Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Critical Mass Rides - Brilliant or Stupid?

Oh boy! A controversial post! Living in small town South Dakota, I still try to keep up and appreciate all things in the bicycle world. One thing I've struggled with since I very first read about it is Critical Mass rides.

Critical Mass (CM) rides have slowly become more confrontational. The big news of the week came from a video in New York where a cop took out one of the cyclists in a CM ride with an unnecessary show of force. IN NO WAY DO I CONDONE WHAT THE OFFICER DID so you can get off that high horse right now, but I do feel like there is more to the story. It sure seemed like THAT cop was looking for THAT particular individual. According to a NEWS ARTICLE the "The New York Police Department said the officer was placed on modified duty as a result of an investigation by Internal Affairs."

I believe that Critical Mass rides started out with the greatest of intentions. Even reading the top of their WEB PAGE sounds innocent enough:

Critical Mass is a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists' right to the road. The idea started in San Francisco in September 1992 and quickly spread to cities all over the world. This site attempts to be the most complete guide to all Critical Mass rides around the globe.

Critical Mass has a different flavor from city to city -- there's a big variety in size, respect of traffic laws (or lack thereof), interaction with motorists, and intervention by police. So if you want to know more about Critical Mass, you'll really need to find out what your local ride is like. For those who must know more right now, here's a link to Chicago CM, which I suppose is a "typical" CM ride, if there is such a thing.

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.

CM is an idea and an event, not an organization. You can't write to "Critical Mass" -- certainly not by writing to me.

CM is intended to be a celebration, not an opportunity to cause trouble. Those who want to try to tie up traffic as much as possible and be confrontational with motorists are missing the point. We can assert our right to the road without being rude about it. Focus on the ride, not on the cars that also happen to be on the road.

The problem I see, is that bicyclists ARE missing the point. Rides like this do not bring out the right kind of people or the right kind of attention for bicycling. By admissions of many stories I've read, it has become a rolling party, not bicycling advocacy or a share the road campaign. The tension between drivers and bicyclists are getting higher with these rides and altercations are taking place with increasing frequency. This is NOT helping the advocacy of bicycling in America. Quite the opposite, I feel it is setting back the movement. In my humble opinion, CM rides need to go away. The sooner the better.

If I haven't said it enough lately, I love rural living.


Anonymous said...

I have always been against the CM rides that I have heard of for that very reason. It seems as though a lot of CM riders intend to P.O. as many "cagers" as they can...

Bruce's Bike Blog said...

One thing everyone should know about cops--if they don't already know this--is that cops are looking for any excuse to beat the crap out of you. All cops have this mentality and its part of their cop culture since forever.

Cops will leave you alone if you don't say anything or don't seem like you're going to be a problem. They're looking for the wise-ass that's going to pipe up so they can pound them.

Cops get a hard-on when Crital Mass rolls into town--they love it--they get to fight! They always find that special someone that will give 'em the finger, or call 'em a pig.

Then the media puts in some spin.

I still believe that Critical Mass has helped make progress--I support them 100%

You just have to beat the police at their own game--they are there to do and make happen what you're all seeing and reading about.

CM has to weed-out the trouble makers in it's ranks of course.

The police do not get to decide who gets what and when and how much--they just want to show up and kick some ass.

Cheers! Bruce

Herself, the GeekGirl said...

Looks like all those videos showing the incident have been taking down except for this one that I found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=__dFgPjRd34

I have the same feelings about PETA. Their message is generally a good one, but they invite mockery and disdain with their methods.

Herself, the GeekGirl said...

Just for S&G, here's an interesting story on the police department's BS account of what happened. The officer in charge lied completely BEFORE the video came to light.

Anonymous said...

Jeez Bruce, cops MAY be like that in NYC or Tucson, but not around here, nor anywhere else that I have been. Just what are you doing that makes your cops want to beat you?!!!
Both CM and the police departments need to weed out the bad ones.
Easier said than done I'm afraid.

bikingbrady said...

I can see Bruce's point. I do know a few Police Officers who obviously went into their line of work so they can legally (?) act like cocky bastards who own the world. I will say that most around here are pretty decent folk!