Recent developments in New York City and San Francisco have me thinking about Critical Mass, wondering what kind of future it has, wondering whether it’s run its course. In New York we have new police department rules requiring that groups of 50 or more bicyclists obtain a parade permit before embarking on a group ride (reportedly, parade permits are not easy to come by in New York, so this new rule has some teeth). And in San Francisco, we have a Chief of Police who recently went on a bike ride with representatives from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, while during the same month, made a public statement about “cracking down” on Critical Mass.
It goes without saying that how we ride is a personal matter as long as we’re obeying the law and not endangering other road users. But when we make choices to break the law (running red lights, blocking traffic, etc.) in the name of calling attention to the rights and needs of bicyclists, we invite the question of whether the ends justify the means, and whether we’re doing more harm than good at a time when transportational bicycling is receiving more coverage than ever in the popular press.
What do you think? Is Critical Mass still a viable method for drawing attention to the rights and needs of bicyclists or would we be better served by other, less confrontational approaches?
I’m opening this up for (moderated) discussion, but please, let’s keep it civil. This is an emotion-packed, polarizing topic, but I have faith we can stay away from name-calling and personal exchanges. If you’re a regular contributor, you know the drill; if you’re new to the site, please take a moment to read our discussion guidelines before hitting “submit”. Thanks! —Alan