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Critical Mass

I was very moved by Friday's critical mass bicycle event. Thank you to all the organizers.

I did not count, but I would imagine there were about 70 people in attendance.

We rode bikes as a pack and clogged up westbound Superior St from Leif Erickson to 3rd west. We then climbed to 2nd St. and headed East where we completely blocked all 3 lanes of 2nd St. This is when the police arrived. 2-3 cars took up a position behind our pack and asked us to move to only one lane. Some obeyed, others continued to spread across the street. When the police's demands became more pressing, the group obliged the order and took up just the left lane.

We continued like this and just one squad car nicely escorted us as we rode towards Canal Park.

I feel very conflicted and excited about the future of this event. With some research, I have found I am not the only one who feels this conflict.

Some feel critical mass events should not inform local authorities or have a designated route. Traffic laws should be disobeyed and there is a general protest-like feel. Bikes retake the streets for a time.

Others have formed "Critical Manners" rides where traffic laws are obeyed.

At any rate, the event meets each last Friday of the month, 530 at Leif Erickson (rose garden area). See you there!


The point of this? Yes riding a bike is good but this doesn't seem like the way to promote that. Pissing people off and wasting tax money doesn't help. Ride in a group down the street but don't be all mighty and take over the whole street. This has been happening in the cities from what I've heard they dont listen to police, dont obey traffic signals(but why should bikers start now?) and cause accidents.

*Assuming the position to get ripped apart

Yay! Something new! Bad-Ass bicyclists! Glad you got in "gear" and "spoke" out! Don't back "pedal" now - you've started a "chain" reaction! Give me a "brake."

I refer Bully and all others to this post before we rehash the whole shebang all over again.

"From what you've heard," Bully, is mainly a lot of negative hearsay from people who haven't a clue and don't agree with what they're trying to do.

I've personally participated in quite a few critical mass events down in the Cities and out in Seattle and have yet to witness any of what you're talking about. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, I'm saying that it doesn't happen as frequently as you're trying to lead everyone to believe. There are always going to be a few clowns on the fringe on both sides of the issue who selfishly and deliberately try to fuck it up for everyone else, but that's no reason to close your eyes to the larger picture.

At its purest, it's protest, which as I understand it, is for the time being a constitutionally guaranteed right...as is the freedom to discuss the issue.

But is it their "the fringe people's" constitutional right to disobey the police? There are lots of good groups out there to make change but there are always a few people in each group who screw it up for everyone.

This is why we can't drink beer out of a glass bottle at the twins game. One dumbass threw a glass bottle and now we all have to drink plastic tasting beer.

When I see this I think of how much of a pain in the ass it will be to get through down town. As the police, that our tax dollars pay for and have better things to do, yell at the few people who won't listen.

I just think that there are more productive less intrusive ways to go about promoting alternate transportation.

for instance?

Don't want to rehash or inflame, but would like to share the story of our CU cycling team coach that was pulled over on a downhill run through hairpin turns just outside of Boulder. (You can fall to your death on some of these if you don't use the whole lane). A man (civilian) in a truck drove dangerously/purposefully close to him with the whole yelling and swearing bit; next to a drop-off, no less. My coach stopped, the truck stopped in front of him. The guy got out and pulled a shotgun on him. No lie. Fortunately, he was able to talk himself out of it.

Most people on the front range were relatively polite, though, until you approached Denver.

-Work with the city to get some bike lockers downtown so people will be more inclined to ride their bike.

-Try to get some bike lanes downtown, to promote bike use.

-A weekend bike ride to promote bike riding when people aren't working or driving home from work. Promoting the bike trails people might not have known about.

I'm sure there are other ideas out there other than just a bike ride.

Film another version of "Death Race 2000"

I'm not getting started on this subject again, and I don't know what the point of the whole things was, but, suddenly, I'm very much inclined to continue to drive 265,000-mile car that burns oil and leaves a blue cloud in its wake, instead of getting the ULEV I was planning to buy when my Bush check arrives. I don't know why, but I just feel like something irritating has been perpetrated.

"Death Race 2000"...

I like how on imdb.com, one of the genres it's classified under is "Sport" :)

I fail to see the connection between not buying an ULEV and not liking bicyclists.

That being said, clogging up three lanes is just a dick move. That wouldn't fly here in Durango, and this is one of the bike-friendliest places in the US.

no matter how you ride 'em...roadways are the most detrimental element to the environment.

Critical is civil disobedience. Laws are broken. One of the goals is to piss people off, in order to garner attention, and perhaps change the overall social behavior.

Participants need to be aware of this and be prepared for the consequences.

With that said, Critcial is lots of fun!

i never said that the "fringe" folks had any constitutional right to disobey the police. If that is the case, then they should be dealt with accordingly. You are attempting to paint an entire group based on the actions of an unruly few, with your "what I've heard."

CM is supposed to be an inconvenience to the vehicular masses, much like other forms of organized protest is supposed to inconvenience its intended target. That's the very idea behind protest to begin with. The mentality that you're espousing is what created the razor wire and cyclone fence "free speech zones" that're now common sights in conjunction with political conventions.

As for plastic tasting beer at Twins games...I wouldn't drink the crap they're trying to pass as "beer" with YOUR mouth, so no big loss for me.

Try reading Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience"...

hey - thanks for the comments.

I bike commute about 1/3 days and although I 'm a very passive kind of guy - when a car zips by me too close I turn in to the F-ing Hulk or something.

I am ready to throw down my bike and have my first fist fight since 3rd grade.

At Friday's Critical Mass it felt Damn good to block up 2nd street with a few others who've felt the same frustration in dealing with those passive-aggressive, insulated, self-righteous bastards in cars.

Although having a weekend ride somewhere out of town or on a trail would promote biking, there is a message that auto drivers need to hear.

A little annoyance? a couple of tax dollars? At this point in the conversation, I'm ready to block up 35 in April!

Tom - don't keep me in suspense - what is the message?

as we all know, nothing will make people more sympathetic to a cause than irking the living shit out of them. genius.
yeah, people drive aggressively and generally disregard cyclists, but i'm not sure making them want to deliberately run cyclists down is really the "awareness" we're looking for here.

I'm sympathetic with the cyclists on this one. Inconveniencing some motorists for a few minutes one Friday a month is a reasonable protest and it raises consciousness that the roads were not made for cars alone. Cyclists just want to share the road, after all, safely.

More power to ya, Critical Mass.

I'm all for civil disobedience, but I wonder how many of the motorists impacted by this on Friday have any clue what you guys are mad about. Were there any signs/posters or anything? Any attempts to get local media involved, to publicize the matter, explain why you were doing it? I get the whole mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore slant, but I don't know--in my experience, the old "you get more flies with honey than with vinegar" adage has held pretty true.

it's the typical misled hypocrisy...call it "we like our bikes and our cars"

About 15 years ago I used to ride my bike home to Lester Park from downtown. Most of the time on Fridays I could actually get home quicker than I would if I had been driving. I think riding bikes is great, but I don't see exactly what the big deal is.

Also, I would like to take this opportunity to identify the clear distinction I see between broke-ass bike riders and elite middle and upper class cyclists. Some of them drive bikes that are worth more than my car. So it is definitely conspicuous consumption if you ask me.

I think that the middle and upper class white folks who are trying to make a point about commuting and consumption would do far better to INSPIRE folks to ride bikes rather than antagonize drivers.

I agree it is dangerous, but it's always going to be dangerous. It should be less dangerous, but the risk will never be eliminated. And if they are trying to eliminate myopic, dickheads then actually BEING dickheads is probably NOT the solution, it feeds into the problem.

As for bike lanes? The reality is with the terrain and the climate here I don't think it will ever, ever, ever fly. Maybe there could be seasonal lanes, but year round there just aren't enough bikes to justify it ... and they're never will be.

Ok ... let the criticism fly. Bike commuters, I do love you. But I love the bussers, the walkers and the skateboarders and even the motorcyclists just as much. (Hybrid drivers ... not so much ... get a 1991 geo metro gets better mileage at 1/10 the cost)
But my point ultimately becomes that there is no one solution everyone needs to do things that work with them and their needs and values.

What Mayday said.

It's one thing to be civilly disobedient and disrupt a meeting where they're approving a plan to bomb Canada*. However, when you're negatively impacting people who almost certainly are not part of the problem, then you are only encouraging a negative attitude about cyclists.

* Hypothetically

OK - good points.

I was a mere participant and not an organizer and I can't speak to the efforts to involve the media.

I heard that these rides were going on last year, but only about 10 riders were showing up. Everyone was very pleased that an actual CRITICAL MASS was achieved.

Apart from a few folks who had done this event in other cities - There was no clear consensus on how to behave. And no, there was no clear communication of our actual point.

One individual stopped in at all the local bike shops to chat and hang fliers and I was a little disappointed at their lack of appearing.

I totally get the honey/vinegar thing and I was the one individual in the group to thank the police escort after it peeled off in canal park.

So, a big part of me wants to see a planned route in April that is well advertised and cleared through the Traffic Office downtown as suggested by the officers.

But, this was a mostly youthful group that rode on bikes recycled from Materials Recovery in the Loaves and Fishes bike shop. They tooted on bugels and a digeridoo. One had punk music blaring from a old panasonic cassette player bungeed to his rack.

I dunno, there was a certain flair to the group that I'd hate to see get organized away.

Part of me thinks it's not about the communication or the outcome. Maybe it's more like a performance art thing where bikers can express their frustrations together for the sake of each other at the expense of a few over-subsidized overly-convenient auto transporters.

I dunno. Sometimes having a point ruins the point.

good point

Learned a long time ago the only person you can change is yourself and that can be almost impossible.

I was going to go but my bike is in the shop. I did not read this whole tread yet, but was quite ashamed by the original post. I firmly believe that breaking the laws and riding in a protest manner is completely opposite of what Duluth bikers should do. I would be quite pissed if I was a motorist and would think "those f'n bike riders". However, a whole ton of riders riding legally would bring much "better" views of cyclists in Duluth. Next time I ride I wonder how many will think- was that rider there one of the ones who were breaking the law Friday? I'm going to remove the critical mass from my events listing and will gladly list any critical manners ride anyone chooses to form... And yes, I know what critical masses are "for" but I would have thought duluthians would have had better manners. Thanks for doing an injustice to use legal (AT ALL TIMES) riders in Duluth.
Zoyx, the problem is you're making the problem worse with that attitude. You get attention all right, but it's all the wrong (bad) attention.

Hello everybody. i will admit, I bike absolutely nowhere. I work in hermantown and go to school in Superior and have no time to be on the DTA's schedule. I do make it a point to watch for cyclists. I tend to come accross cyclist that either don't understand they are a part of traffic and run stopsigns and stoplights and what not, or cyclist who don't seem to get it that a motor vehicle will win the battle in the event of a crash. I hope you continue with you civil disobedience however. I love to see people get all mad at people who go against the grain. Dissent rules!!!!

Awesome job - 70 ppl! I would have been there but unfortuantely I was at work.

I do think that some of the "critical manners" people who posted have a point - that pissing off motorists with no given explanation is counterproductive. However, I also think CM is a reasonable demonstration that can draw attention to how cars (and hence the corporations that make and fuel them) are taken for granted, subsidized by taxpayers and given the rule of the road, whereas bikes and other means of alternative transportation are intentionally suppressed.

But perhaps the organizers of this ride didn't realize that the ride itself is only half the work. For Critical Mass to be valid and really effective, the message it's trying to send has to get out into the community, via the press and other print media (even guerilla fliering would help), so that drivers at least understand what the point of the protest is (i.e. something other than to piss them off). Then, if drivers want to be pissed off, fine, as zra says, the nature of protest is to inconvenience someone. At least they know what real the issue is.

As an analogy... strikes inconvenience consumers as well as employers, but since many of those consumers are also workers themselves and understand the strikers' predicament, they often sympathize with the strikers, and in the best case do something active to demonstrate support and solidarity. CM needs to generate the same sort of sympathy among a larger part of the driving population in order to change the attitude of society as a whole.

This is what we need, more hate. I would like to see a "share the road" event. We need to learn to live together.

In between my DUI's I ride my bicycle.

Sounds kinda childlike to me. 'johhny wasn't sharing with me so i'm not going to share with him!'.

I'm SO excited to ride my bike this summer! Maybe some door knob is going to have road rage after he/she can't get by the CM and pegs innocent old me on my way home from work. YEY!

Good protests are childlike in their simplicity and directness. What I don't like is when they get childish and petty. It can be a thin line.

Check out mayor Paris France bicycle. Some places are just a little more advanced.

Ironic1, I don't know if you have kids or not, but when either of my kids have a fit, they do not get their way, the just get themselves into more trouble. So, I disagree that they are "good" or effective.


I love seeing all the comments this has generated. As a participant and as a commuter it makes me feel validated.

As far as media coverage goes there were fliers throughout town, not just at bike shops. I agree some TV/newspaper/radio coverage would have been nice, maybe at the next one when it is warmer.

Speaking of the next one, please please please come. It was my first CM and it was amazingly fun. Looking around and being surrounded by bicyclists was a pretty unique feeling. Plus there was a potluck party afterwards!

As far as critical manners, I agree, we shouldn't go out of our way to make drivers upset, but we shouldn't go out of our way to make to accommodate drivers either. We own the road too. That is part of the point. Besides, drivers had to wait maybe five extra minutes to get to their destination, I don't think that is sacrificing too much to watch a cool parade of bicyclists.

See you Critical Mass, Friday, April 25th at 5:30pm in Leif Erickson Park at the statue! Bring some food for the potluck later!

oh, and if you have an old bicycle you don't want or want to fix up please bring it to the Bike Cave at 1712 Jefferson St. Ask for Greg!

asshole cyclists are no different from asshole motorists, regardless of what our self-righteous justifications tease us into believing.

at least asshole cyclists leave a smaller carbon footprint.

I heard in LA, they pack up and ride at midnight. When people ask what they're doing, they yell "it's my birthday" or "for fun" or "world peace you fucking bitch!".

"at least asshole cyclists leave a smaller carbon footprint."

self-righteous justification; claims of "i harm the planet less than other people do" are just as delusional and myopic as "i know god's will more than other people do."

I'm not sure if it will happen, but I imagine in the future, we will look more like Tokyo's setup (mass transit, the cyclists/motorcyclists, the pedestrians, and cars being more of a luxury than a standard household item). Of course, I'm talking about urban areas.

godsey, your analogy doesn't work. god's will is not quantifiable in any sense of the phrase. harming the planet is quantifiable, though arguable.

pretending that there is no difference between bicycling and driving a gas-powered car is disingenuous. your bitterness (wherever it comes from) makes you sound like a right wing radio host.

I ride with the Midnight Ridazz (www.midnightridazz.com) in Los Angeles. We go out for fun a couple of times a month and the goal is to share the road as much as possible with drivers. There are usually 100-200 people who ride so it of course does clog up traffic. However, the motorists by and far, actually support the bike riding and think it's cool. Even though this is not a political ride, this ends up giving a much better political message than the riders that set out to try to clog traffic and make a statement.


is it possible that god's will IS quantifiable, just not with any methods we humans have identified?

riding and driving are different from each other. assholes on bikes and assholes in cars are both assholes.

pervasive self-congratulation and condescension--left-wing, right-wing, my own, others'--embitter me into speaking strongly.

um. no. no god and all that. (shrug.)

you're pretty good at condescension, i think.

yeah, me too.

the only reason i don't join a Critical Mass is that i look like a red-faced, wheezy old lady trying to get up hills, and would rather show that side of myself only to strangers (hopefully) in cars.

a momentary inconvenience for a parade of bicycles is no different than not being able to park downtown during a parade or race or something. demonstrations are supposed to be annoying. that's the whole point. if you want to be polite and write letters to your congressperson over and over, without ever shaking your fist or swearing a little, that's your right. but i firmly believe in the power of a bit of theatre.

the "taking over the street" thing is all about feeling what the world would be like if we, say, lived in the Netherlands. or somewhere else where people actually ride bikes to the grocery store as a matter of living normally. experiencing that once a month is a Good Thing.

next, Godsey, you'll be telling 'em to get off your lawn.


that's just it: i wouldn't yell at anyone to get off my lawn, just like i don't feel superior to people speeding past me in SUVs when i'm pedaling to work every day.

i AM remarkably condescending, judgmental, arrogant, stupid--more stupid than anything else--and all other sorts of unattractive shit, but i do my best to avoid assuming i know what anyone is about based on what they drive or any other superficial characteristic, and when i see PDD folks casting random aspersions about "those passive-aggressive, insulated, self-righteous bastards in cars," or justifying being jerks in other ways, i get carried away and try to call people on their bullshit by saying stuff i'll later regret.

and then i come off as bitter, when i'm really just trying to say, "hey, we all better be careful about where we throw stones."

I don't see anything "delusional and myopic" about having a smaller carbon footprint.

ahoy. thanks to all who helped organise the last critical mass event. the next ride is on the 25th of aprl. it is more fun than can be immagined and after the ride we stop at a public, free, space to immagine a better world together. all are invited. if you would like to continue this discussion of the aims/means of critical mass you should drop by the Bike Cave for our weekly meeting, usually wed evenings at 1712 Jefferson St. (above the bike cave) this week the meeting will be at 7:30 and will be reviewing the ride and discussing aims/means. hope you come! much love.

i think car drivers should organize their own critical mass and clog up the roads with their cars. give the cyclists a taste of their own medicine.

Last week's Critical Mass was a very moving experience for me. It was beautiful—dozens of people gathering together to participate in a wholesome activity, all the while enjoying an abundance of unmediated, playful FUN in the streets of our city.

The streets—and the urban environment in general—may seem unlikely locales for the embodiment of words like “fun” and “play”, but the magic of creating a “critical mass” is in its ability to temporarily form its own conceptualization of “the street” and to utilize it as it will. From my experience on March 28th, we as a mass chose to take back the streets for fun and playful excitement, and that ability to redefine the public space—and to subsequently enjoy one’s self in that space—is what I find so empowering and rewarding about Critical Mass.

That said, I wanted to use this discussion board to express my vision of CM and what I see as its pragmatic use. To me, the event is an act of solidarity, both with the natural world—biking as an eco-friendly method of transport—and with the people around us, whether they are bikers or not.

I understand that it may seem farfetched to claim that disturbing traffic and annoying a fair number of motorists can be labeled as an act of “solidarity”, but in the face of a car-culture that alienates individuals from the land and each other, I see Critical Mass as offering an opportunity for positive community-building and a blueprint for an improved public space that will allow for and value interpersonal interaction.

I believe it will require audacity on the part of cyclists and events like Critical Mass to open the minds of motorists who are currently “asleep at the wheel”, continuing to perpetuate an unsustainable and undesirable transportation culture. Sure, plenty of drivers will get pissed off from the (wonderful) shenanigans of CM and will provide us with our share of irritated sneers: nonetheless, this is exactly what we—and more importantly, motorists—need. To begin the cultural shift away from automobiles, we must not only provide individuals with the social, environmental, psychological, and physical-health data that show the benefits of bicycle usage, we urgently need to engage the emotional consciousness of others, even if the initial emotion sparked is anger. The important thing now is to put bicycle culture on the emotional map, so to speak, so that it can begin to enter into the hearts of the public and force them to question their feelings regarding the current transportation system. Critical Mass is an activity that can help us facilitate bike culture’s invasion of the emotional stronghold of car-culture, with the end goal in mind of freeing Americans from their emotional bondage to automobiles and replacing their perverse, four-wheeled love-affair with a happy, healthy marriage of bike and rider.

I would like to encourage everyone interested to take part in this month’s Critical Mass, on the 25th (Meet at 5:30pm by the statue in Leif Ericson Park). I would also encourage interested folks to come out to the Bike Cave at 1712 Jefferson St., especially for our Wednesday meetings (as Greg has mentioned a few posts earlier). Peace.

nick said: "I don't see anything 'delusional and myopic' about having a smaller carbon footprint."

attempting to reduce personal carbon footprints is beautiful. it's neither delusional nor myopic.

i've just met a lot of people who delude themselves into thinking that their smaller-footprint attempts make it ok to feel morally or intellectually superior to people who (often out of confusion or honest ignorance) seem not to be making such attempts.

and sometimes those smaller-foootprint-than-thou folks--the people who look down on SUV drivers or whoever else--are myopic enough not to realize the still-significant size of their own direct and indirect effects on the planet.

we humans should all try to do better than we do. we should definitely find ways (like critical mass) to challenge and educate each other, and to hold each other accountable, while remembering to be humble and honest about our own significant ignorance and mistakes.

i know no one wise or ethically strong enough to hold themselves above anyone else.

Luke, seems to me that happens every day.

Godsey, your last statement is good. You should have just said that to begin with instead of acting like a superior ass.

godsey said:
"attempting to reduce personal carbon footprints is beautiful. it's neither delusional nor myopic."

Sort of. The real danger is methane emissions from global ice. The whole 'global warming thing' was most likely set in motion (accelerated) during the industrial age, or even before then. People don't realize how long the earth's natural frequency is. It's just sort of common sense. And, no, I haven't read any books on the topic.

The social change thing with people putting up their middle finger to "the man"... well, sometimes, it works. In fact, I think it's necessary to maintain social order.

(Just to clarify, the Mary that called Godsey an ass was not me.)

"Godsey, your last statement is good. You should have just said that to begin with instead of acting like a superior ass."

i usually am an ass. i'm often unintentionally condescending.

still, i guess i don't see how anything i said above is self-superior. much of it might be needlessly confrontational, but it also seems like i was careful to criticize myself for doing the same stupid, judgmental shit i was calling out other people for doing.

but what do i know? i'm a self-admitted ass.

I appreciate the message that critical mass bike rides send, but it would be really sad if an ambulance or fire truck couldn't get to their destination in time because of an event like this.

oh my god...please tell me you're only pretending to be my grandmother, jlh. the Law Of Gross Tonnage and State Law dictates that if a Very Large Emergency Vehicle is coming your way at a high rate of speed with its lights and siren going, you immediately get out of the way. I've seen far more instances of vehicles not obeying this statute than cyclists.

There needs to be a critical mass of unicyclists to take on these road hogging bicyclists.

I think my point, zra, was that it would be difficult for a mass amount of bicyclists crammed next to each other to get out of the way fast enough on busy streets with cars parked on both sides. Cars can do it because they're not contending with 15 other cars in a row. Maybe downtown would be the only place this is a factor, but i'm just sayin.'

Ride on, Candidate!

Ride on, Candidate!

Only saw two cyclists today. One was riding on the sidewalk where I was walking and the other was riding against traffic. No problem with either and the one was even nice enough to let a lady know he was approaching her on the sidewalk. As for me I won't even take my M/C when I'm going to town. I have friends who look funny and walk funny because they had a run in with cars in Duluth. Sure they were in the right but what good did that do.

Since when does one or a group of cyclists represent the entire bicycling community? It is not as if a driver of a car who runs a stop sign and breaks the law represents all the other automobile drivers in the world. A bad apple is a bad apple. I do not think just because a person driving a car, truck, or SUV has a bad experience with a lawless cyclist that they will automatically hate every single cyclist they see in the future. There are bad drivers and bad bicyclists. Also, I attended the ride and the police were not exactly wasting tax dollars. In fact, they should have been pulling you over for more than likely driving too fast on your way home from work. It just seems the police had their priorities wrong. Harassing a bunch of cyclists or busting drunk SUV driving murderers? Which person seems more dangerous to you? Just think about it.

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