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