Jul 31 2009
The cops in Vancouver have surrendered the streets to Critical Mass.
“Police took the unusual step this week of warning motorists away from the city’s downtown core Friday in an effort to ease tensions generated by a planned “Critical Mass” bike ride”, reports the Vancouver Sun. “Police say the ride has grown so large they have given up trying to rein in participants, even those breaking rules, such as riding without a helmet or blocking traffic.”
This is insanity.
Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy cycling. Last night, I rode my bike along the Vancouver seawall for an hour and a half, just for kicks. It was fun, and probably necessary for my health, to compensate for sitting down at my desk for eight hours at work.
As for the people who take part, I can count quite a few of my friends amongst the Critical Mass contingent. They have a great time. Families take their kids to this thing. Riding around the most beautiful city in Canada amongst thousands of fellow enthusiasts sounds positively energizing. Nothing to argue about there.
But what I don’t like is Critical Mass’ hypocrisy. Their slogan, “we are traffic”, is simply false. Ordinary traffic stops at stop signs and red lights. Traffic doesn’t block other traffic in all four directions for up to an hour while their cohort makes its way along arterial transportation connectors like the entrance to the Lions Gate Bridge.
“Corking” is the opposite of traffic. In my language, we call it a roadblock.
The double-think is especially odd, since some of the statements on what appears to be the local Critical Mass blog are so darn positive about keeping relations with drivers on an even keel: “This is not an us vs car drivers ride. Those stuck in car traffic are our friends and we need to be polite and respectful of them as we increase the traffic by putting more people on the roads.”
It’s all the more disappointing because Critical Mass reportedly has an agenda I’d love to be able to get behind: promoting sustainable transportation, healthy habits, affordable urban living and protection of the environment. Fantastic stuff. But the day I got corked, I lost all sympathy for this movement.
When they quit causing traffic jams and instigating road rage, I’ll be happy to ride with Critical Mass. Until then, I’m perfectly happy to hop on my bike and ride alone.
BLOG AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’m not the only one with these sentiments, although Critical Mass has some forceful defenders. A huge debate erupted in comments section of my earlier post, Critical Mass Sucks. Some highlights:
Royce: This isn’t about bullying or intimidation, it’s about raising awareness and ultimately reclaiming collective communal space. Even Gregor Robertson, Fred Bass and Andrea Reimer have come slong for the ride.
Peter: Critical Mass is stupid and nonconstructive. I care about the environment far more than the average person, but I fail to see how angering the vast majority of motorists and causing additional pollution due to traffic jams will “spread the message” or get people to ride bikes… Also, if cyclists feel they have the right to damage people’s cars with their bikes, then they can get run over for all I care, and there would be no sympathy from most of us.
Marc: I got out of my car and made it a point to personally flip off every biker that passed me while yelling at them and calling them any foul name I could think of. Of course, not one of the pansy stopped to engage me. Good thing, because with my wife literally CRYING in the car because she is so uncomfortable I would have not stopped until biker blood was spilled.
Mei: Maybe this is already mentioned… but for you self-righteous “protectors of the environment”… have you thought for even a nano-second how MUCH MORE EMISSIONS YOU ARE CAUSING BY BLOCKING TRAFFIC AND HAVING CARS IDLING????
Maurice Cardinal: Critical Mass outlived it’s initial mandate to raise awareness long ago. Hardly anyone pays attention anymore… At the very least combine the street ride with a virtual ride targeting the corporations causing environmental problems. Let them know they are on your radar and that if they don’t start acting responsibly you might one day soon send 3,000 riders or more to have a face to face.