Vancouver Critical Mass

Mostly event announcements, news, and bicycle related activist opinions...
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Yes, we ride the last Friday of every month!


April Critical Mass

Friday April 27 of course
It's that time of the month. There is going to be a lot of people in the streets even with the april rains. We are starting to reach that criticality, no longer an invisible minority, where will our place be on the road?

Event Details:

Critical Mass Ride & Roll
All human propelled movers invited
[Also skateboards, wheelchairs, handcycles, trikes, unicycles, quadricycles, rollerskates/blades, fast tireless walkers, music, costumes, signs, voices, songs...]
Gather 5->5:30pm Friday Afternoon
Leave 6, from the Vancouver Art Gallery
Downtown, Ride for a few hours
Route decided by people who attend
Rolling street reclamation project
Temporary but Growing.
The April ride is upon us. Last month's March ride had hundreds of participants/leaders. Never before has our collective need for bicycle transportation leadership been more obvious to the mainstream. The ride is an end in itself - and fun. Also, it is a place to network/imagine/build a better future.


It's time to start thinking about the June Bike Massive too! We always have extra special efforts to promote the last Friday of the month June Critical Mass (29th). Last year there were over 1700 riders! It begs the question of course, of what to do when Mass is Massive and achieved. The obvious answer - is to ride. Critical Mass is not a single or dogmatic political ideology, so there are a lot of reasons/responses to it. However, with the sheer scale of things as they were last June, there is an emerging consensus that we need to organise for scale if we expect more people to participate and have fun. It is less of a ride and more of a walk/standstill when there are so many people that the road is too narrow. It is amazing in this stall to see how many more people can fit together and use a road when there aren't giant metal boxes taking up all the space. But, though 'traffic delays' of that sort are inevitable, a lot of people would like to minimise them.

So talk of planning the route has been coming up again and again. Actually since the first extra specially promoted June 2003 Massive Mass, this idea was talked about. Generally the consensus has been to stick to wide roads with enough lanes [last year it was 3 lanes in our direction] needed to move that many people. In none of the years has the route actually stuck to the wide roads. Always we've gone on one lane streets. Last year we even split into 2 to cross the Lions Gate Bridge/go to the beach.

So, what are we going to do this year? We could easily get almost 3000 riders if the weather cooperates and we all work to bring the friends we know. Last year we had some meetings of people interested in promoting and organising for the ride. This year those should happen and I will post dates ASAP here on my blog when I hear about them. There is likely to be a lot of discussion of this on the velolove discussion list, which is open to all Critical Mass riders/interested parties to join. This is not the official government of Critical Mass of course, as this is a diverse event requiring organisation by all who attend [by corking, by riding and talking to others...] So there will be other groups organising for June besides the listserv. Please sign up though if you are interested!

On the issue of planning a route: In San Francisco the idea of the ride is Xerocracy where people interested photocopy a route map for the ride, distribute it, and the best plan wins by being taken by those who show up. Also the ride might change or be a hybrid, as one would expect. There are liable to be problems if the route about a suggested fun plan and instead becomes an enforced limiting parade route. Because, of course, BIKES ARE TRAFFIC, and that is one of the agreed upon points of unity that is Critical Mass - there should be more bikes and more space for them. We are not riding to be a special event parade only, because [as much as we love the Pride Parade and that is a good Vancouver event to aspire to] we are about the use of the very space we ride on - our public streets - and we want there to be a change there everyday. Bikes should not be marginal - as they are now - subject to the dangerous whims of whomever happens to be driving. Roads need to be shared, and sadly, cars just aren't safe to share space with soft sexy cycling bodies.

There is a great movie called We Are Traffic by Ted White which gets into the history of SF CM and the fight between the SF Mayor and the cyclists of that city when the ride was very big. You can see it on Google Video - and you should if you haven't already!

In Vancouver I don't know of any ride where the route has been pre-planned before the event. The closest I have seen is rides where we agree on a destination [such as the ANZA club for a Worklessparty] of a point to pass by [a bridge or maybe a squat]. On the June rides some riders have aspired to being at the front and guiding the mass towards larger roads and away from single lanes. There were even some with radios doing that last year. The results I think all can agree were mixed success [in planning, the rides were great fun success]. It seems people are quite keen on that spontaneity you get from having the route be determined by who happens to be at the front. I do hear complaints when people at the front get indecisive and we stop not deciding which way to go - and the riders at the back are confused. In the June ride the Massiveness changes things. I was trying to get to the front of the ride just so I could see it all pass me by last year - but I was unable - it was just too big a ride. That was inspiring, but also would have been annoying if I had wanted to contribute to deciding the route [luckily I didn't want to].

So, some of the ideas I have talked about with other riders for this year are:
  • Having 'float' decorated/music group bicycle lead the route. Something like the Santa sled/pumpkin chariot we have used in other hears. Or something like the pedalplay pedalsound chariot we had in 2004. Personally I would like to have 3 of these: at the back front and middle of the ride to serve as focal points and to lead the route on a planned/flexible route. Maybe we could even split the mass into 3 and then come back together! I would favour a map/route that was made by anyone who was interested contributing beforehand. These floats would have to be made. I personally like making things like that, and could give people tips on steering design. However, I could only possibly make one, and need help with even that. Maybe other people would be keen? Check out the Human Powered Vehicle Contest for some ideas.
  • Approaching the city and working with them somehow. We are already working with the city and using the city streets. Also we do not want to have a parade that is not traffic. So the question is how would we work with the city and what would we ask of them? I am all in favour of cooperation, but we also have to realise that what we've got is a system by and for car use - so we do have to have some conflict to change that. Also, who would speak to the city and how - obviously some negotiation is in order. It seems the city might still be in the dark ages of requiring some kind of authoritarian structure over the Mass in order to negotiate - liability ideas... - and that is not critical mass. We choose to cooperate but not to have bosses. Anyways, this city idea is not my proposal, so I should let people who are in favour of it speak for themselves and say no more except - join the velolove email list to join the conversation!
  • Asking the police that show up to show up on bicycles instead of cars/motorbikes to be more cooperative with us. This has been a position I have held for years for all rides. Pretty much the only time the police are highly visible is the June ride, so it makes to say this for then.
  • Some people were talking about us promoting helmet use in order to negotiate and get support from other groups for Critical Mass. Personally, I do promote Helmet use, it is a good idea. But I object to criminalising biking by saying that we must wear helmet's to protect ourselves from cars. And having the police apply this arbitrarily - mostly to the disadvantaged such as homeless cyclists. Not wearing a helmet is stupid, I definitely agree. But, the legal application of that is wrong while we have subsidised highway expansion!
  • Splitting the Mass into smaller masses, by... well there are lots of ideas. Different meeting places or destinations... Riding in small groups then converging into one giant mass. It can be a very beautiful vision but would require serious co-ordination which might not work. Some people advocate this as a way to close down the entire car monopoly zone of the city for a while - a reclaim the streets spontaneous car free day party! Some advocate this idea as a way of being nicer to motorists to be less intrusive in their driving lives. I don't know what would happen.
This issue reminds me of my own experience at the WTO and FTAA "protests." At the WTO there were all these little affinity groups that would occupy different intersections. It felt very organised because each small grouping had some kind of structure and organisation so that people could communicate. And the idea of all these groups working together was inspiring. Whereas, at the FTAA in Quebec city, all the little groups joined into one big marching mass. And in my expereince we got lost in the mass and groups didn't stay organised so it was like just a general anonymous mass instead of the feeling of togetherness (that I like at CM). So this example isn't exactly like CM, we aren't really such a protest and we want to avoid conflict... But that is the idea that makes me like the splitting up plan. But also, at the WTO the plan was successful because we had a clear objective - blockading the conference centre. Our objective is more subtle, to temporarily occupy space and includes all sorts of other things, like fun.
So, those are some ideas, not all mine, and you surely have more. So, lets talk about it this Friday and also over the next two months. And, somebody please call an open meeting for interested parties to talk about this over the next few weeks and then tell me or just post it up here!

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