© 2011 Timmy Tamisiea. All rights reserved. 11688l

27/365 – Critical Mass of Crap

Megan and I decided to celebrate the Halloween season by going to Daley Plaza and participating in Daleyween, or Daley’s Brew or Daley’s Fiscal Budget Crisis – I don’t remember what it was called.  It was lame.  There wasn’t really anything going on.  A few tents here and there and some toddlers dressed as monkeys and bees.

They did have a pumpkin urinal . . . complete with a pumpkin bidet!

Slowly, however, we noticed the bicycles.  Remember that scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure when his bike’s been stolen and he’s moping around the shopping center?  Bicyclists keep passing him as he’s meanders in his own sadness?  More and more just riding through the plaza?  Here, try this: http://youtu.be/xqXBZXk-WMI

It was just like that except I wasn’t sad and I hadn’t visited Chuck’s Bike Shop earlier that day.  No, it was then that I realized that it was the last Friday of the month . . . meaning it’s Critical Mass.  What’s Critical Mass?  Well, according to their website (http://chicagocriticalmass.org/about) this is what Critical Mass is:

“Critical Mass is a bike ride plain and simple. The ride takes place on the Last Friday Of Every Month (in Chicago anyway). A Critical Mass is created when the group of riders comes together for those few hours to take back the streets of our city. The right of the people to assemble is guaranteed in the Constitution, and Critical Mass helps people remember that right. The Mass itself has no political agenda, though, no more than the people of any other community do. Critical Mass is open to all, and it welcomes all riders to join in a celebration of riding bicycles. Why? Because bikes are fun!”

This makes it even more fun!

To that, I say, “talley ho!”  Sounds great.  Sign me up . . .

However, everyone I’ve met who urges me to go on a Critical Mass ride (because I’m an avid cyclist) always contradicts that message.  They claim it IS a political ride that promotes bicycle rights and safety on city streets.  That it promotes the right for bicycles to share the city streets with cars.  To those people I say, “You, sir, are full of poopie!”  Again, if what the Critical Mass website says is true, than at the heart of the ride I lend my support.  But, to the riders who claim it promotes any of the above – those are the ones full of fecal matter.  Here’s 3 reasons why:

#1-PROMOTING SAFETY

Yeah.  Laave the kid to be picked up by a vehicle that can take passengers.  Like a windowless, white van promoting free puppies.  

I’ve been riding in Chicago for ten years.  Before that, I cycled in every city I lived in.  Cycling in any city is dangerous.  I find Chicago to be one of the more dangerous city’s I’ve ever commuted in.  Chicago drivers have that special mix of impatience mixed with stupidity and arrogance that makes for a challenging day on the pedals.

This is actually in the Illinois Drivers Manual.

 That is why there are certain rules in place for cyclists so that they don’t cause harm to themselves, pedestrians, other cyclists or motorists.   I know that most cyclists don’t know half the rules for cycling in the city.  Why – because many times, its those same cyclists that cause me to get in a near accident.  For instance: Did you know that you can not ride side-by-side in a bike lane?  Only on bike paths is that allowed.  Did you know you can not ride on a sidewalk?  It’s illegal.  Did you know that you can never ride against traffic?  Yeah, because there’s probably other cyclists trying to get past you.  This isn’t Footloose and we’re not playing chicken.  There’s even the law that I break all the time if, and only if, there’s no traffic – running stop signs and lights.  And what is the deal with half of Chicago cyclists not wearing helmets?  That mystifies me after some of the accidents I’ve been in myself.

Now I can hold my water on my head. No more plastic bike bottle for me . . . derrrr.

Of course, Chicago, you could do this: http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/01/07/us-bikers-odd-idUSTRE5063SU20090107

The point is, Critical Mass completely ignores all rules of the road by using the law of the masses: i.e. – we have more.  You have less.  Try to stop us.  They take over every inch of the road and piss off pedestrians and motorists.  How does that promote safety?

Which brings us to:

#2 -PROMOTING BICYCLE / MOTOR VEHICLE COEXISTENCE

. . . and make bike / car hybrid babies.

Yeah, I’ve actually heard this one.  Someone saying that it makes motorists aware that there are cyclists on these streets – that the road is a shared resource for both types of pedals.  Really?  Don’t delude yourself.  There is already a shaky truce between cyclists and motorists.  Very shaky.  When you take over the downtown roads on Friday at rush hour – yeah, motorists are really gonna want to cooperate with us.  I’ve never, ever, ever, ever, ever heard a motorist say, “You know, I was trying to get home after work on Friday and was waylaid for 45 minutes because of Critical Mass.  Buuuuuut, you know, it really made me more aware of the needs and safety of cyclists.  My kid will have plenty of 1st birthdays anyway.”

Next time, Billy, don't have your birthday on the last Friday of the month.

Yeah, right.

I’m sorry Critical Massers, but your bike ride, if anything, increases the animosity towards cyclists from motorists.  And, I, an avid cyclist who comes from a family of avid cyclists, really don’t want to give motorists ANOTHER reason to drive dangerously around me.  If you want to promote the ongoing commitment of Chicago being a bike friendly city, then, please, be remember, you are SHARING the road with motorists.  Never should we stoop to their level and cut off their rights as they do so often to us.

#3-PROMOTING YOUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO PUBLIC ASSEMBLY

This is the only thing that the Critical Mass website says that I find complete and utter crapola.  That’s like saying a frat party is really just students exercising their right to public assembly.

Yo! We's exercising our condom-tutional right to be places together and shit. GTL!

I could have named this point . . .

#3-DILSUIONS OF GRANDEUR

. . . because, please, people aren’t gathering in Daily plaza every last Friday of the month to defend the constitution.

And if I’m correct, doesn’t that statement alone nullify the whole Critical Mass mission statement on their wenbsite.  Hint: When you say “The Mass itself has no political agenda” right after you state, “The right of the people to assemble is guaranteed in the Constitution, and Critical Mass helps people remember that right” – guess what?  That’s a political agenda.

And so's this.

Listen, I am all for the mission statement that the Critical Mass Chicago website states: It is a bike ride, plain and simple.  To think it is more than just a bike ride is crazy, coo-coo and nuts.  Now, I understand – I’ve never ridden in Critical Mass, so I am at a disadvantage.  So, I tell you what.  If you do this, so will I.  Ask this simple question to a anyone getting ready to ride at Critical Mass, “Why do you do this?”  Chances are you’ll get some really entertaining answers which include points one and two . . . but the “right to assemble?”  Get over yourself.

No, Critical Mass is really just an opportunity for a bunch of people with bikes to ignore the bike laws of Chicago, dress up in crazy costumes and take over the streets.  That’s it.  And that’s not a bad thing.  Really, it’s more enticing than trying to pretend it’s a more world changing event than it really is.  Maybe I would join the ride if those individuals (and I’ll admit, they are probably few) came to terms with what Critical Mass really is really about.

If anything, Critical Mass promotes the inner community of Chicago cyclists – allowing them to mingle and meet.

Oh, I didn't see you back there. I'm Buster. I like to bicycle.

Meeting people with the same interests — that’s awesome.  I support that.  However, Critical Mass isn’t saving the world and it isn’t promoting anything remotely close to safety, bicycle awareness or constitutional rights.  It’s own website explains this (other than the constitution thing), why can’t some of the rider’s admit it?  I mean, the Naked Bike Ride at least admits that it’s just a bunch of people riding around naked for a night . . . . wait, I take that back.  From the Naked Bike Ride Web Site (http://chicagonakedride.org):

“This and other massive local rides tangibly show Chicago’s ongoing commitment to being a leading bike-friendly U.S. city.”

For crying out loud.  Riding around naked, clogging traffic and ignoring laws does nothing to promote bike-friendlyness. I give up.  I’ll be on the next Critical Mass — I mean, I should try it before I bash it.

2 Comments

  1. Posted 20 Mar ’12 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I simply appreciate this short post a great deal, hope you could develop much more about it.

  2. Posted 27 Dec ’11 at 9:49 am | Permalink

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