After getting stuck in the June Critical Mass traffic coming back from Horseshoe Bay, I’ve started to learn more about the ‘movement’. Critical Mass Vancouver had approximately 3,000 people riding today. They start at the Art Gallery at 6:00pm and ride all around downtown. The Critical Mass mantra: “We’re not blocking traffic; we are traffic!” is meant to raise awareness about sharing the roads. Unfortunately opinions have changed considerably.
For myself, if Critical Mass really was about being ‘part of traffic’, they would need to obey the street signs, including lights and other road traffic (pedestrians, cars, bicyclists, motorcyclists, scooters, etc.). I prefer to bike in less high-traffic area, but I still stop at the stop signs and for pedestrians. Instead they are stopping cars for maybe 30-40 minutes, forcing them to idle. If it really is about promoting cycling, how do they justify those carbon emissions by keeping cars on the road that much longer? Not to mention, how many people do you see wearing helmets? It’s the law you know!
One of the problems with Critical Mass, is there is no planned route because there are no “organizers”. You would think with the new bike lane on Burrard Bridge that it would be an obvious route to bicycle, thereby making an excellent statement. However, I heard on the radio that they biked across the Cambie Street bridge instead. As if Cambie Street hasn’t had enough traffic!
I read a blog post by Dave MacDonald about why people care now. I think his experiences from a ride in 2001 with Critical Mass are exactly why I don’t like it now. It’s no longer about all these issues he mentions; it’s not activism and taking a stand and being heard, it’s now more about causing a disturbance.
There has been a lot of uproar recently and a lot of criticism here in Vancouver regarding Critical Mass. Newspapers are chalking it up to the fact that in February 2010, Critical Mass (which takes place on the last Friday of every month) will be two days before the closing ceremonies for the Vancouver Olympic. Apparently this has brought into light the fact that previous mayor Larry Campbell “sold our freedom of speech rights” in 2003 with regards to the Olympic television coverage.
Then, I heard about Critical Manners on Twitter. Now this is something I can get behind! Critical Manners started in San Francisco as a civilized response to Critical Mass. Instead of taking over the streets and screaming “we ARE traffic”, the Critical Manners ride obeyed all the street signs and were model road-users. There are plans in motion for a Critical Manners Vancouver, which I would totally be up for. Cyclists and motorists need to respect both each other and the rules of the road!
*Photo taken during June 2009 Critical Mass Vancouver ride.