(image from critical mass ride in Santa Monica 2005)
The "Ride Or Die" article in the Santa Monica Daily Press has generated a few letters to the editor(see letters below, SMDP, Feb. 22, 2007)
In both cases, they appear to be supportive of the mass bicycle ride.
However, one thing missing from the original article and the letters is that critical mass is most often referred to "organized co-incidence", meaning that everyone who attends is essentially a mass of one, that happens to be co-incidently gathering at a similar location. And that when each individual rides their bicycle, skates, wheelchair, their feet, or whatever they use for mobility, they are responsible for the direction they choose to go in.
The snaggy part of the critical mass rides are the corking of intersections, and the legality of doing so. It seems that some arguments have been presented that provide for legally corking intersections. It is often done, without permit (to my knowledge), by funeral processions.
And from what I understand, essentially anyone can join those funeral processions. And that the persons corking the intersections are not active law enforcement. They often are retired law enforcement, and sometimes not even retired law enforcement.
The corking allows for the smooth flow of the procession of vehicles to continue.
So it is possible to say that funeral processions are essentially a kind of critical mass of sorts.
I welcome feedback on this
Mass pedalers lack discipline
I am following the Critical Mass bike-a-thons story with interest, but your article on Feb. 20 (“Ride or die,” page 1) did little except rehash previously quoted CM participants and community members. I wonder what the opinions of the SMPD and city officials are. It has been my observation that Santa Monica requires permits whenever large groups of people plan to assemble in our parks and streets, as they frequently do. The assortment of parades, 10Ks, demonstrations and other local events which bring together hundreds of participants are usually well regulated and take a variety of measures to be responsible for the many traffic and safety issues that may come into play.
I have no objection to bicyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, skaters or any other alternative “mobilizers” using our streets and paths. But whenever a group wants to immobilize others’ use of our public thoroughfares by assembling large numbers of participants, they should make appropriate arrangements in advance to safeguard community interests and safety.
Critical Mass is, essentially, a rather bawdy and jubilant street demonstration in favor of non-motorized transportation. Cool! I absolutely support their right to demonstrate for their interests, but they should, in turn, acknowledge some accountability for their members’ actions — like using monitors, as any good demonstration does — and obeying basic rules of civil conduct. If they choose to ignore those responsibilities while making their bikers’ rights points, then I would think this may be an excellent opportunity for the SMPD to improve the city’s revenue once a month by issuing mass citations.
Article failed bike riders everywhere
(Re: “Ride or die,” Feb. 20, page 1)
I am very sorry about the poor quality of the Critical Mass piece in (the Daily Press’) recent issue. I feel you have become the mouthpiece of a poorly articulated anger against cyclists.
Rather than analyzing this diffuse anger, you have presented it in the manner of a prejudice on the first page.
To begin with, the illustration is exceedingly inappropriate and insulting, it catches nothing of the spirit of adventure and environmentally friendly transport combined with healthy exercise which characterizes these occasions. Just go there and have a look for yourself. The photograph is a sad reflection of your inability to understand what is going on at these occasions, or of your willful distortion of the truth. The title, “Ride or Die,” is just as poorly chosen.
You really have not understood what bicycles are about, and you have not even begun to put a question mark to the car culture which is bringing this planet to the ruin. Every cyclist is a Kyoto Saint. Instead, you have given voice to a few aggrieved drivers, whose polluting exhaust fumes we all have to breath in, and whose aggressive style of driving kills and hurts many pedestrians and cyclists. It is pathetic and entirely out of touch how you allow the car driver and gas burner to speak here as if they were entirely justified, entirely natural, entirely taken for granted.
This is 2007, not 1950 ! The position is pathetic, because out on the streets of Santa Monica, drivers everywhere feel they need to justify themselves — they buy dual fuel cars, they pay more for their gas, and they have to ask themselves if bloody wars are being fought around the world to satisfy their desire for more and more cheap gas.
I am commuting to UCLA on my bike and many of the participants of the Critical Mass rides will use their bike every day for the benefit of all: But you turn on them and give us a bad press as if we are monstrous growth which threatens the planet.
If we come together once a month to celebrate our responsibility and our understanding of the environment and all the gas we are not burning, then you might have the good grace and allow us a bit presence on the streets. We do it with joy, music, good will and some dressing up. It is, after all, in these occasions that we are able to encourage many more car drivers to join us on the cycle lane. And in the few interactions with drivers I have witnessed, I have seen understanding, humor and support, and nothing of the stale and stereotypical aggression you describe in your piece.
I am sorry, you have failed your assignment. Grade F.
Dr. Michael Cahn
Visiting Lecturer, Department of History, UCLA