Critical Mass is supposedly about promoting bicycle rights and safety in cities. I have to say that until I started biking to work and conversing with others who do the same, I had never heard of it.
It’s a biking inside story.
I have to think that’s the way critical mass feels to muggles. They don’t get the message. More likely, they get pissed that the cyclists are blowing lights and they can’t get to their groceries, doctors appointment, or home from work to make dinner for their family.
Here’s a couple pompous don’ts from their list of do’s and dont’s. Don’t
- pick fights with motorists, even (especially) if they’re itching for one
- imagine that you are morally superior just cuz you’re on a bicycle (you’ll be in a car again soon enough)
Granted there are other more laudable items on the list, but these two struck me as a bit pretentious, that cyclists are taking more than what they are owed while on a Critical Mass ride.
Don’t forget that cars have people in them. People with places to be. By riding massed up, blocking traffic and running red lights, cyclists are already violating these two don’ts:
- By challenging others rights to the road they are picking a fight in a way. At least, they are taking a confrontational stance.
- Imagining they are superior and have some claim to the right of way.
I think it’s fantastic to raise awareness of bicycle rights and bicycle safety on roadways. It’s a difficult topic because there’s a fine line between being activist and militant. I struggle to name effective solutions, but prefer education where possible. Ultimately the organic growth of biking will make it a more common and accepted (therefore safer) practice.
For me, Critical Mass is a non-starter. By riding in a big mass and disobeying stop signs and traffic lights the wrong message will be received, no matter what message you’re trying to send. How can muggles not see this as confirmation of their stereotype that cyclists don’t belong in traffic?
I know how livid I would feel if a huge line of pedestrians decided to gum up the intersection I was sitting at while on my way home from work.