Is Critical Mass giving cyclists a bad name?

  • Home
  • Is Critical Mass giving cyclists a bad name?
45 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

I have heard many people suggest recently that the parade permit law is at least a partial response to Critical Mass. After 10 years they argue that Critical Mass is actually hurting the rights of cyclists rather then helping.

For the record I have never attended a Critical Mass and have never even watched it so I have no idea what actually goes on.

Is this true?

Anonymous's picture
bill vojtech (not verified)

"Can anyone name anything that Critical Mass has ""won"" for the cycling community?

Seems like they exist to annoy the non-cycling world, the police especially, at least lately."

Anonymous's picture
Christophe Jammet (not verified)

i would say that the critical massers in new york have done more harm than good. in other cities, critical mass is fun and well organized with the police. in spirit, the new york versions are nothing like that. critical mass in new york has gone from a fun group even to celebrate the joy of riding bicycles and has instead turned into an anti-establishment act of defiance. its stupid and counter-productive

Anonymous's picture
Josh (not verified)
critical mass

"It's an impervious group, as far as I can make out. No bulletin board for gripes, no communication level, no way for input. Boasts that it is leaderless but is actually run by a ""core group,"" with a listserv that is very difficult to get on: compare this with NYCC's bulletin board or ebikes and TA.

FYI, I'v suggested -- and others too --ways of working out the ride so that it is less confrontational and more fun. Criticism doesn sit well with many of them, so I stopped offering it. The last ride had about 100 folks, and broke up early. Really hardly a ride, or even a parade. In contrast a 5BBC-NYCC ride through Times Square, paradelike, up the West Side, across the GWB, and through the Lincoln Tunnel had some 40+ folks (according to one account) -- good riders and all having a great time.

You gotta wonder what their goals are, because bicycling should be fun, right?"

Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)
it's not the organization...

...it's the few self serving gotta-fight-the-world folks who give them a bad name.

don

Anonymous's picture
bill vojtech (not verified)

What is an organization but the people who run it and set the tone?

Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)
it's the few who ruin it for everyone...

...like osama bin laden, all it takes is an idiot or two to screw things up for everyone. the pompus, mental case zelots who come on this forum bashing the police can take the blame for the loss of respect for critical mass bike rides. i see a group of troublemakers - i never had that opinion before.

don

Anonymous's picture
Bill Vojtech (not verified)

So Osama ruined Al Queda? They were just a nice bunch of fellas till he came along? I think the leadership determines the type of membership you get.

Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)
membership? (nm)
Anonymous's picture
'Lt. Mike (not verified)
You are exactly right. (nm)
Anonymous's picture
<a href="http://www.OhReallyOreilly.com">Peter O'Reilly</a> (not verified)
what organization?

"No TV for you tonight. You really need to do your homework:

""..Critical Mass is not an organization, it's an unorganized coincidence..""

critical mass

"

Anonymous's picture
mike p (not verified)
steve why dont you check out a ride?

i think when people go and see what happens at a CM rode they come back with a different perspective. its more than bicycles, they realize that we are close to being in a police state. Fortunately it has gotten better the last couple months with the recent court rulings. However the undercover and plainclothes agent provocateurs on the ride, the illegal police surveillance (handshu act) of the rider is very real. NYPD informing video tapers that they will arrest them and put them in jail if they videotape them on a public street. Undercover police taking cameras from advocates on the sidewalk, and refusing to ID themselves. This is real and it happening. There is a bigger story here.

Anonymous's picture
Sebastian Siedler (not verified)

"> Is Critical Mass giving cyclists a bad name?

In New York City, the answer is simple:

YES.

--

I used to join every so often, then the republican convention came. I don't think CM will ever be the same.

For those that never seen what goes on, here's a video of the last (very subdued) one:
July CM Video

Another July CM report


I guess one could argue, that the NYPD have also helped CM give cyclists a bad name.

"

Anonymous's picture
Claudette (not verified)
NYPD was more of a nuisance than CM

That video is actually funny. A bunch of cyclists going for a ride, moving along quietly, albeit more slowly than traffic, and a HERD of scooter officers, driving on SIDEWALKS, making more of a mess than the cyclists.

Yikes.

Anonymous's picture
rob (not verified)

yep - our tax dollars at work - what a bunch of geniuses

Anonymous's picture
packfill (not verified)
"""even the paranoid have real enemies"" (nm)"
Anonymous's picture
critical mass (not verified)

Often a political system gets the annoyances it asks for. In jurisdictions where critical mass is let alone, the rides are fun. In Manhattan, where arrests are, made the rides turn rancorous--many people won't go because of the police intrusion. Without the police presence, the rides would be different--they would attract a different crowd. Anyone who rides a bike should stand up for the right to ride unless you break law--and then to get the ticket that a car driver gets for the same offense.

Anonymous's picture
Tom Laskey (not verified)

You seem to be implying that Critical Mass bears no responsibility for the police treatment it has received in Manhattan. Whether or not that is true - I don't believe that it is - you fail to answer an important question that was posed earlier in this thread: what is the purpose of Critical Mass and what has it accomplished? I asked this question myself in this forum 2 years ago after the RNC fracas and still have not received a satisfactory answer. Is there one?

Anonymous's picture
Alfio (not verified)
Critical mass

"I'd like to tell my opinion about this topic, even if i'm not a ""nyer"", but an european rider, italian. Here, in Rome, we've had Critical mass for 3 years and something is moving... i mean, i guess something is moving due to the many roman cyclists associations, that ""off-stage"" are working with town hall, major, and all the Commune staff. But even Critical Mass works, it's a terrific scenography, it's usefull to show our ""force""... we can do it: we are very few! here it's quite simple: because we are few, police is not a problem, opinion neither because sees us like a group of fanatics... The matter is that, if we grow in the future, we'll have your same problems.
I believe that the real changes are not in the squares, but off-stage..."

Anonymous's picture
mike p (not verified)
RNC critical mass

the RNC critical mass had a couple thousand bicyclist. i guess you would have to ask the individual cyclist that decided to ride why they independently decided to to participate.

Anonymous's picture
Tom Laskey (not verified)

The RNC Critical Mass had several thousand cyclists and there have been several thousand participants in Critical Mass rides before the RNC and after. I would guess many of them visit this message board. So, let's hear from you. What do you believe is the purpose of Critical Mass and what has it accomplished so far?

Anonymous's picture
Fendergal (not verified)

"As someone who has participated in the CM rides for many years, starting in the mid-'90s, when there were only a couple dozen people, I find the police targeting of the ride a disturbing development. The RNC protest CM was but a culmination of political leanings in NYC and the growing profile of the CM ride, dovetailing with the increasing idea among the ""guvmint"" that more police force is better.

I was also at the RNC CM ride, and I found it to be an exhuberant experience, with people of all ages, stripes, and social affiliations. However, my husband and I left as the ride passed through Columbus Circle, and did not witness any of the mayhem that followed. I know many people who were arrested, and for what? For riding a bicycle on a public street? For using our First Amendment rights of protest and demonstrating?

People who characterize CM as a fringe element or a number of bad eggs are sadly mistaken. To blame CM for the current police crackdown on all cyclists is akin to saying, ""Just sit down in the back of the bus, you're making life hard for everyone.""

Remember when CM in San Francisco was a big story? That was many years ago, and reportedly the CM ride is no longer a target of police harrassment. One could say that the ride went through a difficult adolescence and has matured. What caused this to happen, I have no idea; maybe somebody with firsthand information can weigh in."

Anonymous's picture
Sebastian Siedler (not verified)

I think almost, if not, everyone here agrees that the NYPD proposed new rules are wrong.

However, Tom asks a really good and important question:

What has CM achieved?

Anonymous's picture
i watched, i listended (not verified)
I know many people who were arrested, and for what?

looks to me this bloke did a fine job of resisting arrest.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LriR6NY_RVE&mode=related&search=

Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)
read the comments...

"i guess glen should get on youtube and tell each and every one of the people who posted comments that they should simply ""do the ride and decide"". the cm folks have quite a political mess on thier hands...

don



bmtribble (3 months ago)
Should not interfere with the NYPD.

AMC6891 (3 months ago)
All he had to do was stop resisting...some people just cant behave. Acted like an a$$hole and thats what he got.

belfastflyer (3 months ago)
Next time you phone the cops and they can't come out as quick as you'd like, it's stoopid reasons like this to blame.

Angel23143 (3 months ago)
These scumbags want to act like savages, they deserve to be treated like savages. The cops were too nice to these animals.

ZigZigler (2 months ago)
yeah, let the fourth reich do their duty! damn pesky hooligans .. how dare they exercise their righs and flaunt freedom of speech like some free nation... Just accept your opressors like good little Bushlings... And speaking of Bush - god bless that kind-hearted genius selfishly appointed to lead you mindless sheep to your well deserved slaughter..

obmax1212 (1 month ago)
You think those NYPD cops voted for Bush? You forget how strong the Democrats are in NY, especially NYC. Its convenient for you that the video magically goes from a peacefull assembly to the police arresting someone, not showing why, and somehow they are the brutes.

Michaelbos (2 months ago)
Great job by the greatest Police department. Don't block streets

munch11111 (1 month ago)
dont resist, its that simple..i been arrested before, i listened to the cop and i came out fine..i seen some guy givin a cop lip and struggled with him while being cuffed..i couldnt help but laugh when the idiot got pepper sprayed in the face

CGOStriker2911 (1 month ago)
I love when they smash his face into the ground after he refuses to co-operate I would have pepper sprayed the whole crowd and tear gased them.....Shame on the cops huh for doing their job...silly liberal hippie hooligans

ANWL (1 month ago)
Well done NYPD , those assholes that wanted to reclaim the streets certainly got a taste of it. pity the cops didn't arrest that mouthy left wing b!tch as well.

kashyyyk (3 weeks ago)
1)Great job on not catching how any of the police/citizen encounters occurred 2)What police brutality? 3)Never, under any circumstances, interfere with cops making a perfectly lawful arrest 4)Better luck next year, your video only supports the notion that police must use certain levels of force to accomplish their goals of maintaining peace, order, and civility as well as use it to protect themselves and one another.

voiceofreason (5 days ago)
Kudos to the NYPD! The damn Critical Mass morons deserved it. I believe in the right to freely express yourself and your ideas, but these numbnuts go beyond that. They ride their bicycles in packs, and PURPOSELY block up the streets and impede vehicle traffic to make a point.

They all got what they deserved.

superman96 (2 days ago)
what a bunch of [email protected] liberal hippies, got job nypd for doing what your suppose to do, thats what people get for blocking the streets and acting fuckin stupid, i would smashed quite a few people with my baton

evil10 (2 days ago)
you resist you get hurt plain and simple.. realistically you will be relieased within 24 hours you might as well make the best of it and not fight...you people take your rights for granted.... and in some cases to far.

evil10 (2 days ago)
people complain that the NYPD is hard"

Anonymous's picture
Natalia Lincoln (not verified)

"Stuff like evil10's ""You take your rights... your freedom for granted"" illustrate how callous, brutal, and full of rage this country has become. What is it about SUV-choked streets that can't or won't accept the presence of bikes? You would think they would appreciate fewer cars in the gridlock."

Anonymous's picture
mike (not verified)

"those messages are from cops, the ones that are paid to protect you. notice their line of thought
you will always hear them yelling "" don't resist"" , this is to indemnify themselves from the overuse of force, its a standard police tactic, apply excessive force and yell don't resist/stop resisting for the cameras..
i dont care about the tour de france user using performance enhancing drugs , i do worry about these juiced up NYPD.
pretty soon they will be killing cycist in their felonious steroid rage,'
"

Anonymous's picture
Rich (not verified)
CM was rancorous before RNC

"The last CM ride I did -- May 2004, 2 months before RNC--there was a lot of rancor directed against motorists. Cyclists blocked traffic deliberately to prevent motorists from getting through green lights & intersections. Lot's of middle fingers flying.

CM says it's ""traffic"": when does ""traffic"" get a police escort?

If you are going to call yourself part of traffic, aren't you then expected to follow traffic rules (something CM-ers are encouraged to do now, as a result of NYPD crackdown, but not before RNC). Parades are allowed to block intersections & stop the normal flow of traffic.

Since when does traffic have people showing up at a pre-appointed time and place, following each other along the same route, all to the same destination.

All these things sound like a . . . PARADE, for which you need a permit.

So which local cycling group has attracted so much police attention: NOT 5bbc, nycc, Bike New York, Weekday Cyclists, Fast n. Fab, Recycle a Bicycle, I Challenge Myself, the Messengers Union, LaGuardia HS Bicycle Club, CRCA, or Transportation Alternatives. Only CM has had so much police attention, and the war between CM & NYPD now threatens to affect all of us. As representatives of cycling, CM has accomplished nothing positive.

If you want to act like a parade, get a parade permit. If you want to act like traffic then respect the traffic rules & rights of other road users.

Rich"

Anonymous's picture
Glen (not verified)
RE: CM. Dear Knuckleheads...

"Dear Knuckleheads,

I've read some crazy stuff on these boards over the years, but these posts take the cake, and most of you should know better.

In particular, there is a flurry of posts here from PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TO CRITICAL MASS! Now no one should have to go if they don't want to, of course, but rarely have I seen so much cranky commentary from people who have not a clue of what they're talking about. Ugh.

Don't believe all those press releases from the bureaucrats. Here's the story, speaking as someone who was there in person:

A couple years back the police started to show up at the CM rides because of concern that CM cyclists were running red lights. (And I'm SURE that no one on this list ever runs a red light on their bike, right?) OK.

I actually met with the police after that at the station house to try to reach some sort of compromise. I'm not in charge -- just a cyclist who didn't want to get hassled. They refused to budge -- anyone who ran a red light would be arrested.

After that, things were GREAT. (I take zero credit -- a coincidence of timing). The police would show up for every CM on scooters and escort the cyclists through the red lights. No one ever asked for this, but it seemed to work out well -- the cyclists were safe, and traffic for cars and bicycles moved smoother. There was friendly chit chat between the police and the cyclists. (BTW, this is STILL the way things are for the Brooklyn CM, and you have to ask why things run so smoothly at the Brooklyn event and not at the Manhattan event. Both rides draw many of the same riders, so THAT's not the issue...)

I've been a cyclist for years and years -- century rides, club leader, club president... I make my living in the bicycle industry. But those Manhattan CMs were my very favorite rides of all -- a slow pedal through Manhattan on a warm summer evening with minimal risk of being hit by a car... There was music, there were people wearing funny outfits, there were crazy homemade bicycles... People at outdoor cafes would cheer. People on the sidewalk would yell, ""Hey, can I ride with you guys?"" and we would say, ""Of course. Just grab a bicycle and come with us."" Before my dad passed away he was in town for CM one day and I rented a pedi-cab for him. (His legs were shot and he couldn't walk, let alone ride). He was a serious conservative Republican, and would never have approved of some of the CM politics, but he had the time of his life.

If you ask people who do the ride (yes, cycilsts who actually DO the ride; not the whiners who have been writing here...) and asked them what CM is all about, you would hear very different things from different people:

o It's just a bike ride -- I like riding with my friends in the city I live in.

o It's a political statement! Screw the cars! More power to cyclists!

o It's just a chance to wear a funny hat and put streamers on my bike and go for a ride.

o I enjoy cycling, and like on any group ride it feels good to see so many cyclists together.

o It's a statement about polution and oil. We want to show that you don't need a car -- bikes are the way to go!

o I'm protesting the war in Iraq. No money for oil wars!

Which one of those opinions is correct? Who knows? Depends on who you talk to. CM around the world is specifically designed to NOT have any official leaders. You want CM to be handled differently? Good for you! Go ahead! When the group turns right, you turn left. Fine! Are there some idiots on the CM ride? You bet! Just like there are some idiots on just about every other group bike ride I've ever been on, including NYCC rides. (And 5BBC rides, and every organized century ride, and...)

This wide difference of opinion should not be a surprise, and is not wrong. Next time the political conventions are on TV, look at the signs people are holding up: Support Our Troops"

Anonymous's picture
Mike (not verified)
Thanks

Thanks for the education. Before your post, I assumed Critical Mass riders were bunch of wannabe-rebel hippie idiots. Now, I'd actually think about joining a ride (though probably not in Manhattan).

Anonymous's picture
liz shura (not verified)

"Brooklyn CM starts at Grand Army Plaza, 7:00.

It always amazes me when one group of cyclists vilifies another. What does any bike ride ""achieve"" for people who don't go on it?

I'm not a huge fan of riding in CM -- the crowding bothers me and the police frighten me -- but the rights involved have to do with your right to ride your bike in any group setting.

The NYPD has itself made this pretty clear: in order to make CM illegal, it's been necessary to broaden the definition of what parading is until 2 bikes running a red near each other can qualify. Even if you would never, ever ride CM (and individually dislike each person that does), that's just not reasonable.
"

Anonymous's picture
bill vojtech (not verified)

"The CM ride has a very ""activist"" stance, and many people who go on it talk about doing it to ""fight for cyclists rights"" or about how it's a ""traffic-calming ride,"" (euphemism for ""traffic-blocking ride"").

As such, it would seem that they are trying to achieve something– so it's fair to ask what."

Anonymous's picture
chris (not verified)
thanks.

Thanks for your insight. Where/When does Brooklyn CM start?

Anonymous's picture
chris o (not verified)
Right on Glen

"Well said. I think some of these guys that dismiss CM are older and maybe cranky. Perhaps 20 or 30 years ago, they would have had a different attitude (i.e. open-minded, or ""live and let live"", or ""to each their own"").
"

Anonymous's picture
kj (not verified)

you seem ill informed and judgemental. you must be young and careless. don't assumptions suck?

Anonymous's picture
don montalvo (not verified)
missing the point...

"...the folks in the cm are a small fraction of the cycling public. asking someone to ""do the ride then decide"" doesn't change widespread opinion.

cm has a bad rap. it's not reasonable to believe everyone who has a negative opinion of cm (me included) should have to do the ride to make a decision. the opinion is out there - the burdon is on cm to change things.

maybe once cm cleans up it's name i'd do the ride. i won't support it or even go near it until then.

don

glen wrote:


> As far as the CM ride, why not try seeing it in person before
> spouting a lot of uninformed opinions. You don't even have
> to ride -- just walk over, take a look, and see everyone else
> having harmless fun while the police move in again.
>
> Glen
"

Anonymous's picture
mike p (not verified)
setting the example

CM riders may aggravate vehicle driversa couple minutes one evening a month, The returning NJ crew that zip down riverside drive blowing through the red lights, terrorizing the people who have the light and are crossing in the crosswalk create a bad image and reputation for bicyclist every single day.. This same breed of cyclist also want to blow through red lights in central park endangering pedestrians. They have the SUV drivers mentality.
i think the talked about bad image is from these cyclist not the one Friday evening a month CM that rarely interferes with pedestrian traffic. Pedestrian usually cheer on the critical mass ride.,

Anonymous's picture
Josh (not verified)
My CM Right or Wrong

"Sad fact is this is the kind of dialogue the CM ""leadership"" should be having with the bicycling community in general -- many of us experienced & hardcore who've been involved in cycling issues, etc., in varying political degrees.

But they could care less."

Anonymous's picture
nycc member (not verified)

"me thinks that the burden is on us ,I feel that we (nycc) should do something to counteract the negative opinions that the (cm) rides illicit!!! whether a ride, a statement or a good deed ,just do it !!!......this idle chit chat is fine, but it's all a"" crock""if no action is taken ,trust me , not rectifying the ill will of the ""cm"" rides with the public ,will eventually rear it ugly head & bite all of us in the rear ! !"

Anonymous's picture
Rich (not verified)

"Glen, a thoughtful post. I'm a critic of CM & I've been on 2 of the pre-RNC rides. I don't like anything the NYPD has done in response to CM. Although if people have thoughtful criticisms of CM, we get told by many CM fans that we are on the side of police! What a way to promote thoughtful discussion.

Anyway, much of your post mentioned police escorts of CM in Brooklyn and past CM's in Manhattan. Many CM fans like those police escorts, but then it begs the question: if CM wants a police escort, is it ""traffic"" or a ""parade"" ? Many club rides go off smoothely, blending with traffic pretty well (ok, not always), without the police to keep us ""safe"". Even major event rides run by organizations, while not always needing a permit, often consult with local police to help with intersection crossings, etc. The CM fondness for police escort points in the direction of ""PARADE"", and often the way it operates, by blocking intersections, etc., it looks, smells, walks & quacks like a parade. So the city has not been unreasonable in asking CM to get a parade permit for an event that often numbered more than 1000 people.
Immediately before RNC, NYPD attempted a diplomatic approach, by asking CM to get a parade permit. But the CM'ers said, ""we have no leaders, so we can't apply for a permit"" and ""we are traffic, so we don't need one."" It was a hardline stance, leaving NYPD no-one to talk to regarding a major cycling event occuring at the same time as the RNC. And it was a major tactical mistake by the CM'ers, as it contributed to a war with NYPD.

The CM'ers talk a lot about the ""right to ride a bike"". I would like to continue to enjoy that right, and I find the NYPD proposal quite threatening. But it's a proposal in response the actions of one cycling group: CM. And in the end, something like the right to ride a bike on our roads is not unlimited. CM has been long on talk about rights, and pretty short in discussing using the roads responsibly (unless they talk about how motorists use the roads responsibly).

Rich Conroy"

Anonymous's picture
JJ (not verified)

Bicycles are traffic with full rights to use roads. If there are 1,000 bikes on road moving with traffic laws, that should not be a problem. Cars do it everyday.

Anonymous's picture
Tom Laskey (not verified)

"Maybe you can explain to someone who's ""never done the ride"" how 1000 bikes can stay together in midtown Manhattan if they are moving with traffic laws? Seems to me those 1000 bikes would get pretty spread out if they were stopping at red lights and stop signs as is required by law."

Anonymous's picture
mike p (not verified)
1000 bikes?

amazing how out of touch people that disparge critical mass are, 1000 bikes? have you ever been to a critical mass ride? the RNC ride had a couple thousand, that i think was to make the RNC feel welcome. The holand tunnel traffic every evening block s more intesctions and causings more gridlock than the once a month CM. The NYPD cause more gridlock and block more traffic with their blockades during a CM ride than the bicyle riders, but theses are things you would only have noticed if you actually watched or patcipated in a ride, not read the daily news or ny post reports.

Anonymous's picture
mike p (not verified)
this is how nypd causes congestion

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VemXr9JPv9U
bicyclist moving in a group down street they have the green light, NYPD comes in running their red light and blockades the group of cyclist, than starts issuing them tickets for not riding right when many were planning on turning left.
the nypd jammed up this intersection for over a half hour with this maneuver, they cause the real traffic back ups.
oh in the beginning of the tape was the undercover nypd? that took a camera from a person on the streets refused to id themselves , he blew kisses to the people on the street asking for him to show his police ID, i have the full tape, this is your police force, feel safe?

Anonymous's picture
packfill (not verified)
politics, psychology and popcorn

"CM wants change and as such is a political movement. And as politicians they have failed miserably if they can't even get avid cyclists like many of us in the NYCC to support them.

Rather than trying to adapt to constructive criticsm, extremist groups use any criticism destructively to reinforce their sense of persecution and thus fuel their anger at the ""system"".

Yes there is an important kernal of truth in the CM position. But rather than serving their cause it serves today primarily to feed their outer husk of hubris and delusion."

Anonymous's picture
hal eskenazi (not verified)
critical mass

I experienced them for the first time @ 2 weeks ago on a fri night at 3rd & 34th.
I found them to be overbearing, intimidating, unsafe at any speed, loud, disorganized,
taking up the road from side to side, threatening to both pedestrian & motorists alike.
And those were their good points.
There was nothing about them that reached out to me and said, “join these people, they’re
on your side”. Quite the contrary, If they expect to garner public support for cycling I
thing we’re in bigger trouble then we realize.

cycling trips