Thursday, May 28, 2009

More on Critical Mass

On the way back from the race on Sunday, I saw this article in the Province newspaper and figured I would share it seeing as how author John Ferry has many the same sentiments towards critical mass as I do.

Critical Mass Just Anarchy on Wheels
Time to take the high road and scrap the ride

By Jon Ferry

Cyclist and motorist are like oil and water, they don't mix well. After all they're using technology from different centuries. 

The best you can hope for is mutual tolerance. But for that to happen, maturity is required by both groups. And that seems to be lacking on the lower mainland roads.

The Critical Mass rides, like the one that will kick off Friday evening from outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, are case in point.

These faddish protest are billed as "a grassroots reclamation of public space." But they do less, I believe, to celebrate the great joy of cycling than they do to reinforce the great divide between our two-wheel and four-wheel worlds.

Sure, they give bicyclists some bonding time. And they offer, in the words of former Vancouver councillor Peter Ladner, "a liberating few hours for people who are forced to dodge cars the rest of the time." But they're also a serious inconvenience and provocation to motorist, tying up downtown traffic at a time when many commuters are still trying to get home. And as you'd expect, there have been some ugly clashes. 

I mean, how would cyclists feel if a bunch of "liberated" motorist lined up illegaly and blocked their way? Certainly, the Critical Mass protests, started in San Francisco 17 years ago, have freedom-loving, hippie-era feel to them. But any political point they wanted to make was made long ago. 

They're now an anachroism.

This is the age of Obama. Bicycling is cool. Bikeways and bike lanes are now sprouting up like green shoots. Politicians from Transportation Minister Kevin Flacon to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson are making political hay out of being cyclist.

The result? Look no farther than the cycling lanes planned for the new Port Mann bridge - or to the Burrard Street Bridge, where motorists are giving up one lane to cyclists.

The Critical Mass guerillas have won whatever war it was they were fighting for. 

They don't have a divine right to the roads. And now is not the time to alienate motorist - many of whom already perceive cyclists to be chronically irresponsible - but to join with them in forging sensible, multi-use solutions to transportation problems. 

Bicyclist should start giving more and demanding less. And as I've said before, one way to do this would be for them to pay some kind of annual road fee or levy. 

It's futile to argue that they already pay property taxes. Property taxes only cover a portion of the tab for our vast public-transportation infrastructure. 

Motorists pay property taxes, too. They also pay a huge amount in fuel taxes (with nearly 38 cents of every 1$ per litre of gas going to some form of tax or other, including 12 cents for Translink) as well as a whole series of registration, licence and insurance fees.

No, cyclist now should take the high road.

A critical first step would be for them to scrap the Critical Mass ride planned for Friday ... and go some place where they don't annoy the hell out of other road users.

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