don't have a lawn. But if you can get 400 people to jack off on Bush Street in front of my apartment, more power to you."

That's what the Masturbate-a-thon is for. (NSFW pictures, for those interested).
posted by markkraft at 5:20 AM on March 5, 2010


I don't think most people want to stop Critical Mass, but we want them to follow the same rules as any other vehicular or pedestrian processional that does not obey traffic rules. IE, get a parade permit, which allows police and city forces to aid the procession in things like "not stopping at stoplights".
posted by muddgirl at 7:49 AM on March 5, 2010


Why can't they stop at red lights like everyone else again?
posted by no_moniker at 8:07 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


OMG! He had to wait 10 minutes! Teh horrors! OMG!
posted by five fresh fish at 8:17 AM on March 5, 2010


OMG! He had to wait 10 minutes! Teh horrors! OMG!

Yeah, some people in cars are aggressive jerks who run over bicyclists with glee and deserve the 10 minute wait.

Other people in automobiles are EMTs on their way to a call. Since there's no parade plan in place, they get stuck behind a random Critical Mass turn and can't respond to the heart attack in time to prevent brain damage.
posted by muddgirl at 8:28 AM on March 5, 2010


Wouldn't the bicyclists respond to an emergency siren the same way cars in heavy traffic do?
posted by Think_Long at 8:33 AM on March 5, 2010


People are DYING!! every time there is a Critical Mass!

I'm sorry, but I'm having extreme difficulty getting my underwear wedged up my ass about CM. Once a month you know you should try not to leave work at the same time as CM. OMG, the hamburgers.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:38 AM on March 5, 2010


Other people in automobiles are EMTs on their way to a call. Since there's no parade plan in place, they get stuck behind a random Critical Mass turn and can't respond to the heart attack in time to prevent brain damage.

I've never seen a mass impede an emergency vehicle with it's lights on. I have seen masses part to let ambulances and fire trucks through on a few different occasions. In my experience, this argument has no basis in fact.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:39 AM on March 5, 2010


Oh jesus, I knew the minute I posted that it would be miscontextualized.

(1) I make no claims that cars or bikes involved in Critical Mass back-ups would NOT let ambulances or fire trucks through.

(2) I make no claims that this has ever occurred.

(3) I observe that it is in the best interests of the city that they be aware of any intentional violations of traffic rules.

Violations of traffic rules can cause gridlock. Gridlock prohibits the speedy egress of emergency vehicles of all types, despite the best intentions of the people violating traffic rules.

I don't fucking think "Critical Mass has killed anyone." That's ridiculous.

I DO think it's a fucking good policy for cities to require parade permits when a group of people on foot, on bike, in automobiles, in trucks, in tractors, on unicycles, in those silly boat cars, on roller blades, on horseback, on donkeyback, in hovercars, etc intentionally intend to ignore the traffic metering systems.
posted by muddgirl at 8:48 AM on March 5, 2010 [6 favorites]


muddgirl ftw.
posted by no_moniker at 9:19 AM on March 5, 2010


Once a month you know you should try not to leave work at the same time as CM.

How does their wanting to ride around like this overrule anyone else's wanting to leave work on time?
posted by setanor at 9:21 AM on March 5, 2010


intentionally intend to ignore the traffic metering systems.

TRAFFIC METERING SYSTEMS are just DEVICES to keep us SHEEP IN A LINE.

Also, I don't trust scientists, experts or wise old men.
posted by setanor at 9:22 AM on March 5, 2010


I'm just chiming in here that I actually did make some microwave popcorn last night while reading this thread. It was really delicious popcorn. I didn't finish the whole bag. What's left is probably a little stale, but if anyone wants to stop by and have some with me, you know where I live.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Microwave popcorn stinks. Why you gotta bring that shit in here? You go look at this now and think about what you done.
posted by everichon at 9:53 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Violations of traffic rules can cause gridlock. Gridlock prohibits the speedy egress of emergency vehicles of all types, despite the best intentions of the people violating traffic rules.

I made the mistake not too long ago of driving through SoMA during evening rush hour (I'll never do that again). It was nothing but blocks and blocks of gridlock, much of it caused by drivers trying to make a light and getting stuck, and therefore blocking the box. I saw no cops directing traffic, except one poor officer near the Moscone Center.

Apparently the city is okay with commuters endangering the lives of people in medical distress on a daily basis, but the monthly, everyone-knows-about-it-because-it-happens-on-the-last-Friday-of-the-month-like-clockwork CM rides are beyond the pale.
posted by rtha at 10:03 AM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Other people in automobiles are EMTs on their way to a call. Since there's no parade plan in place, they get stuck behind a random Critical Mass turn and can't respond to the heart attack in time to prevent brain damage.

Rush hour traffic, meet muddgirl. Muddgirl, meet rush hour traffic.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 PM on March 5, 2010


In heavy traffic, a bike is much faster anyway - if the EMTs were concerned about time, they wouldn't be in a car in the first place.

Hell, even in light traffic, a bike is always faster over any distance less than 10 miles.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:32 PM on March 5, 2010


As far as I can tell, the only reason CM riders ignore red lights and "cork" and all that is so that the group stays together. I.E., for their own benefit, not the benefit of the rest of the (albeit motorized) traffic. Never could see how this was any different than, say, a large group of Mini Cooper enthusiasts getting together and insisting that all other traffic stop for them.

This particular quirk of CM is actually by the request of law enforcement - by clumping together and ignoring red lights, intersections can be better controlled and the potential for collisions is greatly reduced.

[Citation needed.]
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 2:09 PM on March 5, 2010


You rang?

Ever seen a mass that has split apart because it got too thin in the middle and split apart at a red light? You end up with an undifferentiated mass of cars and bikes. Rhymes with luster cluck.
posted by [citation needed] at 2:54 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yum - mustard duck is my favourite!
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:09 PM on March 5, 2010


It's rusted stuck?
posted by rtha at 3:28 PM on March 5, 2010


As far as I can tell, the only reason CM riders ignore red lights and "cork" and all that is so that the group stays together. I.E., for their own benefit, not the benefit of the rest of the (albeit motorized) traffic.

As far as I can tell, the only reason anyone does anything is for their own benefit, not for the benefit of the rest of society. However, these things are often one and the same, especially in the case of traffic, as any collision can result in huge delays for thousands who were not in any way involved. Therefore it is understandable that police not only tolerate but actively encourage CM rallies to stay together and ignore traffic signals, as the minor inconvenience that results from an orderly ride is far less harmful than the alternative of potentially serious traffic accidents.

The fact that a CM rally, operating in an illegal but tolerated manner, is vastly safer for everyone (drivers, cyclists and pedestrians inclusive) than a CM rally obeying the rules of the road, illustrates the need for these events perfectly. It also says a lot about our automobile-obsessed culture that we would even consider picking something potentially dangerous over something safe but mildly inconveniencing.
posted by mek at 3:29 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Once a month you know you should try not to leave work at the same time as CM.
How does their wanting to ride around like this overrule anyone else's wanting to leave work on time?


Their wanting does not overrule anything.

The fact that there are a skijillion of them, and that it's way safer to keep them all in a pack while they do their thing, does overrule all sorts of things.

Life is unfair and sometimes inconvenient. Suck it up, princess.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:01 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


How does their wanting to ride around like this overrule anyone else's wanting to leave work on time?

Same way it does every weekday morning and afternoon.
posted by mek at 4:49 PM on March 5, 2010


Life is unfair and sometimes inconvenient. Suck it up, princess.

Yeah, just like making sure the event you participate in is permited if necessary, which is why this whole conversation started.

OH NO BUT THEY WON'T LET ME RIDE MY BIKE IN CITY HALL HOW WILL I GET A PERMIT
posted by setanor at 5:36 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The truth is nobody wants Critical Mass to get a permit. The riders don't want to apply for a permit. The police don't want to issue a permit. And you, setanor, don't want CM to get a permit either. The permit is not the issue.

Chief Gascon does not want to grant a permit for CM, he wants to deny it. He wants to use the permit issue shut down CM. This is his way of picking a fight with CM.
posted by ryanrs at 8:57 PM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Even if the police were happy with issuing a permit, can anybody comment on what kind of cost & red tape would be involved?

Permits are surely normally issued to groups with some kind of formal structure or incorporation, and would probably require a nominal processing fee - a hundred bucks or two, perhaps.

As CM has no organisation, no structure, no office, no members, no dues...the mere process of filling out some forms, liaising with police & paying a fee would just about cripple it, no?
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:09 PM on March 5, 2010


As CM has no organisation, no structure, no office, no members, no dues...the mere process of filling out some forms, liaising with police & paying a fee would just about cripple it, no?

How can you cripple something without a skeleton? The best you can do is treat random cyclists like criminals and launch tear gas, etc. in their direction.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 PM on March 5, 2010


CM is a whole bunch of people doing what they want in a group so large that no one can reasonably stop them.

It's kind of like Improv Everywhere and other flashmobs. It. Just. Happens. A whole bunch of people gang up and agree to do a thing, regardless what the rules all say. IE gets away with it because it's a different thing each time; you can't imagine they'd be able to do the Grand Central Station Dance Number every month, let alone invading Best Buy.

Grousing about Critical Mass is like bitching about the weather. You might not like it, but there is sweet fuck-all you can do about it except change your attitude. For you, once a month, you can either plan ahead, or you can get pissed on by a little rainstorm.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 PM on March 5, 2010


Ok, fine. Here's the relevant bit of the municipal code. As you can see, CM is not a parade. But if it were, there is no way in hell it would get a permit.

San Francisco Police Code, Article 4: PARADES.
Sec. 366. (e) A "parade" is an event, not including an athletic event, in which a group of persons proceed as a collective body for more than one block on any street in the City and County of San Francisco, whether on foot or in any type of vehicle or on an animal or animals, which event obstructs or interferes with the normal flow of vehicular traffic. An "athletic event" is an event in which a group of people collectively engage in a sport or form of physical exercise on any street in the City and County of San Francisco, including but not limited to jogging, bicycling, racewalking, roller skating or running. The following processions are not included in the definitions of a "parade": (1) processions composed wholly of the military or naval forces of the United States or of the State of California; (2) processions incidental to a wedding or funeral; (3) processions composed of one or more governmental officials or candidates accompanied by security personnel to which such officials or candidates are entitled by virtue of their office or candidacy. Any event taking place entirely on property under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Park Commission shall be exempt from this ordinance.
Also take a look at Sec. 369. GROUNDS FOR DENIAL.

If you want to read more, here's the complete San Francisco Municipal Code.
posted by ryanrs at 10:47 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Grousing about Critical Mass is like bitching about the weather. You might not like it, but there is sweet fuck-all you can do about it except change your attitude. For you, once a month, you can either plan ahead, or you can get pissed on by a little rainstorm.

Yes, these folks are clearly a Force of Nature! I bow in subservience!
posted by setanor at 12:21 AM on March 6, 2010


I think you're finally getting it, setanor. They are, indeed, a force of nature. They are a flock of people who number so large as to get away with what they're doing. There is nothing you can do about it, except accept that you're powerless and slightly inconvenienced. Suck it up.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:07 AM on March 6, 2010


Suck it up.

You left out the "princess" this time. Shame.

Next time a large group forms to willfully do something illegal, remind everyone of this. I can just imagine the sort of things they might want to do!

There's so many of them, so I should just ignore it? That's a very slippery slope.
posted by setanor at 11:32 AM on March 6, 2010


Yeah, you should know a little something about slippery slopes.
posted by mek at 1:29 PM on March 6, 2010


Ok, fine, whatever, I just don't think that telling me I should suck it up and calling me a princess is really a good way to go when you're talking about a big group of people who intend to get away with whatever they want because they number so many. So, it's cycling, big deal, I love biking and I'm probably smack in the middle of the venn diagram when it comes to the demographic that would ride in CM. I really think it would be a lot of fun to ride in one, and perhaps some day I will. I just don't appreciate the 'neener-neener there's so many of us so suck it' approach to the whole thing.
posted by setanor at 2:10 PM on March 6, 2010


I'm probably smack in the middle of the venn diagram when it comes to the demographic that would ride in CM

{rides a bicycle} ∩ {is a giant douche}
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:31 PM on March 6, 2010


I see what you did this time, too.
posted by setanor at 3:30 PM on March 6, 2010


So whaddya want? That I should validate your over-wrought emotions about a ten-minute inconvenience once a month? That I, too, should insist that the law is more important than taking a sane approach?

Whatchuwant? Seriously.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:00 PM on March 6, 2010


That I should validate your over-wrought emotions about a ten-minute inconvenience once a month?

I dunno, maybe when I ask a simple question you answer with something other than "suck it up, princess" as if I'm a high-strung quivering mass of joy-killing frailty and maybe the reason I have "over-wrought emotions" about this is a reponse to considering the existence of large masses of people who would respond in exactly the same way. It's this self-righteous bullshit that drives me to be contrarian when I don't even care either way. I just hate when that shit flies.
posted by setanor at 4:15 PM on March 6, 2010


Let's start over, then. What was your question? (I'm not sure which one your talking about.)
posted by five fresh fish at 4:35 PM on March 6, 2010


I like starting over.

I asked, "How does their wanting to ride around like this overrule anyone else's wanting to leave work on time?" not because find it particularly upsetting that there would be some inconvenience for people leaving work (I work right near my home and don't own a car) but because I was interested in when "lots of people doing a technically illegal thing" becomes something one just has to sit down and take. Probably comes from a history of being bullied around a lot, but I just don't buy that given the amount of really bad things that could happen through that same mechanism.

I really do get that it's just a fun excercise that a bunch of people want to get together and do - this is fine. I just don't like being bossed around (i.e. "just don't leave work during x time" - what if one really had to get home for an important reason?) by groups that claim to wield that authority purely based on their numbers.
posted by setanor at 4:43 PM on March 6, 2010


(sorry, i meant to put a question mark at the end, there. i have no reason to think or suggest you are a giant douche. no offence intended)
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:43 PM on March 6, 2010


thank you for the clarification - i was wondering who might have told you
posted by setanor at 4:44 PM on March 6, 2010


I live and work in downtown SF. Critical Mass has a negligible effect on afternoon commute traffic. It might seem like it does when they're right in front of you, but that's just because they're loud and stand out visually. Downtown traffic is completely fucked up every weekday afternoon, not just on the last Friday of the month.

Asking whose rights have precedence is missing the point. It sucks that drivers have to contend with nasty traffic in the afternoon. But 99% of that is other drivers. Once a month, Critical Mass contributes another 1% (at most). Blaming them for the whole problem is silly. The cyclists are small fishes swimming in a sea of gridlock. They did not create the ocean.

The Mayor, the Supervisors, and the previous Chief of Police all understood that cracking down on Critical Mass would cause more problems than it solved, particularly more traffic problems. Setting up a huge police confrontation will cause an order of magnitude more gridlock than just letting the ride continue. So if traffic problems are the true motivation, then a crackdown cannot be the sane response.

This was all sorted out in the late 90s. For the last decade, Critical Mass has been functioning as a more-or-less stable monthly event. Then along comes this new guy, Chief Gascon. Ignoring the Mayor and Supervisors, Gascon has decided that he wants to pick a fight with Critical Mass. This crackdown isn't meant to solve an actual practical problem caused by Critical Mass. This whole situation is nothing more than authoritarian dick-swinging. Gascon wants to show that he's a more powerful Chief than the last guy by conquering Critical Mass.

That's why you see so many dismissive and confrontational responses from the riders. They recognize this crackdown for what it is—a stupid ego trip by a new Chief of Police who doesn't even understand the phenomenon he is fighting. It would be funny if it didn't lead to arrests and beatdowns of random cyclists. But it does, hence the anger.
posted by ryanrs at 5:28 PM on March 6, 2010 [4 favorites]


And my answer, setanor: when there are enough of them that you just can't do anything about it.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:23 PM on March 6, 2010


Or, rather, when it is just much, much more sensible to let them do it regardless. There's just no point in trying to overthrow SF CM now. Other cities might want to crack down looooong before things get to the point where SF CM is; or, maybe, they should consider how the CM might benefit their city psychologically and socially. Point is, in the end, that there comes a time you just gotta roll with it because that's the path of least worst.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:25 PM on March 6, 2010


BTW, through my eyes the authoritarian approach that would resolve your issue of being inconvenienced by the "bullying" group is, itself, way more bullying.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:28 PM on March 6, 2010


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