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Bicycling Fri Aug 27 2010

Happy Friday

Gapers critical mass use.jpg

(The following does not represent the official views of Critical Mass or of Gaper's Block and is merely one bicyclist's perspective.)

Today is a Happy Friday and not just because it will be the weekend soon and it is still quite nice out. It's especially happy today because of Critical Mass, the bicycle movement that this city just wouldn't be the same without. Even though other cities celebrate Critical Mass, I like to think Chicago's is special because of the welcoming people that are here to enjoy it. This is the kind of thing that neighborhood kids jump up and down over. This is the same mass that people watch from their balconies, clapping and smiling. It brings a bit of joy to people in different areas of the city and what they see passing by may just be thousands of bicycles to the naked eye but symbolizes community and possibilities.

Yet, something I've noticed as a Critical Mass bicyclist for the last couple of years is that the drivers who have to wait the ten extra minutes while the bicycles go by have gotten markedly more aggressive. For example, the act of corking or making sure that cars do not mistakenly drive into the passing mass, has become a point of contention. It's disheartening to witness more physical altercations, bicycles being run over, and drivers who seem on the verge of rampage, willing to risk killing someone or multiple bicyclists so that they can be where they want to immediately. Emergencies with ambulances are different and bicyclists clear a path as fast as possible. What I'm referring to are people who are merely impatient. They are irritable because they believe they are the most important people. They are irrational because the amount of time they'd save by making a dangerous choice would be rather minuscule.

We're always commemorating something in Chicago whether it's Gay Pride, a Blackhawks hockey victory, or St. Patrick. That's part of living in a big city and it shouldn't be opposed by its residents in such aggressive ways. It's just what you become accustomed to dealing with in an urban environment. If you live or work in Wicker Park or downtown, you also deal with daily block offs of streets for movie and T.V. filming. The most recent and biggest budget filming going on right now is Transformers 3, which has rendered parts of the Loop inaccessible for a significant portion of time. Still, I haven't seen any news reports of angry drivers getting out of their vehicles to attack camera men and actors. Why would anyone think it was ok to attack a bicyclist in this manner?

In addition, that's just a slight minority of traffic causing congestion that drivers suffer when they choose long auto commutes to work every morning and afternoon rush hour. Think of the traffic caused by Cubs games in Wrigleyville as well as sports games in other areas, major events downtown, and the slew of parades and festivities that occur randomly around the city. People don't just start driving into sports fans, marching bands, or floats instead of simply finding a different route. Again I ask, why does it seem appropriate to some to drive into a mass when people could easily be killed by such reckless behavior?

The root of the problem might be related to the way Critical Mass is perceived. Is it that Critical Mass is so intolerable to some? What is the cause of so much ire? Perhaps, it's a rejection of everything the mass stands for. Certainly, it can mean different things to everyone. On a personal level, I never would have built up the courage to bike in Chicago without it. However, I feel the mass also offers a visual alternative to others of all ages. For me, Critical Mass suggests it is possible to make the correct environmental choice and to not drive whenever biking is feasible. It makes the idea of bicycling seem like just another thing you can do to help make the world a better place. It's about as radical as not wasting water or recycling on a regular basis. It's the kind of peaceful revolution that suggests change can be accomplished if you care enough to try.

Drivers in Chicago should be thanking bicyclists for reducing the traffic jams they face every commute. Imagine if every bicyclist you see in the mornings and afternoons was a car how many cycles it might take you to get through each stoplight. We're also conserving on the same natural resources drivers are avidly using up. Yet, somehow, I've witnessed animosity and apathy. It's not uncommon to see cars purposefully driving too close, running stop signs so that they don't have to deal with bicyclists, or not bothering to check their rear view before opening their doors even when they parked right next to a bike lane. Bicyclists both during mass and the other 29 days of the month get names called at them, items sometimes thrown at them, and automobiles who completely take over our bike lanes.

Is it underlying driver guilt that is causing all of this immature and reckless behavior? Is it the idea that they could be living their lives differently for the world's future? It's possible that this is the case but I'm actually more inclined to think it's the age-old idea of bigger = better that pervades American society. Unfortunately, as the Hummer's gas mileage shows, bigger is not always better. The BP oil spill back in April continues to cause devastation, which makes it surprising that bicyclists would be greeted with such hostility.

This isn't meant to be a judgment on people who drive with caution and respect to bicyclists. Many bicyclists at one time or another drive whether it be for long distances, to transport bulkier objects, or during unsafe weather. However, if I could reach every driver in Chicago with one single message about critical mass, it would be this one: Next time you're waiting for a thousand bicyclists to go by, treat it like a parade. See it as a celebration for a group of people who have ideal goals that ultimately everyone should share. Many of us hold down the same jobs you do and live in your neighborhoods. Like you, we want a safe world but to us that also means a safe environment.

In addition, Critical Mass welcomes all people to get on a bike and ride. As counterculture as some automobile enthusiasts might try to portray it, Critical Mass represents the full range of demographics. In any large group of people, you will find randomly that some may be more antagonistic than others and unfortunately that is also sometimes true of masses. However, the vast majority of bicyclists are there for the sense of community and celebration.

People bring their families to mass and it isn't uncommon to see small children riding with their parents or senior citizens celebrating life in this way. There are people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. There are those who spend $1500 or more on a bike and others who bicycle out of economic necessity and get their bike at Working Bikes. There are residents from the far north side to the far south side. There are those who travel to mass from the east along Lake Michigan to the distant west parts of Chicago. There are Chicagoans who live in neighborhoods where there are bike lanes and bike friendly streets and those who live in areas where they feel they risk their lives every time they want to get to work because of the lack of these. To us, meeting and bicycling together is a chance to exchange ideas and grow. People meet their partners for life at critical masses and dress up in their wedding clothes on the anniversary. People of many different religions and cultures come together and those with disabilities ride on adapted bicycles without feeling at a disadvantage. Critical Mass changes peoples' lives in positive ways. Truly, how can one be so angry at an occasion, which has that kind of momentum?

This Happy Friday, and all last Fridays of each month, when you're a witness to this grand promenade, feel special. You're seeing the true hope of the future here. Just think if all our world leaders from now until forever decided that instead of fighting each other with bombs and killing civilians like you and I, they'd take a bike ride together instead. You may never observe anything more exceptional than a Critical Mass in all your life. It should be the kind of thing you tell your grandchildren about at a very old age and, with our commitment to the environment, we're also trying to ensure that you live to the age where you have grandchildren if you don't already. Perhaps, you can even consider joining us.

 
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Brooks / August 27, 2010 1:52 PM

Critical Mass should follow the rules of the road e.g. stop lights, stop signs, pedestrians right of way...

damon / August 27, 2010 2:12 PM

brooks... i wish that were possible but unfortunately with thousands of bikes moving relatively leisurely, it's not really possible to stop for stoplights. the idea is that a break in the "mass" is extremely dangerous for the bikers. this break in the herd would probably happen if bikers stopped at lights. see you tonight?

BNF_ / August 27, 2010 2:13 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. See you tonight! :D

gerrymander / August 27, 2010 2:30 PM

"What is the cause of so much ire?"

Critical Mass is a monthly parade which refuses to to do any of the things parades normally do -- and are required, by law -- to work with other commuters. Things like getting permits and publishing routes in advance, which would allow for emergency vehicles and anyone else to avoid the ride without confrontation.

Despite this, Critical Mass riders insist on all the benefits parades normally receive like guaranteed right-of-way, irrespective of, and frequently hostile toward, any other traffic -- cars, pedestrian, whatever. This issue is especially acute when CM riders decide to go where they have neither numbers nor law on their side, like Lake Shore Drive or expressways.

By refusing to act as either a parade or as standard traffic -- and obey the law as appropriate -- Critical Mass gets justly attributed with the worst behaviors of both.

Grouchy Pedestrian / August 27, 2010 2:35 PM

I am a pedestrian. I don't own a car. I walk or take public transportation. I can't STAND Critical Mass. It's a bunch of self righteous granola crunchers...wooowe are riding our bikes in the street....wooo eveyone is looking at us! I don't see the diversity claimed...it looks like a bunch of Phish fans out there to me....

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 2:42 PM

I'm sorry you have had these experiences but CCM does work with the CPD and does move out of the way for emergency vehicles. Also, if you think we're all just a bunch of Phish fans, I feel your experience is somewhat limited and ignorant of what it's really like demographically. As someone who rides frequently, I really have to disagree with you there.

Laura / August 27, 2010 2:50 PM

I'd be more inclined to support Critical Mass if a critical mass of bicyclists that I encounter in this city weren't complete jackholes. Follow rules of the road!!! I walk nearly everywhere and need both hands to count the number of times a biker has almost mowed me down in a crosswalk because they disobeyed a stop sign.

Dave / August 27, 2010 2:50 PM

"Peaceful Revolution?" HA! Riding around pissing people off is a pretty ridiculous way to try to enact "change."

As someone who bikes, rides the CTA, and walks (no car here), I hate Critical Mass as much as any driver. Get off your high horse. Essentially this is a mob of people that because of their numbers, no longer have to follow the rules of the road, and on occasion, the rules of common human decency.

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 3:02 PM

I think what you guys seem to miss repeatedly is that it's pretty impossible for thousands of bicyclists to stop at every stoplight or stop sign. Would you expect every float to do so in a parade? When you have a MASS of people it means that these things are not feasible. Again, we cooperate with CPD. Yes, there are going to be some people who are antagonistic towards drivers. If you take a huge random sampling of any population, you find that you'll see a various number of opinions and ways of handling problems and some of them are not always constructive.

HOWEVER the vast majority of us are not antagonistic unless extremely provoked, such as by various drivers running over our bicycles, getting out and ready to exert physical violence on us, or ready to move upon a mass. Again, it is really an insane thing to see someone ready to kill bicyclists to be somewhere a mere ten minutes sooner. By and large, if you live in Chicago, you should know to avoid the loop around 6pm on a Friday night if you do not want to be late for something and choose to drive.

Again, the fact that thousands of bicyclist ride through the city once a month should not be treated with scorn. That's really very disheartening that it would be.

Orville Wright / August 27, 2010 3:26 PM

"I think what you guys seem to miss repeatedly is that it's pretty impossible for thousands of bicyclists to stop at every stoplight or stop sign."

Oh, so now we non cyclists are too ignorant to follow you... It must be tough, being the St. Augustine of the padded short set...

Hey, here's a thought. If you want to have a parade, follow the rules. Did you notice the Critical Mass of runners in town? You know, the Chicago Marathon??? Why don't we just run that every Friday too and see how you like it???

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 3:45 PM

I wasn't making a statement on anyone's intelligence so don't put words in my mouth. I'm just pointing out a key fact people keep overlooking and ignoring.

We do have something like a marathon once a month. If you don't like runners, you turn down the next street and walk or drive or whatever. This is what tolerance in an urban environment is like. If you lived in a rural place, nothing so exceptional would happen on such a regular basis. However, imo, that's part of what comes in terms of living in a larger exciting city.

What my main issue here is that some seem to defending is a behavior I view as a little insane which is the idea that instead of a driver doing a K turn and altering a route OR waiting an extra 5-10 minutes, he/she decides to be the antagonist and risk the lives of others. If that is the kind of behavior you find reasonable to advocate, then I probably am not going to change your opinion. However, again, it greatly saddens me that this would be so.

TR / August 27, 2010 3:52 PM

Kirstiecat, you keep saying that you "cooperate with CPD," but precisely what does that mean? What I'd really like to see a response to is the comment below that was posted earlier. If you are saying that you're like any other parade, then you need to do all of the things any other parade/race/street fair would do. Publish the route in advance; provide detour information; get a permit; etc., so that you cause as little inconvenience as possible to other citizens. Either CM is, or is not, an event sanctioned by the city. So, If you say it is impractical for thousands of bikers to follow traffic rules then you absolutely need to go through a permitting process like any other city event or parade. If you can not or will not do that, then what you really need to do is follow the traffic laws. And if you refuse to get this event sanctioned, yet can't follow traffic laws with thousands of people, then you shouldn't have thousands of people riding in a group together to begin with.

"Critical Mass is a monthly parade which refuses to to do any of the things parades normally do -- and are required, by law -- to work with other commuters. Things like getting permits and publishing routes in advance, which would allow for emergency vehicles and anyone else to avoid the ride without confrontation"

Jim Fixx / August 27, 2010 3:57 PM

. . . once a month on the WEEKEND! Not during RUSH HOUR!!! That's a critical distinction... Let's also remember that the drivers have NO WARNING of this event (sorry, they must have forgotten to read their Urban Handbook/Guide to Unsanctioned Activities). A reasonable driver expects to encounter certain things during rush hour traffic... Thousands of people on bikes, doing whatever they damn well please is not one of them!!!

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 4:05 PM

I think that's one of the most valid points being raised actually but still does not justify the homicidal rage I see from unreasonable drivers.

To be perfectly honest, on a personal level I wouldn't object to seeing a route published before the map starts on perhaps the website and/or a city site. I don't know how possible this is because, though I have participated in riding in the mass, I am not an organizer. To be frankly honest with you, I usually do not know the exact route the mass is taking until I arrive. I know that at times different routes may be voted on by participants at the meeting place in Daley Place where we always start.

What I mean when I talk about the CPD is that police officers are nice enough to ride with the mass and block off major intersections within the loop, which is something many of us are extremely thankful for. The problems that I see occurring regarding motorist hostility usually occur in outside areas from the loop in the city. There are certainly other neighborhoods more tolerant such as Wicker Park or Pilsen (from my experience) whereas in others people just don't want to be inconvenienced for anything and would rather risk taking the lives of others than have that happen. Again, it greatly saddens me that this kind of behavior would be justified, rationalized, and practiced. People would like to think CCM riders are radicals but this is the most radical and insane behavior I can think of.

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 4:12 PM

That last comment was to TR but Jim Fixx honestly if you're that upset by something is it that difficult to avoid travel in the loop for roughly 15 -30 minutes on ONE day of an entire MONTH. Just picture for a minute that what CCM was doing was celebrating your favorite thing in the world. Maybe it's your favorite sports team. Maybe it's your favorite holiday or band. Something you value most...my guess is you'd feel differently.

I do not decide on the time for when CCM starts and it's an interesting point. As a participant, for a ride that lasts quite some time for the riders (though, as I stated before for the people waiting at an intersection it's really more like 5-10 minutes), I am happy with the starting time. The main reason is because it is alot more dangerous to bike in the dark and late at night esp. in unfamiliar streets which may likely have potholes or streetlamps out. In addition, if the mass ends far from one's home which will inevitably happen when we all live in different neighborhoods, one will potentially have to travel alone a far distance at night to get back.

On the other hand, if the mass started any earlier to avoid rush hour traffic, there is no way that the people who work and want to ride would be able to attend it. To me, the start time seems reasonable. I didn't make that decision but I hardly doubt it was made just to aggravate you and others.

TR / August 27, 2010 4:16 PM

Kirstiecat, I agree with you on the point that the homicidal rage and endangerment of others is completely unacceptable. What I'm saying is that I can understand that there's a level of frustration with this event from those not participating because it really does cause inconvenience that is difficult to plan around. I think the basic concept is a great one - I am a biker too - but would really love to see this organized in a fashion that doesn't inconvenience others more than any other event that would call for a blocked-off street. The way it takes place right now just seems to anger people moreso than to change their thinking or to prove a point.

Jim Fixx / August 27, 2010 4:19 PM

"I hardly doubt it was made just to aggravate you and others."

I rest my case.

Greg / August 27, 2010 4:52 PM

Speaking of defending insane behavior...

Just as there are good and bad motorists, there are good cyclists and bad cyclists. The bad riders give the responsible ones a bad name, and it's really up to that community to correct itself. And that's the problem with Critical Mass. It's a monthly, collective, high-profile exacerbation and glorification of the things that individual bad cyclists do, and that motorists encounter, every day. It's a shame the Critical Manners movements faltered the way they did.

Drivers in Chicago should be thanking bicyclists for reducing the traffic jams they face every commute. Imagine if every bicyclist you see in the mornings and afternoons was a car how many cycles it might take you to get through each stoplight.

Oh, sweet jesus. Well, when you put it this way. . .sure. When I see unhelmeted, entitled boobs on the wrong side of the street, or blowing stop signs/lights, I am thankful they aren't in cars. Thank you, entitled morons, for only endangering one life. If you can't follow the rules on two wheels, for everyone's sake, stay off four.

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 5:00 PM

Well, just as hopefully you would not defend the behavior of motorists who attack bicyclists, I also agree that caution should be taken in terms of biking on the wrong side of the street, wearing helmets, etc. But again, as I pointed out earlier, it would be impossible for thousands of bicyclists to stop at every stoplight and stopsign in Chicago at once. There would not even be enough space for all of the bicyclists to fit between many of the stop signs and stoplights for example. We ride together in this fashion once a month as that is the only way to safely ride with that many people.

However, I am not one who antagonizes drivers or rides on Lakeshore Drive or the other things mentioned. In reality, as I said before, I feel these are the minority and that often people want to cite these people as the quintessential massed. I disagree from what I've seen (or I wouldn't still participate) and I think most people are reasonable folks who are celebrating bicycling. Personally, I don't see again how it's more disruptive than a film shoot or a parade that causes detours, street closures, or waits. Again, CCM is something that happens in several major cities throughout the US. I'd like to see it continue in Chicago but it does scare me that drivers think it's rational and justified to threaten and physically attack bicyclists. That brings the entire city down from my perspective.

SenorPNut / August 27, 2010 5:47 PM

As a bike rider and car driver on city streets, I agree with the article that certain aggressive drivers’ behavior is uncalled for, however, I’ve never felt like being part of a Critical Mass, mostly because I think it’s counter-productive to what it may be trying to achieve. I’ve been caught 2-3 cars back from the Mass, so I pop the car into Park and enjoy the zany costumes, the unique bicycles, and the camaraderie among the participants and onlookers.

I’m all for encouraging bike riding. It creates a community out of strangers who celebrate living. Yes, it is a clean, green, healthy alternative to driving. Yes, the message of “Sharing the Road” still needs to be communicated to many, but to me it is lost with a CM. “Like you, we want a safe world but to us that also means a safe environment.” Well then, like me, respect traffic laws as a biker or a driver.

Some people will never be convinced to give up their cars and that’s OK. But, if the CM is about promoting bike riding in the city, then CM should encourage riding with traffic, not against it. CM separates bike riders from cars, causing a greater chasm between the two. Kristie says “it's pretty impossible for thousands of bicyclists to stop at every stoplight or stop sign”. I doubt that. What seems possible is that there is no leadership present. There are several organized rides where the route, the rules, and precautions are communicated to participants, the public, and local officials.

“It's the kind of peaceful revolution that suggests change can be accomplished if you care enough to try.” C’mon CM, give it a try, and then maybe I’ll give CM a try, too.

Lala / August 27, 2010 5:51 PM

I think, K, that a minimum amount of respect is needed from BOTH sides, and not just just the drivers.

For instance, as others noted, it wouldn't be that hard for the organizers to plan out a route ahead of time and then publish it somewhere. This would allow drivers the opportunity to choose a different route, and thus cut back on the number of people furious about sitting in traffic for "5-10" minutes. (As someone that has sat in that traffic jam though I would like to point out that the wait is never just 5 minutes.)

But just like there are rude drivers, there are rude bikers and I think your article fails to point out that both sides can be antagonistic toward one another. In fact, CM started as a protest movement - bikers protesting un-biker friendly San Francisco. Instead of celebrating biking, it seems that the movement continues to have a negative attitude and is more a big "F-You" to drivers. Some of us, btw, do not have the luxury of walking or biking or taking public transportation to work. It takes me so long to get home from work that the last thing I want to do is get stuck in a traffic jam on my way home.

I think what is called for is not a condemnation of drivers, as we are not all crazy and angry and trying to pollute the world, but a way for everyone to come together to make CM more successful... hey, you might even get MORE bikers out of it.

beth / August 27, 2010 6:01 PM

Critical Mass is disatrous. It does not enamor pedestrians, motorists or visitors to our city to your ill-informed cause. As a fellow biker, I cringe to be associated with your "f-you" attitude to the laws and others with whom we share the road. Perhaps I'm "not cool" because I wear a helmet, don't ride on the sidewalks (it's against the law, in case you don't know/care), stop at stop signs and traffic lights, travel with traffic, signal my intent, and ride defensively. That is the behavior that will create respect from motorists. I was horribly embarrased last summer when a colleague was unable to get to a party in her honor because your "parade" so impeded the flow of traffic that we were unable to get form one event at the Aon building to Lake Point Tower. What a disgrace. Whenever I see your group, I pray that no one needs emergency services during your self-indulgent activities. To all of you, please grow up and behave with more consideration.

Clint / August 27, 2010 6:05 PM

I'm a former messenger (Standard 803, ret.) who still rides every day (I don't need thousands of other bikers around me to brave the city streets) and I can't stand Critical Mass. This isn't a parade. It isn't about commeraderie or community. It's about taking out your own inner rage toward cars once a month as a fuel for your personal self-righteousness. Yeah, I've dealt with a lot of morons in cars, just like I've dealt with a lot of morons on bikes or on their feet. So what. I doubt the aggression you've experienced has as much to do with drivers "believing they are the most important people"--an ironic statement, considering your support for a group that believes they are the most important people--as it does with the accurate perception that critical massers are effectively flipping off everyone they so selfishly hold up. Then you're just dealing with the law of averages. You flip off enough people, eventually you're going to come across somebody who will kick your ass for it.

sammyg / August 27, 2010 6:24 PM

Parade floats do stop at signals - go to German Fest, Gay Pride or Halloween and you'll see that they do.
And they move slowly so pedestrians can get by if necessary.

I've been on my bike and I can't get across the street because of Critical Mass. If 100 people stop at a signal, they'll all be fine together.

Al / August 27, 2010 7:00 PM

I can't believe that I just read this tripe.

Glorification of the further decline of our culture. Lets just all avoid accountability shall we...

CM was founded, and scheduled at a specific time - precisely to piss off the masses. Its foundational philosophy was always antagonistic. Not combative, I grant you that - the cyclists weren't denting cars - and there is no excuse no matter how pissed off I am in my car for me to physically threaten a cyclist. However, lets stop green/pretty/clean washing the purpose of this. It is an outright statement of differentiating values - expressed not through free speech, not through permitted demonstration - but in guerilla fashion with absolutely no accountability. The very organization of CM is setup in distributed cellular fashion so as to obviate the possibility of anyone being held to account for the misdeeds of those participating.

You - cyclists - believe the world is a better place if you cycle more, and we burn fossil fuels, umm less.

I - sometimes cyclist, sometimes pedestrian, sometimes fossil fuel guzzler - could give a rats behind about your values, ideals, and philosophy, even when I agree with it, as your marketing and execution have now alienated the middle ground you seem to be attempting to win over in your debate.

The only thing I care about is myself, and I leave you up to your own life. That said, when you inconvenience me, in an antagonistic fashion, why on earth are you surprised at the vitriolic response.
Not only do I think your ideas are wrong, but you have glossed over the origins of the movement you espouse to the point of canard, or ignorance. Get your facts straight.

That someone is upset enough to take action when infringed upon is the very foundational value of our free society. To think that your ideas are sacrosanct, and can't be disputed is inane - and if your expression of those ideas infringe upon my personal liberty woe to you.

Your organization:
-Was founded to combat autos that bike messengers and green activists found threatening to personal safety and the environment
-Is pseudo-organized as a terrorist cell, no formal figurehead, no board, no accountability, hence no one to come after to hold accountable.
-Is diverse, but with no controlling body, the bad apples poison the entire bushel.
-Claims to have police cooperation, but in fact has police guards to keep the parties separate. Have you the author bothered to ask why todays start at Daley center heads North past the 18th district? Might it be a statement about the troubles the past few rides have experienced when cops decide they have had enough of your sanctimonious BS?

You the author:
-Seem woefully ignorant of the roots of your organization.
-Have some broader scope facts wrong about the number of incidents per ride, and the willingness of the police (or more appropriately, the reasons) for their "cooperation."
-Seem quite immature in your belief that you are correct, and that we must agree with you.
-Have a rude surprise or two coming when you realize that not everyone espouses the "turn the other cheek" dogma; some of us even believe that in fact is hypocritical to our core values stating that if we give an inch you whiny no accountability wackjobs will try to take a mile.

Will I threaten you with my car? No, that seems a bit much - will I curse you out, and then proceed to knock down and break the nose of any douchebag who throws a punch at me again - you're damn right. That guy lost a fight he shouldn't have picked - methinks your trite defense of things you do not understand is an equally futile battle.

Natalia / August 27, 2010 7:21 PM

Do they announce the route before the ride online, etc? If I knew I would look into it and avoid the route if possible and if I had to be out in traffic. Maybe this would curb some of that anger.

Pedestrian with a point / August 27, 2010 8:34 PM


It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a car or on foot or on the Irving Park bus, or whether your Friday means getting to a hair appointment, trick-or-treating or picking up dad at dialysis – whatever it may be - Critical Mass will screw it up.

And the delay isn’t the bad part. This is Chicago after all, and delay is part of living here. No, the worst thing is the fear & apprehension when mobs of hostile guerilla bikers blow through red lights and cork around cars at major intersections. In the many times I've been ambushed by CM, I have never EVER - not ONCE seen "small children riding with their parents."

Maybe the author is confusing her experience with the opening credits of Sesame Street.

cpsschooled / August 27, 2010 8:40 PM

I am an avid biker. I bike to and from work every day. I am a born and raised Chicagoan, Albany Park, CPS schooled, been locked up in county, gang banged as a teen, etc. That being said, I cannot stand what critical mass stands for. It is a bunch of self righteous hipsters who have no regard for the rest of society. And that is the bottom line. It's being inconsiderate to others who are just trying to go about their day. I am all about bikers rights, but this is the most misguided, juvenile, trust fund kid laden "protest" I've ever seen in Chicago. It's embarrassing to us normal bikers. Take a shower and shave your beards, dirty hippies.

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 8:52 PM

I see tons of whole families and parents bringing their kids. I have seen many in past rides and I saw many tonight. No, I was not at a live Sesame Street filming. Yes, there are hipsters. Yes, there are those who would like to disrupt things. I agree that they are. Yet, at the same time, there are also alot of people who just want to celebrate biking in a group pure and simple. We're not trying to look cool or be elitist or anything just literally celebrate. Critical Mass means very differet things to different people. I don't always agree with how some treat drivers while on the mass and I make sure I don't do so.

However, again, these comments are disheartening because what you're really doing is rationalizing the road rage behavior that is completely uncalled for. Let's go back to the Wrigleyville example. I have to deal with this on a regular basis actually whenever there is a Cubs game. So, yeah, I am defintiely inconvenience by that large mass of intoxicated sports fans but I would never even consider being violent towards them. I don't see how critical mas, even if you hate these bicyclists and all they stand for is any different here. It's still not a rational reason to be violent and aggressive, which is really the heart of the matter of what I wrote.

Kirstiecat / August 27, 2010 8:59 PM

Also, wanted to point out that I did mention in the article that there were some bicyclists that were antagonistic and I do think it brings us all down. At the same time, the violence is uncalled for. The direct quote is (or you can refer to above):

"As counterculture as some automobile enthusiasts might try to portray it, Critical Mass represents the full range of demographics. In any large group of people, you will find randomly that some may be more antagonistic than others and unfortunately that is also sometimes true of masses"

cpsschooled / August 27, 2010 9:10 PM

"As counterculture as some automobile enthusiasts might try to portray it, Critical Mass represents the full range of demographics. In any large group of people, you will find randomly that some may be more antagonistic than others and unfortunately that is also sometimes true of masses"

I disagree wholeheartedly with you trying to justify the main ideology of what CM is with that statement. A "mass" by definition comes together by a cause, can we agree on that? So this means that I cannot say that "well there are SOME good honest people at Klan rally's." No, we would not say that, because just by BEING at a Klan rally, we can pretty much assume that that person is a bigot. Otherwise they wouldn't go. It's not a county fair with ice cream vendors. Now, no, I am not comparing CM to a Klan rally, just making a comparison for arguments sake.

CM represents borderline anarchy, a complete disregard for societies rules and norms. Fine. That's sort of their right. But, by participating, I don't care if you just "want to ride all care free and rainbows and lolipops with other bikers!" you are actually subscribing to, endorsing, and furthering CMs ideals. What are those ideals? I think we can agree that they are to disrupt normal, hardworking everyday folk by "yeah man stick the finger at the man! in his car! cuz he like has a car! and we just like, have bikes, so it's like, a class war man! you're either with us or against us, man!"

Please, it's the saddest display of false bravado and righteousness since those kansas city god hates fags people. Yes, you guys are no different. Sorry but you're not. Congrats on being part of such a wonderful cause!

Beth / August 27, 2010 9:24 PM

70 minutes on the bus tonight because CM took the road. Wow how much FUN did I have? And how many cubic feet of carbon emissions did the bus contribute as a result of idling?

Be sure and thank all of your important bike friends Kirstie.

AL / August 27, 2010 9:27 PM

Kristiecat,

You better slow down, take another toke, and rethink your position. Your illogic does your argument no favors at all. In fact, your latest reply once again proves your utter lack of grasp as to the true nature of the issue.

If your expectation is that violence does not beget violence you clearly have spent to much of your life in a sheltered and protected environment - the real world ain't like that kid.

Critical Mass - from its inception, its name, and its organization has been, continues to be, and will for the likely future be a direct action assault on those who the founders disagree with - i.e. the gas guzzling proles.

It is not some randomly antagonistic participants that give you a bad name. It is you not acepting accountability for researching the organization you associate with.

Critical Mass - a scientific term that denotes a nuclear reaction achieving an unstoppable state of fusion - i.e. nuclear explosion. Do you think that the name was chosen arbitrarily? If so, do you want to be part of an organization that is arbitrary?

Critical Mass - a pack of bikers stopping traffic as its safer to ride in a group and what motorist would dare harm the group? Safety in numbers. So the purpose of the organization is to circumvent the rule of law and society - i.e. ignore the traffic laws and inconvenience others to prove a political point.

The organization itself is not a bicycle parade as you call it. It is not an organization that has peaceful protest and non-violence as its dogma. It is plain and simple, antagonistic, at its core.

That said, does the fact that the organization is antagonistic necessarily demand or for that matter excuse a violent reaction, I would say not. However, it would take a naive idealist to think that none will counter in like method.

Embrace the violence, you wanted to be part of it.

Or, do not embrace the violence - but don't be a hypocrite. Distance yourself from an organization whose sole purpose is confrontation.

kickstand / August 27, 2010 9:41 PM

Critical Mass does more harm than good in this city. As a fellow biker, I am disheartened by your view that this is good for the cycling community. Publish the route, go through the necessary permitting, and be respectful of drivers and pedestrians alike. That will do more for the cycling community than the current approach.When drivers disrespect me on the road, I sometimes wonder why this hatred persists. One reason is Critical Mass.

Marcus Twain / August 28, 2010 12:50 AM

As a cyclist who commutes daily, I admit to having interest at some point in CCM. But really, in the end, it does more harm than good at this point.

How about some leaders actually step forward and take responsibility... we know who you are, Howard, Todd, etc. Stop hiding behind the guise of non-leadership.

At least that would be a start.

Tom Janus / August 28, 2010 12:52 AM

The difference between a film crew and a disorganization such as CM is that they have paid to have permits (or bribed the right people, whatever).

The writer clearly is a young adult who isn't used to accepting responsibility in life... how else would they not realize the difference between a permitted organization acting within the bounds of the law and blatant disregard for pedestrian, mass transit, and other forms of transportation within the Loop and city limits?

E r / August 28, 2010 12:58 AM

Kristie says..

"By and large, if you live in Chicago, you should know to avoid the loop around 6pm on a Friday night if you do not want to be late for something and choose to drive. "

Really? Seriously?

How about the commuter who transfers from the Metra Electric district and has to walk to their train at Union Station? Imagine having 15-20 minutes between trains to make the connection, and having that connection not happen due to waiting for a few hundred cyclists who do not permit pedestrians through. No, most people in CM don't let pedestrians through because they've been brainwashed by the "mass up" mentality.

So, your logic that there is "another way" when a mass of people come riding down State street really is lost.

You've also shown that you're apt to allowing a group to take a street hostage, essentially, by forcing other users of the right-of-way into optional routes that may be less efficient or outright dangerous. Would you prefer that someone force cyclists to ride on Ashland or Western avenue instead of more calm streets like Southport? I'm guessing not. Your logic is failing.

Your examples of the positives of CM are so far-fetched; you really need to get off the mailing list and stop drinking the Kool-aid for a moment or two.

Dan Korn / August 28, 2010 1:18 AM

Thanks Kirstie.

I've been a regular participant in Chicago Critical Mass for the last ten years. We just had another great ride tonight.

Al wrote, "That someone is upset enough to take action when infringed upon is the very foundational value of our free society." Yes, and this, to me, is part of why Critical Mass exists.

The context is that if you ride a bicycle with any regularity, you're constantly on guard for people in cars doing things that can kill you. Anyone who's been involved with the cycling community for any length of time knows someone who is no longer around because someone in a car was either distracted, enraged, or simply incompetent. And no matter how good of a driver you think you are, you fall into one or more of these categories once in a while. Yes, you. And even if it's only for a moment, that's long enough to kill someone.

Critical Mass is a couple of hours every month when we can ride without having to worry about getting killed. That's part of what makes it so much fun.

While I don't condone violence of any kind, from anyone, I'm not going to say that Critical Mass is not confrontational, or even somewhat antagonistic. It is, even though not everyone who participates wants it to be. But as cyclists, we feel the antagonism directed towards us every day. And the difference, my dear motorists, is that our antagonism won't kill you.

Everyone talks about cyclists earning "respect" from drivers. That sounds nice, but in all honesty, I don't give a hoot about respect. I do care about not getting killed. I don't believe for one second that my behavior as a cyclist has any impact on drivers' ability to operate their cars safely. The biggest hurdle that we face as cyclists isn't getting drivers to think better of us, it's getting them to notice us at all.

And by all means, let's have another round of stories about scofflaw cyclists, from the oh-so-sanctimonious car drivers out there. Because people in cars never speed, or roll through stop signs, or park in bike lanes, or open their doors without looking, or talk on the phone or text while driving, or do anything else illegal or dangerous while operating two tons of vehicle. Yes, two wrongs don't make a right, and the fact that people driving cars break the law doesn't make it right for cyclists to do it. But it's only the wrongs from one of these groups which kill 40,000 Americans every year.

Everyone has these little anecdotes about how they've "almost" gotten hit by a cyclist, or "nearly" been run over, or had a "close call." Yet despite this epidemic of people *almost* getting killed by bicycles, cars *actually* kill one pedestrian every single week in the City of Chicago, on average. So, car-lovers, get off your high horses about cyclists and keep your eyes on the road, because you're the ones who are doing the real damage.

You can call me self-righteous if you want. I do feel righteous in taking some kind of action in response to my friends getting killed. You feel righteous in complaining about a traffic jam. Did you know that automobile crashes are the number one killer of children and young adults in this country? What are you doing about it?

See, I don't really care that much whether you like us or not. Chicago Critical Mass has done more to build and energize the cycling and alternative transportation community, and in turn facilitate real policy and infrastructure changes which save lives, than decades of advocacy before it. I don't really expect anyone who hasn't really delved into these issues to understand, and I'm not going to enumerate the issues here. The point is that we ride for ourselves, and for our fallen friends and loved ones, not for you.

Yes, that's selfish. Yes, maybe it's childish. But we're not really hurting anyone, and people driving cars can't honestly say that. The fact is that the number of traffic fatalities correlates directly with the number of cars on the roads. So if you're driving, you're a part of the problem. Period. And when I drive, I'm a part of the problem too. But I try not to do it too often, and when I do, I try to remember that I'm operating a deadly machine, and that not killing anyone is much more important that getting somewhere a little bit faster.

And if you drive all the time, and Critical Mass is the only time in the entire month when you find yourself in a traffic jam, then you're the luckiest driver in the world. If you're on a bus or walking or even riding a bike and you're delayed because of Critical Mass, then I sympathize. Either way, your reaction is up to you. You can get mad at the cyclists, or you can sit back and enjoy the parade. I think that was Kirstie's original point.

To Beth and others who got stuck on a bus half a mile from a ride which you didn't see, that sucks, and I'm sorry that happened to you. It's an unfortunate side effect of something which I feel very strongly needs to happen as a response to a culture of driving which is killing us, some more slowly than others. I can only hope that you understand that, when you add up the inconveniences and outright dangers that you and I and everyone else face from cars, they far outweigh the inconvenience imposed upon you by bicycles, whether you count a particular twelve nights a year or not.

Finally, to everyone: even if you don't appreciate anything else I've said, I hope that the inconvenience which Critical Mass imposes upon you is the worst thing that ever happens to you out on the streets.

Kirstiecat / August 28, 2010 1:59 AM

I just wanted to add that your quote "Critical Mass is a couple of hours every month when we can ride without having to worry about getting killed. That's part of what makes it so much fun." is exactly why I ride actually. I was terrified of riding on Chicago streets being from a much smaller city until I built up confidence riding at the masses. At the same time, the main reason I wrote the article is that I do feel unsafe lately, esp. when I've participated in corking. I don't antagonize drivers but I've had run ins with people who really want to plow their cars right through me and everyone else. They really don't seem to care if they hurt or kill anyone.

Also, as far as mass generalizations go, I really do feel they are based on ignorance. Sorry guys but I actually do ride in them and though we don't take official counts of demographics, there are actual families, minorities, senior citizens, and people with disabilities who participate. We're not just "hipsters" or "hippies" or "Phish-heads" whatever you'd like to call us.

I don't call every driver a homicidal maniac even though I've had some bad experiences. I'd really prefer it if some of you recognized Critical Mass can be made up of thousands of people who are actually a pretty diverse group. Some of the comments show me there is alot of negativity that is not based on people who have actually ridden with us. I'm sorry for those that have had bad experiences but again I don't feel that represents everyone just as I don't think all of you drivers are aiming to kill bicyclists.

Bubba / August 28, 2010 10:03 AM

Keep in mind in all of this anti-car people banter, that there are many cases where cyclists have infringed on the rights of pedestrians.

In my years of commuting via mass transit and walking, I've seen people hit by cyclists that are going the wrong way down streets, riding on sidewalks, trying to "shoot the gap" though large groups of commuter peds that have a the walk light at a crosswalk.

This doesn't include the general inconvenience I face as a ped on a daily basis from the riders that are too scared or insolent to observe the rules of the road and ride on my sidewalk (and I'm not talking about kids under 12 here).

You can say you're the victim in the car versus bike war, but what about biker versus ped?

I'm not making generalizations and saying everyone does it. I know this is not a large percentage of riders, however, it should be noted in order to provide a balanced argument. And if you're going to state, like Dan does, that everyone that drives is part of the problem, then I guess you'd have to say that everyone that rides is part of this problem.

JimRN / August 28, 2010 10:21 AM

Dan & Kristie,

I'm not an "oh-so-sanctimonious car driver."
I am a surgical nurse and last night I was on call and arrived LATE because your CM blocked the streets!

"I've had run ins with people who really want to plow their cars right through me ..."
Honey I don't want to plow through you - I just need to get past you because there's a kid with a swollen belly prepped and ready for surgery and I need to get there. Only the most pampered, entitled do-nothings would dare call my delay an "inconvenience."

-Jim

Jackson Pratt / August 28, 2010 10:34 AM

Say, isn't time for the Indoor Dodgeball League's indoor season???

Tom / August 28, 2010 1:11 PM

What disappoints me the most about CM is the fact that they waste such a huge opportunity MONTHLY to demonstrate attendees' willingness to create a healthy, safe environment for everyone who must share the road.

The author suggests logistical issues with trying to make such a large group of vehicles (bikes, in this case) stop at intersections, share the road appropriately, etc. Guess what? Were you wondering what those red, yellow and green lights were above your head
on your monthly rides?

Cities like ours have already figured out the logistics of keeping traffic moving (theoretically), and the fact that it seemingly didn't occur to you to *obey* these tools of civility (and components of the law, even for you) further reinforces your sense of superiority and disregard for doing your part to keep the roads safe for yourselves and the 'lesser beings' you see in cars or on foot.

If you address anything in my post, though, I most want an answer to this: If you desire the opportunity to share the road, why won't you share the responsibility of the rules? A comment about dangerous cars doesn't count here, I want to understand why a bicyclist thinks it's okay (or safer? Could that absurdly be the excuse?) to blast through a stop sign, or between cars against a red light. I mean why won't CM use the exposure as an opportunity to collectively show the public at large you really do understand what those red lights and signs are for?

I ride my bike on the street, too, when I'm not in my car. I always honor your space on the road, just as I would a motorcycle. But when I stop at a stop sign and you don't, or I have to worry at every intersection that you might disobey your red light and ride into my lane, what am I to do?

Maybe pedestrians should begin jumping out in large groups into bicycle lanes (without warning and holding their umbrellas across the front of your bikes) to stand up for their rights.

And to suggest you gained your confidence to ride by joining the CM gang is like saying I feel much safer driving after my friends and I drove 80 miles an hour without seatbelts, on the sidewalk. Gain confidence by learning the rules and knowing you're doing your best to operate your vehicle in a safe and predictable manner.

Mike D / August 28, 2010 1:25 PM

Critical Mass is not a "parade". It does not believe it needs a permit to conduct itself like a parade, not does it seek permits for its rides. So that rules out the idea that they are free to break rules regarding stoplight, stop signs, one-way streets, etc. (Sorry, I have no sympathy for the argement "there are too many of us to stop at a stoplight." The size of your crowd is your concern, not the anyone else's concern). Bikes are vehicles like every other wheeled vehicle on the road and are subject to the rules of the road. Having a random route that is decided upon minutes before embarking and expecting the entire world (or at least that section of Chicago) to bend to your will is selfish and borders on child-like stubborness. CM doesn't post pre-planned routes and work out a pre-arranged deal with the city to let drivers and pedestrians know of the route of their "parade"and at least give them the opportunity to make other travel arrangements; they barge in like a fat man at a private barbeque and demand to be served and waited upon. No amount of whining about the percentage of bad drivers who infringe upon their "rights" will change the fact that the answer to rudeness is not more rudeness. And to compare it to pre-scheduled events like the Marathon or the St. Patrick's day Parade or the Bud Billiken parade is ridiculous. Those events and others are annouced months, even years in advance, which is ample time for people to make other arrangements on travel. To expect every part of the city to put up with your random me-first attitude is arrogance of the first order (not to mention the arrogance and selfishness it takes for someone to knowingly divert police manpower away from crime-infested areas that could really use their service). If you want to conduct these runs, they abandon the random self-centered rides and create a schedule that can alert the city and commuters in enough time to let them plan a different route, as well as give police a chance to set traffic lights to accomodate you.

Is everyone who takes part in CM an asshole? No, just as every driver is not an asshole out to run down a biker. But if you willingly take part in violating the rules of the road that you so often point to when trying to demonstrate the rights of the bikers, then at that moment, at that time, YOU, sir or madam, are indeed an asshole.

Here's a tip: there will ALWAYS be asshole drivers and no amount of "taking over the streets" will change that. You're best move is adhering to the rules of the road for bikes, lobbying with the city for more bike lanes and enforcement of traffic laws that affect bike riders and trying to show the public that bikers can be courteous and respectful of cars and pedestrians. So far, CM has struck out on most, if not all of those.

P.S. I am a bike rider who bikes to work about three days a week.

Mike D / August 28, 2010 1:34 PM

P.P.S.: All of your arguments about the benefits of bikes are valid: reducing traffic, reducing the consumption of gas, etc.

However, none of those arguments have a relationship to what CM does.

"By blocking the streets, running red lights and delaying people from getting to work or home, we're showing them how great biking is for the world."

Really? That's the argument you're going with?

Alvin / August 28, 2010 1:40 PM

"I think what you guys seem to miss repeatedly is that it's pretty impossible for thousands of bicyclists to stop at every stoplight or stop sign."

If this is true, then the event needs to be stopped. Imagine a Critical Mass of cars blowing through stop signs and red lights. People would be rightfully angry, as they are rightfully angry at the bikers in Critical Mass. It does not justify endangering others lives, but you have to understand where the frustration is coming from.

I'm a biker and do not own a car and I disdain Critical Mass. It does nothing but generate more anger from drivers toward bikers. In doing so, it fails in its goal to raise awareness of bikers' rights on the road.

If in this event people were stopping at red lights and and stop signs as the law demands, I believe people would be more tolerant and it would provide a genuine avenue to educate drivers as to the rights of bikers on the roads. Just imagine drivers passing through an intersection witnessing a huge mass of bikes waiting patiently for the light to change. There's no better way to educate others than to lead by example.

Dan Korn / August 29, 2010 12:44 AM

It's funny how everyone accuses the participants of Critical Mass of shirking accountability, yet the only two people who have had the guts to post with their real names in this entire thread are me and Kirstie.

But even though you're all a bunch of anonymous cowards, I'll answer your questions, and I'll ask you some of my own.

"Bubba" asks, "You can say you're the victim in the car versus bike war, but what about biker versus ped?"

What about it? Pedestrians are the victims of cars as well. Again, one pedestrian is killed by a car, on average, every single week, just in the city limits of Chicago. How many pedestrians are killed by bicycles? How can you possibly see bicycles as a threat given these facts? Exactly what "problem" are bicyclists all a part of?

Again, you're talking about an inconvenience, which is perfectly valid, and I acknowledge it completely. But how can you equate that with what I'm talking about, which is human lives, of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike, being snuffed out in horribly violent ways by cars?

"Tom" asks, "If you desire the opportunity to share the road, why won't you share the responsibility of the rules?"

Who said they desire an opportunity to share the road? I said that I just don't want to be killed.

But assuming that I did care about "sharing the road," I would argue that cars, and the people who drive them and plan for them, aren't really giving us our fair share of the road. So we're *taking* our share. And our share is that for a few hours a month, we get our turn to take over.

"I want to understand why a bicyclist thinks it's okay (or safer? Could that absurdly be the excuse?) to blast through a stop sign, or between cars against a red light."

Yes, sometimes going through a stop sign, or doing other things that are technically illegal while riding a bicycle, really is safer.

Imagine you're coming up to a stop sign, and a car behind you is trying to turn right. You could stop, and maybe that car will try to whip around and pass you, potentially cutting you off or hitting someone else in the crosswalk. Or, you could slow down, and proceed with the "cover" of a car going the same direction through the intersection, letting the turning car pass behind you. I can give you dozens more examples.

Now, I wouldn't put "blasting" through stop signs and red lights in that same category. But I can't speak for every single cyclist, so you'll have to ask someone else about that.

"I mean why won't CM use the exposure as an opportunity to collectively show the public at large you really do understand what those red lights and signs are for?"

Because that's not what it's about. Others have explained why we don't break up the mass for red lights. But it is admittedly a demonstration, or if you prefer, a bit of civil disobedience, where we purposefully break the rules.

And again, I can't speak for everyone who rides CM, but I don't really care about "show[ing] the public at large" much of anything, other than to remind people that the cyclists are around and not going away. Like I said, I don't give a hoot about some nebulous bestowing of respect upon me and my fellow cyclists by drivers. I just want to not be killed. And your behavior as a car driver has a much bigger effect upon my safety as a cyclist than my behavior has upon you.

Besides, "the rules" don't really apply the same way to bicycles as to cars in the first place. Did you know that it's illegal to pass a cyclist in Illinois unless you can give them three feet of space? And that it's illegal for a car to park in a bicycle lane, even if it's "just for a minute?" Do you understand why these laws exist?

"But when I stop at a stop sign and you don't, or I have to worry at every intersection that you might disobey your red light and ride into my lane, what am I to do?"

I don't know, what are you to do? I would suggest that you drive defensively. You're the one operating the deadly machine, after all.

What if you have to worry that small children are going to jump out in the street in front of you? What are you to do then?

"Mike D" writes, "No amount of whining about the percentage of bad drivers who infringe upon their "rights" will change the fact that the answer to rudeness is not more rudeness."

I think I've made it pretty clear that what my participation in Critical Mass is trying to "answer" is something far more important than rudeness. Sticks and stones.

I take this issue very personally because I've lost friends to car crashes. Nothing you can say is going to convince me that your hurt feelings are more important than that.

"Alvin" writes, "If in this event people were stopping at red lights and and stop signs as the law demands, I believe people would be more tolerant and it would provide a genuine avenue to educate drivers as to the rights of bikers on the roads. Just imagine drivers passing through an intersection witnessing a huge mass of bikes waiting patiently for the light to change."

No, just imagine the same 2000 cyclists taking up not just three or four city blocks, but dozens. That's what will happen if the ride is split up by stopping at red lights. Drivers aren't going to be "passing through" that. It would only delay drivers more.

But I disagree with your larger premise as well. In my experience, drivers don't get annoyed because other people don't follow the rules; they get annoyed because they're delayed, period. Drivers yell at me and cut me off when I'm following all of the rules of the road to the letter. They yell at me to get on the sidewalk, which is illegal. Mostly, they don't really know what the rules are for cyclists, and they don't really care. They just want me out of the way.

"There's no better way to educate others than to lead by example."

That's exactly what we're doing. To me, Critical Mass is an example of a different priority on our streets. It may not be the example you want, and it may not be educating others in the lesson you prefer, but that's what it is.

"Jim" writes, "I am a surgical nurse and last night I was on call and arrived LATE because your CM blocked the streets!" and "Only the most pampered, entitled do-nothings would dare call my delay an 'inconvenience.'"

You really should factor in some time for traffic delays if your punctuality is a matter of life and death. And if it's really crucial, that's what emergency vehicles are for. Get a police escort. Otherwise, there's no way for anyone to possibly know that you're the one really important driver who really needs to get somewhere.

Better yet, if it's that important that you have to be at the hospital at a moment's notice, move somewhere closer so that you don't need to drive and take the chance of being stuck in traffic. This is Chicago, not some far-flung suburb or rural area. If you need to rely on a car and perfect traffic conditions to be able to save someone's life, then you're the one leaving that kid's life to chance.

Or are you honestly telling me that you're only late for your surgeries on the last Friday of the month? Do you write angry letters to amorphous groups of motorists every other time you're stuck in a traffic jam? Millions of cars on the road cause traffic jams every single days without any help from cyclists.

Again, there's a bigger issue at stake here. While you may have been delayed by Critical Mass, maybe the fact that we did slow car traffic down for a while saved a life. There's no way to know for sure, of course, but there's also no way to know for sure that your tardiness hurt anyone. (Or, for that matter, that your little story is even true, "Jim.")

And civil disobedience has always caused not just inconvenience, but problems like what you're describing. Do you think that no medical workers were delayed by the bus strikes and sit-ins of 1960s?

Yes, I did just compare Critical Mass to the civil rights movement. Before you go calling me a loony, consider this: What was the civil rights movement about, if not trying to stop the systematic denial of basic human rights to large numbers of people? And what right is more basic, more fundamental, more precious, than the right to live? And what group is both most deserving and most in need of their rights being protected, if not children? And what is the single largest cause of the denial of the most basic of rights to the most vulnerable in our society? The answer is that automobile crashes are the number one killer of children in this country. So you tell me, what cause is more worthy, more important, than trying to keep kids from dying?

Is Critical Mass actually doing that? Are we actually saving lives? Well, like I said, there's no way to know for sure. But if nothing else, it's catalyzed this discussion, and others like it. Maybe someone here learned something they didn't already know, or got some insight into why some of us "radical" cyclists care so deeply about these issues. And maybe that will make a little bit of a difference. That's why I ride Critical Mass. And it's also why I spend time debating these issues in a little corner of cyberspace with all of you lovely anonymous people.

I challenge you all to answer my questions, whoever you are.

Igatius J Reilly / August 29, 2010 4:00 AM

Whoa, sounds like someone isn't taking his meds again.

You're hardly Rosa Parks, son.

Why don't you and your Ralph Waldo Wannabee flannel flying friends go back to school and let grown folks get about their business?

You'll find Rhetoric 101 to be quite helpful!

Read it and weep, ya morons:
www.don-lindsay-archive.org/skeptic/arguments.html

Made To Wait / August 29, 2010 8:42 AM

"But if nothing else, it's catalyzed this discussion, and others like it."

Ha no. What this did is reveal a fundamental bedrock of selfishness on the part of the author and her supporters.

Eric / August 29, 2010 4:29 PM

I think "AL" way up in the middle of the thread nailed it (even if he doesn't agree with it):

"It is an outright statement of differentiating values - expressed not through free speech, not through permitted demonstration - but in guerilla fashion with absolutely no accountability. The very organization of CM is setup in distributed cellular fashion so as to obviate the possibility of anyone being held to account for the misdeeds of those participating."

To me it's the "distributed cellular" setup of CM that makes it so powerful, but also so controversial. As Americans, and members of democratic society at large, we're all brought up believing in the idea that there is a "system" in place and whether we're for it or against it, its existence cannot be questioned. The "system" allows us to transfer accountability, both good and bad, to symbolic entities and figureheads. Hate the Tea Party? Blame Glenn Beck. Love your iPhone? Thank god for Steve Jobs! But what's lost in this process is the understanding that all organizations are composed of individuals acting out of their own free will. Probably the reason we choose to ignore this is that it's really fucking complicated (and often scary) to deal with thousands of distinct individuals, as opposed to a centralized organization. Consider the record industry trying to prevent piracy by suing individual downloaders or the DEA trying to fight drugs by jailing end users. If all these folks belonged to some kind of organization, "United Drug Users" or "Local Downloaders 451" then the solution would be much easier! Similarly, if the CPD could simply call up the "President of Critical Mass" and ask him to tell CM riders to obey stop lights, then I'm sure the antagonism between motorists & cyclists would be greatly reduced. But because this isn't possible, the two "groups" are forced to confront each other as individuals. It's not something that we're terribly good at (hence the screaming) but it's an absolutely essential part of being human.

tl;dr CM is divisive because it represents anarchy and disorder, which can be either incredibly empowering or frightening, depending on your personality & perspective.

Mike D / August 29, 2010 6:36 PM

I was going to let Dan Korn's comments go as more childish justification until he wrote this:

Do you think that no medical workers were delayed by the bus strikes and sit-ins of 1960s...

Don't even effin DARE comparing your problems with a few rude drivers to an entire political and government system that wilfully denied an entire race of people their rights as Americans. By envoking that protest (as I figured someone connected with CM would at some point) you fail to see the obvious fact that no one is denying ANYTHING from you, that none of your rights are being withheld. It's sad that bikers have died or been injured by careless drivers, but it's not a Constitutional issue, it's an ACCIDENT. Being told you can't sit on the front of the bus, or eat at a lunch counter or drink from THIS fountain or, I don't know, VOTE wasn't an "accident". If you can prove that bad driving is a violation of your constitutional rights that can some how be prevented forever with the stroke of a pen, you'd have my support. As of now, though, you and your ilk continue to come across as clueless, self-absorbed brats who apparently have no sense of history or, well, sense period.

I'll bet your one of those put-upon bikers who gets pissed with people walking all over the lakefront bike path and blocking your ride.

CMers should read the vast majority of the posts here and get a clue. Your strategy Is. Not. Working. The vast majority of the public, bike riding or driving, hates you and your tactics. If you're happy with that, carry on, but don't expect to win any hearts and minds anytime soon.

Mike D / August 29, 2010 6:48 PM

Add 1...

I don't share personal information on the web with strangers for the same reason I don't wear a t-shirt with name and phone number on it. If you don't like that or think it's insincere, so be it. Perhaps Critical Mass can hold a forum where we can discuss it in person.

Second, it's pretty selfish to put the lives of your fellow bikers in such high regard, but to a medical personnel who has try and save someone else's life and is delayed thanks to your little show, you merely say, "well, leave earlier", not even considering that A) that person may have been called up in an emergency and couldn't possibly know the call was coming and B) had no idea that you and your pals randomly chose that street for your "protest". Once again, ignorance and selfishness.

It would have been cruel poetic justice if the emergency call was to save the life of a biker who was hit by a car and they couldn't get through because of CM's little show.

Dan Korn / August 30, 2010 2:06 AM

Mike D wrote: "It's sad that bikers have died or been injured by careless drivers, but it's not a Constitutional issue, it's an ACCIDENT."

No, it's not. The number of automobile fatalities correlates directly with the number of cars on the roads. The more cars, the more people die. This is no accident; it's a statistical certainty: every car on the road increases the chances of the next fatal crash. And someone, actually lots of someones, definitely will and do die.

If someone decided to start shooting a gun randomly, would you call it an "accident" when they killed someone? What if a hundred people started doing this? Everyone would would tell you that they didn't mean to actually hit anyone, and they had no idea that it would be their bullet that ended up killing someone. Likewise, nobody thinks it will be their car that ends up killing someone. Yet, here we are with 40,000 Americans dead every year, hundreds of thousands injured, and innumerable financial costs of automobile crashes. (Actually, they're not really innumerable; see: .)

Or how about this: If you asked someone a hundred years ago if they thought that it would be a good idea to fill the streets with vehicles weighing two tons moving at speeds up to a mile a minute, they would probably think that was a bit crazy. If you then went on to tell them that you didn't expect anyone to get killed in this scheme, they would think you were completely nuts. If you went on to say that, okay, well, maybe some people will die from all these hulks of metal whizzing about, but it's not really anyone's fault, they would probably consider you a criminal.

The bloody toll wreaked by car crashes is no more an "accident" than a traffic jam is. Everyone is at fault, but somehow nobody wants to accept any individual responsibility.

As Eric said, "It's really f*ing complicated (and often scary) to deal with thousands of distinct individuals, as opposed to a centralized organization." So to whom can I write my angry letter about all the cars on the roads every day?

Diffusion of responsibility works both ways. Again, the difference between what the riders of Critical Mass, and cyclists in general, are responsible for, and what drivers collectively are responsible for, are 40,000 human lives every year in the U.S. alone.

"If you can prove that bad driving is a violation of your constitutional rights that can some how be prevented forever with the stroke of a pen, you'd have my support."

Not bad driving, driving period. Although, as I said, every driver is guilty of doing something overtly dangerous eventually, even the ones who are lucky enough that that behavior hasn't yet caused an "accident."

But to be more precise, it's not just the act of driving cars itself, it's decades of government policy promoting automobiles and automobile-specific infrastructure, at the expense of alternatives, which have been violating people's rights. We've literally built our way into a traffic jam in this country, in just a few generations. Most people used to be able to walk or take a streetcar to get where they were going on a daily basis; but now, in large parts of this country, you can't get anywhere without a car.

This is called automobile dependence, and it's also no accident. It's the result of decades of lobbying, advertising, and subsidies by and for the automobile, oil, and highway industries. Billions of dollars have been spent to make Americans dependent on automobiles by taking away their freedom to make other choices, or at least to make those choices so difficult that they're not really choices at all.

If that's not a "government system that wilfully denied an entire race of people their rights as Americans," I don't know what is. (Except that it's not a single race being denied their rights, it's everyone: unlike the KKK, car culture doesn't discriminate in who it kills. And true, the Constitution does not explicitly mention a right to life; I'll go with the Declaration of Independence for that.)

And in many places, you're not even allowed to walk, because you run up against a highway which is closed off to anyone who's not in a car. Other than the right to live, what right is more basic, more fundamental, than to be able to walk freely? Yet because we build so much infrastructure for cars, this basic right is being denied too.

Of course, in major urban areas such as downtown Chicago, people do have other viable choices, even though cars are still given priority in so many ways. But the choices of so many people to drive cars has a chilling effect on other peoples' ability to exercise their right to choose other means of transportation. Traffic jams (which, except for one night a month, are almost solely caused by automobiles) delay buses. Highways reduce pedestrian and cycling access. The fear of getting into a collision (whether an "accident" or not) discourages people from walking and cycling. More to the point, money spent to placate the car-addicted masses by building more freeways, subsidizing gasoline, caring for crash victims, and all the other socialized costs of driving automobiles takes money away from public transit and walkable infrastructure in a vicious cycle of sprawl and even more car traffic. This goes back to my main point, which is that, for as much as everyone here is complaining about how Critical Mass specifically, and cyclists in general, deny them their rights to free and safe passage, those rights are denied to us every day, by cars and the people who drive them and build infrastructure for them.

Now, to the other part of your challenge: Can these rights be restored with the stroke of a pen? Well, I wish it were that simple. The passages of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution did not in practice result in the restoration of any rights in and of themselves. It took an entire movement and over a hundred years, and we're still not all the way there.

But yes, just as automobile dependence and the lack of choices for so many Americans has been largely created by automobile-friendly governmental policies, different policies can indeed reduce this dependence and restore many of the rights that have been denied to cyclists, pedestrians, train and bus riders, and even motorists themselves. The government creates transportation policy; the government can change it.

We need to stop finding ways to give ourselves more opportunities to go fast and find ways to give ourselves more opportunities to go more slowly.

"I'll bet your one of those put-upon bikers who gets pissed with people walking all over the lakefront bike path and blocking your ride."

No, I try to avoid the Lakefront Path. It's too dangerous. But now that you mention it, it would be nice if bicycles were able to ride on the street on the lakefront instead of being forced to share space with pedestrians and roller bladers and dogs and everyone else who's not in a car. Maybe the best use of our precious lakefront would be something other than a superhighway, which is available only to motorized vehicles. What were you saying about people's rights being violated?

"CMers should read the vast majority of the posts here and get a clue. Your strategy Is. Not. Working. The vast majority of the public, bike riding or driving, hates you and your tactics. If you're happy with that, carry on, but don't expect to win any hearts and minds anytime soon."

Your continuing to assert that Critical Mass has any "strategy" whatsoever, and that you think it has something to do with "winning hearts and minds," shows that you still really don't get it. Like I said, we don't ride for you.

But for argument's sake, even if there was an actual organization behing Critical Mass, and if what you describe really was "our" strategy, I would disagree with your appraisal of its effectiveness. Sure, you can extrapolate a bunch of anonymous blog comments to assert what the feelings of "the vast majority of the public" are. On the other hand, Critical Mass, both in Chicago and around the world, has grown larger every single year. More people are riding with us than ever. So, I think that something is definitely working. Yes. It. Is.

"I don't share personal information on the web with strangers for the same reason I don't wear a t-shirt with name and phone number on it. If you don't like that or think it's insincere, so be it."

That's fine. But don't get all upset about "accountability" if you're not willing to take any yourself. (This goes for everyone, not just Mike D.)

"Perhaps Critical Mass can hold a forum where we can discuss it in person."

We do hold a forum. It meets at 5:30 pm on the last Friday of every month in Daley Plaza, and in other locations in cities around the world. I'm not trying to be flippant, but that's all there is. As so many have pointed out, Critical Mass is not really an organization; it's an event.

"Second, it's pretty selfish to put the lives of your fellow bikers in such high regard,"

I never said that I care about just the "lives of my fellow bikers." Please don't put words in my mouth. Every statistic I've cited about automobile crash (not "accident") fatalities include mostly pedestrians and motorists. And just because automobile crashes are the number one killer of children in the U.S., that doesn't mean they were all riding bicycles. I don't want you to die while driving my car either.

That said, I do take this issue personally, because I have lost friends to automobile crashes, some while they were cycling, but others while they were walking or even driving. In fact, the only thing that all these fatal crashes had in common besides the loss of life was the presence of cars. Your dismissal of my feelings about this as "selfish" is, quite frankly, offensive.

"but to a medical personnel who has try and save someone else's life and is delayed thanks to your little show, you merely say, "well, leave earlier", not even considering that A) that person may have been called up in an emergency and couldn't possibly know the call was coming and B) had no idea that you and your pals randomly chose that street for your "protest". Once again, ignorance and selfishness."

Once again, you're ignoring most of what I wrote and failing to answer my questions in favor of name-calling from behind the cloak of anonymity. But I'll recap: A) There's no way to know if "Jim RN"'s story is even true, B) there's no way for anyone else, including drivers of other cars, to know that "Jim" is a medical professional rushing to an emergency if he's not in an emergency vehicle, C) there are all kinds of "random" events which cause traffic jams and delay people, most of which don't offer you any opportunity at all to write scolding missives to anyone.

Every time you get in your car, you're potentially creating a traffic jam which will delay someone like "Jim" and indirectly cost someone his or her life, as well as increasing the chances that you or another driver will directly end someone's life. And more likely than not, that life is going to be of a pedestrian or a fellow motorist, not a cyclist; but either way, it's a human being.

When Critical Mass gets a couple thousand bikes together to ride once a month and creates a mini traffic jam, you chastise us for being selfish and unaccountable. Yet every single day, millions of cars on the roads collectively create much more dangerous conditions than Critical Mass could ever cause. Who's being selfish here?

yellow / August 30, 2010 9:16 AM

Not sure what you expected KirstieCat. I understand your perspective, but crying out for drivers to be equal partners on the road is a farce to what CM is. Your argument using other community events is weak. Movie sets, gay pride, marathons ,etc... All occur with advance notice, planning, set level of expectation and real courtesy among people in the Chicagoland area. CM is always Friday, always rush hour. Great idea to generate a sense of community by delaying a commuter's weekend.

You write about the "small" percentage of unreasonable aggro drivers, but what you fail to recognize is that that % is far lower than the percentage of reckless dangerous self righteous CM cyclists.

I am a cyclist and can not support CM. I feel it brings more angst than support. Lots of great reasons for cycling, but bottom line, bike vs. car, bike loses. Be careful on your bikes people.

Alvin / August 30, 2010 9:45 AM

"If someone decided to start shooting a gun randomly, would you call it an "accident" when they killed someone?"

They hyperbole of comparing cars on the roads to a person randomly shooting a gun is a bit much, but I'll go with it. What would be the proper response to someone doing this? To try darting around their bullets? Angrily confront them? If we're going to use this comparison, we have to assume that the person does not understand the danger of their weapon. Thus, the proper response would be to try to educate this person as to the dangers of their actions. If this fails, then we throw them in jail. It's the same with drivers and bikers. The best way to make the road safer for bikers is to educate those that pose the greatest risk to them. Engaging in activities that only serves to anger drivers only makes the roads less safe for bikers.

As the comments in this thread have shown, CM is failing massively at making drivers respect the rights and lives of bikers. In fact, it does the opposite. You may not care about gaining respect, but if you truly want to make the roads safer for bikes, that's where it starts. This "us vs them" mentality does nothing to help save lives. There will always be drivers out there who get angry when they see bikes on the road, and there's little that can be done to change their attitude. But becoming confrontational towards all drivers and generating anger among those who might otherwise be tolerant of bikers makes the roads less safe for all us.

Dan Korn / August 30, 2010 9:59 AM

Sorry, the link about the financial costs of automobile crashes didn't come through. Let's try that again:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-health-car-accidents-medical-costs,0,5572169.story

Mike D / August 30, 2010 10:08 AM

No, it's not. The number of automobile fatalities correlates directly with the number of cars on the roads. The more cars, the more people die. This is no accident; it's a statistical certainty: every car on the road increases the chances of the next fatal crash. And someone, actually lots of someones, definitely will and do die.

Huh? So by your twisted logic, every time a biker dies, is on purpose and never a traffic accident? Unless car drivers are systematically targeting bikers, the vast majority of these car-bike collisions are accidents. Yes, there are instances of car driver road rage where idiot drivers have purposely mowed down a biker, but if you’re trying to get people to believe that that there are no bike-car unfortunate accidents, you’re nuts. Statistics aren’t an indication of a “certainty”, they merely report the incidences of an event. If it was a “certainty” the numbers would remain the same year to year. They don’t, so it’s not a certainty. And, yes, less cars would probably reduce the number of bike-car related deaths. But you know what? So would less bikes on the road. Since neither of those are going to happen, the answer is not ridiculous ideas but teaching people to share the road. Antagonizing drivers is not the answer.

If someone decided to start shooting a gun randomly, would you call it an "accident" when they killed someone?

Depends on where they were shooting. If they’re out hunting, aim at a deer and hit some other hunter nearby, yeah, chances are it was an accident. If they’re standing on State and Lake and fire into a crowd, then probably not. Apparently there are no such things as “accidents” in your world, where ever human action is done intentionally. Cars that hit children who dart out into the street apparently meant to do that. A kid playing with a gun found in his home who shoots his baby brother and kills him isn’t an accident, he meant to kill his brother. Yup, strange world you live in.

Everyone is at fault, but somehow nobody wants to accept any individual responsibility.

Who said no one is at fault? There is reckless behavior on both parts that contributes to deaths

Billions of dollars have been spent to make Americans dependent on automobiles by taking away their freedom to make other choices, or at least to make those choices so difficult that they're not really choices at all. … If that's not a "government system that wilfully denied an entire race of people their rights as Americans," I don't know what is.

You complain that bikes and pedestrians are not free to traverse everywhere, and neither are cars. In fact, I’d say there are more places in this nation where bikes and people on foot can roam and not cars. You need to get out of the house, or at least the city more. If you’re complaint is that you can’t ride your bike everywhere in the city, then why not knock down a few houses and other buildings and really free up space for your bike?

No, I try to avoid the Lakefront Path. It's too dangerous. But now that you mention it, it would be nice if bicycles were able to ride on the street on the lakefront instead of being forced to share space with pedestrians and roller bladers and dogs and everyone else who's not in a car.

Drivers “share the road” with pedestrians and bikers every day. We ALL “share the road” and because some people have died (in ACCIDENTS) because of it doesn’t change the fact. Without those highways, which you apparently abhor for blocking you access to the wide open spaces, where do you think all of think all of those cars would go? If you think the regular streets are full of irate drivers now, imagine closing down the highways to give you more room to ride and forcing all of those drivers to the regular street. Logic dictates that you should be pushing for MORE highways to get cars off of the streets to allow you to ride, not fewer.

And it’s interesting that you describe bikes on the lakefront path as being “forced” to share space instead of simply sharing space.

Your continuing to assert that Critical Mass has any "strategy" whatsoever, and that you think it has something to do with "winning hearts and minds," shows that you still really don't get it. Like I said, we don't ride for you.

That is abundantly clear. As I said, commandeering the streets and ignoring the traffic laws is a self-centered act, whether you’re a car or a biker.

That's fine. But don't get all upset about "accountability" if you're not willing to take any yourself. (This goes for everyone, not just Mike D.)

There’s a difference between personal accountability (monitoring your own actions that only affect you) and public accountability (monitoring your actions that have an affect on the pubic at large). CM is in the latter and has none or very little. Learn the difference.

We do hold a forum. It meets at 5:30 pm on the last Friday of every month in Daley Plaza

I’ve seen it. That’t not a forum. The ride has already been decided. That’s merely a gathering place. A forum invites discussion and debate on events that are upcoming. There’s no debate there. So are you saying that if enough people show up and voice their displeasure with your group’s tactics, you’ll call off the ride? Because if so, that wouldn’t be a difficult group to gather, as this thread shows.

…in favor of name-calling from behind the cloak of anonymity.

Calling your actions and the actions of your group “irresponsible” and “selfish” is not name-calling, it’s a criticism. If I called you a bunch of assholes, THAT would be name-calling.

A) There's no way to know if "Jim RN"'s story is even true,

There’s no way of knowing it’s false either, so saying that is pointless. It’s the issue it raises that’s important.

C) there are all kinds of "random" events which cause traffic jams and delay people, most of which don't offer you any opportunity at all to write scolding missives to anyone.

CM is not a “random” event. You guys are PURPOSELY causing a traffic jam, which is much worse, much more selfish and the reason for this whole debate in the first place.

Every time you get in your car, you're potentially creating a traffic jam which will delay someone like "Jim"

Again, POTENTIALLY creating a traffic jam isn’t the same as PURPOSELY creating one. The fact that you can’t see this, or CAN see it and don’t care, is telling. It’s the very issue that began this whole thread

You’re diverted this debate into one about who kills the most, car drivers or bikers. That’s not the original issue and sorry, not going to let you hijack it away. Of course cars kill more pedestrians than bikes, due to their numbers and size. The issue is CMs irresponsible way of demonstrating their opposition to this by adding to the problem. Pretzel logic.

Kara E-O / August 30, 2010 10:43 AM

I just wanted to say that I've never had anything but good experiences with CCM. I think it's hard for some of us to picture what it means to have a group of people in an association that exists in such an in-between space, and that's what I like about it. Do we have parade permits? No. But do the police (and city officials) offer us support? Yes. Sometimes it's a matter of actually riding with us and protecting us, and sometimes it's support by not speaking out against us. I think it's because CCM is, to lots of people, a city attraction.

Another ambiguity is what CCM stands for. I might be wrong here, but my experience from riding and from the website is that CCM doesn't really have an agenda. Different people think what they think and that affects how and why they ride. Sometimes, this ambiguity causes frustrations for me as a rider--the same darting/weaving/attacking cars routine that bothers drivers bothers me when I'm on a bike because I'm trying to be safe. But I see all of this as an opportunity to participate in something that, while partially undefined and legally ambiguous, still manages to move thousands of people through the city fairly effectively. Obviously, traffic rules and permits exist for a reason...but I think CCM is one of the only times that all of this can be bent without so much breaking down that it becomes a serious problem. It's due to the power of our (drivers, riders, pedestrians) social strength--ability to communicate, stick to certain unwritten rules, etc--that this can happen. And that's a damn valuable experience in a society where collective action has to either be OKed by the systems that be or get taken down. Obviously, it sucks if you're an hour late to work one day of the month. But I still think it's worth it.

Mike D / August 30, 2010 10:45 AM

Sorry, felt it important to add this. I don't hate CM. Maybe their tactics, but as a whole, no. I have friends who have ridden and continue to ride with CM. I am all for cycling advocacy groups. Like I said, I ride. I've taken part in Bike The Drive and the Midnight Rise, both PLANNED events that let cyclists enjoy the road and give drives the opportunity to make other plans. I don't feel the need to ride my bike to work on LSD when the bike path suits me fine. And I've done run-bike-run duathlons and had a great time. I just think that in this area, this form of bike advocacy, CM needs a lot of work.

Rick / August 30, 2010 11:38 AM

Dan, the mere fact that you link to a website slathered with pictures of yourself posing with tall bikes immediately discredits your concerns of safety. I won't even get into how ridiculous your comparisons of over-privileged upper class children to the civil rights movement are. Mike D already did an excellent job of that.

Bubba / August 30, 2010 12:31 PM

"I think CCM is one of the only times that all of this can be bent without so much breaking down that it becomes a serious problem."

The original article discusses the idea that this no longer being the case.

Dan Korn / August 30, 2010 7:42 PM

Mike wrote: "Huh? So by your twisted logic, every time a biker dies, is on purpose and never a traffic accident? Unless car drivers are systematically targeting bikers, the vast majority of these car-bike collisions are accidents. Yes, there are instances of car driver road rage where idiot drivers have purposely mowed down a biker, but if you’re trying to get people to believe that that there are no bike-car unfortunate accidents, you’re nuts."

Okay, let's avoid getting hung up on the semantics of the word "accident." Can we both agree that a suitable neutral term is "fatal crashes?"

Here's a fact: The number of fatal crashes is directly related to the number of cars on the roads. (Actually, it's more closely tied to the total number of miles driven than the number of owned or registered cars.)

Now, starting from that fact, here's my logic, and you can tell me precisely where it's twisted: The more cars there are on the roads, the more incidences of fatal crashes occur. Therefore, each car on the road, and each mile driven, increases the risk of a fatal crash occurring. QED.

"Apparently there are no such things as “accidents” in your world, where ever human action is done intentionally."

Look, whatever you want to call a fatal crash, the intent of the person driving the car doesn't matter to the person who's dead. And more likely than not, that person is the driver himself.

Machines which weigh thousands of pounds and move at high speeds are inherently dangerous. And the human beings who operate them are not perfect; we're prone to fatigue, distraction, and all sorts of conditions which may temporarily impair our abilities. This combination absolutely does guarantee that people are going to get hurt, even with everyone's best intentions.

Even though nobody really intends for 40,000 Americans and half a million people worldwide to die in car crashes every year, they're still dead. These aren't victims of natural phenomena like earthquakes or cancer, these are deaths due to activities in which human beings choose to engage. Your denial of people's moral responsibility, even collectively, for actions which result in other people's deaths at such a tremendous scale is disturbing.

"Statistics aren’t an indication of a 'certainty', they merely report the incidences of an event."

In scientific terms, the concept of causality doesn't necessarily guarantee one specific outcome from one specific trigger event. But statistics do give us a way to quantify causality. If you flip a coin ten times, it's not certain that you'll get heads five times and tails five times, but that's the most likely outcome.

"If it was a 'certainty' the numbers would remain the same year to year. They don’t, so it’s not a certainty."

But they do! Automobile crash statistics have remained remarkably steady for the last several decades, in terms of both the total number of crashes and the total number of fatalities. See for yourself:
http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx

By the way, from those statistics, you can see that about half of the fatalities are drivers, and another quarter are motor vehicle passengers. Cyclists are actually a very small percentage. This isn't just about saving the lives of cyclists at all. Less driving might save your life too.

"And, yes, less cars would probably reduce the number of bike-car related deaths."

Actually, *fewer* (not "less") cars will reduce the total number of car-related deaths, not just "bike-car related" deaths.

"But you know what? So would less bikes on the road."

No, you're absolutely wrong about that. The single biggest factor in the safety of cyclists is the number of bicycles on the roads. The more bikes, the fewer fatal crashes, mostly because drivers get used to seeing bikes. If you have fewer bikes on the roads, you have more cars, and more fatalities for everyone. Bicycles are simply not nearly as dangerous as automobiles.

"Since neither of those are going to happen, the answer is not ridiculous ideas but teaching people to share the road."

I disagree with both parts of this statement. First, things can change, and they already are. The number of miles driven is actually falling after decades of rising. It's still pretty close to historical maximums, but a few key policy changes can make a big difference. And so can a few people deciding to make changes on their own.

As for "sharing the road," that sounds great and all, but again, cars are either going to crash into things or they're not, and if, as you say, most of these crashes are not intentional, then nobody is going to be saved by drivers simply deciding not to crash.

"Antagonizing drivers is not the answer."

Perhaps not. But getting more people on bikes is a definitely an answer. That, to me, is a big part of what Critical Mass is about. And it's worked so far.

Dan Korn / August 30, 2010 7:46 PM

Mike wrote: "You complain that bikes and pedestrians are not free to traverse everywhere, and neither are cars. In fact, I’d say there are more places in this nation where bikes and people on foot can roam and not cars. You need to get out of the house, or at least the city more. If you’re complaint is that you can’t ride your bike everywhere in the city, then why not knock down a few houses and other buildings and really free up space for your bike?"

Houses and most other buildings are private places, and there's no guarantee of a right to travel there. Our streets, on the other hand, are public places, and they're supposed to be open to the public. But on the vast majority of our streets, only motor vehicles are allowed.

You can pretty much drive from one end of the country without having to stop, except for necessities like gas and sleep. But have you to tried to cross Lake Shore Drive at Buckingham Fountain to get to the lakefront lately? You have to walk at least half a mile, because we've decided that it's more important for cars to be able to drive on the lakefront than for people to have access. This is what I'm talking about.

"Without those highways, which you apparently abhor for blocking you access to the wide open spaces, where do you think all of think all of those cars would go? If you think the regular streets are full of irate drivers now, imagine closing down the highways to give you more room to ride and forcing all of those drivers to the regular street. Logic dictates that you should be pushing for MORE highways to get cars off of the streets to allow you to ride, not fewer."

You're wrong again. Historically, when more roads have been built, more car traffic has followed. This is called induced demand:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand

Dan Korn / August 30, 2010 7:46 PM

(continuing)

Conversely, when highways are removed, traffic actually is reduced. It simply evaporates. This may seem unintuitive, but it's a fact. Here are just a few examples:
http://tinyurl.com/mlvqpy

Think about metropolitan areas that have tried to build their way out of traffic congestion: Houston, Detroit, Los Angeles. All are traffic nightmares (well, except maybe the Motor City itself, which is increasingly devoid of both cars and people). Now think about places which have made a conscious effort to build infrastructure that's not automobile-specific: Portland, San Francisco, New York. Or even Amsterdam and Tokyo.

If you build for cars, you'll get cars.

"Again, POTENTIALLY creating a traffic jam isn’t the same as PURPOSELY creating one. The fact that you can’t see this, or CAN see it and don’t care, is telling. It’s the very issue that began this whole thread"

So all the folks who fill up the expressways every day at rush hour have no idea that they're helping to create a traffic jam? Please. That's just as purposeful as what Critical Mass does 12 times a year.

"You’re diverted this debate into one about who kills the most, car drivers or bikers. That’s not the original issue and sorry, not going to let you hijack it away."

I'm just trying to honestly answer people's questions about why we feel justified in what we're doing. Isn't that the issue? Although I can't really speak for anyone else other than myself.

"Of course cars kill more pedestrians than bikes, due to their numbers and size."

Ah, progress! Of course this fact is obvious, but it seems to be forgotten all too often.

"The issue is CMs irresponsible way of demonstrating their opposition to this by adding to the problem. Pretzel logic."

I'm not sure what else I can say that I haven't already said to prove that we're actually helping to solve the problem, despite any annoyance that people may feel. I'll take my pretzel with salt, please.

"So are you saying that if enough people show up and voice their displeasure with your group’s tactics, you’ll call off the ride? Because if so, that wouldn’t be a difficult group to gather, as this thread shows."

That would indeed be an interesting experiment. See you next month? You have as much ability to influence Critical Mass as anyone else does.

Dan Korn / August 30, 2010 7:53 PM

"Rick" wrote: "Dan, the mere fact that you link to a website slathered with pictures of yourself posing with tall bikes immediately discredits your concerns of safety."

LOL! Okay, then, Mr. Anonymous, why don't you post under your real name so that I can make fun of the things you do, even if they're not relevant to what you're saying? Didn't someone else post the list of logical fallacies earlier?

I do ride a tall bike, almost every day. I could explain how it's actually safer than a "regular" bicycle because I'm more visible and people notice me more and give me more room. But that's really off topic for this thread. I'll just continue to look down on you, literally and rhetorically. Enjoy your traffic jam.

Dillon / August 30, 2010 9:19 PM

I'll let you in a little secret; Nobody cares. The self righteous cyclist loves to play the martyr, pretending they are persecuted for riding a bike. In reality, nobody really cares except for the pointless critical mass rides. Ride a bike, drive a care, or walk, it doesn't matter. No driver wants to kill a cyclist, and no cyclist wants to die. However, accidents do happen, and unfortunately the cyclist will always lose. You can push for more awareness and hold rallys but in the end you will always need to be more vigilant because the cyclist is at the disadvantage. This includes following the rules of the road, wearing protective equipment, no matter how stupid it makes you looks and riding defensively. This doesn't mean attacking cars with your bike lock, it means yielding to a car that may not be paying attention or not following the rules of the road.

full disclosure: I drive a car (NOT a hummer and the brain dead writer would suggest) and I ride a bike. I also walk and take public transportation.

Mike D / August 31, 2010 11:40 AM

Hey, guess what Dan? I've got stats and reports too!

We also find that congestion relief through provision of additional capacity is quite feasible, given current budgets. The benefits of an investment in additional capacity would be substantial. In addition to reduced travel time, other benefits include smoother traffic flow, reduced accidents, improved air quality through lower emissions, lower fuel use and operating costs, more reliable travel, lower logistical costs for manufacturing and delivery, more choices of jobs for workers and businesses and wider choices for consumers.
The Reason Foundation

Or this suggestion from Madison, Wisconsinn:

1. Diversion: Divert through bypasses, truck/auto traffic around Madison - North and South four-6 lane highways. Consider a public/private toll way for new highways using private money instead of only tax dollars for initial building with ongoing leasing to private for-profit companies.

* Re-route Hwy 151 truck traffic from present (from North) E-Wash-Blair-John Nolen- Proudfit-Park Street-Beltline to Verona Rd. (From SW) 151-Verona road- South beltline-Park-W.Wash-Proudfit-John Nolen-Blair-E.Wash.

* Build the North Parkway to divert I-39/US 51, I-90-94, 151 to Hwy 12-18 NW, US 14 West, 151 Southwest*

* Build a bypass South of Madison-McFarland/Oregon area connection from I-90, US 14, US 51 to 151 SW truck route through traffic corridor that avoids present South beltline*.
Madison, Wisconsin traffic solutions

Increased congestion in streets like Chicago's is mainly due to an increase in population, not the building of more roads. Riding my bike through Wicker Park 20 years ago was a lot easier than it is today? Why is that? More roads?

No, building more roads just to build more roads is not the answer; building roads specifically designed to divert traffic elsewhere while increasing the number of car restricted areas is.

The goal is to take traffic off the regular streets and shift it, if possible, to the drive, freeing up the streets for bike riders such as yourself. And if someone is too lazy to RIDE YOUR BIKE a block to cross the street near Buckingham fountain, lobby the city to build a pedestrian bridge. Lobby the city for more bike lanes (which they have already proposed to do).

Mike D / August 31, 2010 11:47 AM

Sorry, one more:

Recent TTI data also raise questions about the validity of one of today's more enduring urban myths: that a community cannot build its way out of con­gestion. Mid-sized cities like Richmond, Virginia, for example, have little congestion because they have added capacity to match their traffic needs.

Houston improved its TTI during the 1980s and improved its relative congestion rank by building more roads in the metropolitan area. Between 1983 and 1985, Houston had the worst traffic congestion in the nation. In 1986, its TTI peaked at 1.42, but then it began to fall, declining to 1.23 in 1992. Over the same period, its ranking went from worst in the nation to 15th. But Houston has since sur­rendered these gains and is back at a TTI of 1.42, putting it six above last place.[3] Despite this evi­dence that road-building can combat congestion, few American communities have tried it.

How States Can Reduce Congestion

See? We've all got stats.

Dan Korn / September 1, 2010 1:30 AM

Ah yes, Mike, you've managed to Google your way to the king of anti-transit and pro-sprawl zealots, Wendell Cox. This guy is a lobbyist for the automobile and highway industries. He's no different than all those scientists the tobacco industry hired in the 1970s to say that cigarettes didn't cause cancer.

And I'm not sure that the "stats" you quoted from Houston really prove anything other than that, if you do build more roads, you may have a temporary reduction in congestion, but eventually the induced demand will wipe out those gains. To quote your citation back to you: "But Houston has since surrendered these gains and is back at a TTI of 1.42, putting it six above last place." The same congestion with even more cars on even more roads - how is that a success exactly?

But to avoid reducing this to a debate on the credibility of Mr. Cox or his friends at a few ultra-conservative think tanks, let's say he's right, and that you can solve traffic congestion by building more highways. You're still going to end up with more cars overall, even if they're more spread out across more asphalt. Build it and they will come. And this increase in car traffic is still going to increase the number of crashes and fatalities.

And nothing here disproves the common-sense notion that building mass transit, as well as building places that aren't car-centric, is the only real way to reduce the total number of cars on the roads.

Anyway, we can debate conclusions all day, and you're welcome to your own opinions. But facts are facts, and they're not really subject to debate.

So let's review the facts, and you're more than welcome to try to refute these:

* Automobile crashes kill over 40,000 Americans every year, and injure millions more. The fatality numbers have been very consistent, within a few thousand fatalities every year, for the last several decades. (The total did drop slightly in 2008 due to a drop in vehicle miles traveled, but the death toll was still over 37,000.) Worldwide, the annual number of car crash fatalities number in the millions, and injuries in the tens of millions.

* The majority of automobile crash fatalities are automobile passengers and drivers.

* Automobile crashes are the number one killer of children and young adults in the U.S.

* Automobile crashes, and fatalities, are directly related to the number of vehicle miles traveled, that is, the amount of driving that people do.

* Over 95 percent of cyclist and pedestrian fatalities are due to crashes involving motor vehicles.

* The rate of fatal car crashes involving cyclists is inversely proportional to the mode share of cycling. That is, the more people who are riding bikes, the safer all cyclists are.

* Participation in Critical Mass rides has increased every year, both in Chicago (since 1997) and worldwide (since 1992).

And my conclusions based on these facts:

* Cars kill and injure people - way too many people.

* Children bear a disproportionate burden of this carnage, and cars are the single biggest threat to their safety.

* Every single car on the road increases the likelihood of a fatal crash.

* Drivers and pedestrians may be annoyed or delayed by cyclists, but they're very rarely injured or killed by them. On the other hand, cyclists and pedestrians, as well as other car drivers and passengers, are routinely killed by car drivers (in addition to being annoyed and delayed by them).

* As you said yourself, drivers don't intentionally try to run down cyclists; the vast majority of crashes are "accidents." Therefore, no amount of goodwill, or lack thereof, between cyclists and motorists will have any significant effect on the number of crashes or fatalities. Critical Mass may annoy you, but it's not making anyone less safe on the roads.

* Replacing automobile trips with bicycles, transit, or walking reduces the number of cars on the roads, and therefore the number of crashes and fatalities.

* Critical Mass encourages more people to ride bicycles instead of driving, which saves lives, especially of children and car drivers and passengers.

So there you have it. Those are my main points, and no stats or reports you've found, or any words you've written so far, have directly refuted them.

Rick / September 1, 2010 10:37 AM

Dan,

Your Civil Rights analogy aside, you have made some very cogent points and given me a lot to think about. Thanks.

And for the record I wasn't "making fun of your hobby" per se, I just see the concept of a tall bike contradictory to a "safety first" mentality. But you're right, that's neither here nor there.

Bill / September 1, 2010 11:36 PM

Critical Mass is a joke. It does not encourage more people to ride bicycles instead of driving. It causes congestion, more pollution and angers a lot of people.

Al / September 3, 2010 1:07 PM

It's a give-and-take kind of thing. As a cyclist, I think CCM would gain more acceptance if there was a site with a published route and anticipated schedule:

-Doesn't have to be the same one every time, and it doesn't have to be exact. That way, not only does one have a leg to stand on in terms of the "drivers should know by now" arguments.

-Other riders who can't/don't want to go all the way into downtown or are running late can catch on along the route.

-CPD, with who already work with us on this, might help us with a car at "trouble" intersections (you know where I mean) and help keep the peace should drivers get surly (though, if they get a Surly, then they can come with).

-Drivers can legitimately plan around CCM and have next-to-no right to complain.

-And, on a side note, all those of you who have not done a rolling stop (or rolling no-stop) may continue to complain about others not following the Rules of the Road. As for the rest of us (yes, me too), quit looking for "somethin' for nuthin'." I'm sick of the hypocrisy. Gotta give some consideration out there to get some.

bone / September 3, 2010 4:26 PM

It's pretty obvious that Kirstie Shanley, Dan Korn and the other martyrs aren't listening to any of these suggestions on how to be considerate to others or how to make their cause more effective.

They. Don't. Care.

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