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!


Hallowe'en Critical Mass 2008

Hey Wow ---

I just realised (updating my email sig) that the last Friday of October, Critical Mass, falls exactly on the 31st!

This is going to be FUN!!!

Start planning your costumes now. (Try and make them so you can see out of them too.)

PS: Please try and lobby David Rees to put this video on his blog!?

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Pedal-power Channel pioneer is beaten by a breeze

hmm... maybe the guy didn't succeed because he thought it was a totally unnecessary project? This kind of simple/elegant technology is very advanced and actually what we really need. Maybe they should try with hydrogen? Obviously it's pretty impractical right now but it doesn't have to be if we make more than one flight every 10 years. Hybrid power? Scale? See the White Dwarf for a previous effort.

After FusionMan's jet wing, a homemade airship attempts the crossing

Balloonist Stephane Rousson pedals his airship out over the English Channel

Balloonist Stephane Rousson pedals his airship out over the English Channel. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty images

It had started in near-perfect conditions just after 8am, when Stephane Rousson and his blimp floated a few feet into the air and - with a slight wobble - set off on a record-breaking attempt to cross the Channel in a pedal-powered airship.

But a few hours later, a shift in the wind left the 39-year-old Frenchman becalmed, hovering 10 metres above the waves in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. However hard he pedalled, he was unable to make progress and was forced to admit defeat. Just after lunchtime yesterday, Rousson deflated his airship and continued to France in his support team's boat.

"We were about three-quarters of the way across but the wind was flowing in the wrong direction for me to make it across," he said from France. "I'm not disappointed. I feel happy because it had nothing to do with any technical failure, it was purely the wind that got in the way of this achievement ... The success is not with me, but I have had so much fun. My legs are a little bit burnt and I'm sure tomorrow I will be feeling a little sad, but I'll have a few beers."

The French adventurer, who described the trip as "both totally unnecessary and a very eloquent statement on human nature", had set off from Hythe in Kent in bright sunshine.

He was accompanied by two support boats and had hoped the 28-mile journey to Wissant in France would take about five hours. The team had banked on wind-free conditions but just after 1pm a light breeze blew up, halting his progress.

"Unfortunately there was nothing to suggest from the weather forecasts that there was going to be this change in the direction of the wind," said Rousson, who had been forced to abandon a previous attempt in June because of strong winds.

Yesterday's failed attempt followed a successful flight across the Channel on Friday when the Swiss adventurer Yves Rossy, 49, took just 13 minutes to fly solo across the sea using a single jet-powered wing.

Rossy, nicknamed FusionMan, had flung himself out of a plane 2,500 metres (8,200ft) above Calais and fired up four jet turbines on his carbon fibre wing which propelled him towards the white cliffs of Dover and a place in the record books.

Rousson, who had swapped good luck messages with FusionMan, said that his attempt to cross the Channel in his homemade airship had consumed the past five years of his life, costing him his relationship with his girlfriend, Louise, whose name adorned the airship.

He had been waiting for more than a month for a day when no wind was forecast. During his preparations he said that even the gentlest breeze would be enough to blow him off course: "What feels breathlessly still to most people feels like a storm when you're trying to fly a pedal-powered airship."

But he said he had no regrets about taking on the challenge, which had been inspired by the film ET and Gossamer Albatross, the first pedal-powered plane to cross the Channel in 1979.

"When I was young, I saw the movie and watched the little guy pedalling on a bike flying in front of the moon with ET. I always wanted to fly," he said.

Rousson's airship has bicycle-powered propellers slung beneath a helium balloon, giving an average speed of about 8mph. The adventurer sat below the balloon in a fibreglass gondola.

During the flight, all that stopped Rousson's "zeppy" from floating off course was an anchor trailing below. If that failed there was a dagger, for puncturing the balloon, on the pilot's seat.

Speaking from France yesterday Rousson said it was too early to say whether he would make another attempt at the crossing.

"All my money has gone into achieving this over the past five years," he said.

"I'm quite a bit in debt. If I found a lot of money I would definitely try again but I don't have a large budget at the moment. I have had such fun. I have just spent almost eight hours pedalling and I have done my best to make this achievement happen."

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Critical Mass This Friday!

5:30pm at the VAG.

Check velolove list for theme ideas.

And remember to respect and encourage pedestrians who are very much our allies and why we need to have car-free environments.

PS: word of the day - ROAD OPEN! The typical description of a street reclaimation, Road Closed, is excessively car-centric and highly inaccurate in describing the multifarious ways in which stopping road use that can't share--- allows diverse and expanded public road use and safety. Besides, to say a road is closed to cars is to ignore the basic fact that there are at least 50 alternate routes that a driver could take a car to get to the same place --- we do live in a city where every single building usually has two roads for cars built right to the front and back doors.



Last Minute Vision Vancouver Nomination

Hey, if you have a Vision Membership you should go Vote Today at Tupper School before 7 pm.

I'm not going to get into all the politics -- except I'm very glad to say that COPE/Green/Vision formed an alliance. CM is of course not a formal organisation and these recommendations are in no way representative of anything but my own (Rusl's) opinion. If people have voting recommendations for COPE or Green or even the NPA please write comments or possibly submit a whole post. I'm not really up to date on everything around the city but I have been following the Vision race a bit through some people I know. Also if you have more Vision suggestions/disagreements please make them in the comments. Politics is messy business, and it requires lots of discussion/being wrong/mess!

OK, apparently you have to vote for an entire Vision Slate otherwise your ballot (for the nomination) is considered spoiled. I disagree with that policy but anyway...

I don't know enough about everyone to make a full slate recommendation. If you do - make it!

OK finally: I've got 4 specific recommendations to make and will let you choose the rest. These are all based on bike/car-free thinking:

Rusl thinks it would behoove you to vote for (nominate) these people:

City Council:
David Eby - PIVOT Legal (Homelessness, DTES issues) guy, he helped arrange our use of their space for the Bicycle Bee event and also has publically said he thinks that things like CM are good and important for our city.
Andrea Reimer - famously Green, and Carmen Mills, the queen of Vancouver Car-Free Commercial Drive festival/ Momentum founder/ longtime bike community engine, is her campaign manager.

Parks Board:

Rob Wynen - longtime CM activist (since the 90s) and solid car-free advocate as part of West End Residence Association.
Sarah Blyth - Skateboard advocate and Momentum Magazine contributer.

Of course there are tons of good people I've missed including also in other parties, please write comments if you have ideas.

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Most trips into downtown core don't include car

Really interesting story buried on page B7. Not exactly overnight news but probably of more long term social importance than just about any other story. Cars are our religion.

What would really be interesting is to pair this information with a count of lanes/space allocated to getting downtown. One could use Google Earth and some public statistics that could probably found online. We would count the road width and then measure the proportion of that devoted to car-only (or car mostly) lanes, vs bike lanes, bus lanes sidewalk. Of course we'd have to count the seabus and skytrain... Not sure how to weight those. Ideally by number of people moved somehow. The long and the short of it would be then to juxtapose the high numbers of people shunning cars to get downtown and the low number of space devoted to transporting said masses. Pretty simple argument and irrefutable. Could be really compelling if done in a graphical way that is quick to read. Maybe someone with funding for this sort of education might want to take this on such as BEST and make it really slick. Could be a great tool for this upcoming municipal election.

 from BIKECULT: Using Trick Photography, General Electric's 1939 Magazine Advertisment Showed a Trolley and a Car in Proportion to the Amount of Road Space Each Occupied Per Passenger.

It's finally time to turn over a new leaf and walk at least part of the way to work.

You can drive part of the way and walk the rest or combine walking and transit. You will burn calories. You will not pollute. You will feel a bit smug.

And this month there will be thousands like you -- burned by high gas prices, frustrated by traffic congestion, given the finger once too often - tramping to work in the morning mist.

Evidence is ample that the revolution has already come to the City of Vancouver. Most trips in the downtown area (60 per cent) include walking or a combination of transit, cycling or walking. City-wide the figure is about 37 per cent. Outside Vancouver proper the news is not as good. Only 18 per cent of trips include walking, cycling or transit and only four per cent of commutes are by foot alone.

The growth of regional town centres, which combine commercial and high-density residential development, in Surrey, the Coquitlams, Burnaby and Maple Ridge should improve that figure as people begin to live and work in the same neighbourhood.

But if you live in the low-density suburban sprawl that characterizes much of Metro Vancouver there is a good chance you are using your car for nearly every trip you make. Hey, it's quick it's easy and the car is sitting right there in the driveway.

Changing your ways will not be easy.

If you are living a fast-paced, tightly scheduled, highly programmed family life with kids and work and you want to walk more you will have to do less.

If you want to leave smaller environmental footprints, start by getting the kids to school without your car.

Crosby, Stills and Nash suggested that you Teach your children well. You had better try setting a good example, because Lord knows they don't listen.

The B.C. Automobile Association is urging parents to stop driving their kids to school, especially if they live within a few blocks. If it really is too far for the little tykes to walk -- unlikely -- drop your kids a few blocks from school and let them hoof it.

"They will burn a few calories before they get to school and it will be much safer around the school for all the kids," said David Dunne, a spokesman for the BCAA traffic safety foundation.

Ironically, parents driving children to school are the biggest safety threat to school-aged children and all the traffic and idling just ensures that all the children will be breathing in exhaust fumes right before heading to class.

"The congestion around schools poses a tremendous risk to those kids who are trying to get to school in a more responsible way," he said.

Most schools have no parking and no stopping zones around school grounds to deter parents who insist on picking up and dropping off as close to the front door as possibly. Administrators who try to stop parents from ignoring the rules often face anger and abuse, Dunne said.

"There's an element of stranger danger for sure driving these parents' behaviour," said Dunne.

If you are a nervous type, walk with your kids. Better yet, get your kids organized with neighbourhood friends to walk to school together.

"Really what drives a lot of it is convenience," he said. "It's just easier to throw the kids in the car, drop them off and get on with your day."

Car convenience is such an unshakable myth. It comes from the fact that by driving you are working with "the system" instead of against it.... Ah well, a whole other topic entirely!


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How about a "Positive" Mass Bike Ride?

Well, the headline had me worried, but it's actually a really thoughtful article, and a nice public part of the ongoing open CM discussion. [~rusl]
By Devon Bates
Changes are going to come to the mass bike ride tradition either from the inside or the outside with security on the way with the Police and Fire games in 2009

I cycle past Union Market in Strathcona and the creeping growth of condos to downtown five days a week. I keep my eyes peeled for the bleary eyed, the aggressive, the late, or those who are all of the above. I signal my intentions with my left arm, though many drivers of cars neglect to return the courtesy. On the Adanac/Union bike route alone, I've seen many drivers looking over only one shoulder as they barely slow down for the stop signs. It’s frustrating, it’s frightening, it’s maddening and I can fully understand where the anger and righteousness of some cyclists comes from.

And some car drivers are getting pretty angry and righteousness too. People are dividing themselves along lines where no lines need to be. Kevin Potvin wrote an article in The Republic, issue 192, where he compared riders in Critical Mass with the hosts of CKNW and the many pro-car callers to its shows. He noted that both groups seemed to demonize "the other" in similar ways particularly when it comes to the Critical Mass Bike Ride that starts at the Art Gallery the last Friday of each month at 5 PM. Although I believe that most who attend are there for socializing as opposed to confrontation, I see what Potvin was getting at: both pro-Critical Mass and pro-car people “encourage the further withering of empathy increasingly rampant throughout an alarming range of policy debates."

I've been thinking about the rides and what the next step should be. It's obvious that there are problems associated with Critical Mass and to ignore these problems is foolish. It's like continuously putting off a serious discussion with a spouse as things deteriorate but the situation has not yet led to shouting matches. These feelings can be left to fester—until there is nothing but fighting and then no happy resolution. Or things can be proactively discussed before they deteriorate.

Critical Massers could try to live in denial about this problem and continue on as before because the Critical Mass Bike Ride cannot simply be "called off" for any one month as there is no one group or individual directing the movement. The rides will continue as they have, at least for a little while, because Critical Mass cannot simply be stopped. Critical Mass has become a tradition. As I witnessed with last month's "renegade" Illuminares, a community's popular traditions need no central organization for gatherings to continue to take place.

Critical Massers may believe rides can continue as they have, but given that the 2010 Olympics is on its way, as well as the rapidly approaching 2009 World Police & Fire Games that will likely have Vancouver witness the real beginning of increased security measures, I consider it very unlikely that the ride will be allowed to continue as it has. There are powerful people who have a lot to lose if this area doesn't look like "The Best Place on Earth" when the time comes, and they will stop at nothing to make it appear so. We the cyclists on the inside who get it can try to transform the vibe and direction of the ride, or outsiders will change it for us, or even shut it down. That’s the real choice.

Increasing restriction of social freedoms receives less disapproval from the general public if "valid reasons" can be provided (like public safety), and a little bit of half-truth and omission goes farther than outright lies. If images of drunken jerks starting fights with motorists, or frustrated drivers "just trying to get home" get stuck in a street full of cyclists, are played up by those opposed to the ride, it won't matter that most of the cyclists were well behaved, smiling, and considerate. Jerky behaviour and the general inconvenience of others plays into the hands of those who wish to discredit the ride who could point to those examples as an excuse to shut down the ride for the sake of "public order." Critical Mass has been fun and it has brought people together, but if things stay as they are the future is not bright. But by conducting the ride in a more respectful way, the likelihood of its continuation is increased.

Simple tit for tat solves nothing. Although there are white people who are racist towards non-white people, all non-white people do not have the right to be racist to all white people. I believe that although there are motorists who are disrespectful towards cyclists, all cyclists do not have the right to be disrespectful to all motorists.

I have seen cliquey behaviour from some people during the rides (like openly making fun of American Appareled teens who thought the ride was "cool" and tried jogging along), which made we wonder: Is Critical Mass to become an exclusive club, two wheels good, four wheels bad? Or do we want the "sheeple" to actually consider commuting by bicycle as a viable option? The end result of the bicycle movement should be a reduction in personal fossil fuel usage whenever and wherever possible, not a feeling of moral superiority because we "get it" while others don't.

It's important that we maintain the monthly tradition of a big group of strangers coming together to show a mass bike ride is a lot of fun. The monthly Critical Mass ride offers very important elements for building and maintaining a healthy community. It is potentially a message to younger generations that exercise can be enjoyable instead of a chore, and it is an experience not limited by age group or economic status. It is important to preserve these aspects of the ride, but how?

As a sociodynamic term, "critical mass" refers to sufficient momentum for a social system to become self-sustaining. It is a tipping point. But if there is no thoughtful pro-activity, I worry Critical Mass may become a tipping point for new restrictive by-laws and enforcement crackdowns (like the rush-hour bike helmet crackdown this June, for example), instead of a paradigm shifting event.

A major part of the problem may be our criticism. Can’t we be less critical, and more positive? Why not start something like the Positive Mass Bike Ride?

As a scientific term, "positive mass" is mass that attracts more mass, i.e. the opposite of negative mass or anti-matter. Why not try to attract the masses to the mass instead of alienating them?

I don't know how Positive Mass would manifest but it would need a strong educational component. Too often inquisitive drivers receive only answers like "It's Critical Maaassssss!" as a cyclist passes. It will also be difficult (but vital) to maintain a general inclusiveness while avoiding the head-trips of jerks who'll use any group setting as a place to be jerks. I'm not sure how to combine the messages of avoiding motor vehicle dependence, sticking together as a group, and maintaining the joyous feeling of spontaneity, while not blocking others just doing their thing (albeit doing so with a petroleum-fuelled motor). But I think it's worth trying.


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