According to Wikipedia:
Critical Mass is a bicycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world. While the ride was originally founded in 1992 in San Francisco with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to cyclists,the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets on bikes.(read entire article)
The long-story-short version is this:
The last Friday of every month, people get together at a predetermined location (in many cities it is the exact same location each time) and then they head out on their bikes in any direction the people at the front go. The rest follow along. The idea is to raise awareness of bike issue (safety, environmental). However, they typically run right through red lights and disrupt traffic by blocking it off with advance scouts who “cork’ intersections and pound on peoples cars if they try to actually follow the traffic signals.
Their mantra is that drivers need to “learn to share the road.” To anyone with half a brain this is laughable coming from a mob of people totally unwilling to share the road with anyone – even with pedestrians — who, by the way, are much more eco-friendly than a bike. If you are a cyclist, you are not even in the same league as a pedestrian when it comes to eco-friendly. However, as you will see, hypocrisy and CM go hand in hand.
Cyclists involved believe that it is their right to ‘take over’ the roads to show all the other simple-folk the true light about how evil they are for happening to be in their car the day these guys decide to put on their event. Of course, many of these people will be in cars themselves the next day, or even the day of the event, but once again the hypocrisy is lost on them. It is not uncommon for participants to actually bring their bikes to the event trapped onto their cars or in the backs of trucks! We are reminded of the old “Pot calling the Kettle black” idiom.
They are able to continue because of “mob rule” (see SD Police quote)
Quote from the San Diego Police Department:
When Critical Mass evolved in San Diego we did extensive research, contacting law enforcement agencies in Europe and the United States. Every agency, including the San Francisco Police Department, that has attempted enforcement during these events have experienced an escalation in the number of participants, as well as, violence and actions designed to cause public disruption.
Basically there are simply too many of them for a police force to effectively manage. This, of course, allows for some very bad behavior by some of the participants. Instances from simply being drunk and verbally abusive toward auto passengers and pedestrians — to smashing car windows, physically assaulting drivers and running down pedestrians who dare to cross when they have a green light have all occurred.
Of course there are many who ride with CM who are not mean-spirited or abusive, and we do not want to give the impression that we think they are. However, the mob cannot exist without the mass. Every participant who rides is equally responsible for the bad behavior because, without their presence, the mass will not exist — so the mob cannot exist. This argument is totally lost on most CM participants. However, many participants have seen the light and come to the conclusion that they can no longer be associated with CM because of the behavior it allows. (see Rants)
Critical Mass has no leaders, and no central organization licenses rides. In every city that has a CM ride, some locals simply picked a date, time, and location for the ride and publicized it, and thus the ride was born.
This is how the participants absolve themselves of any wrongdoing. If there is no “leader”, if there is no “organization” to confront with the illegal actions they commit, then the authorities are left with trying to apprehend individual cyclists. And in instances where the authorities have apprehended individuals, the result has been disastrous as mentioned in the police quote above.
Critical Mass participants have insisted that these events should be viewed as “celebrations” and spontaneous gatherings, and not as protests or organized demonstrations. This stance allows Critical Mass to argue a legal position that its events can occur without advance notification of local police.
When you have an event of the scale of CM in a city, you must get a permit from the city and pay fees. The fees help pay for the extra police needed so the event proceeds in an orderly fashion. Firefighters are notified, and city workers are needed for clean-up. CM gets around having to pay for the disruption it causes by their cowardly stance. If they were to actually get permits and permission, having roads blocked off by the authorities and notification sent to the public in advance, there is no question that they would receive a more favorable view from the public, and most likely an increase in participation. Let’s face it, most people do not want to do something illegal if they don’t have to — unless of course, they are a Critical Mass Douche-bag.
As quoted by Chris Carlsson — a San Franciscan whose name shows up a lot in support of Critical Mass:
“It is precisely impossible for Critical Mass, a non-entity, but a recurring organized coincidence, to apply for a permit. It is profoundly inappropriate for any individual or group to try to assume responsibility for a self-guiding social phenomenon.”
So, let us get this straight. It is just a coincidence when hundreds and even thousands of cyclists show up at precisely the same spot on the same day and the same time? It is just a chance occurrence that all these cyclists show up at a pre-designated time, at a pre-designated place, and often learn about it through flyers and websites? That is a “coincidence?”
No, it obviously is not. It is the exact opposite of the definition of a “coincidence.” And of course, Mr. Carlsson and those like him know very well it is not a coincidence, which is why they use lawyer-speak like he did in the above quote by calling it an “organized coincidence” which has no real meaning at all — talk about an oxymoron.
It is of note that Mr. Carlsson chose the word “organized” to make the utter fabrication of “coincidence” seem more palatable, because it is the Critical Mass mantra that they are NOT an organization, as it has no leaders. So it is “organized” but it is not an “organization?”
Hypocrisy knows now bounds when it comes to Critical Mass, but that is the least of their faults.
Us vs. Them
Society seems to be heading more and more into an “Us vs. Them” mode.
This was made nowhere more clear than in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, where hatred and bitter division was used (primarily by the hard-right) as a wedge among American citizens, the effects of which are still being
This same bitter divisiveness can be seen in the bicycle vs. motorist and even bicycle vs. pedestrian debate:
It does neither side any good and only perpetuates animosity.
In some instances cooler heads have emerged,(Three realities in the motorists vs. cyclists debate) but most blogs and websites adhere to the Us. vs. Them mentality.
It is our opinion that Critical Mass itself is an agent of widening the gap between cyclists and motorist, rather than bringing them together.
Sure, a reader can say that THIS website engages in the Us. vs. Them position. Let us assure you that we are not 100% for or against cars, nor cyclists. We are, however 100% against Critical Mass.
We think cyclists and cars both have valid points, but neither has the right to be D-bag.
Additional SideBar Material
Those participating in this ride are ignorant and inconsiderate. When Ghandi committed civil disobedience, he welcomed being arrested: that was how he made the point. These cowards instead avoid it or complain about it. Our police force is adopting a dangerous principle: have enough people involved, and you can break the law with impunity. It’s outrageous, quite frankly.