Let me make this very clear: I like bicycles and I like the idea of biking to work/elsewhere without having to use gas and getting/staying fit in the process. In fact, I would REALLY love to start riding to my local Park&Ride instead of driving (it’s only 4-5 miles away). However, I DO NOT like Critical Mass.
Critical Mass originally existed to draw attention to how unfriendly cities were to bicyclists. It has now become a way to simply intimidate and piss off drivers. This is most recently evidenced by a report in today’s Seattle Times.
Just after 7 p.m. Friday, the group of at least 100 bicyclists was moving en masse down East Aloha Street when a man and his girlfriend in a Subaru station wagon tried to pull out of a parking spot, said Seattle police spokesman Mark Jamieson.
For years, Critical Mass has held monthly public bike rides through Seattle to demonstrate for bicyclists’ road rights. The riders commonly engage in what they call “corking,” in which several bikers block cars while the mass of riders passes.
According to Jamieson, witnesses told officers that as the Critical Mass group moved down the street blocking traffic, some riders got in the way of the Subaru and prevented it from leaving. Some bikers sat on the car and were banging on it, he said.
“The driver was pretty fearful that he was about to be assaulted by the bicyclists,” Jamieson said.
There is an alleged eyewitness account of the rider of that smashed bike. It’s in the Seattle Stranger (aka Seattle’s Sex Rag), so you have to take it with a grain of salt. If it were in the Seattle Weekly, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.
Other eyewitness accounts point out pretty clearly, to me, that the guy was being illegally detained and intimidated. He just wanted to move on and likely didn’t understand what was going on… not that he was required to know what was going on. Sure he may have been yelling, but he just wanted out of there. He probably grazed a cyclist. I’ve heard of these CM participants going ape and kicking idling/waiting cars, so you can imagine the tizzy some might be sent into if they *gasp* were bumped by an evil vehicle they were detaining.
The whole thing clearly flew apart at some point. Whatever the driver did, it did not justify ANY other cyclists smashing in his windows and assulting him through a window. That is vigilantism and certainly not civil disobedience; much more like anarchy.
Anyway, my message to cyclists: we are aware of you. I spend most of my time downtown as a pedestrian and I get to observe many cyclists, drivers, and their interactions. Their interactions are mostly good. I see both run red lights, both occasionally going the wrong way down streets, and both, at one point or another, have nearly run me down/over when I have a clear right of way. What else I see cyclists doing: flying from street to sidewalk to street (something cars can’t casually do), yelling at cars as they’re cutting them off (drivers typically do this other drivers), flying through red lights long after it has turned (traffic cams now issue citations – can’t do so for cyclists).
Congratulations: you have nearly reached parity. Enough demonstrations.