Critical Mass: Either You Are Lying To Yourselves Or You Are Confused Or Both

Background Reading


Why Use Critical Mass To Break Your Own Rules?

Why Use Critical Mass To Break Your Own Rules?

In the thread above on “Waving A Cyclist Through” at a 4-way stop a constant theme was sounded by those who felt irritation when “singled out” by motorists for special treatment. What they demand it would seem is equal treatment and the recognition that “bicycles are traffic too“. Further they should not be viewed as children’s toys but rather a sustainable form of transformation.

All of this sounds great. But then we have the reality of Critical Mass. We could argue until “blue in the face” that yes, some cyclists break the rules but cyclists in the main are law-abiding and deserve the respect of their peers who sit behind steering wheels. But what exactly about Critical Mass demonstrates the nature of the commitment of your average cyclist to perform as a “transportation peer” to the automobile?

Critical Mass has the promise of being something special. But in practice it is conducted at the level of the college frat party. Cyclist purposely travel down both sides of the street (i.e. across the double-yellow line) and even travel against the traffic down one-way streets. These two operations alone violate the supposed sentiment held by Critical Mass cyclists that riding “against traffic” is a no-no. Why would any cyclist who is opposed to “salmoning” actually ride against traffic? And more to the point why demonstrate that behavior at a ride designed to show your commitment to being taken seriously as a member of the transportation landscape?

Virtually every behavior demonstrated on Critical Mass rides (and captured by cycling-friendly videographers) screams out loud and clear that we do not respect the Rules of the Road as laid out by municipal and state laws. How does a motorist (even one who is cycling-friendly) interpret your actions as anything but rebellious and defiant? In addition to riding the “against traffic” on streets cyclists are riding on sidewalks (again a clear infraction of municipal code). So having witnessed this kind of behavior in a group how would you expect a motorist to think about you when alone?

Imagine for instance what happen if on a single Friday of each month, automobiles, vans and trucks simply “corked” each and every intersection along the route of Critical Mass? Imagine too that they enlisted the help of youths on scooters and motorcycles to ride on sidewalks “against the bicycle traffic” and then sought to ride directly into the Critical Mass traffic that has flowed around both sides of vehicles in the oncoming lane?

What would the participants of Critical Mass think about that sort of demonstration? How would your complain read that you filed with the police. Would you say something like “motor vehicles did to us what we have been doing to them for some 20 years“? Would you cite the various laws broken by motor vehicles while they were confronting your lawbreaking?

Would you complain that they were riding against traffic and nearly ran into you? That they impeded your progress around the city? That they corked the streets you wanted to “cork“? Does it even seem possible that someone trying to settle this dispute would have any way of correctly choosing who to support?

If we are going to be taken seriously when approaching 4-way stops then we have to demonstrate at the very least during Critical Mass that our commitment is to safe use of the roadway in a manner that commands the respect of our peers.