Approaching Critical Mass
Critical Mass is simply a gathering. The motto is, We Are Traffic.
Until that slogan makes sense to everyone in the city, Critical Mass
is sorely needed.
Critical Mass is not a fuck you. It's not much of a protest either. It
is a direct action to change the use of space. It is short lived. And
it works best when it is a celebration and not antagonism.
It's disheartening to hear people who have ridden on the mass yet feel
still so beholden to the city of cars that they think riding together
is impolite, impolitical or otherwise pushing for too much. It's a
pretty pathetic standard of accomplishment if at the first sign of
progress we give up.
Let's be clear. This city is still built for cars which, when used
properly, kill pedestrians and our environment. There is a lot of lip
service from the city and other levels of government about cycling
now. Advertisers and private interests now like to fly the flag of
cycling. Cycling is photogenic. Supposedly pedestrian and cycle use of
the city streets is the priority. Every day there are 50-200 more cars
(depending on the numbers you use) added to the total in the lower
mainland. 95% of all the bike facilities in the city, even the new
ones, would be pointless if there were not cars - in other words, they
are car facilities that allow the existance of bikes (meagrely) more
than they are actual facilities to help cyclists. The city is
currently installing pedestrian push buttons at major intersections so
that the timing of lights can exclude pedestrian crossing if the
button is not pushed. This is a major downgrading of pedestrian
priority yet the funding for this is the "pedestrian improvement"
There is lots to fight about and for. We have not won. We have small
gains. When we have won we will know because Critical Mass will be
enjoyed universally as it should be - the haters will no longer be
voicing their old old same old story that biking alone or in a mass is
wrong on our public streets.
That said, strategy is good. Cleverness is good. Now is the time to
improve Critical Mass if we can. Or change to suit the city as it
changes. It would be nice if we could mass in Surrey and Langley and
pretty much everywhere but downtown Vancouver. But that's a hard sell
to those who enjoy the current ride in the current favourable
location. We should be creative and try bike in bike lanes. Why not.
We can figure out fun ways to do these things. I've always thought it
would be fun to ride around the non-arterial bike routes on a mass.
And it would be satisflying to displace some of the cars that overuse
those routes (Heather Street!?). We should express support for city
policies we like. Giving up or apologising for being there is not the
answer and will never be. People advocating that, especially those
saying that there is some new condition that makes it imperative that
we stop, are using the same old argument that bikes don't belong. If
you are a cyclist and think that cyclists gathering to cycle together
is offensive in some way - then you are simply self loathing. It's
hard not to feel that way. The street in front of your house is built
for cars first and if you get killed riding your bike there it is your
own fault. We can change this. Patience is good. If you think there
are parts of Critical Mass that you don't like, that are not just
people gathering to cycle, that convey hostility, etc. Then change
Critical mass will continue. It would be better if those critical of
it are included and help it grow. As long as we start from a place of
respect: That we all belong here in our city and in our streets. We
will continue to roll forward.
Take care and take the lane,
Of all forms of caution, caution in love is the most fatal.