22 November 2007

Critical Miss or Critical Mass?

Budapest Critical Mass
"Everytime I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." - H. G. Wells

Let's get one thing straight. While we're not banner-waving activists, we think activism is fantastic. We're all for it, especially the activism towards creating bike culture and infrastructure like we have in Copenhagen in other cities in the world.

We just feel the need to play devil's advocate regarding the Critical Mass movement. Certainly the style of Critical Mass prevalent in, for example, North American cities. Rides that feature an aggressive, in-your-face tone. There are many positive examples of protest rides that are calm, cool and accepted. Budapest comes to mind. Even the rides in Prague - where they changed the name from Critical Mass to something akin to 'bike ride' in order to remove themselves from the North American versions.

Generlally, it's a brilliant concept. Democratic to the core. Celebrations, even. Even if there are only a couple of dozen cyclists. Although we loved to ride in Budapest, with tens of thousands of other bikes. That would be a rush. We also think that movements like the Naked Bike Ride protests tackle important issues with humour.

We despise the exaggerated crackdowns by police in various cities, but we're not too thrilled about those participatnts who are aggressive towards motorists. Democracy becomes anarchy. We don't fancy much the elitist attitude of many in the environmental activist movement either. Those who look down their nose at motorists - and even non-cyclists.

We figure that the point of Critical Mass is to profile the need for bike culture and all the enviromental plusses inherent in it. A good thing. Therefore one of the primary goals is to get more people to ride their bikes. For whatever reason: sustainability, oil-dependence reduction, better health for fellow citizens.

If so, does Critical Mass work? We don't know. 15 years on and are there any cities that have made massive gains towards a bike culture similar to many European cities?

A SIMPLE ALTERNATIVE
We do know that we see a simple alternative. An easier route. What if all those massers merely rode their bikes every day? In normal clothes, like normal people? Like the millions of citizens of Northern Europe.

What might happen?

Meet our protagonist - Mr. Motorist. He drives to and from work each day as he always has. Listening to the same radio station. Same route, with minor variations. It's what he does.

He is an average citizen in a car-based society. Like the vast majority, he is not an environmental activist and he never, ever will be.

Mr Motorist looks out of the windows of his car as he putters through traffic. What does he think when he sees a hard-core, lycra-clad, cyclist or a sub-cultural fixie boy on a specialist bike speeding his/her way along the curb?

Mr Motorist in the morning traffic might think, "Hmm. I could ride my bike to work, too..."

He won't, however, see himself reflected in the image. He'll see a member of an often militant sub-culture. He'll see somebody he would normally label as an 'environmentalist' - not a positive label in many cultures. He'll see a person wearing an unofficial uniform - Mr Motorist has nothing in his closet that even closely resembles the gear on the cyclist - and he'll see a bike so far removed from any bike he has ever owned.

He'll realise that in order to ride his bike he would have to infiltrate a sub-culture populated by individuals very unlike himself. He would have to invest in gear and clothes. Worst of all, Mr Motorist would find himself 'making a statement' by riding.

Mr Motorist, like most people, doesn't want to make a statement. He just wants to live his life, not climb onto a platform and become a visible statement-maker. He knows the environment is an important issue. He knows the facts. But he is just Joe Average and always will be. He just thinks riding his bike to work would be nice, healthy and quicker than driving. But the idea is quickly dropped.


When Mr Motorist is stuck in traffic on the way home because of a bike protest/demonstration/celebration, he isn't going to be any closer to hopping on a bike. He will be pushed farther away from the thought than he ever was. Joe Average doesn't have much respect for this kind of activism. I wish he did, but he doesn't. He's just going to get pissed off.

THE GOOD METAPHOR
A Little Bit of Busy Bike Lane (by [Zakkaliciousness])
Now let's imagine Mr Motorist sitting in traffic and glancing out of the window. He watches a chap ride past. Briefcase strapped to the back pannier. Wearing a suit. Not flying along like he is out to break records, just riding steady. the only gear on him is clips on his trouser legs. Taking it easy, not challenging the motorized traffic, just working with it. Preferably cycling on safe, protected cycle tracks or bike lanes. The bike on which the man is sitting resembles the one in Mr Motorist's garage.

And then Mr Motorist sees a woman pass by him. On a cool 'sit up and beg' bike. Her briefcase in her basket, adorned with plastic flowers. The basket, not the briefcase. She is wearing a skirt and stylish shoes. Listening to her iPod. A good, steady pace.

Then, we dare to assume, Mr Motorist would think, "I wouldn't mind riding my bike to work. It's only 15 km. That guy looks like me. Same suit. Same bike. And that woman makes it look easy..."
There's no school like the old school (by [Zakkaliciousness]) personal style (by [Zakkaliciousness]) Adverts * (by [Zakkaliciousness]) Stylish Copenhagen Couple * (by [Zakkaliciousness])
Mr Motorist would instantly see his own reflection in these riders. He would realise that in order to ride to work he would only have to drag his bike out of the garage, invest in trouser leg clips. In far less time than it takes him to drive to work, he would be ready to ride.

He wouldn't have to make a statement. He would just be another cyclist on his way to work. He would blend in. He would feel like he is doing something good for himself and for the planet. Without having to climb a soapbox to do so.

THE RUB
Here's the rub. All those who are so passionate about helping increase bicycle usage in urban areas, understand how Joe Average thinks. Help Joe Average fit in. Don't alienate him by highlighting the differences between you and him. We're all in this together.

Activists are first out of the blocks and more power to them, but it is Joe Average and his friends who will end up saving the planet, if given the chance.

And when bike usage increases, bike accidents decrease and cities and towns will have no choice but to invest in infrastructure, facilities. If you build it, they will come.

Make it look effortless and the journey towards a bike culture with be so, too.

That's our take on it.

For more effortless bike culture images, see Copenhagen Cycle Chic.
Critical Manners - a positive alternative.
http://www.critical-mass.info/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass

72 comments:

Anne said...

as someone who is working to make new york city more bicycle-friendly and no longer participates in critical mass, i think you have made this point very well. the point where a large group of cyclists disrupting traffic does more harm than good has reached, well... "critical mass".

bicycling needs to be perceived as a "normal" activity and form of transportation that doesn't require any esoteric clothing, equipment, or attitudes. unfortunately i don't feel safe riding in traffic here without a helmet, but try to avoid all the other accessories. can't wait til we have REAL bike lanes like you have in copenhagen.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks very much for commenting, Anne. I love the very concept of Critical Mass on paper and in my democratic heart.

Unfortunately, there is so much conflict involved, so much bad press, that I just feel that getting bums on bikes everyday back and forth is a better, more constructive solution.

Feel free to send us a link to any projects you may be involved in so we can gain insight.

best regards,
Mikael

Anne said...

thanks mikael.

agreed on all points. here in NYC getting around on a bike is not for the faint-hearted, so one of my biggest goals is work towards an infrastructure that would make widespread, multi-generational cycling a viable option for new yorkers. transportation alternatives, open planning project, and our newly progressive department of transportation are making great strides in this area, so i do what i can to support them. i also have a neighborhood organization (and accompanying blog) called Sustainable Flatbush that is working to implement "livable streets" concepts (as espoused by copenhagen's own jan gehl, amongst other) right here where i live in Brooklyn. we are growing and i think 2008 will be a great year for us. very exciting!

here are a few related posts, and of course i have a link to your blog because it is now one of my favorite sources of daily inspiration!

http://sustainableflatbush.org/?p=235

http://sustainableflatbush.org/?p=239

http://sustainableflatbush.org/?p=232

and, the most Cycleicious of all:

http://sustainableflatbush.org/?p=227

Zakkaliciousness said...

hey anne,
i've ridden in new york and i know what you mean. it's a long journey to a sustainable bike culture, but you are on the right track.

It was funny to see my son Felix on your blog... :-) thanks for the links, I'll be sure to check your blog regularly.

Somersetbiker said...

Completely agree with your thoughts. Alienating other groups of road users will never achieve anything except more hostility. Roads are supposed be a transport system, not a war zone. Far better to promote cycling as a viable and useful form of transport which just happens to be an excellent way of keeping fit. It's all about getting more bums on saddles - the more folk on bikes on the road the less the threat, perceived or real, from other influences becomes.

I just love your Flickr series of Copenhagen people on bikes - a picture of how it could be over here on that insignificant little rock in the top left-hand corner of Europe with just a little bit of foresight and enlightenment from those who think they rule over us. Sadly, what we have is part of the result of "2000 years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge", as John O'Farrell put it.

www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/images/0385611986/ref=dp_imag...

Thinks: I wonder how difficult it is to emigrate to Denmark...

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for commenting, Somersetrider.
I agree. It's about showing potential cyclists how effortless it is, not mocking them for sitting in their vehicles.

It's coexistence and it's integration. Hearts and minds and bums on bikes.

Emigration to Denmark? If you're a member of the EU it should be no problem. We have only 3% unemployment and are in desperate need of workers, especially highly-skilled.

radzi.info said...

I too don't find an overtly aggressive attitude regarding bicycle promotion would be very helpful at all, especially in places with a strong car culture like US & Australia, it would simply just antagonise the motorists (who are the majority) & further the divide between the two group where in essence there really shouldn't be a divide at all. In order to change mindsets under a democracy the process must be gradual & subtle, and designed to be accepted rather than forced upon. Simply put, people don't like having things shoved down throats, no matter how nutritious it may be.

Instead taking grand-scale publicity stunts, try first influence those around you, and promote through your own actions the merits of cycling. If all cyclists influence just 1 person, that's already doubling the cycling population, and the growth will then be exponential, bit like a pyramid scheme but with actually benefits for all.

Frankly I perceive more elitist & antagonistic attitudes from cyclists both online & on-road than from your average driver, interestingly something you don't find in developed cycling cultures. Of course these are the minority, but they are usually the most vocal & therefore tend to be over-represented by the media & over-regarded by the public in general.

qian

Zakkaliciousness said...

Well said, Radzi.

"Show it, don't shout it" - just get on your bikes and do it. Others will follow.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, a Critical Mass is a highly variable phenomenon - it can be highly positive or highly confrontational, and it is very difficult to predict which it will be. I have never ridden in one, but I agree with a freind of mine who rides a twelve foot long fully faired recumbent: whenever I ride, I AM a critical mass. My bike gets respect from the cars, and I always try to work with the traffic, rather than confronting it. I have random people walking up to me quite frequently to tell me that they see me riding all the time, and they always seem enthusiastic. I have also had more than one person specifically tell me that I was their inspiration to start riding. It's slow, but it does work. Val

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for commenting Val.
It's great that you're just out there doing it.
Being visible in the traffic. Getting on with it. Good luck to you.

Funny thing is, given all the cyclists in Copenhagen, you rarely see recumbents. i wonder why that is.

Anne said...

from what i've read and heard about recumbents, what many people like about them is that they take strain off the wrists (and bum!), as compared to the bikes many people ride here that force a more "aggressive" posture. but from the photos it looks like most people in copenhagen are riding "city bike" models that allow for a more upright comfy posture and don't strain the wrists to begin with. also a lot of trikes, which do the same thing.

all part of the idea that a bike is for a lifetime of transport...

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for that comment, Anne, and highlighting the recumbent case. All very interesting. I still wonder why recumbents never caught on here, in a country and city with a century long love affair with bikes.

I can be bothered leaning over my handlebars when riding. I prefer sitting up more. You're right about the majority of bikes in Copenhagen - most women ride "sit up and beg" bikes. For ease of movement and comfort.

Andy B from Jersey said...

Your analysis is spot on Zak. This doesn't just apply to Critical Mass but with the entire bike industry here in the US. For the most part they just don't get it and continue to build bikes for "bike freaks." Things are starting to change but it is slow and could just turn into another bike industry fad even though I hope not. Even most bike advocates in the US don't get either and still feel that bikes always require some spandex before you can ride.

It wasn't always like that for the US bike industry. They used to make practical transportation bikes. Today, I ride to work in casual office cloths on a simple 3-speed town bike that I found for free. It was built in the 1970's by an old US manufacturer. The fancy custom road and mountain bikes that I spent a combined $8,000 to buy now collect dust waiting for the occasional weekend use.

I've also rode in a few Critical Mass rides in the university town where I work. It was just fun, not confrontational but we could get angry when a driver or two would force their way through on the traffic jammed streets.

Love your blog. You continue to make excellent points about cycling and a bicycle culture that most American bike advocates are totally oblivious about.

Darren said...

"We figure that the point of Critical Mass is to profile the need for bike culture and all the enviromental plusses inherent in it."

When the idea for CM was first floated it really had very little to do with improving the profile of cycling. This is still true today. In fact before the ride even began the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition wiped their hands clean of the affair.

The ride was more about creating a political space than anything else. If you took the bicycles away from CM you would still have CM. A young artist proved that a few years ago in Kensington Market (Toronto,Canada). He succeeded in having complete strangers meet one another in a park at a coordinated time where they exchanged ideas, then they were sent out to find more people to bring back to the park.

CM stuck with cyclists because it was so easy to communicate with one another while participating in a common interest. Imagine driving the down the street trying to exchange ideas with the driver next to you. Sure, it is easy to do with walking but its participation is so fact of life we do not see it as having a common interest.

There have been many people over time who have used CM to settle the score with drivers. That happens and they disappear after a few rides.

If CM has done anything for cycling, it is that it has shown people that cyclists are out there... and that is about it. CM will not bring us bike lanes, bike lockers, etc.

CM has brought us smiles, hellos, and new friends. As far as I am concerned, that is much more important than any bike culture or environmental concerns.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks, Andy B. We're glad to hear you like the blog and that you insist upon merely riding in regular clothes and on a good ol' regular bike. We think that's the way forward. You're a role model for generations! :-)

And thanks, Darren, for your point of view on the Critical Mass phenomenon. It was great to read about the original intentions of the movement.

While it may not be about 'bikes' the general conception in the public is that it is. It has been branded as such. And our point is, among others, that the rides get so much bad press - again in the public perception - that it appears to be branded as more confrontational than helpful.

We don't doubt that you and many others enjoy yourselves. That's great. More power to you.

But even as a cyclist, if I was in my car on my way home and my passage was blocked by a "celebration" I would wish they all could just find a pub or a park in which to celebrate.

It's all about winning hearts and minds, whatever the 'cause'. And here we think that CM fails.

Darren said...

I wonder Zakkaliciousness if drivers have any concern for how they are viewed as they zip down our streets in their Hummers? They probably sleep alright at night. Why a higher standard for cyclists?

I would be quite concerned if we failed to do anything because one segment of society finds it uncomfortable. Drivers at most are inconvenienced for a few minutes a month at worst, there is no harm being done to anyone. At every CM here in Toronto I see drivers whoop it up with us as we pass by, they far outnumber the few that have complaints. I think your concerns are your own and do not prevail amongst the masses. People, even those enclosed in a metal and glass bubble, are quite open to an exchange of ideas.

It would worry me a great deal if we simply did not express our ideas because we worried it would inconvenience someone. If that were so we would all be sitting in our homes as governments continued to bomb Vietnam.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for commenting, Darren.

In a way, you're making my point for me. It is a concern how you are demonstratively drawing a line in the sand. Placing 'car drivers' and one side and yourself on the other.

These "car drivers" that you despise so much are the guy next door. The woman in front of you at the supermarket.

They are normal citizens, not evil, spiteful monsters.

It is exactly this confrontational tone that is the flaw in the otherwise nice dream. It borders on fervent religious groups who claim that are are 'saved' because they have a god and the rest of us are heathens.

This is why we presented an alternative in our post. Show it, don't shout it. Respect the citizens with whom you share a society instead of alienating them. We all have to live together.

Oh, and other peoples governments are stilling bombing Vietnam. They just call it Iraq, these days. Don't really see any link to this discussion, but hey.

It may be our opinion, yes, but we seem to have hit a note with many others. We're just pleased to have started a debate.

Darren said...

Zakkaliciousness,

Much has been written from the CM perspective of how to relate to people in cars. It asks one to understand that it would take a great deal of effort to get one out of a car and to become part of the immediate discussion. It does not speak to alienating them. I am the first to admit that there are those elements who show up to CM who are there to settle the score for the hourly abuse they suffer from the driving public. They eventually get the message that their antics are not wanted at CM and they should move on. I do not know what you do in your neck of the woods but here we tend to encourage drivers to join us next month with their bikes, we tend to be more inclusive.

The Vietnam War is a great example amongst many where a minority of people had to speak to the 'normal citizens', as you put it, about their concerns about the war. They were neighbours yet they still inconvenienced them a great deal. If they decided not to inconvenience them we would still be dropping bombs on Vietnam. It is overly simplistic to reduce this into a battle of bad vs. good. CM will expose you to many different ideas, you may not agree with them, but at least you will understand where your fellow person is coming from.

Our CM tends to very laid back in terms of dress too. Some people are in suits, some jeans, some shorts and when it is warm enough in their undies. There is not much lycra or flash to scare anyone away.

Anne said...

Darren, from the New York perspective I have to agree with Zakk on all counts where Critical Mass is concerned. I used to participate several years ago and the interactions between the riders, the public and the police were mostly friendly at that time. The turning point here seems to have been the Republican National Convention in 2004, when the relationship with the police completely changed - MANY arrests and much harassment - and the rides themselves became so big that the reaction from those in automobiles became consistently hostile.

After that I stayed away (having no desire to spend another night in jail and waste time in the legal system), and the impression I have is that the ride is now primarily made up of "those elements who show up to CM who are there to settle the score for the hourly abuse they suffer from the driving public"... they do not "get the message that their antics are not wanted at CM and they should move on", they seem to have BECOME CM here in New York. I would emphasize that this is only my guess since I longer go on the rides, but most people I know who spend a lot of time advocating for a real "Copenhagen-style" bicycle infrastructure in NYC do not participate in Critical Mass and feel that the confrontational nature of it has ceased to be constructive.

Anne said...

On a more positive note, I hear that the Critical Mass rides in Brooklyn are more like the old days, complete with friendly cops.

Darren said...

Anne I find it quite distressing that a government is arresting people for participating in CM. Especially in a country that values its freedoms so. In Canada it is pretty hard, but it does happen, to go to jail for participating in CM... or in any sort of action provided you do not engage in violence. The last group in the world I look for approval are the police. They have jobs to do, one of which is not to suppress the exchange of ideas.

Seems like there is a lot of anger in New York on both sides, a lot of it seems misplaced on behalf of the authorities. I would view an increase in the size of the ride in light of the harassment as positive. It clearly indicates that the people are not willing to be abused by the state. From what I have read about the trials in New York following the arrests is that they too agree that the response has been overblown.

Some CM have petered off because people got fed up of testerone brigades who simply wanted to fight. If memory serves me well Boston had a lot of problems for awhile until it was re-energized with more positive people.

Over the years, participating in CM, I have met so many wonderful people from around the world. While many had ideas I did not agree with, I have a solid understanding and appreciation of where they were coming from. This is something I would have never experienced if I had just kept my head down.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for joining in, Anne. Darren, let there be no doubt that we know that many, many people have enjoyed the original, positive ideals set out by the CM concept. That's wonderful.

However, if CM is not about bicycles, as is the common perception amongst the public, then the movement has even more serious branding issues than I suggested in the original post.

If the general public thinks it is about something else, and only a few participants like yourself can express what you think it IS about, then what use is it?

Now you seem to be telling us that it is - perhaps - about a societal reaction to police brutality. Or perhaps not. We're not sure.

It seems that this is all just one man's opinion. Which is fine, of course.

Movements without a clear reason just don't make sense. Fortunately, there are alternatives, as outlined in the original post.

Zakkaliciousness said...

ADDENDUM:
One man in regular clothes, on a regular bike, riding to work each day is a far more powerful tool towards sustainability, environmental issues, what have you, than any mass demonstration that risks splitting a population.

And it is also people like Anne who work constructively and single-mindedly in their community who will serve to motivate that one man in regular clothes on a regular bike. Because her message is clear, her methods are practical and sensible and she is out there doing it every day.

This discussion has made me think that perhaps mass demonstrations are a product of the last century. The shocking lack of protests about the Iraq invasion - in North America, anyway - is a good signal that times have changed.

Now it is more important to have local intiatives, driven by passionate individuals, that provide concrete solution to concrete problems.

Something that will have a greater influence on Joe Average at the end of the day.

Darren said...

Zakkaliciousness, just got back from a beautiful, but cold and snowy, CM here in Toronto. I purposely was on the lookout for those who seemed irritated by CM. There were none. We had warm and enthusiastic welcomes from people on the streets and in their cars. I will post video of it in a few days in case you do not believe me.

You should spend a little more time reading carefully what I wrote. Anne spoke of her experience in New York and that is what I referenced. Over simplifying to meet your argument's objectives is at best very questionable.

It is downright obscene that ideas need to be 'corporatized' so they fulfill the needs of a marketing system. These are complex human beings we are talking about not products like bicycles that are rubber and metal. I am sorry but this is right-wing hack stuff not worthy of the space it occupies on the web.

You have this grandeur idea of changing people with "...One man in regular clothes, on a regular bike, riding to work each day..." yet have no proof of its effectiveness. Where is your theory working? The bigger question is if your theory is so "powerful" why are you so worried about CM, by your own claims your process should trump all. Why do you have to criticize CM, it is petty especially since you have, or at least claim to have, such a superior system. Go out and show the world how your idea works.

Zakkaliciousness said...

I have a tendency to lose interest in internet debates when the tone becomes testy, rude and confrontational and the original post/idea gets buried in nastiness.

As Einstein said, the sign of a true genius is being able to see both sides of an argument.

I can see you are passionate about it and that you enjoy it. That is wonderful. More power to you. I respect your passion.

We'll just agree to disagree, shall we?

Good luck to you.

Onlybicycles said...

I disagree with the critique of Critical Mass in the post. CM is about bicycles, but it's also about creating political space, building a community, and exercising the wonderful constitutional rights we have that so many take for granted. A mobile demonstration that practices democracy is completely different than a protest march and is a uniquely valuable way to press cyclists' rights. Yes, some bad apples show up and spoil the fun, but that's true at sporting and other mass events as well. (And yes, Brooklyn
Mass is all positive, no confrontations with cops or motorists).

At the same time, I agree with most of the commentary about the "average Joe Motorist" in the post. I ride daily, often in a suit and with my kids, and try to behave in a manner that reflects well on bicyclists and will encourage bicycling. I'm sure I do far more good those 29 days a month than I do harm in supporting CM.

And I've taken a page from Zakka's book, and begun spending 10 mins each morning taking photos of NYC bicycle commuters that I post to flickr to demonstrate that "average Joes" truly do bicycle in NYC. Almost to a one, these NYers lack the style and elegance of Zakka's Copenhagen, but we already knew that about Americans! I do hope the photos will demonstrate that bicycling is not necessarily a "fringe" activity:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/43954081@N00/sets/72157601965453845/

Darren said...

The City of Toronto has spent some time surveying people as to why they do not commute to work/school. Over 50% cite distance as the factor, followed by concerns over safety 15%, followed by other concerns that rated under 5%. One problem with the study is that it did not relate cyclists concerns to how far they actually had to travel. I am sure too that the distance issue would rate differently in other cities that are more compact geographically. However, the only "clothing" issue that appears is the need for showers at the destination.

I have seen similar studies for other cities and I do not remember any concern over dress. I have seen shifting where more people are citing their concerns for the environment as a reason to ride.

Zakkaliciousness said...

Thanks for commenting, onlybicycles. wonderful to hear your point of view.
and thanks for the link to your flickr photostream. i had a quick look and I'm looking forward to getting back and spending more time there.

Peter said...

has to be one of the most moronic openings i've ever heard - "why don't they just ride their bikes every day?"

pure. genius.

miketually said...

I had considered starting a CM ride in Darlington.

As I understood it, CM rides are supposed to simulate what road conditions would be like if there were a significant number of cyclists were on the roads. In other words, to make one small part of the town, for one small part of the week, into something like Copenhagen.

Comparing photos of CM rides with photos from this blog, I don't feel that they're achieving their aim, since one seems to need police outriders and 'wacky' bikes and people while the other seems to have normal people going about everyday tasks on bicycles.

So, instead, I'm going to organise a picnic each month. We'll meet somewhere central and then ride out to somewhere to have a picnic, or visit a cafe or pub. Just a group of people doing something on bikes.

Zakkaliciousness said...

sounds like a great plan, miketually. good luck with it. and take photos for us!

apfel said...

hi Mikael,

i found your blog few days ago and i'm very impressed of it.

this article about CM made me think a lot.

i'm from st.petersburg, russia. i like riding my bicycle. and i would love to see st.petersburg more bicycle-friendly.

nowadays we have ZERO km of bike lines (i saw the sign of bike line only in the book of lows of road). and just few bike parkings near huge supermarkets and at some universities (i think i saw about 5 during all the time i've been riding here). there're people who use bicycle as a transport and their quantity is increasing year by year.

nevertheless for majority of citizens it's about sport activity or relaxing (short bike walk in the evening in your own district). most of bicycles are kinda mountin bikes with lots of speeds, quite expansive ones. and the thiefs work very actively. i've never heard about any bike beeing found and returned.

i participate in CM here and try to encourage people to do the same. i do design for posters and leaflets, i try to spread information, i maintain a blog dedicated to CM and bicycle information. st.pete CM is extremely undeground - in its best times there were just 50 bikers but usually about 20. most of them seemed to barely know the laws of road although we spread leaflets with essential road rules before every start.

first time i took part in CM - i was very shy riding my bicycle and was really afraid of cars on the roads although i had already rode few times to my university and back through the whole city but using pedastrian ways most of the time. after CM i was much more self-confident to ride on the road. so i thought it's a good way to propaganda bicycle lifestyle..

last time there's some talks about bicycle lines in the city government but they only planned some bicycle lines in the biggest parks of the city and in suberban areas on the way out of the city (for sport activity). they even haven't discussed the bike lines in the city centre!! that's all make me sad. and who knows when they bild these bike lines because now they just speaking about projects!

soon there'll be next CM. it seems to me that there'll be much more people than usual. and i don't know what to expect cause if it's 100-150 bicyclists and some of them do not know well the laws of road easily breaking them... hm.. at least i'll do the leaflets dedicated to the bicyclist safety.

after reading your article i'm not that convinced in advantages of CM. i want to have the city with bike lines, bike culture and thousands bicyclists who can ride daily in a safety. i want to encourage people to use their bikes as i do. i don't want protest for the sake of protest.

so i will go to this CM that will be in 2 weeks but maybe it'll be the last one i take part cause i'm gonna search for another ways reaching the goal. let's see.

sorry for so many words.

cheers,
Olesya

Zakkaliciousness said...

thanks for letting us hear your point of view, Olesya and good luck!

William said...

hello cykelers!

I just caught on to your other blog, copenhagen cycle chic, read through the post there on the same topic which led me here...very impressed.

I love everything that is bike. That said, I don't love everything that is "biker". I couldn't agree more with your writing and responders like anna from ny. Be you activist, courier, motorist, or plain clothed jane/john, lets remember ourselves on the road. I see so much anger out there and one wrong move can lead to cussing, spitting, fighting, and worst of all, possible death. Nobody wants that.

As someone who has been biking in major cities for over a decade, its only recently that I have seen a shift in the # of bikers vs the # of cars. Lately I see far more plain clothed and business attire people making their way in the streets. I hope it doesn't take a global meltdown for us all to realize the benefits of human powered transport. I love seeing people biking because it means actually seeing them rather than cold reflective pressed metal walls.

Best to you, yours, and everyone else out there from a boston biker

Zakkaliciousness said...

great to hear! thanks william

Hynek Hanke said...

Critical Mass in Prague (3000-4000 people this week) is I think a succesful movement. It profiles itself not targeted at blocking the motorists, but targeted at creating force at the politicians. It tries to minimize impact by informing newspapers about the route, public transport authorities, associations of taxi drivers etc., there is very good cooperation with police). To sum it up, I could say that the Critical Mass in Prague has 3 objectives: 1) create an event for cyclists to enjoy, celebrate, unite, meet each other 2) show polititians the growing support for cycling 3) as a communication tool towards the media. There is nothing in that against cars -- even apology information fliers are distributed to drivers. It's a nice, colourful event, and it definitely has its successes here -- although it takes much more to really change things. Most important, it takes time.

Zakkaliciousness said...

thanks for the prague update, hynek. here in europe such rides en masse have proved to be popular, like in budapest or what you describe in prague.

which is wonderful. it's a celebration more than a confrontation, like i describe in the post. europeans have more tolerance of mass demonstrations. indeed, they are a part of life.

go prague!

sindändùne said...

Hello Mikael,

I'm a big fan of your work, your bicycle advocacy and your photography. I take a similar approach to bicycling promotion by encouraging people to over the it's-a-sweaty-activity attitude and consider cycling as a sustainable and enjoyable way of commuting.

And I do so through my blog, talking to the local media when asked to and, above all, by cycling every day, every where, wearing my favorite clothes and smiling.

I am also a big fan of CM. The ones I have been a part of -i.e. Madrid, Edinburgh and Alcalá- where pacific civil movements, and each one of them was different.

Each one has its own reason for joining a CM, some are there to ask for bike lane, others to celebrate life, some to claim back the streets, to assert the right of cyclist to share the streets... many many different reasons. It is a horizontal deeply democratic activity, and as such, there is no one aim set beforehand.

hence, saying that it achieves nothing or little is a blunt statement. It depends on what each riders is seeking to achieve, if anything at all!

as for me, I will tell you about the ride in Alcalá, as I have been very active in starting it, promoting it and document it. Alcalá CM has achieve something few dreamt of only six months ago. It has brought the bicycle to the centre of the public debate regularly. Every month the local media will tak about bicycles and the need to have a bicycle culture in our city. It has also encouraged many people to join us and use their all bicycles for the first time in years, created a new social space where ideas are shared, forged new friendships...

I can hardly see how this is pointless. I have made so many good friends at the CMs, it would all be worth it if it came down to just that in the end.

Yet, as you where saying, all aspects of the debate must be considered. I have talked with many cycle advocates who think that not only is the CM useless, but that it can have a negative effect. And they have a fare point. But as we were saying before, CM is not about getting bike lanes, is about many different things, as many as riders.

We each have a way of doing things (some of us exercise more than one at a time!). We should respect other peoples opinions, dreams and hopes. It is a positive thing that there are many approaches to cycling advocacy; it gives diversity, hence power, to our common aim: having a bicycle culture everywhere.

I am now living in Amsterdam, loving once again its cycle culture and taking part in a daily CM everyday all over this beautiful city.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sindandune/collections/72157600024164436/

sindändùne said...

PS: sorry for the many spelling mistakes :) should go over what I write before posting it.

Thank you once again for you inspiring work.

Sean Thomes said...

"I have a tendency to lose interest in internet debates when the tone becomes testy, rude and confrontational and the original post/idea gets buried in nastiness."

where was the nastiness in the post?

nowhere.

this response seems particularly thin skinned. A hypothesis was offered. It was refuted with some empirical real world evidence that counters the hypothesis. it is a dialogue.

and the Einstein quote is rich. clearly the author does not see both sides, he sees his side and is patronizing the poster. that seems particularly insulting to an outside observer.

Mark A said...

This is such an interesting post & dialogue.

Critical Mass has been through various high-profile legal high jumps here in London, to the extent where it is now recognised by the Highest Court of Law in GB as a 'commonly or customarily held procession without leaders' and therefore doesn't have to inform the police of it's route in advance, which lends it a certain amount of freedom. However, I'm not sure if this is a helpful thing or not. I'm going to my first London CM tonight (28/08/09) as I want to participate in something that raises the awareness of cycling in the city and hopefully makes drivers think a little about their relationship towards cyclists, BUT I must admit I am nervous about the political elements involved in the group, who've perhaps highjacked CM for their own cause. I'll report back and let you know what it's all like.

FYI, I am amongst 1000s of others in London who have turned to cycling over the last 18 months; I swear I see more and more cyclists on the road every week and of course the more there are the better things will be! It really is a 'growth market' here at the moment and certain roads in London look like Amsterdam or Copenhagen already. It's just sometimes it seems the drivers (London cab drivers especially) don't seem to have noticed. Incidentally, as cyclists increase in numbers here, so too sadly have the number of ghost bikes I have seen around... speaking of which, I don't know if you've all heard of the '4th plinth project' in London's Trafalgar Square... Sculptor Anthony Gormley has invited Londoners to occupy the 'spare' statue plinth in Trafalgar Square for one hour each continuously for 100 days. A cycle campaigner did an awesome 'occupation' a few weeks ago where he cycled on the plinth on a ghost bike surrounded by a flag for each of the people who've died on their bikes in London in the past year or so. It was really effective and really moving, and, I am sure, probably more striking than any critical mass... http://www.flickr.com/photos/dulwichonview/3735313573/in/pool-dulwichpicturegallery/

Mark

Mikael said...

ghost bikes do not promote cycling. they merely victimize cyclists and serve to spread the myth that cycling is dangerous.

it is safer to cycle in london than ever before, according to the CTC. The more cyclists there are, the safer it gets.

Darren said...

"...ghost bikes do not promote cycling. they merely victimize cyclists..."

This is offensive. 'Ghost Bikes' are a sign of respect for a life lost, for dreams never realized. If they need to serve as anything else, it is reminder that we can do better to prevent any recurrence.

Cycling is very safe 'Ghost Bikes' do not change that. Like anything else, there are risks in cycling, some we can fix others we cannot.

Mikael said...

where are all the ghost pedestrians? white mannequins on street corners to honour those lives lost? and what about white cars for lives lost in traffic accidents?

or are those lives less valuable? ghost bikes are bad marketing for encouraging more people to cycle. the lives that can be saved by increasing the numbers of cyclist in a society far outnumber the lives lost.

promoting cycling positively is not just a good idea, it is vitally important to the public health.

Darren said...

Mikael, in one week I counted at least 20 roadside memorials within 100kms of my home. All of them were for people killed by cars, either as a pedestrian or driver, except for one that was a cyclist. Typically these range from small flower arrangements to very large displays. A few years ago we had a pedestrian group do a display of shoes, representing people killed on our streets over a period of years, at our City Hall. Many politicians were shocked at how large the problem was, especially within our seniors' community.

You cannot treat 'Ghost Bikes' as a Marketing 101 problem nor as something negative. It is respect.

Mikael said...

But surely we're entitled to have differing opinions?

Mikael said...

Interestingly, roadside memorials are not allowed in Denmark. Or rather permanent ones aren't. There are flowers/candles/etc that appear after an accident and that remain for a week or so.

The reason is that they are considered a road safety hazard, distracting motorists from the rather important task of driving a car.

Darren said...

Of course you can have what ever opinion you want. Yet you asked why there were no memorials for other groups of road users. Yet there are many of them. A quick google search finds them in many different parts of the world.

Darren said...

Yes many cities are grappling with policies on roadside memorials. Most coming up with time limits after which they are removed. The smaller ones tend to last longer as the are not as noticeable.

One province here banned them altogether a few decades ago. Some roads were overburdened with memorials. I recently pass a stretch of road close to home where there were remnants of three memorials close to one another, all different incidents. Hopefully someone has caught on that this section of road needs to be examined to see why it is so dangerous.

MarkA said...

Goodness, it seems I opened a bit of a can of worms there! For what it's worth, I thought the link I posted was interesting to London because the issue with lorry drivers (HGVs) is particular to London. Yes, I agree that discussing casualties and deaths and how people are memorialised is perhaps contrary to the push for more cycling and it being perceived as the norm, but nevertheless it is an issue that is specific to London and one that needs to be addressed in the long term to help fix the situation (ie. lorry drivers not having enough awareness of cyclists on London's roads) I don't particularly care how many pedestrians lorries mow down, or how many cars they collide with (tragic though of course this is), as a cyclist it's how many bikers they squash that is interesting to me and which I am most inclined to speak up about - not all of us are lucky enough to live in a city like Copenhagen yet...

With regards to the London critical mass, which I attended for the first time last Friday - it was a very large group (probably about 1500/2000 cyclists) cycling through sun and rain, there were definite political elements there which could be off-putting to some, however most people were just 'ordinary cyclists' - some people wore helmets, some didn't, some people wore lycra, some didn't... indeed, the diversity of the group was, for me at least, the most interesting, and telling, element of the whole event (that and flying down Blackheath hill afterwards - weeeeeeee!....)

Mikael; you write very eloquently about the need for cycling to be seen as 'normal' and not only the domain of lycra-clad gym-nuts, well here they all were, these people we are talking about, regular commuters, but still attending a ride like Critical Mass... perhaps the need for such an event is specific only to London, I don't know... but there they all were. I'm not making a point here, just an observation as I think it is interesting - most of the people I spoke to at the event were aware of the potential for negative connotations to be deduced from a CM (ie bikes vs cars mentality, upsetting people held up in traffic etc), but still they felt the need to ride...

All the best,

Mark

Jorge said...

Great article. I've been thinking the same for long time. Demonstration-like CM's seem some type of bad marketing to me.

This debate is quite old now, but I would like to add two ideas taken from my experience with CM, and see what you think about them.

I agree with your article, but I think there could be a point between CM and... let's simplify it as MIRC (man in regular clothes). Both options have their points.

At the CM here in Alicante, I once suggested to mix both concepts:
Of course, everyday riding as a MIRC should be always done. This is what bikes are for in a city. But CM has great visibility and a faster publicitary impact on not-so-bike-friendly cities. Could we turn it into good marketing?

My suggestion was to still ride together, but to do it quietly, carefullly avoiding to look like a demonstration. That is:
- no shouting or crazy bell ringing
- no signs, banners or slogans
- using regular, smart clothes

We did that once, and it worked like a charm. Pedestrian and motorists alike were very curious about so many "regular" cyclists riding happily together and not being a demonstration or something like that. When they asked and we stopped and explained to them, they seemed to love it and were eager to take their bikes to the street next morning.

But there are many people who just want to make noise and complain and disturb the motorists, so the silent CM was sadly never repeated.

The next idea I was going to suggest (but never did) was to break apart the CM in individuals or small groups, and begin riding loops for a couple of hours in certain busy streets of the town, let's say on a summer saturday night when everyone is out; parking the bikes in front of every terrace, pub and bar, and so on. This would create an intensive MIRC effect, and give the subliminal impression that our city had suddenly turned into somethig like Copenhagen. People wouldn't probably think much about it, but hey, that's the point: they would get subconsciously used to the idea of riding a bike in everyday life. Or at least every saturday night ;)

I would love to try this for some months and then see what's happened. Maybe nothing, but it's worth a try.

Darren said...

Jorge, I really do not understand what is going on at other CMs. Ours is loud and boisterous. We wish people well that we cross paths with and greet them with "Happy Friday". We encourage them to join us next month with their friends. It brings smiles to their faces. Why are you having such a negative experience?

CM is about doing, not waiting around for someone to do for you. If you want something more structured where you are told what to do consider joining a cycling club.

JT said...

I did. In fact I co-founded a cycling association (not a club).

Well, I wouldn't say I'm having "such a" negative experience. Usually I enjoy the CM, for me it's a happy celebration of urban space.

But it's usually supposed to have a bike-advocacy effect, which isn't always true. And yes, some people here end up turning it into a demonstration. Don't ask me why. But shouting "NO MORE CARS, MORE BYCICLES!!!" is not a celebration, is it? Neither does it encourage anyone to join us. Hitting someone's head with a bike surely won't help him/her to love bikes.

The good point about a CM is that it "features" people enjoying the streets on their bikes. That's what makes people want to join in.

So: Critical Mass is quite a diffuse concept, it turns out to be anything that people want it to be. It must be so, as you said.

And then: usually (in my city, Alicante, Spain) it turns out to be... just another demonstration, with a slightly discouraging effect on pedestrians and motorists.

CM is open to suggestions, isn't it? We have had thematic CMs that turned out very good: the "silent" one, the "elegant" one, the "fantastic" one... Someone just suggested something (suggesting is not "telling to") to the others for the next month, and voilà. That's why I think it would be fine to try another concepts here.

Of course if CM works perfectly well in your city, just enjoy it! :)

Jorge said...

Well, maybe we've been mixing things here, and from there comes the long discussion. There seem to be different approaches to this:

If you want to enjoy the public space with your bike and have a nice, funny ride, then join a CM. That's what you said.

If you're thinking about day-to-day bycicle advocacy, there are things that would do it better... like people riding to work in regular clothes. That's what Zakkaliciousness said.

So, expecting a good "marketing" effect from a CM is a bit hazardous, unpredictable, as it can cause bad impressions around... and anyway it wasn't founded with bycicle advocacy in mind. That's all.

I just think there is a third possible approach: do both things at the same time. Not totally sure about this one, though, as I said.

Darren said...

JT, CM has never had a direct "bicycle advocacy effect" as you describe it nor it there much evidence that anyone intended that it would. Any sort of of advocacy is a by-product of CM. For example two people who have never met meet at CM and determine that they have common interests, so they pursue these interests later on. This is similar to what happens when people go to church or any other social event. Sometimes these things are very structured like church, sometimes they are very organic like CM.

It is very encouraging to see people bring new ideas to CM. If the ideas gain support then CM takes that direction.

I am not too bothered by people riding around saying cars are bad. It balances all of the noise created by car ads. The community paper I received today was about 4 cm thick. Over 50% of it were ads telling me how good my life would get if I bought a new car. Maybe you can suggest to people to chant a more positive message like those in Mumbai, India. "Two wheels are twice as fun as four!"

I am totally lost on this dressing up or down thing. Who really cares? Wanna wear tights, wear tights. Wanna wear jeans, find your best Levi's. There are more important things to worry about.

Jorge said...

(JT=Jorge, sorry)

There are always more important things to worry about.
But we're wandering the long way around the short cut, as we say here. I think here the talk is about bycicle advocacy seen through small day-to-day details that make the difference, not about how or what a CM should be.

Anyway, answering to your comment:
[CM has never had a direct "bicycle advocacy effect" as you describe it nor it there much evidence that anyone intended that it would] <- Maybe not around you, but believe me, there IS evidence. You should listen to talks around a CM here. Most of the time the concept is quite misunderstood, so I can't be as proud of it as you are.

Darren said...

Respectively there is another saying too, "putting the cart before the horse".

All that has been offered so far is an untested theory that the manner in which cyclists dress are an impediment to encouraging others to ride. Other than opinion no further evidence is provided. If you do know of some that speaks to this issue please post it. I would love to see it. I have seen several studies about what discourages new cyclists and the manner of dress never even rates. The only item of clothing, if you can even call it that, which makes it onto surveys are helmets.

If you want people buy into this theory there must be something to support it.

JT said...

I have no evidence that I can show to you about THAT, sorry. I think it's a mix of cultural, phychological and sociological reasons, and mostly unconscious ones, so people won't tell them in a survey.

In my surroundings I've seen some signs that support these thoughts, so for the moment it seems a good theory to me, and as I can see here, I'm not the only one who thinks that.

For the moment that's enough for me, maybe someday I'll search further.

Regards!

Darren said...

Sorry but that is a cop out. There is a multitude of ways testing what impedes people from riding a bike. If you targeted a demographic that did not use their bikes to commute and asked for a reason you could better form a hypothesis. You would probably have to remove references to fear(ie fear of getting hit by a car, falling off) because it biases so many beliefs about cycling.

Initially your test would only have to be small. about 20 to 30 people. Remember, these have to be people who are not riding, not current commuters. After these results you can better form your test and see how it fares on a larger scale.

It is time to take your beliefs to the next level. It is an interesting theory. If it holds true you will get more people interested in it, if not, you can spend your energy on a different approach.

JT said...

Not everything can be known just by asking questions, I think other anthropologic/psychologic methods could give better results.

And for sure I'd like to try them, but for personal reasons I can't do that at the moment. If someday I do it I'll come back and tell everyone about the results, be sure about that ;)

Keep cycling!

Lee said...

I'm a daily bike commuter, living in San Francisco the past few years. Never attended a critical mass but heard how "annoying" they could be when tying up intersections for a long time.

I sold my car a couple months ago and got a cargo trailer for the bike. On my first occasion to use the trailer, leaving Rainbow Grocery with the trailer fully loaded, traveling in a bike lane, I heard a commotion and saw a mass of bicyclists approaching -- critical mass!

They blocked my way (slightly), and rode the wrong way in the bike lane, so I shook my fist at them and shouted "Curse you, critical mass!!"

It was over in a minute and afterward I wondered why some drivers get so cheesed off about the slight inconvenience.

Darren said...

Mikael, I have in previous comments taken issue with the whole clothing issue.

Today I caught an interview you did where you used an analogy with respect to a vacuum cleaner. I think you are dead on with it. It perfectly describes what must be, the seamless/invisible integration of cycling into everyday life, and that the irony of getting there requires an almost 'in your face' approach.

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abass said...

Tell me this, why is it that unless your sinking piss, you can't have fun?
Years ago, yobbo's use to get all loaded up at the cricket, start fights ... People got hurt, including children, and lawsuits starting popping out in droves.
Im sorry, but the days of getting sodded at the cricket are dead, get over it or go to AA.
As for the food, you got every right to whinge. $7 for a hotdog is a rort.
As for the security and the coppers, i'm glad to have them around. You dont get the days of "where's a cop when you bloody need one", now they swoop on the drunk tossers in seconds, hence why the cricket is a family day out for ALL to share.

User1 said...

Why does everyone get worked up over something that happens once a month, or 12 times in 365 days? You act like this is de facto spokesperson for the bicycle movement. Guess what, it's not!

And this is coming from someone that has been doing the CM rides for quite some time.

(carless for over two years now)

Forrest said...

I'm curious where you learned this?

"We figure that the point of Critical Mass is to profile the need for bike culture and all the enviromental plusses inherent in it."

Critical Mass is a bike ride that begins at a set time and place, on the last Friday of every month. I think anything more specific than that, is somebody reading too much into things. Ask ten people at a Critical Mass ride what CM is about, and you'll get several different answers ... some of which don't mention environmentalism, and others of which will have nothing to do with bike culture. Many of the regulars say they attend primarily to see friends.

I'm also curious about the comment that you love the concept of Critical Mass on paper ... which strikes me as odd, because you're talking about an anarchist ride that hasn't put anything on paper.

grrlyrida said...

I wholeheartedly disagree with your post. I always compare CM to the civil rights movement in America. You have the mainstream group such as our LA County Bike Coalition, then you have the Midnight Riders who advertise CM. LAPD and our City Council can either deal with LACBC or CM. They always choose LACBC when it comes to bike infrastructure.

Same thing happened in the civil rights era you can deal with mainstream ML King or Malcolm X. If you want any action done in this country, you have to fight for it. How many times did Blacks here were told to, just wait things will change, now's not the time to protest. No one changes history by sitting back and hoping for a few crumbs thrown on the ground by the majority. That's how they were able to develop the infrastructure we now have. No one spoke up or complained when they were building it.

More power to CM. In LA they recently got the LAPD and the Beverly Hills PD to join them. And that's from the power of numbers. Do you think by not agitating they would have gotten the same results?

PaddyAnne said...

Hi Mikael, I really liked your post. I am from Vancouver, and earlier this year went on my first Critical Mass. It was very thrilling, and being June, the one with the most attendance. Over the next few weeks I thought about it more and have not attended since, nor intend to, as in the meantime, additional and unfortunately (mostly due to media pot-stirring I feel) controversial separated bike lanes have been put in. I have decided to show my support to the biking culture - and my advocacy stance - by using the lanes daily on my route to work, signalling, making friendly eye contact with drivers and pedestrians. I want people to have positive experiences with regular cyclists, not negative and not controversial. We are all in this together, we have to want to share. We have to try to not feed the "us vs them" energies.

Ashley said...

I can see the point here, but I think negative perceptions around the safety of cycling are far more likely to act as a disincentive for Joe Average than a perceived cultural difference between himself and Lycra Man/Fixie Boy. In his fantasies he might even be Lycra Man instead of Lard Ass. As Joe Average, he is concerned about the costs of car commuting and probably feels bad about his expanding waistline. Safe/separate infrastructure is the only thing that will get him out of his car. He only needs a small push.

Something else i take issue with here is the clear cut distinction being drawn between sport-oriented cyclists and non-sporty commuters. The fact is, there is a really-existing diversity of cyclists out there even in bike-unfriendly environments like Australian and American cities. These environments favour/breed road warriors, but there are plenty of plucky citizen cyclists out there too. I don't get the argument that the assumed numerical preponderance of Lycra Man (which is probably only a perception!) puts off would be non-sport commuters. Consider also that Lycra Man may well become Copenhagen Man when he has put the carbon road bike away after the morning's training and gotten onto his cheapie commuter bike to go to work. This is my story, at least.

Oh, and a last wheeze, assuming Lycra Man is an activist is really, really wrong! Lycra Man doesn't mind playing with the traffic and is too busy with his training schedule and too keen on getting to bed early to go to advocacy meetings!

revolutionaries4jax said...

Hello there. I am a co-founder of the Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition. My response is a lengthy one and this comment box does not seem to support that many characters. Please, when you have a moment, read my blog post pertaining to your article.

Thank you and be well, my brother.

Jennifer Kubicki
Co-Founder of The Jacksonville Bicycle Coalition

jaxbikecoalition.org

revolutionaries4jax said...

The blog post:

http://jaxbikecoalition.org/2011/08/25/my-response-to-the-copenhagenize-com-blog-post-critical-miss-or-critical-mass/

Jennifer Kubicki

Mike said...

@grrlyrida - there is no comparison with the civil rights movement. Civil rights was about getting new laws in place to allow everyone the same rights. People on bikes already *have* the same rights as cars, often more. CM is about highlighting disparities in funding, political inattention, the viable healthy alternative - in fact, a whole raft of things depending on your point of view. That's part of the problem. The CM I last attended as 'normal dad dressed normally with child on bike' was a rolling freakshow of anarchists, hippies, sk8punks, greenies, a few lycra-clad roadies and a handful of 'normal' people dressed normally on normal bikes. In terms of presenting a friendly face of cycling that motorists could associate with and see themselves doing - no way. And the tactic was to ride as slowly as possible, whic obviously just pissed drivers off. CM is not civil rights with a single, specific objective, it's a very mixed bag with no clear leader, mandate, etc. And that's why it is ultimately counter-productive in most places.