Monday, August 07, 2006

"Critical Mass is FUN!"

Abbott Rhineway writes: 

"Hey Rob.. the big point that you're missing is that Critical Mass is FUN! Yes, it's good clean fun at a scheduled time once a month when motorists are perfectly aware it will occur. Lighten up bro, it's a fun event and almost everyone digs it with a smile. That said, i DO agree that there should be areas where "the mass" is crossable...perhaps a police escort would help?"

Whether motorists are "perfectly aware" of Critical Mass or not, it's a huge inconvenience for everyone but its juvenile participants. 

Why is Critical Mass scheduled for rush hour on a Friday? To cause the maximum disruption of commuter traffic. Yes, I understand that it's fun for its emotionally infantile participants. Leah Shahum herself had a quasi-religious experience at her first Critical Mass. 

But adults don't create their fun at the expense of the larger community. You and the other Critical Mass participants seem to be a case of arrested emotional development, perpetual adolescents who insist on indulging themselves at the expense of everyone else. 

Critical Mass would probably wither and die without the endorsement of the SF Bicycle Coalition, which uses it as an organizing tool, in spite of the hypocritical disclaimer on their online calendar.

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At 8:52 PM, Anonymous chris said...

yeah, and we should put a stop to halloween in the castro, the chinese new year parade, bay to breakers, the sf marathon, the pride parade, folsom street fair, the haight street fair, north beach's jazz festival, the love parade, day of the dead, and carnival.

what do all of these emotionally immature activities have in common? they all hold up traffic. when are these people going to grow up and realize that life is all about being trapped in your car listening to radio alice in a traffic jam everyday? commute, work, commute, eat,sleep, commute, work, commute,eat,sleep....

If you'd ever actually been to a critcal mass you'd have noticed by now that THE MAJORITY OF TRAFFIC IT HOLDS UP ENJOYS THE SHOW! Commuters are jolted out of their ho-hum monadic auto experience for 5 minutes while a party passes them by. Drivers smile, give bikers high 5s, and yell encouragingly.

Its really only a minority of drivers (the most uptight assholes who must really have had some shitty day at their lame office job) who get angry.

At 10:45 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, of course it's important for you and other participants to believe that people stuck in traffic actually enjoy Critical Mass. This is one of the many irritating things about the city's "progressive" political community: They think they are cute. Just as revealing is your admonition to those stuck in the traffic "to grow up and realize that life is all about being trapped in your car...," etc. Those "uptight assholes"! This shows that Critical Mass is really an act of aggression against drivers, not a light-hearted celebration of cycling in the city. The events you list in your first paragraph are all legitimate, city-endorsed celebrations that people are able to plan for months in advance, unlike Critical Mass, which is deliberately staged during rush hour, when people are trying to get home from work. You should discuss the symptoms of passive-aggression with your therapist.

At 11:37 AM, Anonymous chris said...

actually i was being sarcastic. i meant, "when are all of these immature paraders and festival goers going to grow up and learn to have less fun?".

critical mass is ALSO city endorsed. that's why i don't understand either your position or that or the anarchist types who take part in it. the anarcho-kids like to think they are being transgressive yet the mass is followed by a dozens of officers that makes sure autotraffic does not interfere with critical mass as it goes through red lights. the city could easily put an end to it but doesn't because few people have a problem with it. it is planned (it occurs like clockwork).

but i still stand by my initial statement...most people in cars ENJOY watching the bikers go by. i've seen it. every time there are far more supporters than grumps.

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Mayor Brown tried to stop it in the beginning but gave up when it devolved into a riot. Hence, the city "endorses" Critical Mass only reluctantly. What, by the way, do you think it costs the city to take those cops off of more useful assignments to escort you jerks through traffic every month? Of course you have to believe that people stuck in traffic like Critical Mass. Otherwise you'd have to admit what an asshole you are.

At 3:33 PM, Anonymous chris said...

I'm sure it costs plenty, but not as much as all of the other events I mentioned. My hunch is that the city supports it not only because it devolved into a "riot" (whatever that means) but becasue tourists love it. And tourism generates plenty of cash to make up for what we spend policing CM.

Whenever critical mass roles through Union Square and North Beach you see the camera-holding, shorts-wearing faces light up! They laugh and snap tons of pictures. The city probably likes the fact that these people go back home and tell their friends what a whacky, off-beat town this is and that they have to see it for themselves. Events like Critcal Mass add to this city's "kooky" reputation and keeps SF one of the most visited cities in the world.

If you had your way and the city was about as festive as Cleveland, nobody would come here (which, I wouldn't mind but it sure would hurt the "economy" and I assume you think that would be bad).

Anyway, you seem to have it in for spontaneity. Critical Mass is one of the few times that the streets are opened up to enjoyment. For 5 minutes a month, each downtown street corner exists for something other than the banal flow of commerce. It reminds people that even though the "official" use of the streets is for mundane purposes, human imagination can transform it for enjoyment--an unofficial purpose. Really, what's so terrible about that?

At 3:36 PM, Anonymous chris said...

ps- I won't be around for CM this month, but in September I am going to take lots of pictures of people sitting in their cars,being held up by CM who are obviously having a good time, giving bikers high-fives and thumbs up. I'm gonna photograph all of the smiling people who you think are so outraged and then I'm going to e-mail them to you. Then you won't be able to deny what I've been telling you.

At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

critical mass starts after 6 pm on friday. that's not rush hour. if it wanted to fuck shit up it would start at 4:30.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

So why don't you do Critical Mass on the weekend?

So you Critical Mass folks are so adorable that everyone---especially the tourists---loves you! So creative, spontaneous, and adorable! Now there's a truly delusional belief system.

It would help if you got the SF Bicycle Coalition to pay for the police escort, since the whole travesty is essentilly an organizing tool for them. Since the city gave them $250,000 to do "outreach" for the Bicycle Plan, we know they have plenty of money.

At 12:11 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

A correction: Actually it was CalTrans that gave the SFBC the first $200,000, with the city giving them the next $50,000.

At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people stuck in cars support critical mass and enjoy the show? It encourages tourism? This strikes me as the same kind of logic that a 2 year old uses when they wipe their poop all over the wall and then proudly smile at mommy and daddy, certain that they are looking back with adoration and approval for their child's creativity.

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"halloween in the castro, the chinese new year parade, bay to breakers, the sf marathon, the pride parade, folsom street fair, the haight street fair, north beach's jazz festival, the love parade, day of the dead, and carnival."

These all happen once a year not once a month and have a hell of a lot more participants.

At 1:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, aononymous, if critical mass had more participants you'd be ok with it?

The overwhelming mojority of people who shout at critical mass from their cars are cheering for it.

People stuck in traffic know a countervailing force when they see it.

If CM is an act of agression against drivers, then driving is also an act of agression against all other road uses.

I've never seen more than four police officers at a critical mass. I'm sure that costs quite a bit, but we all know that it costs next to nothing to police all the motor traffic in the city, right?

The CM "riot" in '97 was caused by the police.

If CM causes people to be stuck in traffic, then how do you explain the jam-ups on every other day of the month?

CM is confrontational; there's no denying that. But the arguments against it would make much better arguments against cars: traffic generation, cost, disruption, danger, selfishness, undue political influence, etc.

But I think CM has a lot more to do with celebrating bikes and being able to ride without being constantly threatened by cars.

It addresses the priorities we give to public space and resources and, since it's done on roads that (suburban) freeways dump into, it questions the hegemony of cars in urban areas.

People you'll see at a typical critical mass include a pretty broad cross-section of the city's population and it's impossible to pin this phonomenon down to any single cause (or really any group of causes, for that matter) because if you ask 100 riders what CM is you'll probably get as many different asnwers.

I'm just giving my take on it, as a participant.


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