By Cory Doctorow at 5:00 pm Fri, May 25, 2012
Hugh sez, "San Francisco muralista Mona Caron has created a stunning to poster to mark the 20th anniversary of Critical Mass in San Francisco this September."
Critical Mass 20th Anniversary Bike Angel Poster by Mona Caron
Nice artwork but god I loathe the critical mass movement. They have made the roads a dangerous place for regular cyclists like me..
From everything I’ve heard, Critical Mass is what I’d do if I wanted to start an anti-cycling movement. Luckily, where I live, cycling for transportation is nearly unheard of, so those loons don’t really exist here.
Like sending 4Chan out as spokespeople for a free internet and net neutrality.
Luckily, where I live, cycling for transportation is nearly unheard of
That’s lucky, huh?
You can keep where you live. I’m happy to live in a city where this supposed scourge exists.
I live in anti-cycling area and everybody drives like they might crap their pants, no turn signal use and are on cell phones even though its illegal. So lucky…
…in the bad way.
Could you elaborate on how a once-a-month gathering of cyclists makes roads more dangerous for regular cyclists? Also, what constitutes a “regular” cyclist?
I think people are annoyed with the loud crowd it attracts, possibly having to wait while we pass. Well, too many cars makes even worse traffic. And bike riding attracts an aggressive crowd at first — this is America where drivers don’t even think bikes should be allowed on the streets. The timid get motors.
I can understand criticism. But to say it makes the road a more dangerous place seems like hyperbole.
I don’t think so, CM reinforces the stereotype of the militant cyclist who holds up traffic – Often, when people hear I cycle to work and don’t drive, they instantly move on to the ‘I hate it when cyclists hold me up’ drivel, I can argue that I never do but invariably, the old Critical mass chestnut gets brought out.
I’d also refer you to this fine book.
Which sums up my thoughts much more succinctly.
I certainly believe that cycling needs more advocacy but as the commenter cinerik so rightly put it.
“Like sending 4Chan out as spokespeople for a free internet and net neutrality.”
i have a problem with them blowing through red lights and blocking traffic that has the right of way. if you want to ride on the road, you obey the laws of the road, just like everyone else has to.
Laws of the road that treat cyclists as an afterthought?
You can jam those laws where the sun don’t shine.
How about laws of the road that makes it safe for me to walk every morning to work? I ride bike as well, but that doesn’t mean I should be an asshole.
One example: when it takes the weight of a car in the left-turn lane to trigger the left-turn light.
howabout the laws of the road that let an old guy w/ a cane cross the street when he’s got the signal, instead of a bunch of assholes on bikes (or in cars, for that matter) preventing him from doing that? i’ve witnessed the horde of jerks on bikes who can’t follow simple rules like “stop on red” blocking intersections next to EMERGENCY ROOMS. all they do is make people less likely to be sympathetic to folks on bikes… which makes it hard for the rest of us who want to ride as non-jerks.
I got hit by a CM bicyclist in San Francisco while I was standing on the sidewalk, and then had to wait another ten minutes for the rest of the mob to pass. The jerk didn’t even stop to see if I was ok.
I can not even count the number of times I’ve been flipped off as I nearly wreck trying to avoid a bicyclist running a stop light. It must happen at least once every time I drive in San Francisco.
Pissing people off by this kind of behavior doesn’t endear you to anyone.
Why is Justine Bateman an angel?
Isn’t that Uma Thurman in a wig?
Gnah! $9 for shipping?
Christo, the road was already a dangerous place for regular cyclists. In my admittedly limited experience, it’s a lot better now than it was before Critical Mass started. But haters gonna hate, I guess.
Do you think that CM has made it safer? I agree the roads are marginally but I attribute this to multiple factors; the growth in recreational cycling, petrol/gas prices, increased awareness of environmental impact and the physical fitness movement which have led to more cycling infrastructure..
I think that if you discount the power of Critical Mass to get casual cyclists to start feeling like a movement, start to make a difference, and perhaps most importantly, start to ride their bikes more, then either you’ve never ridden in a big mass, or you’re fooling yourself.
It’s true that there is some backlash from self-righteous motorists toward CM, but when I used to ride in the Bay Area around the time that CM got big, I didn’t notice a particular increase in jerky behavior on the part of motorists—it was pretty common to begin with.
What I have noticed in the intervening 20 years is a lot more bicycle infrastructure, and a lot more awareness of the rights of bicyclists to be on the road. I wouldn’t want to claim that CM has been responsible for all of this, but I think it has played a major role, precisely because of it’s ability to get people who hadn’t previously identified as “bicyclists” to do so.
get casual cyclists to start feeling like a movement
people who hadn’t previously identified as “bicyclists”
I don’t want to feel like a movement, or identify as a ‘bicyclist’, (or be a part of ‘bike culture’) I just want to ride my bike, and for it to be considered nothing out of the ordinary.
I don’t have any direct experience of Critical Mass, but it does sound like it’s marginalising rather than normalising cycling.
The evolution of public discourse is not about what “you” want, or what “I” want. It is about what “we” want.
Also, when you start out a comment about X by saying “I have no experience with X,” it leads the astute reader to wonder why you bothered commenting about it at all.
Because none of us is as much of an asshole as all of us.
Maybe explain what Critical Mass is in the blog entry above — even with just a single sentence, from Wikipedia please?
“Critical Mass is a cycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world.”
I’d never heard of it before
Well, you did manage to google it, so you’re okay now :) It’s not like one of those psychodelic BB posts when even googling explains NOTHING.
I like it very Mucha
I recognize Mona Caron’s style from an old Haight Street Fair poster.
She was my Illustration 2 instructor at AAU (AAC)! I learned a lot in that class.
This is the perfect poster for the movement. They think they are angels sent to guide us but they are really punk kids with bad haircuts that ride over and squash the motorists that they want to Chill.
Don’t get your point across by pissing off everybody that is not you.
The people who claim Critical Mass is bad for cycling never provide any evidence.
During the 20 years Critical Mass has existed in San Francisco, the situation for cyclists has improved vastly on a number of fronts: ridership has increased 71% in just the last 5 years; there are now miles upon miles of bike lanes (there was only 1 mile in 1992); ubiquitous bike infrastructure (ie parking poles); a bike advocacy movement that commands real respect from city hall, etc.
So if in fact Critical Mass is bad for cycling, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to hold back the movement towards a bike-friendly city.
I wrote about this question in this blog post, where I interviewed several veterans from the bike advocacy movement for their thoughts on the matter. You might be surprised what they have to say: http://www.sfcriticalmass.org/2010/05/25/is-critical-mass-bad-or-good/
It strikes me odd that Critical Mass started in SanFran; based on my limited time there it seems like a very bike un-friendly city. Not from the cars, but from those damn hills.
It’s a great place to ride, because of all those hills. Depends on what kind of ride you like. :)
Those hills give you thick powerful attractive legs.
BZZZT. Logical fallacy detected.
cum hoc ergo propter hocCorrelation does not imply causation.During the last 20 years, there has been a progressive movement towards more ecologically sound methods in general, such as recycling, better fuel economy, and reducing consumption across the board. In the last 5 years, fuel prices for transportation have risen considerably, and a general revitalization of the urban cores of major cities have caused an influx of population that has career choices that do not require them to travel long distances between work and home.My description could be as far fetched as yours, but from what I have seen and read in news reports of monthly critical mass rides, they garner very few things except self-congratulatory back patting among participants. People external to the events see them as a pain in the ass.
Correlation does not prove causation, but neither does it prove a lack of causation: results are _always_ correlated to their causes. You describe the progressive movement as being completely divorced from Critical Mass, but really CM is part of that movement. Not the whole thing, of course, but definitely a part.
You want reasons, I’ll give them. 1) CM does not have even the vaguest set of rules. If you ride in a fashion that obeys traffic rules and the guy that rides past you blows that stop sign, hey you are part of the group and he just represented you very poorly. And you can’t exclude the nutjobs.
2) CM does not encourage drivers that bikes are better forms of transportation, just obstacles. Nothing gives me more pleasure than riding passes cars when they are jammed up among themselves. Vice versa, nothing would make me unhappier than blocking traffic on my bike. It’s a BICYCLE. It shouldn’t be an obstacle and that’s what CM turns it into.
3) A good chunk of the people who ride in CM only ride in CM. Some of us commute every day, make left hand turns comfortably, stopping at busy intersections. Someone who comes out only once a month to ride in a MOB that says fuck the rules that prevent people from getting killed, i.e. stopping at busy intersections, is not a mob you take advice from.
I ride a lot and have commuted in Knoxville TN, Phoenix AZ, Santa Fe NM and Portland, OR for about 20 years. I ride with traffic and conduct myself as such. I have come through mostly unscathed, the altercations mostly verbal, so I claim some experience in the matter. The last reason I’ll give is CM denies the fact a cyclist can be just as bad or worse as a motorist. “Hey, I’m riding a bicycle! I can do no harm!” is a common theme in many a cyclist’s head and it’s just not true…
Hm, depends which CM in which city. Remember that there’s no central CM committee, so it’s totally up to the local cyclists to establish rules- or not.
Where I ride in Lodz, Poland, yes, there are rules. People who break them get yelled at. We post the route a good week before the event, have the city’s permission, are registered as an official demonstration, have police and city watch riding along on their own bikes, and it’s absolutely amazing.
Yes, we block traffic. It takes about ten minutes for the Mass to ride past. But public demonstrations, rallies, and protests ALWAYS block traffic and make noise. That’s the point! Our CM blows the repeated ‘well, cyclists are a minority so there’s no need to spend any money on their infrastructure’ argument out of the water regularly, once a month. It does its job.
If CM did its job you would have cycling infrastructure and 5 times the people riding bicycles than 20 years ago. CM being 20 years old sort of suggests to me that it ISN’T working…
>During the 20 years Critical Mass has existed in San Francisco, the situation for cyclists has improved vastly on a number of fronts
And the housing bubble burst, the start of a global economic depression, global warming warmed up, and George Bush got elected twice.
Same sort of causality in action.
I’ll admit it; I only ever rode in CM to meet cute girls who liked bikes.
Not a crime!
… and neither is cycling.
No. But I suspect that others have/had more political aims which they do not state quite as openly as groups like RTS (Reclaim The Streets). Legally a public right of way is a right of way for GOODS and people. Most CM participants I have known were both anti-capitalist and anti-car. Maybe that’s just me. How you would get participants to limit their participation to a single issue (however you might try to define that) I wouldn’t know. Unless it is just sex, that is.
Huh. I used to ride in Critical Mass, and I’m definitely not anti-capitalist. I am anti-unregulated capitalist, though—maybe that’s what you mean?
I think there was a lot more downright anti-car sentiment around in Brixton in the early nineties (where I was) than in San Francisco.
Perhaps some people don’t understand what Critical Mass has become, not what it is supposed to be. In Pittsburgh, this is where cyclists mob the streets, and drive two fucking miles an hour, blocking rush-hour traffic, and preventing car commuters from using the streets. You read that right. This isn’t a group of cyclists raising awareness, this is blatant assholeism, as these fucking bastards block traffic on bridges, and in major intersections. AT TWO MILES AN HOUR DURING RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC. These bikes not only have their own lane in both directions, but were also occupying all 3 outbound car lanes, and also the other two inbound car lanes on the Birmingham bridge. All at two miles an hour. With cars trying to get out of the way, traffic building up, and these douchebags had a slow moving blockade. There’s no excuse for this, and I fucking hate critical mass.
For me, this is complicated. I’ve been a bike commuter for decades and rode in some of the early Critical Mass rides, but I don’t anymore. Criticism aside, I have to respect a regular protest action that lasts for twenty years and has spread around the world. That’s quite an achievement.
20 years ago, there seemed to be a mindset of “roads are for cars” that needed disrupting. Even before CM, I’ve had motorists throw things at me, swerve at me, shout “back on the sidewalk,” etc. I think CM did a good job of exposing that it wasn’t just bike messengers and a few nutters who wanted to ride in the city, but rather a substantial and diverse group.
Fast forward to the present, and things are a lot better for cyclists in SF and the US in general. There are many, many more of us out there. There are bike lanes, facilities, and the civic government actually considers bicycles. But, we have a public image problem. There are an extremely visible minority of cyclists who ride very badly. I’m not talking about Idaho Stops, but real red-light-blowing, wrong-side-of-the-street-riding recklessness. There was recently a pedestrian death in SF where it seems likely that the cyclist who caused it was quite reckless.
In 20 years, cyclists in SF have gone from being ignored to having a seat at the table. As a community, we need to modulate our actions from getting ourselves noticed (which CM did quite well) to demonstrating that we deserve to have this seat (which we do). Last year, I rode by a SF Bike Coalition Booth that was handing out free lights to commuters. Great! I would like to see the next 20 years of CM characterized by an emphasis on education — educating cyclists on riding safely and courteously, educating motorists and pedestrians about what to expect from cyclists, and educating the community on how we can accomodate cyclists and pedestrians in what still is a very car-oriented streetscape.
PS That’s a hella cool poster.
I think the problem of “image” is actually one of these problems of countercultural acceptance. We’re not going to change but will eventually be accepted when “they” join us (and realize that “running a red light” on a bike is like jay walking, which everyone in urban areas does) and appropriate our image for selling things. At least, I’m waiting for the future, rather than change.
Although, CM does attract an aggressive rider. If you want to change that, grab your friends and start doing it your way!
When they join us thinking will get people killed. What about when car drivers decides to ‘join” you at the same light ignoring the red?
e = mv^2
It’s a small minority of motorists who drive very badly too. Any argument that is advanced that suggests that a group of people, defined by some activity they all independently engage in, be suppressed because of the behavior of a minority applies to any group that can be identified in that way.
This is not to say that people who engage in dangerous activities ought not to be censured for doing so. But as members of a group that is identified by the activity, “bicycling,” there is little we can do about people who bicycle dangerously, any more than the average driver can do much to stop red light runners and street racers.
Reminds me of a Gary Fisher / Grateful Dead poster I had in my dorm room, circa 1995. It was a retro style then, too. Very super awesome poster, though.
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