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« Cleaning up the Critical Mess | Main | You only know if you’ve been there, and done that »

Critical Mass: Stop now before someone dies

There were two serious Critical Mass incidents last Friday evening; one in New York, and one in Seattle. In New York City a cop was video-recorded knocking a cyclist from his bike, later the video appeared on U-Tube.

The incident in Seattle, I think is far more serious, but it has been overshadowed by the one in New York. I wasn't in Seattle so I don't know the details or who started it, but the facts appear to be that a car had its windows smashed, tires were slashed and the driver was attacked.

If someone runs over a cyclist by either by accident or deliberately, he can be prevented from leaving the scene until the police arrive. However, it is not okay to vandalize his car and hit him over the head with a U-lock; this is mob violence of the worst kind.

Critical Mass in the US needs to cease, it no longer serves any useful purpose. If there are more incidents like the one in Seattle, eventually someone is going to die. If a member of the public is beaten to death by a mob of angry cyclists, there will be a backlash against all cyclists, the like of which I find hard to even imagine.

There are enough people out there with a strong dislike even a hatred for cyclists, one that is bubbling just beneath the surface; the death of what would be perceived as an innocent citizen, and no cyclist would be safe anywhere in the US. It would be open season for bike riders on our roads.

The problem with Critical Mass is that it has no organization; it is a spontaneous form of protest. The danger is, with no one responsible for the behavior of individuals, violence can become just as spontaneous.

If no one is responsible, then everyone is responsible. It is time to protest against Critical Mass, to urge people not to participate. The idea has run its course and is no longer valid. It is no longer cool to be a part of a lawless mob that disrupts the normal way of life, pisses people off, and worst of all perpetrates violence.

I could maybe have a little more sympathy for the New York cyclist if he was not taking part in a Critical Mass ride, not my favorite organization. (Or rather disorganization.) I could also have a little more sympathy if it were not for the Seattle incident.

What I saw on the U-Tube video before the cyclist was taken down was a large group of cyclists taking up the entire street unnecessarily; they could have made the same point using half the street. What I saw after was no different from what I can see any evening on the TV program “Cops.”  People suspected of wrongdoing are knocked down and handcuffed all the time.

I keep reading wonderful things about New York City and the efforts they are making to accommodate cyclists. I am left to wonder what are these people protesting against, when NYC is really trying to improve the cyclist's lot.

Do you think maybe that same thought was going through the cop’s mind, just before he took out the cyclist?


Reader Comments (36)

Dave, I hear you on some of the points about how Critical Mass has reached a bloated for of irrelevancy in some areas.

Your penultimate sentence got me thinking, since yes, here in NYC there are vast improvements to bicycle infrastructure.

But the thing is, that Critical Mass isn't a protest. It can be framed as such, but really, it's an unorganized group ride celebrating bicycles, and asserting the right to the street.

And in New York, for the past four years - ever since 200 people were arrested by unforeseen police actions (using nets to make mass arrests!) - Critical Mass has experienced quite a bit of police brutality. Of false, unlawful arrests, of unprovoked violence... four years.

And yes, it's not the same kind of police brutality that other populations experience. It's worthwhile to keep that in mind.

But it still something. A sticking point - that, if NYC is so bike-friendly, why the police violence?

The answer is that it's the Dept of Transportation who are, in part, bike friendly. The NYPD are not, and CM is still struggling with that - on the last Friday of every month, and in legal battles, and having to put up with infiltration, surveillance, and harassment. Despite court orders demanding that the NYPD stop.

The Seattle incident is pretty disgusting. I think it's important to realize that CM is a different event in every different city. In some places, it's a really awesome group ride, a high-spirits party parade. In other places, apparently, it's an idiotfest, with too many people still entertaining fantasies of u-lock justice.

That said, I've read several different accounts of the Seattle incident, and it's possible that the driver deliberately rode into a group of cyclists. Which is never excusable, though of course doesn't legitimize action taken by the riders.

Food for thought.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterentropy

Critical Mass and being part of a lawless mob has never been cool IMO. Deliberately causing gridlock only brings negative attention to cycling, and more laws to restrict cycling. As for it being disorganized, I highly doubt it in most cases. Someone or some group sets the date, place, puts up the flyers, makes the phone calls, etc.

The antidote to lawless behavior is always more "laws" to restrict the freedom of all of us, is that what we want?

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRichmond Roadie

Bicycles are vehicles and should be treated as such. What would happen if a group of automobiles decided to do their own "Critical Mass?" Tow trucks Sir, tow trucks -- thousands of them.

I bicycle to work all year, I ride well over 8,000 miles annually and do bicycle tours and the way MOST bike riders treat the vehicle code and their responsibilities make me sick. Whenever I suggest (to a group) that they consider following the vehicle code I get shouted down and told to go back to my car (what car?) -- or move to another country.

We are our own Worst Enemy. San Francisco's Critical Mass has a horrible reputation -- which is well earned. I would never participate in such and the possibility that it's going to drive someone "over the edge" -- causing mass casualties -- is very accurate.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

Dave, I think you're being a bit hard on the guy who got knocked off his bike. It's not his fault the ride was "taking up the entire street unnecessarily". Furthermore, is it necessary when cars take up the entire street? Should his punishment for taking up more than his share of space be getting knocked off his bike and thrown in jail? Should people who drive cars that are unnecessarily large get the same punishment? They are taking up too much space too.

You post today made me think of your post yesterday (which I really loved, by the way). You know, the one titled "You only know if you’ve been there, and done that".


July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJim N

I'm not usually one to defend Critical Mass, I also think it's past it's prime at this point.

However, to say NYC is making an large effort to accommodate cyclists is a bit of a stretch. Bike lanes are unpoliced, meaning they're simply parking lanes for cops, limos, and delivery guys. The bike infrastructure seems largely unplanned, and people on bikes are still second class citizens. So yes, there is still reason to protest.

Also, please watch the you-tube video again. Bicyclist presenting no threat to cop. Cop attacks bike. That definitely not within the bounds of a reasonable response, especially given that the police officer lied after the incident. Siding with this particular cop doesn't mean that the next lying, violent cop won't be after you for a perceived slight.

The Seattle incident was kicked off by the driver running over several people on bikes, in reverse, and then attempting to leave the scene, with someone still on his hood. There's multiple eyewitness accounts of this out there for you to read.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy


I was at critical mass, and I was about 20 feet behind Mr. Long when Officer Pogan tackled him. I don't care what you think about critical mass --- the officer's behavior was unacceptable. Imagine Mr. Long was driving a car: would it be ok for the officer to crash his cruiser into Long's vehicle for (at worst) a minor traffic offense? Don't blame the victim, because there was nothing this man did to deserve this.

Not only were the officer's actions unacceptable, he later swore to lies to cover his behavior. Why would an officer do this? Because he thought he could get away with it. You must not live in NYC if you don't know this: ever since Giuliani, cops in NYC are untouchable. Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, or 200 cyclists at the RNC.

Having said that, I can't be a reader of your blog any more.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternickjohnson

Obviously, the cop has to be fired. His actions were the same as I would have been tempted to do, If I was in his place. I agree with you, that sooner or later, someone is going to get killed. Unfortunatly, it will probably be someone not associated with critical mass, but just some rider who had the bad luck to be ahead of someone who was stuck behind a critical mass "demonstration".

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGrump

I finally saw the NY incident this morning via the net and while I am totally against Critical Mass, the officers actions were way out of line. Why he picked the one rider is unclear and as you state Dave, what he was thinking we will never know. No matter..he could have stopped him in other ways.

Here in San Francisco, as one poster already mentioned, Critical Mass is a huge joke. It is nothing but a bunch of lawless thugs looking to bring havoc to the streets every last Friday of the month. I'm a bike rider with seven bikes in my garage, but even I almost got into it with a group of riders who attempted to block a four lane street in San Francisco (two lanes each way). I informed the gents blocking my lane that two lanes for the direction they were riding were sufficient to cover their needs, but they felt compelled to block my lane by using their bikes as a obstruction. When I got out of my car and asked them to move their bikes, they simply told me to "get in the car, old man." Which I proceeded to do, but hastened to add that when I got into the car, I was going to move forward and their choice would be to move or not to move...didn't matter to me. They moved.

We have a right to the road, to be sure. But, we need to be smart about it. Pissing off people who drive will not make them sympathetic to our cause. And as I have said in the past, Critical Mass will NOT make drivers get out of their cars and ride bikes. Think when an idiot driver does something to slow us down while on our bikes...or blocks our path as mentioned by someone above. Does that endear those drivers to our hearts?

Critical Mass has become militant in what it does and at least here in SF, the city police has given way to let the riders do as they see fit. It truly is a recipe for a disaster.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermaltese falcon

The framing of CM as an event meant to *cause* traffic disruption is faulty. In many places it's simply a fun group ride.

And to James Thurber - cars have a Critical Mass every day, filling up my city's blocks all day long, idling, causing gridlock and preventing people on m ore sensible modes of transportation from getting anywhere fast. It's called Traffic. And it happens all the time here. Where are the tow trucks?

Man, I'm in a strange position. I'm not even defending Critical Mass, I'm just pointing out flaws in the attacks.

I must say, though, four years ago - before the NYPD made the decision to start their campaign of violence toward CM - it was just a fun ride. Such high spirits. So little antagonism. And the police - they held traffic while bikes passed.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterentropy

I am not a fan of Critical Mass. I think at this point the more constructive way to assert rights on the street is simply to use the streets with one's bike. Stop driving, ride your bike for commuting, errands, recreations, everything. 20%-30% more people on their bikes on the street on the regular basis is more effective than hundreds of cyclists (many of them don't ride in the city they participate CM in; for example, many cyclists from other parts of the Bay Area flow into San Francisco to participate in the monthly CM, but their bad behavior affect those of us who ride in the city everyday) blocking up the road for one day a month.

Having said that, I saw the clip on the cop attacking the cyclist in NYC and was sick to my stomach. That's lawlessness from the law-enforcing community, which cause people to lose confidence and trust in public servants. Worse, he tried to lie about it. I wish the court makes a severe example out of him for violating the trust and his duty to protect people. I am not against law enforcement agencies enforcing the traffic code during CM and hand out citation to those cyclists who do not obey the law (for example, there was another Youtube clip showing police in atlanta stopping cyclists for tickets); after all, those who break the law should expect consequences, even if they are protesting for a good cause. But there are a series of escalation, and what the officer did in NY was completely out of line.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterfranklyn


It's hard to understand how you can come out against lawless actions in Critical Mass (which I agree with) but not against the lawless actions of a policeman.

The officer singled out the cyclist arbitrarily from among hundreds of others, gave the rider no chance to obey a command to stop, and used far excessive violence than was required to take him down.

"People suspected of wrongdoing are knocked down and handcuffed all the time."

Even if the cyclist was breaking traffic laws, traffic violations are not offenses for which one is supposed to be handcuffed or arrested. Stopped and ticketed? Yes. Assaulted? No.

Think the cop was following proper procedures or that the cyclist "must have gotten what was coming to him"? Than why did the cop feel it necessary to lie in his sworn statement of the incident:


The cyclist ran into the officer, knocked him down, and injured him? Really?

"I could maybe have a little more sympathy for the New York cyclist if he was not taking part in a Critical Mass ride"
"Do you think maybe that same thought was going through the cop’s mind, just before he took out the cyclist?"

I could maybe agree more with this position if the cop's mental state were not so blatantly evident in the videotape and in his sworn statement.

There is no justification for an officer committing assault, falsifying charges, and perjuring himself.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterroomservicetaco

Critical Mass can be more about promoting confident riding instead of blocking traffic. Here in Rochester NY, we start our rides after 6:00pm when a lot of the commuters are already home for the weekend. We usually get a very positive response, and the police actually encourage us to ride. These rides are what got me into using a bike in the first place, so I'd be sad to see them stop.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Durand

In Seattle, a parallel parked driver became impatient while waiting for a gap in traffic (yes, cyclist traffic) and decided to run people over. That incident wasn't reported by the major news media until after the fact because running over a human with a vehicle is overshadowed by the vigilante justice dealt to the same hit and run motorist when he was caught two blocks away.

Anyway, CM can't be stopped in the US or anywhere else. The best option is to have the local police escort the demonstration like in Vancouver, BC or Portland, OR and defuse tense situations, such as impatient motorists late for dinner reservations. I know most government bureaucracies have trouble grasping the concept of escorting unplanned parade routes, but if you ask the government for permission and they deny you, that's not really freedom of assembly now is it?

CM scales to 80,000 riders in Budapest. Seattle can make it work with 200.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Here's a video of me apolgizing for getting caught crushing a fellow human being with my automobile. I sure hope the guy whose leg I ran over doesn't sue me.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMark

"I keep reading wonderful things about New York City and the efforts they are making to accommodate cyclists. I am left to wonder what are these people protesting against, when NYC is really trying to improve the cyclist's lot."

This is a matter of opinion and degrees. NYC is doing more, but not as much as the city could, and it is doing it slowly. It could be worse, of course, but there is a great deal of momentum in the city towards cars already built up from decades of traffic planning.

From the accounts I've read, the cyclist in Seattle was deliberately driven into by a driver. While mob action is not desirable, one does have, in the US, the right to self-defense.

The actions against the NYC Critical Mass are most likely intended to stop the rides. Before the Republican National Convention in 2004, Critical Mass was given very little attention by the police. On the eve of the convention, it suddenly rose very high on the NYPD's hit list, and has stayed there ever since.

As for me, I think Critical Mass is fun. On our rides we always let buses and emergency vehicles through. I celebrate the hopelessly overinflated American ego!

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave

That's crazy talk to say that we should stop Critical Mass in the US. I think that it's even more important because Americans are totally ignorant about we are destroying our environment and wasting precious resources. Perhaps It all starts at the top with GWB refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

What you proclaim is just as asinine as saying that guns and drugs should be banned because they're misused.

Do you own a ton of Exxon stock? Are you wanting to prevent the American people from rediscovering the bicycle to fatten your investment portfolio?

It's ridiculous to say that we should stop Critical Mass in the States. It's more important then ever!

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRay Beck

I must reiterate to all posters and to Dave that Critical Mass is different everywhere. Yes, in some cities it's a parade of assholes. In other cities - as in Adam Durand's experience - it's a really positive thing.

I've ridden them in small cities where a few dozen riders receive cheers from drivers of automobiles, from pedestrians, and nods from cops; where it gives people the confidence to ride their bicycle more and more; where it brings people together.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterentropy

Ray, no one is saying that it would not be better if people who drove gave up their cars a few times a week and rode a bicycle to work, but it just isn't going to happen. Certainly not in the numbers you might expect. However, check with your local bike shop and they will probably tell you that sales are up or that individuals are bringing in older bikes that haven't been used in years for tuneups. Some people will change, but not because of a once-a-month critical mass ride. It's the economy that will force them to change, as in rising gas prices. Anyone out there who thinks Critical Mass will get people out of cars and onto bikes (rather than into bikes) have been smoking too many rolled up Exxon stock certificates.

Critical mass should be disbanded....period.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermaltese falcon

I see the somewhat smallish CM ride in my city all the time. Can't miss them... they pass right under my apartment balcony. They seem well-behaved, and they only take up one side of the street, not both. Personally I don't find that what they do has any relevance for me as a more "serious" type of road cyclist. I don't have too many problems with drivers personally, but then, I seem like I may be the only cyclist in my city who stops at red lights,signals turns, etc., and who isn't a sidewalk jumper or a wrong-way charlie. I guess I shouldn't be judging people, but I can't help thinking that for many of the CM participants, it may actually be the only time they ride on a road in some kind of orderly, law-abiding manner.

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

Dave - I'm also not a fan of Critical Mass. But only because those participating tend to violate traffic laws and behave as if in a car-less carnival.

Having said that. Bikes ARE permitted in traffic in New York. If the bikes are not violating traffic laws, there is no excuse to ticket them, let alone ruthlessly knock a cyclist off his bike. Part of the protest ride is to demonstrate that tens of cyclists are killed each year in New York city streets by cars that violate traffic laws.

Furthermore, it is not as if pedestrians and vehicles are innocent. Any New Yorker who claims not to jaywalk (or cross against the light) on a regular basis is not a true New Yorker. The last jaywalking ticket was given out in the Giuliani administration (and, certainly, no police officer has decked a pedestrian for crossing in-between, and not at the green. Most cars in New York speed faster than the legal 30 mph. Many drivers use cell phones. A large number of drivers gun their engines and go through red lights that have just turned red. Cabbies - well NYC taxis are another thing altogether - they weave in and out of traffic and are not professionally happy unless they have a few dents in their bumper. Bike lanes are not respected - just the other day, I saw the newly green-painted bike lane on Broadway in the high 30's being obstructed for over a half hour by a Duane Reade truck that decided to unload there. This is par for the course in the City's bike lanes, which is why bikes ride all through the street - which, incidentally, is their right in NYC.

But I did want to point out how wrong I think your following statements are. You said: "I could maybe have a little more sympathy for the New York cyclist if he was not taking part in a Critical Mass ride, not my favorite organization. . . . What I saw after was no different from what I can see any evening on the TV program “Cops.” People suspected of wrongdoing are knocked down and handcuffed all the time."

This is incredibly cynical of you. There is nothing in the video to indicate that the rider, a United States Army veteran, was breaking the law at the time or deserved to be dangerously clocked off his bike while traveling at about 15 mph. (Would you be so unsympathetic if the cyclist's unhelmeted skull hit the pavement and shattered or if he was thrown by the cop into an innocent bystander, of whom there were many?) The fact that police officers behave like thugs on "Cops" doesn't mean it's right. And the wrongdoing that people on "Cops" are suspected of is not pedaling at 15mph - it usually involves some violent action on the suspect's part or drunken driving or thievery - and the cops usually give some warning before they take the suspect down. This cop - Officer Pogan - didn't give any warning and football tackled the cyclist. In addition, Officer Pogan perjured himself in his incident report (which is somehow only a Class A misdemeanor and not a felony for a NYC cop) - he said that the cyclist deliberately aimed at Officer Pogan with the intent to assault Officer Pogan and that the cyclist struck Officer Pogan and Officer Pogan fell down and suffered lacerations. This is patently untrue. The cyclist veered away twice from the Officer and the Officer deliberately ran in to knock him down without warning. Even Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly, no softies on crime, took offense at the actions of this officer. Bloomberg said: "It looked to me to be totally over the top and inappropriate". Kelly said:"I have no explanation. I can't explain why it happened."

So, even if you don't like Critical Mass types, how can you even tacitly support the police officer here - a thug who perjured himself on the incident report because he knew that he was in the wrong? By the way, without the video, this cyclist, who spent 26 hours in jail, would surely have been convicted of felony assault. Is this the America you want to live in?

July 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHarry from NYC

Maltese... I used to work for a local bike shop in Houston. Yes sales have boomed even with Armstrong's departure from racing. Just because a few punks get into trouble doesn't mean we should disband Critical Mass. There were over 15,000 drunk driving fatalities last year, but I don't see you calling for people to stop driving or to stop drinking.

The economy will not force Americans to commute via bicycle. Americans are too gluttonous and stubborn. Americans believe that the SUV is a necessity of life like water, air and food. Urban sprawl won't allow for commuting in the States. It's too difficult to get a job let alone worry about whether the location of that job is within commuting distance.

No one talks about all the smiles that Critical Mass riders receive from pedestrians and drivers. No one talks about the inquisitive questions Critical Mass riders receive at various pit stops along the way.

I ride weekly with the local bike shop and I would say that anything that gets people to ride a bike is a good thing. There are always a few bad apples but you don't throw out the whole basket because of the few bad ones.

Why should the Critical Mass rides only stop in the States? It doesn't make any sense. Regardless... Critical Mass will never die. It's too much fun and a few incidents will not destroy 16 years of history. It's fun to ride in large groups. Cyclists need to take more responsibility for their peers actions. If there is a situation diffuse it before it gets ugly like this last weekend.

The cost of gas should be the least of our American's concerns. We still have some of the cheapest gas in the world. America has an obesity epidemic. Americans need to get on bikes, stop shoving Big Macs down their throats and exercise just a little bit. I'm tired of seeing neighbors driving cars from the garage to the mailbox to check the mail. I look forward to Critical Mass continuing it's growth. Get out there and ride! Share the road and don't be a jackass.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRay Beck

I'm not going to try to defend Critical Mass because I'm unsure of how I feel about it myself.

However comments like this are completely out of line:

The Seattle incident is pretty disgusting. I think it's important to realize that CM is a different event in every different city. In some places, it's a really awesome group ride, a high-spirits party parade. In other places, apparently, it's an idiotfest, with too many people still entertaining fantasies of u-lock justice.

The Seattle Critical Mass has almost always been a "high-spirits party parade". Friday's ride could even have been described as that if you missed the whole incident on Aloha (I did).

I wasn't there and only have the first-hand accounts to go on (ignoring most of the press accounts which have been dubious from the start -- an example is the first story which came out and claimed that the car passengers were a pregnant couple...a complete lie). It sounds like the situation got out of hand as soon as the driver and the cyclists started yelling at each other. Had cooler heads prevailed maybe the discussion could have remained civil. Once the driver decided to run people down it is disappointing, but not surprising, that the people being run down got violent.

I'm torn on Critical Mass at this point because I don't believe that it will go away on it's own. There are two options: all of the "high spirit" riders stop going and the ride turns into a mob of angry cyclists who are looking for trouble. Or the "high spirit" riders go and make a concerted effort to call bullshit on the riders who are looking for trouble and try to take back the ride. If CM is going to exist anyway isn't it better to make sure that it remains a celebration of bicycles and not a protest?


August 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralex

the NYC incident reminds me of how tolerant we are becoming of police using violence to control the behavior of citizens. I've seen video of a man, a reverend, being tasered in the halls of congress rather than allowed to attend a congressional hearing. His crime? He was wearing a shirt which (while I cannot recall it exactly) could be interpreted as unsupportive of the Iraq war. Something like "give peace a chance."
I've seen the video of the college kid being tasered at an Al Gore speech. A driver being tasered because he would not sign a traffic citation.
There are many other examples, but we citizens have given up far too much power to the authoritarians among us. Its hard to get it back once you've given it up. That NYC cop needs to be fired, to be made an example.

Still love the blog Dave. You're not going to lose me as a reader thats for certain.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

We are ruled inescapably by our own needs like the animal inhabitants of the savanna but the city is our watering hole. When we come there it must not be to fight nor to overturn nor to dominate. Without the pond we would not exist. I am planning a ride through the desert today and upon my approach of a city it will not occur to me to attempt a conquest.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkelly

Mass is a celebratory ride meant to increase awareness. To that end it's working fine. What you're commenting on - in this instance - are individuals defending themselves against a motorist who lost it. This wasn't random violence against a motorist because Mass is against cars. In fact, it's NEVER about that.

Mass doesn't serve any useful purpose? It started me cycling. And I've started others cycling. I'm not the only one.

You, like many motorists, are making generalizations. You don't like Mass? Thats fine, don't go. But don't think that because you personally aren't getting anything out of it that it's not serving it's purpose. These unfortunate incidents are more the exception than the rule. Mass does a lot of good for a lot of people.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterScott Gamble

This is an awe-inspiring post, only topped in recent memory by Neville Chamberlain's piece in The Times of London exhorting his fellow Englishmen to stop their troublesome protests right away against the German regime before the Germans get really angry and somebody dies.

According to Dave, only purposeful commuting rides or exercise rides are permissible on the streets of our cities. Anyone who just wants to go on a pleasure ride with hundreds of other cyclists had better stick to the organized charity rides, the 1 mile bike loops in the local park or someplace where the Anschluss of cars has not yet taken place.

Whether you like Critical Mass or not - once you call on them to give up riding for fun, you might as well give up your right to cycle on the street for any other purpose. And if you single out Critical Mass, you should also say that messengers and delivery men on bikes should also give up their rights to ride on the streets. After all, don't they engage in even worse infractions than Critical Mass folks?

I hope that no car ever deliberately drives into you out of annoyance and that none of New York's Finest ever club you in the head - because Dave has now given them carte blanche to do so.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAppeasement Sam

For crying out loud!! Dave is posting his opinion and is fully entitled to it. In addition there is a huge amount of truth to what he says. I think Dave sees the dark side to this CM BS and I agree with him. CM is NOT about going out and having a fun ride with your friends. Its about getting attention and trying to prove a point....a point that not all, in fact, I would say most, cyclists agree with. We all have to share the road and most cyclists have no problem sharing it with cars. I've never seen a CM ride that did not annoy non cyclists and bring about wrong kind of attention. Cycling nation wide is gaining major ground and tons of cities are making major changes in order to make their streets and trails more friendly to cyclists...and I none of those changes are, in any way, the result of a CM "blockade".

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Yes - Dave is posting his opinion. And it is an extremely harsh critique of Critical Mass - making harsh generalizations about the individuals who ride in it and twisting 2 very troubling incidents to blame CMers instead of (i) a perjuring police officer who committed a brutal assault on a cyclist and (ii) a car driver who drove into and over cyclists.

Accordingly, it is to be expected that responses will mirror the tone of the post. No one's annoyed at Dave - he's prompting vigorous discussion - but the responders don't have to pull punches.

By the way, it used to be in New York that the CM ride was applauded by police officers - they protected the rides and allowed the riders to keep together. Just as traffic officers in New York allow some traffic to flow through red lights at times to keep it moving, they did the same for CM.

Then the 2004 Republican Convention came to New York. Some of the CMers added political (1st Amendment) protests to their rides. Suddenly, an about face in the treatment of the CM rides. Don't have a bell on your bike - automatic ticket. Missing a reflector on one of your wheels - automatic ticket. Not riding in CM, but just as a commuter - we'll find a way to ticket you too. This is not CM's fault - it is the fault of the NYPD.

You say that CM has had no impact. Well, Transportation Alternatives in New York, an organization that has members who participate in CM rides, is a driving factor behind the bike friendly attitude of the Department of Transportation. Unfortunately, the NYPD hasn't yet received the memo.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAppeasement Sam

In the 70’s I read Brock Yates of Car and Driver magazine write when you drive fast (and I drive my WRX fast) if you impede or interfere with another driver you have failed. Pretty high standard, but worth noting.
I ride with the same standard.
Critical Mass: when it impedes cars, in the words of Brock Yates, you have failed.
Of course, groupthink is not the same as individual (ref. “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by RAH) thus the continuous justifications.
A better statement is made by Crimanimal Mass; at least there the cars are already impeding themselves.

August 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Bicycles are vehicles and should be treated as such. What would happen if a group of automobiles decided to do their own "Critical Mass?" Tow trucks Sir, tow trucks -- thousands of them.

Cars have their own group rides. They cause gridlocks. Every day. No tow trucks.

August 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterUnknown

I agree with Dave, for what it counts, and I have posted that the CM crowd behavior is engendering the very violence that comes their way. And I predicted that increased violence toward them would take place.

There is a BIG difference between riding and expecting the cyclist's rights to be held to by drivers and deliberately breaking the law and flaunting it in those very driver's faces.

And how about the pedestrian's rights to safely cross the streets at controlled intersections who are endangered by the CM rider deliberately trying to cower the pedestrian back onto the curb?

This incident can also be read thusly:

The NYC rider had more than adequate room to pass behind the policeman, but deliberately took a course that cut across the officer's path placing that office in danger of being hit by the cyclist. The cyclist violated his pedestrian right-of-way and was committing a crime when he was defensively pushed to the ground. The only mistake was not immediately placing the rider under arrest for assault with a deadly weapon.

I'll let the legal beagles argue the points, but sooner or later, CM'ers, that rider will be you. You have pissed off motorists and pedestrians with your lawless behavior and now, when you find there is a price to be paid, whine about it. I hope it is not you kid sister who deliberately hurt by one of these motorist that really wanted to run down the lot of you because getting one cyclist in a lone spot would be easier than motoring through the lot.

I'm all for the goal of having motorists respect my rights when I am riding, but the way to do that is not to make an enemy out of that driver.

August 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJim Lane

"The only mistake was not immediately placing the rider under arrest for assault with a deadly weapon."

The rider WAS placed under arrest for assault. He spent 26 hours in jail and has an appearance date in September. It will probably be thrown out, however, because the officer appears to have committed perjury on his incident report and the Mayor and Police Commissioner have indicated that he will likely be fired, if not indicted himself.

August 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAppeasement Sam

Ah, the joys of living in a country with an unwritten constitution. The bill of rights can be amended out of existence by parliament, free speech in one corner of one park and the cops (never mind the special branch) can beat the shit outa you. I think I prefer unorganized protest.

August 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPSP

Dave. C'mon. I hear you about living together and sharing the road. In many ways I even agree with you about the value of CM. But deliberately assaulting bikers because of some macho hang up is not the way. The NYPD never needs an excuse to harass law abiding, tax paying citizens and they act on that 'privilege' with alarming frequency in the lamest of ways. You're call to disembowel CM is one thing, but in this context it fortifies the NYPD's right to act the way they did. They're just bike-lovin' riders, and if we're going to throw out all acts of civil disobedience (and at a time in our nation's history when independence from oil is crucial, disrupting traffic would constitute civil disobedience) why not burn all the books on Martin Luther King and Gandhi? They were bloody inconvenient too. Not that CM is in the same class, but you get the gist of it.

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLugnut

Re: Jim Lane's post.

"The NYC rider had more than adequate room to pass behind the policeman, but deliberately took a course that cut across the officer's path placing that office in danger of being hit by the cyclist."

Take a look at the footage. The police officer lunged at the biker. So we don't condone 'unorganized' protest, but we condone random acts of violence?

August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLugnut

I've heard, and read a lot lately that critical mass needs to be disbanded, and how it has grown to be a "bloated irrelevancy" in some areas. If critical mass has passed it's prime, then what good has it done over the course of 10-15 years? What was it purpose? Have these people stood up for nothing? Do you not stand for cyclist's rights? I too agree on both of two things... Either critical mass should apply and/or be granted a permit as a parade-type ride, or CM riders should merely adhere to traffic laws. what good is an "unorganized protest" for rights of bicycles if a good portion of the cyclist's don't follow normal traffic laws. If they/we want to be treated equally to automobile's, then we should follow the same rules that they (motorists) are expected to. I do not think that CM should be halted, and i also don't think that if something is not going in the direction that you believe in, that you should just bail. It needs a different approach; one that is law abiding. Stand up and make the changes yourself, that you believe are right. If the repliers to this message and others like them sit back and spend their time posting on blogs, participating in organized rides and commutes only, and don't actually get out there on their bikes and make a stand, then how can they justifiably "complain" later when cyclists are denied expected and reasonable rights in their city? How is that gonna impact a change? Use your "voice" not your complaints. Get on your bike... and make a fuckin' difference.

October 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTravis
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