Monday, June 30, 2008

I Hate Critical Mass

For those of you that don't know Critical Mass takes place on the last friday of every month. I'm not sure if there is a specific time it takes place, however, it is in the evening around rush hour.

What does Critical Mass entail? Well a large group of cyclist ride through the streets of downtown blocking off all traffic as they casually cruise thru the city to protest automotive transportation and cycling awareness.

In theory, fantastic idea. I'm all for avoiding driving when not required, and only drive when totally essential (etc out of town bike races) and rely on public transit of my bike to get me around the rest of the time. The issue I have with critical mass is that they are obnoxious about the way they go about the city. 

Take this past friday for example. The route is decided to interfere with traffic, well this past friday was for many a long weekend taking today (Monday June 30th) off instead of Canada day tomorrow. Result being there were thousands of people leaving the city to get a good long weekend in. Now, one of Vancouver's biggest flaws is its road access to leave the city. There are only a few routes, and if heading North then your only choice is the Lion's Gate Bridge. This past friday, Critical Mass, started on the North shore at the foot of the Lion's Gate, and blocked off all 5 lanes of the bridge as people casually cruised over the bridge, following this up with a slow ride around Stanley Park finishing at the Corner of Davie and Denman taking up the entire triangle, for map click here. There may have been more to the route, but this is what I saw. Looking at the "official website" it would appear that they disrupted downtown a little more than what I described, seeing as how it started at the art gallery. This meaning that anyone having to catch a ferry for their weekend at Horseshoe bay, most definitely missed the first sailing. Now if this happened to you on your few days of vacation, would you be pleased, or would you want to run down the next cyclist you see?

Stupid Hippies (Photo not from Critical Mass, but looked like this)

This past friday being the long weekend and a nice summer night, there was a large group, we are not talking 200-300 people, estimates from a Cop were around 5000 cyclist. So this blocked off traffic for nearly an hour. 

My question is, will this really help out driver awareness of cyclist? I ride my bike far too much (350 km since Thursday), and VERY RARELY have incidences with motorist, and if I do have one, its not because I'm a cyclist, its because the driver is an idiot, the same incident would most likely have occurred had I been in a car.

Now to where I come in to this story. Friday night I was doing a long ride and got stuck in the critical mass on my way home trying to get over the bridge and thru stanley park. A typical 15-20 minute route for me to get thru the city took nearly 45 minutes to an hour, and I was on my bike. Thru discussion Cameron mentioned getting blocked off by critical mass on a ride once last year, and thought it was ironic that this bike protest was preventing him from biking his workout. 

That being said, I biked through the floods of cyclist as aggressively as I could. Its true, I was on a bike and I had road rage. Not only did this ruin my workout, but also made me late for my plans later that night (Helpful commuting by bike!).

All this aside, I don't care, being late was annoying but nothing else, where critical mass bothers me is the impact it has on my life the rest of the month. When I came up to the mass of cyclist, at first I didn't know what was going on, and asked two cops who were keeping the road safe, I asked them what was going on, one of them said, "Group ride that takes place on the last Friday of every month." and the other cop said, 

"Making it so that the other 29 days of the month we hate people like you (cyclist)."

I think this aptly summarizes my feelings on critical mass. They ruin cycling for those who actually use it. Ask any cyclist who isn't a hippy, and they will agree with you that critical mass is a terrible idea. I have read on many websites that studies done in San Francisco (where Critical mass started) have shown that cyclist/driver incidents have actually increased since 1997 when the first critical mass started. The annoying thing about this being that there were no sources for any of these claims (could just be more cyclist now than 10 years ago). 

And finally, what they are doing is Illegal, thru my chat with the cop, he said that, the only reason they can do it is because of the numbers. In San Francisco they tried to stop it, arresting some 200 people (according to Wikipedia), but that didn't stop them. Confiscating bikes didn't do the trick either. 

Laws being broken that I saw.

1) Blocking the road or "Corking"
2) Riding through red lights
3) Not wearing helmets (I'll get back to this)
4) Drinking in public

The thing that bothered me most of these laws being broken was the helmets. Old, young, drunk, inexperience people all riding their bikes without helmets. Since I had to ride through the hoard of cyclist, I decided to count how many I saw before seeing a helmet, the number was 97 people, and that was only two old woman with helmets, then it was another 50-60 people before I saw another. A few people were drinking out of bottles, BOTTLES, GLASS BOTTLES! a cyclist enemy while riding.

Needless to say I was in a bad mood, which, today being 4 days later I think is still evident in this post that Critical Mass was boiling my blood.

To finish up, I'll just mention the aftermath of fridays critical mass, I have in my experience very rarely been put in danger by motorist (or at least when its not my fault). And friday night after passing thru critical mass, I got buzzed by 3 cars over the span of 15 minutes closer than any other time since I moved to Vancouver. Clearly consequence of someone that had to sit waiting for an hour. So blocking off traffic is annoying, but when you put my life in danger, I start to hate you.

If you read up on critical mass, you will learn that true cyclist all disapprove of it. Critical Mass shows ignorance.

What I would prefer see, a small group has started Critical Manners. Its the same idea of a large group ride, however, they follow all the rules of the road to show motorist that riding a bike can be safe and that you can share the road.

There was something else I wanted to mention but I forget now, so there may be an update. I'll highlight it if I put it in.

I want to protest, however, this is painfully frustrating because I don't know how to protest a protest...


Anonymous said...

Glad to see a real biker also hates Critical Mass. I saw the news story out of Seattle where the bikers there put a driver in the hospital and destroyed his car so badly it had to be towed. They also terrorized a pregnant passenger in the car. When I lived in town I use to ride my bicycle all over. For safety sake, when trying to cross a busy intersection I would get off the bike and use the lighted cross walk. I can jump out of the way of a car running a red light but not if I'm on the bike. I obeyed all traffic laws, stayed to the right to make it easier for vehicles to pass me, used hand signals (for those drivers that still remembered what they meant), and had both head and tail lights for if I was riding at night. The Critical Mass group in my city is pretty small so they haven't yet built up the mob mentality like in San Franciso or Seattle. Then again they probably realize that there are people around here who carry firearms in their vehicle and some of them don't care about life or the police.

TheeErin said...

I used to politely tolerate Critical Mass, but now I hate it.

It was Halloween night that did it for me.

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Anonymous said...

I've seen critical mass- it can
congest a big city for quite a bit
of time. I myself have ridden a bike
since 1949 when I learned as a little kid that the streets are dangerous.
Two years ago I was clipped by a car
and fractured my pelvis and two fingers. As an old man, I have had
to give up most of my bicycling
because of those injuries. They were caused by a car, not a bike.
I now watch, and see car people
talking on phones constantly, speeding whenever convenient, rarely stopping fully at signs and
disrespecting both pedestrians and
bicyclists in a systematic pattern
while polluting the atmosphere with the largest source of CO2 on
the planet. Motorists are the ultimate murderers and cars are their weapons along with handguns.
Those Critical Massers are not out
to harm people but to have fun once in a while and to assert the
humanity of bicycles over motorvehicles. They are not competitive I think because they are already secure in their identity and don't have to prove how powerful they are. I pray for the hateful and murderous bloggers I have just read. Please don't drive.

Anonymous said...

CM'ers should be gut shot several times with several rounds from a shotgun

Undergrounded said...

I used to love Critical Mass here in Chicago in the 90's. Back then, there was a real need for it, in my opinion. Bikers have never gotten fair use of the roadways.
Since its inception here in Chicago, we have become one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US. Critical Mass no longer serves as a protest, just a ride. And the Chicago Police now even ride along!