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Posted by on Mar 26, 2010 in Bicycle Culture | 8 comments

Critical Mass/Courteous Mass

I probably should have posted something about this sooner. This is a follow-up to the Critical Juncture post from last month.

On Monday a small group met with Ofc. Edgar of OPD. We discussed the issues that OPD would like to see resolved:

  1. No corking. Corking is illegal, no way around it. Can we stop doing that and let the group break up into smaller ones when a light turns red? My primary concern with that is having new riders get isolated in a sea of traffic. Our attempted solution is to place experienced riders throughout and concentrated at the back. I will be there tonight and ride at the back. This will require all riders to be mindful of their surroundings. Watch the light cycles and the ped countdowns, if the light is changing, call it to the riders around you. I think this is possible if people stay somewhat aware of their surroundings.
  2. No swarming! You know, this shouldn’t be an issue, but it is. Can you imagine how terrified you would be if you were in a car and suddenly 20 cyclists swarmed around you. Now imagine how terrified your grandmother would be! Contrary to the beliefs of some rebels, most motorists do NOT want to hurt a cyclist. If a motorist comes between the group, give them an out, give them some space. One thing I’ve see repeatedly is a swarm passing a motorist who is trying to turn, cutting them off. That’s not only rude and dangerous, it’s idiotic. Let them turn, they’ll be out of the way. The do-unto-others-like-they-done-unto-me philosophy gets us nowhere.
  3. No confrontation. I think the majority of the group has been very, very civil. And it’s likely that confrontations are sparked by a dumb or hostile move on the part of the motorist. Take a deep breath and show some restraint. Escalation helps no one. What happens in an escalation is the motorist calls the police and reports a bunch of raging cyclists attacking him. It’s he said, they said, except that they are usually not identified to tell the police their side. It just becomes one more report of rowdy behavior. Another black mark. Another impetus for political pressure to shut the ride down.

I know what happened last Friday between an OPD officer and a rider. I was as irritated by the officer’s behavior (from the demands to ride in the door zone bike lane to the behavior after the stop) as everyone else. Today the video of that incident is circulating all over the community. I have received it by email from three different sources. I certainly hope this is not an effort to whip up a rebellious attitude this evening. That will serve no one.

The bottom line. This ride is a wonderful thing for the community when it is not a protest. It can continue to be a wonderful thing via courtesy, compromise and cooperation. Or it can create a backlash and ultimately OPD will be ordered to shut it down.

They’ve reached out to us. Let’s work with them. Come tonight and help the group self-police.

OK, I’m done being a nanny (ick). I just really want to see this ride continue to attract and give a sense of community to such diverse group of cyclists.

8 Comments

  1. I’m on board.

    Unfortunately, this could be a tough pill for the group to swallow as a whole. Perhaps a new route is in order for those who are willing to cooperate?

    See you there!

  2. “3. No confrontation”

    I thought confrontation was the whole point of CM, or so I’ve read. Which is why they corked and swarmed.

    Otherwise, isn’t it just another group ride?

    Please excuse my ignorance, since I am really not into group rides, I really don’t know.

    • Different CMs have different characters. There are some who want it to be a confrontation and act of civil disobedience. There are some who simply want it to be a display of the richness, diversity and quantity of cyclists in our community.

  3. More on other stuff later, but first…

    A small group of us stopped at the light at Princeton and Orange and wouldn’t you know that light malfunctioned! It went through two cycles — allowing Orange and the Princeton eastbound lanes to go twice — before giving a green to the westbound through traffic. The total time it was red for Princeton Westbound was over FOUR MINUTES! That’s DELAY not caused by cyclists.

    That was plenty of time for a huge back-up to form behind us on Princeton. Those motorists were kind enough to allow us to merge out of the I-4 drop lane in front of them and again to allow us to merge and make a left on Formosa.

    Our little group cut through the hood and caught the main group on Lakeview.

  4. Kudos to one OPD officer who acknowledged the attempt to ride (somewhat) lawfully. I chatted with her near the intersection of Magnolia and Rosalind. She said the department had received tons of calls from motorists complaining about the cyclists. “I told headquarters there wasn’t an issue; the cyclists are obeying the law.”

    To be sure, there was an effort not to run red lights and to keep the cyclists in two (not four) lanes on Orange Ave. At the start, a ride leader told the group not to cork the intersections.

    Let’s see where it goes from here.

  5. Seeing the two adjacent posts — on CM and on delay (and I wish I’d thought of this months ago) — it occurred to me it would be interesting to track how long motorists were taking to get through intersections on the Thursday night before CM, then during CM.

    If CM riders wanted to do a real “protest,” try this: everybody who rides CM get in their cars and meet at a large parking lot, then all leave at once and drive the CM route (obeying the law, of course). In everybody’s rear window put a sign that says, “I’m just driving for fun.” See how that compares to CM from a congestion standpoint. It would require some PR to make the point.

    • Of course, I was being snarky, but I made that very suggestion at our meeting Monday. If even half of the CM participants took to the road in cars, downtown would be gridlock.

      • But wait – downtown IS gridlock! Kind of by design. Gridlock and congestion are not necessarily bad things. Just wish more people would connect the dots and figure it out. Sorry I missed the ride, I KNEW there was something I wanted to do.