Was there critical mass tonight?
More people are biking all the time, and more people biking by the law will change the perception. If there are 30 peds waiting to cross a street, and 1 guy runs in front of a car, most people would think, of that individual, what an idiot. Noobs coming in need to be shown by example, and friendly suggestion, follow the laws, wear a helmet, use lights.
When a “critical mass” of riders is reached who follow laws then we all won’t be lumped together as whackos.
This was the second time I’ve ridden a CM.
The first time was a few years ago. It was totally obnoxious, people got arrested (and deservedly so). I didn’t want to return.
This last Friday there were voices to calm things. There were some obnoxious moments, particularly at the beginning. That is different from being totally obnoxious.
For sure, there was some abusive riding.
Taking all the lanes on 5th avenue come to mind.
I did notice, like dwillen, that we blocked off pedestrians in Oakland. More so than cars, even.
I don’t think anyone wanted to block pedestrians, but we did and obnoxiously. It wasn’t deliberate. I don’t know if taking all the lanes on 5th was deliberate on anyone’s part or not.
So, yeah, we were jerks.
But then for a few folks to come into an established event and expect the regular attendees to change their behavior instantly?
At best that is unrealistic. It borders on being devisive. In my opinion, it set the stage for the extremes in CM to be more extreme next time.
If you want to work with critical mass, you have work with critical mass.
Critical Mass is not an organized ride. It will always have some element of unruliness to it.
I don’t know how decisions are made by this group, nor how to influence it. I’m confident that a small group of people could make a mark on it.
I was separated from the group when the “law abiding” folks took off. I’m not sure if I would have gone with them or not.
Oddly enough, the vast majority of illegal, obnoxious things happened before the “law abiding” folks left. It’s hard to say if that was due to a confrontational vibe or not.
The final leg of the trip was through the southside. There was strong peer pressure in the group to prevent people from passing up cars and to keep the group together. As a practical matter, this meant following laws.
People were happy to see us.
I disagree with Brad – I don’t think critical mass has done shit for the status of cyclists.
I think that as ndromb’s example and dwillen’s logic point out, CM has the ability to hurt the cycling community. Getting people pissed off at us won’t change things.
Even if someone is sympathetic, there is no answer to their query, “What do they want from us?” Showing drivers that cyclists will be obnoxious when they have the power to doesn’t encourage the electorate to empower us.
I think it’s worthwhile to make an effort to shape CM in Pittsburgh into something mroe positive than it is. I think this forum can be an instrument in that.
But look at the mechanics of how that can happen.
A small group being dissatisfied and leaving early in one CM ride – is that going to change anything? I don’t think so.
@dwillen. You think the behavior of the people in the front can change things? I agree.
If you believe that and if it is important to you, *BE* at the front. Month after month. Even with that, you can influence change, but argument is ineffective. Critical mass is direct action. Not leader driven.
Change will take time.
Agreed with Mick and dwillen. I was screaming my lungs out early on trying to tell people to stop hogging all the lanes on Fifth to little avail. I think part of the problem is that the most riders and the most harrowing part of the route was RIGHT at the beginning. Things are going to be disorganized right at the outset, but with the most difficult stretch being right at the beginning it just compounds the issue.
I thought we were at our best through the Strip, Downtown, and South Side. Like I was thoroughly suggesting, if we kept tight and didn’t pass cars, Carson was going to be awesome and it most definitely was! I would also chalk up some of our “better” parts due to the fact that there were fewer riders, allowing us to clear intersections (relatively) safely.
When it’s a small group on slow streets with stops signs and traffic lights, I’m actually okay with a little “cheating”. With Fifth and Forbes though, there is no way we shouldn’t have stopped individually at the lights. Mick is right in that we need leaders from this very forum in these cases. There is no way we couldn’t have worked it out so that, okay the group got split, so lets ride slower or even stop so we can rejoin. Or, failing that, let’s do a set number of loops around Oakland, following traffic laws, and then reconnoiter (stop) back at Dippy after said number of laps. Then proceed as one group, rejoined.
We need ideas like that, and frankly I love the loop idea because it could get lots more people involved (random people on bikes in Oakland more likely to see it and join in the fun) and motorists seeing us following the traffic laws, would also convey a strong message. It would also allow more people to join in for a shorter ride so they wouldn’t stray far from their home turf if they wanted.
This shouldn’t be a hostile political message, it should be a peaceful law-abiding one. The sooner some people like those in this forum take it upon themselves lead/organize this instead of the “fight the man” hipsters that were doing so, we might actually have an amazing thing here.
You’re not going to change the fight-the-manners, and you’re not going to improve things by screaming, and I have serious doubts about trying to “lead” the thing. It’s supposed to anarchy, after all.
I think the only way things are going to change is for each person who wants to ride by the rules to connect up with one other person and talk up the issue, convince one new person each ride. It has to be a person to person thing. I actually think it would be a pretty easy sell, most people want to be happy and have fun.
I totally agree with Mick and dwillen that law abiding leaders should be at the front for riders to follow their lead. As far as getting split up, I really don’t see this as being problematic, provided that there remain a few to a group. Perhaps it would even serve to our benefit (advocacy-wise) if there were multiple groups riding throughout the city, abiding by the laws and riding with traffic throughout. This past Friday was the first CM in which I’ve ever participated (and I think the largest group I have ever ridden in prior to this was 9 people). It felt good to ride with a group, but I hated feeling like a jerk in the beginning when things started out a bit nutty- I guess things can typically be a little chaotic in the get-go when folks first peddle off without much direction. I don’t know if it’s because I got hit or got smart, but among my recent cycling goals is an effort to piss off as few people as possible. Abiding while riding is true cycling advocacy, and I feel as though the safety for us all is at stake in this. I used to just wait for traffic to slow, and continue to ride through lights as I felt comfortable to do so, regardless of what was technically legal. I felt that this was part of my advantage of riding a bike, and not driving a car. I have since tried to consider how this effects drivers, realizing that if I piss someone off, it serves to enhance their hostility towards cyclists, and I don’t want that aggression to manifest in hitting someone else. To me at least, this is Critical.
Okay guys… is this a ridiculous idea? Why don’t we organize an alternative to critical mass, on a different day, maybe even not Friday when rush hour traffic is so heavy (and angry)? The majority of you seem to be on the ‘law-abiding’ side, why don’t you organize something else? And have it meet somewhere other than the clusterf**k of Oakland, so that any growing pains at the beginning aren’t being forced upon hordes of drivers and pedestrians?
Thoughts? Or is CM simply too untouchable to go against?
Haa haa…I love the *anarchy* of doing a counter-CM! I’m in!
Sorry to everyone who’s totally into CM as it is… Generally, I think people know when they’re being cool and when they’re not acting right.
I think just getting a bunch of folks together and just riding around is a lot better than heading out with an attitude. Whatever…that’s just what I think.
just the notification that “yes, there will be law-abiding people on this ride” is enough to persuade many to join in. the message I’d like to get across to fellow cyclists is “what are you in such a rush for?”
@mustion Last year a few folks tried to start “Critical Manners”. It, uh, didn’t go anywhere.
On “Critical manners”:
It’s hard to say how much of a success critical manners rides are.
Example: There is a page for Seattle’s RideCivil that says 2nd friday of the month, but a brief, perfunctory search doesn’t turn up anything on forums or calendars about it. Is it ongoing? Don’t know.
Anyone know of an ongoing critical manners, anyplace?
I’ll try to make any critical manners rides.
As far as Critical Mass reformation? The nature is that changes will be slow and -at best – partial success.
IMO, that’s still worth a bunch of effort. Methods like Edmund59’s are good.
Why do I think it’s worthwhile? Why do I think it can be a success(even partial)?
Because 1) I think everyone agrees that CM should reflect the community – and 2) I think Pittsburgh is a very polite, accomodating community (not sure that #2 would have universal agreement).
There is always the ever-present third option. If CM-ers wanted to cause trouble, there is a much more effective, and much more legal, way to accomplish that. Note: I do not endorse this.
And that is: To form into groups of four, spread out around the city, going every which way, take the lane, and rigidly adhere to every traffic law, especially stop signs (planted feet) and red lights. Not so much going slow (not the point) as simply being part of traffic, and forcing cars to acknowledge them as legitimate traffic.
But be beyond reproach.
I like that idea, not that I would endorse it but I might go. I think people expect bikeists to ignore the law. I was stopped next to a bus that was unloading kids and some girl leaned out the window and asked me what I was doing, “Waiting” I said “Why?”, “I’m waiting for everyone to get off the bus”. “But your on a bike”. “You ever been hit by a bike?” I often find when I obey the law while riding some people get annoyed.
StuInMcCandless, I often wonder how frustrated people in cars would get if I put my feet down at every stop sign.
I encountered two people who told me, they do not care about bicycle advocacy, and the whole reason they come out is to piss off drivers. After that I branched off. Partially piss-off and partially saddened.
Mick, I think that the confrontation between the two camps caused a lot of the issues. I think that when ever there is a disagreement in a group, it tends to polarize the group.
Honestly, I have given up on CM. I was wrong in my hypothesis, and our experiment last week proved it.
However, a few of us discussed a “Critical Manners” of sorts (I hate the name).
2nd-to-last Friday. Meet at 5:30 at Dippy.
I often wonder how frustrated people in cars would get if I put my feet down at every stop sign.
Sometimes I do this around Oakland, sprinting in between the signs.
Nick, I’ll see you there on Friday May, 21st.
On the stop sign issue I rarely ever come to a full complete stop unless it is a four-way with cars basically approaching on all sides. The fact is, if cyclists behaved EXACTLY as they were supposed to with regards to traffic laws, drivers would still complain thinking bikes are “too slow and in the way”.
My general policy is this:
Stop signs: Stop pedaling coast and brake. How busy the intersection is dictates how much I slow down. By stopping my pedaling I’m hoping that drivers see that I do intend to come to a stop if necessary.
Traffic Lights: If red, ALWAYS a full stop. I often get a slow jump on the light (if traffic is slow or light) by paying attention to cross-directional traffic light and crosswalk signals. I always follow the “No turn on Red” except occasionally not when I encounter time-based ones (No turn on Red 7AM-4PM). For those I use judgment. Schenley Drive and Roberto Clemente Drive on the south end of Schenley Plaza is a good example of this. Also, if I’m at the head of a line, or there is a free lane or only one car to pass I will move slowly through an intersection if it’s set with the “All Walk” phasing.
Sidewalks: Admittedly, I think it’s sometimes impractical in this city to avoid sidewalks completely. Bridges are an excellent example of this. Anyone going over a major bridge for the first time should probably use the sidewalk, unless it is really hard to access. I also use sidewalks on some of the more nuts roadways (Fifth in Shadyside, Negley, Blvd. of the Allies/Panther Hollow Rd. in Schenley) ESPECIALLY during uphill segments. If warranted, (business area, pedestrians, narrow sidewalk, potential for people to step out from buildings/cars) I will either ride at a fast walking pace or I will simply just walk my bike. Walking a bike can actually be a faster way of getting around jammed intersections, and lets not forget that walking a bike up a steep hill is less work than pedaling it. Most important of all for ANYONE riding a bike on a sidewalk: PEDESTRIANS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY AND YOU MUST YIELD TO THEM, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. You can politely say “excuse me”, or just be patient and walk/ride slowly behind them until you find a safe area to pass. You really shouldn’t be riding much faster than a walk on a sidewalk anyway, unless the sightlines and hazards are clear (bridge sidewalks, park sidewalks).
Sure, my behavior isn’t 100% legal, but I have yet to get barked at anyone for “not following the road rules.” I think it holds the line well between the following the rules completely and preserving the momentum/speed of the ride, the two natures of cycling that are constantly butting heads with each other.
Oh, and I also hand signal ANYTIME I turn or merge, basically anytime I move from my straight line path in a lane of traffic.
Nick, don’t let them get you down. I stumbled across this by way of another cycling site, that actually had nothing at all to do with CM, but I thought it was good, a quote from some woman named Margaret Wheatley;
“Western cultural views of how best to organize and lead (now the methods most used in the world) are contrary to what life teaches. Leaders use control and imposition rather than participative, self-organizing processes. They react to uncertainty and chaos by tightening already feeble controls, rather than engaging people’s best capacities to learn and adapt. In doing so, they only create more chaos. Leaders incite primitive emotions of fear, scarcity, and self-interest to get people to do their work, rather than the more noble human traits of cooperation, caring, and generosity. This has led to this difficult time, when nothing seems to work as we want it to, when too many of us feel frustrated, disengaged, and anxious.”
In order for things to break down, drivers need to be viewed also as members of the community who are frustrated, disengaged, and anxious, if not more so. Angry CM enables and continues the community disengagement.
“flock of cycles”…gotta skip the helmets to show off the ‘do:
I’m going to miss the first one because I’m going out of town, but I’m definitely interseted in this ride and will make it to future ones. Yay
Flock of Cycles is brilliant. I’ve marked it on my calendar and will try to attend.
Sorry, I’m really, really slow. *not getting the reference*
Love the “Flock of Cycles” idea, netviln. Great edit, Nick. Looking forward to the ride.
Anyone notice that there is two cyclists stopped at a red light on the tele?
I just noticed that this month the 2nd to last Fri is “bike to work day” also, right? All biking, all day.
I may throw on the rain gear and pedal over if its not crazy pouring. No sense in being hit by cars and lightning. That’d be a bad night in the ER.
I think I am, pending how the afternoon progresses & how beer-toxicated I’m by midnight!
I’ll be there. Just checked the forecast, it looks like it will be dry until early morning
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