Critical Massholes Strike Again

by Joey deVilla on June 1, 2008

To borrow an expression from a commenter on The Seattle Weekly: “Critical Massholes – Saving the planet, one sociopathic gesture at a time.”

As a daily cycle commuter and supporter of Accordion City’s bike plan (I’d really like to see them pull it out of its currently stalled state), I believe in the promotion of cycling as a safe, environmentally-friendly, fiscally responsible and community-building way of transportation. I used to participate in the monthly Critical Mass bike ride in the mistaken belief that it was a way of promoting bikes, but after a year of riding and playing accordion with them, I grew disillusioned with the whole thing. It seemed less like a way to promote cycling and more as an excuse to annoy people who had the gall to travel in a car and not live “I’m so individual, just like the rest of the clique who look and live just like me” twenty-something hipster lifestyle and to live out those unresolved “rebelling against your parents” issues.

Critical Massholes riding on the Gardiner Expressway
Photo by torontopile.
Click the photo to see torontopile’s Flickr photostream.

Last Friday, yet another Critical Mass bike ride took place here in Toronto, and they’ve upped the ante on their pointless gestures. This time, they — in the words of a participant — “shut down the Gardiner” Expressway, the major east-west highway running along Accordion City’s southern end. The story is covered from different perspectives in different places:

  • BlogTo: Cyclists Shut Down the Gardiner, which cites a Facebook group posting featuring a lot of CAPITALIZED PHRASES that DEMANDS that the police DROP ALL CHARGES and PROMISE NEVER TO ARREST CRITICAL MASS RIDERS AGAIN.
  • Torontoist: “Here We Are. Let’s Take The Gardiner”Torontoist writer David Topping seems way more level-headed than “Tim”.
  • Toronto Star: Four Cyclists Charged After Gardiner Ride.
  • “torontopile’s” Flickr stream:

    this was my first (and likely last) critical mass ride. i really like their principle of “we’re not blocking traffic, we are traffic”. that being said, i have always felt that as a cyclist wanting to be treated like a vehicle in traffic, we must also respect the rules of the road (ex. stopping at red lights and stop signs, passing on the left, etc.). while i think that it is a relatively minor issue disrupting traffic on the downtown roads for a couple of hours on the last friday of every month (the group is very polite to pedestrians and motorists temporarily disrupted by the ride), i can’t help but wonder if what happened on may 30 was a bit too much. even as i joined the group riding up the jarvis entrance to the gardiner expressway, my gut told me it was a bad idea. with a few other riders in tow, i exited at spadina while the rest of the group continued on to dunn ave. where the boys in blue awaited. quite the experience to say the least and i have certainly enjoyed reading the various opinions about this event online this morning. oh, and i am looking forward to riding the gardiner again tomorrow in the ride for heart!

Critical Massholes on the Gardiner Expressway

If the goal of Critical Mass is to participate in some kind of “us-vs-them” war between bicycles and cars and to fulfill some fantasy about fighting against “the pigs”, then Friday’s event was a success. If the goal was cycling advocacy and winning hearts and minds, I’d have to brand it a failure. I can’t imagine someone whose commute home on the Gardiner — which is already slow at rush hour at the best of times — was stretched out even longer thinking “Gee, those Critical Mass guys have sold me; I’m biking to work from now on!”

I don’t think Critical Mass is about cycling advocacy anymore. I think goes even deeper than punishing people for using cars and trucks. I think it’s about a few key people within the group punishing people for not being just like them. You know, just like the conservatives they despise do.

I will continue cycling, but I want nothing to do with the Critical Massholes.

Critical Mass: We\'re not blocking traffic, we\'re smug pricks on bikes
Feel free to use this button on your site or blog!

Recommended Reading

  • Critical Massholes – An earlier article of mine explaining why I stopped riding with Critical Mass

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick Mason June 2, 2008 at 11:17 am

I’ve generally been supportive of Critical Mass and have tried not to let the one or two assholes who are simply there to cause disruption not ruin the concept of for me. However, I’m really glad I missed last Friday’s ride as I certainly want no part of the stupid and dangerous stunt they pulled off.

The point of the ride is to try and promote awareness of cyclists on city streets where we normally ride alone every day. The Gardiner is not one of those routes and thus cyclists have no place on it.

I’m actually quite surprised at the group-think that occurred on this ride as I’m pretty sure a lot of people who were there knew this was bad idea but went along with it anyway.

I certainly will not be joining any other Critical Mass ride in the future.

Mark Rehder June 2, 2008 at 4:12 pm

The first comment posted to your 2006 CM post about the Ottawa CM reflected my experience. We all agreed how to conduct ourselves and then the leaders did whatever they wanted anyway.

It really turned me off CM, and I never took part here again. I did foolishly join one in Toronto when I was visiting friends, and I should not have let myself get talked into taking part. The damn thing went right through the Eaton Centre! What is the point to that? Going the extra mile to show how asinine cyclists can be…

That was definitely it for me, and I’ve loudly commented on the uselessness of CM ever since.

I spend countless hours helping run our local bike co-op (which to me is real cycling activism, not taking part in a misguided rush-hour parade once a month), and whenever someone starts talking up CM in the shop everyone else cringes, because they know what I’m about to say in reply to that person. 😉

Joshua Perry June 4, 2008 at 6:55 pm

Wow. You can sure make puns. Ha ha ha.

Look man, there is no ‘clique’ of twentysomething ‘hipsters’. There is a community of people who… communicate ideas with each other? Know how to have a good time? Do stupid things now again like every other human being? Not that I consider taking over the gardiner as a stupid action. I’m just saying, humans are multi-faceted, and by trying to sum us up in such a way, you are showing that you think you are above all the ‘twentysomething hipsters’. Besides. The age range was very vast, and there was no age majority there! So I take your insult and say: yuck fou!

Instead of just coming up with some ‘clever’ quips about us and condemning our actions, how about you just mind your own business. We pulled a gutsy stunt. Whose risk was it? Ours. No cars were threatened or hurt in the actions we took, because we conducted our stunt with safe precision. We stayed in one lane until the people in the cars had enough time to stop and wait for us. I’m happy they waited for us. Cars are fast! Everyone who got on the gardiner knew the risks involved with cars, but decided to go anyway. There was a spirit of communication between bodies not unlike the communication between an ensemble of dancers. In cars, such a communication does not exist. It’s every man for himself. I’ve been counting the average number of times I almost get pushed off the road or driven through by negligible drivers each time I cycle. It’s pretty high. During this event, I did not feel my life endangered for a SECOND. I felt I might face consequences, but consequences be damned! I’m gonna remember this until I die.

Further, if drivers feel punished or oppressed by waiting a few minutes for us, that is their own problem. They should see a psychologist. Impatience kills too many people.

Joshua Perry June 4, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Oh, and to the other two people who posted: you don’t have to justify yourselves to other people. Especially on the internet. It sounds like you want some sort of validation, well I deny you this validation!

“I certainly will not be joining any other Critical Mass ride in the future.”

“I did foolishly join one in Toronto when I was visiting friends, and I should not have let myself get talked into taking part. ”

You don’t anything to justify or apologize for! You have the right to do the sorts of things human beings do. The world is so saturated with words that they lose meaning. We live in a society where we self-edit and self-criticize way too much.

So, if you have a change of heart, Critical Mass won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Joey deVilla June 5, 2008 at 11:33 pm

@Joshua Perry: Let me get this straight — participating in Critical Mass is a form of free expression, yet you’re telling me to “mind my own business”, or in other words, shut up. Wouldn’t it be equally consistent if I were to tell you to mind your own business and let me speak my mind on my blog?

As far as the “self-editing and self-criticism” you’re talking about, a little never hurts. It’s part of learning. As the saying goes, “the unexamined life is not worth living.”

The question remains: Was going on the Gardiner about bicycle advocacy or was it a self-congratulatory two-wheeled cuddle party? My money’s on the latter.

Nate August 4, 2008 at 11:10 pm

How is Critical Mass’s constant disobeying of traffic laws a form of cyclist advocacy. I feel it is an excuse for a group of people to incite anger by imposing their self righteous will on others. Many of the rides are done during peak traffic hours to irritate drivers not to raise awareness. When these “cyclists” get what they want on a blog or in the streets (angry or critical responses), they attack you as if you were inconsiderate for giving them what they sought all along. I prefer cycling or walking myself and agree that at times motorists can be inconsiderate;however, that does not give someone an excuse to try and provoke others into unsavory behavior.

Cino June 1, 2009 at 7:08 am

YOU CAN’T USE FREELY THAT IMAGE BECAUSE I DESIGNED IT AND YOU CAN’T USE AND MODIFY IT WITHOUT PERMISSION.

REMOVE IT IMMEDIATELY BEFORE I WILL ACT FOR MY RIGHT INFRINGEMENTS

THANKS
Cino

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: