[*BCM*] Fwd: [massbike] Open letter to the Cycling Community
shane at massbike.org
Mon Jul 28 15:14:25 EDT 2008
Just so you all know, things that get posted on the MassBike mailing list
should not be considered the "official opinion" of MassBike. They are the
opinions of each individual person that posts to that list.
From: bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org
[mailto:bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org] On Behalf Of
Sent: Monday, July 28, 2008 2:57 PM
To: Boston Critical Mass
Subject: Re: [*BCM*] Fwd: [massbike] Open letter to the Cycling Community
I have never been able to ride with CM but have been around and aware of its
existence since I lived in San Francisco when it started. But this open
letter, however well-intentioned, fails to understand the organic and
unstoppable nature of the mass, not to mention the loosely-defined "cycling
community." I will make every effort to participate in the next Critical
On Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 2:15 PM, john saylor <js0000 at gmail.com> wrote:
this was just posted on mass-bike. i do not agree with his conclusion.
maybe some people here will speak back ...
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Thomas A. Fine
Date: Mon, Jul 28, 2008 at 2:08 PM
Subject: [massbike] Open letter to the Cycling Community
To: MassBike GoogleList <massbike at googlegroups.com>
Critical Time for Critical Mass
An Open letter to the Cycling Community
This is a good time to be a cyclist. Cycling has been on the upswing for
years now, even decades. Cycling for both recreation and transportation
are becoming more mainstream. With increasing gas prices, we've lately
been graced with with scores of feel-good cycling stories.
And then there's Critical Mass.
We all know what Critical Mass is, and we're all vaguely familiar with
the idea of it. In theory, cycling will succeed if cars get used to
sharing the streets.
But all too often, theory does not meet reality. We've all seen the
news stories. They focus on arrests, on illegal acts by cyclists and
drivers, even violence. Yes, only a few Critical Mass rides wind up like
this, but lets face it - when was the last time you read a positive
story about Critical Mass?
The time for debate is over. One might argue that not all of these
rides are bad. One might argue the details of the news stories, and
their bias against cyclists. To those who will inevitably quibble over
such things: stop! Stop looking at the trees, and take look at the
forest we've grown. It's a forest of bad press for cyclists. A forest
of animosity from the general public towards cyclists.
In the mind of the general public, the phrase "Critical Mass" brings to
mind images of thugs and bullies. Critical Mass supporters can deny
that this is what Critical Mass rides are all about. But they can
hardly deny that this linkage now exists in the minds of the public.
We can not continue to make progress in acceptance of cycling as long
as we have a steady stream of bad press and animosity arising
apparently from within our own community. So we must remove the source
from our community.
Some could argue that we could work to redeem the Critical Mass rides.
But it's a fool's errand. The time and effort it would take to redeem
those two words would be far better spent building new institutions
that will serve us into the future.
So, the time has come for the majority of cyclists to stand up and speak,
and divorce ourselves from the embarrassment that Critical Mass has
become. Critical Mass must be denounced in the strongest of language.
Within the community, we must make it clear that these rides are no
longer in fashion. And outside the community, we must make it clear
that these people do not represent us. They are not us. They are not
There are those who will insist that it is wrong to be critical of
Critical Mass, because cyclists should stick together and not turn
on each other. Tolerance within a community is a wonderful value
which can in many cases strengthen the community. But, in case this
is not completely obvious, tolerance can not apply to that which
This is not to say that a group ride is not a viable political tool.
Far from it. But the nature of these rides must change substantially.
There is a growing number of "Courteous Mass" rides (by that name, or
others) throughout the country. Such rides focus on following the
laws, and courteously sharing the roads. Perhaps a defining
characteristic of these rides is that they are NOT ad hoc, guerilla
affairs. There is an actual real organization, willing to accept
responsibility for these rides.
To the many good-hearted cyclists who have proudly participated in
Critical Mass rides in the past, thank you for your efforts in
trying to do something to promote cycling. Please try to recognize
the problems that exist in these rides today, and the damage that they
are doing to our reputation. And then let go of your emotional
attachment to the ride, and cast it off, as you would the shirt you
once loved, until you finally realized how dorky it looked.
Here are the specific actions the cycling community should take:
1. The name "Critical Mass" should now be dead to the cycling
community. It is too tainted to be of any use to us now. Do not use
it for a ride you organize. Do not participate in rides which are
called by this name.
2. Publicly denounce all future Critical Mass rides, and all those who
participate in them. We each should individually speak out, but more
importantly, cycling organizations should speak out, issuing press
release stating opposition to these rides whenever the need arises.
3. All rides, and especially those with a political message or a goal
of promoting cycling, must be sponsored. There must be some individual
or organization who is willing to take responsibility for the ride,
for setting the rules, for enforcing the rules, and for issuing statements
to the press.
4. All group rides should ride in a lawful manner, and in a respectful
manner. Large groups must manage their numbers such that they meld
as seamlessly with other traffic as is possible.
5. Ride organizers must be prepared to handle unruly drivers. These
things will happen, and they must be handled responsibly, in cooperation
with the police. Make no attempts to detain unruly drivers, even if they
have clearly committed a crime. Document incidents as well as possible,
with witness statements, license plate numbers, driver descriptions,
and photographs and video if possible.
6. Ride organizers must be prepared to handle unruly cyclists. If
cyclists are riding with you but not following the rules laid down,
or are being disruptive or disrespectful, ask them to leave your
group. If they refuse to leave your ride, you may choose to call the
police to stop their harassing behavior. Alternatively, you can
simply end your ride. This may feel like "losing", but in reality
it is maintaining the control you desire over the character of your
ride. It is a clear demonstration that some behaviors will not be
tolerated, and it deprives troublemakers of their power.
Thomas A. Fine
\js [ http://or8.net/~johns/ <http://or8.net/%7Ejohns/> ]
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