Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Critical Mass In Jax?

Would you like to see and support a Critical Mass (CM) type of event in Jacksonville?

From the first day Bike Jax went live a year ago. I have been constantly asked, "when are you going to start a critical mass?"

I have a few reasons why Bike Jax has not openly started or endorsed CM. First let me answer that question that I am so very tried of hearing. CM is set up so there is no organizer. It is an event or happening with no leaders. The intention of this informal organization is so that authorities can't point a finger at any individual or group and hold them responsible for any of the actions of the group before, during or after a ride.

Second is I am torn on the whole ideal of CM. Having taken part in several CM's across the country and throughly enjoying each and everyone of them. I have also seen the dirty side of the event. I've seen the riders that harass drivers, pedestrians and even other CM's and the problems that arise because of that harassment.

I know no one is setting out to cause any problems during such an event. But it only takes that one asshole to light the fuse. And in a city where local law enforcement live by the credo of "Taze them all and let god sort'em out" you need to think about how they are going to react to a couple of hundred loud and happy cyclists taking over the streets running red lights and stop signs on a monthly basis.

I also question how effective can a CM be for cyclists rights when those very same cyclist are breaking just about every rule on the books.

I do however like the idea of a Critical Manners type of event. The idea of the manners type of ride is that, riders stay in their lane of travel. If on a multi-lane road, the riders only take one lane leaving the others open. They also stop for signals and signs.

While the above sounds nice and friendly. In practicality it is not very likely just because of the very nature what happens when you reach Critical Mass. When you reach critical mass of anything it is going to spill out. And in this type of environment in order to keep the group or mass together, you're naturally going to be spilling into and across intersections.

So, here I sit typing still very torn on the whole topic. I hear on the old grape vine that come this spring with the time change for more evening light and more stable weather we are very likely to start seeing CM hit the streets of Jacksonville.

What are your thoughts? Join/start the conversation and take the poll in Bike Jax Forums.


Anonymous said...

let's do SOMETHING...this would bring a lot of attention to the idea that our streets can be safe for everyone to enjoy.

Nate Briggs said...

There's a reason you feel conflicted. The ideal Critical Mass event would be disciplined and controlled. Once the event begins its entire momentum is to become spontaneous and uncontrolled. It's a contradiction that can't be reconciled.

malarchy said...

a disciplined and controlled critical mass would be a horrible. horrible. thing.

critical mass is a form of protest, not a resume letter. that's the beauty of it.

scx said...

interesting.... I will link a post to your article.

jax rider said...

Having been a victim of CM, I find them completely going against what many of us want to show, that cycling is a viable means of transport and recreation. Not just a bunch of out of control hipsters on a single speed or fix gear. CM does not serve cyclist well.

Bike Jax said...

Jax Rider, would you mind explaining how you were victimized by CM? Were you a rider or driver? Who caused you harm? Law enforcment, other riders, a driver?


jax rider said...

Sorry for the delay, just getting back here today. I was in West Palm several years ago in a car with my Mother and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was a pretty small group, maybe 50 riders and for the most part, most were well behaved, but some pinheads decided that they were going to take out car windows and mirrors.

I saw the group coming in my rear view mirror and pulled over to the side of the road to let them by. I was telling my Mom what this was all about then, BOOM, my driver side passenger window was blasted and we had glass flying all over. The guy actually turned around when he realized someone was in the car and was pointing and laughing with another guy and then rode off. Really scared my Mom and she thought she was going to be killed. I called the cops, but of course nothing could be done.

After that, I just decided that CM was not something I would ever be part of. I don't mind organized rides, but the mayhem type CM's do more to damage the cycling image in many places outside of San Fran, LA and NY. Never understood the point of senseless vandalism that can and do happen at these events.

fbforpensacola said...

hey bike jax i recently moved back to pensacola after some issues in jax. but something i did get to attend and enjoy was the bike jax night ride which could be more organized but overall was a great event. it was setup for everyone and helped a lot of people feel more comfortable on the roadways. something like that is what i would like to see at a critical mass. in jacksonville the midnights mass covers most of the uncontrolled youth instead of a critical mass. and as a person who fully supported it i dont think we were ever destructive in a malicious way. but we didn't raise awareness either.

anyways after reading the last comment i felt i should tell you at the january critical mass in pensacola i recieved a bicycling ticket for not having a light on an hour before dusk. the reason the police were mad is because we didn't stop for them as a group. after that they tried to cut everyone off and almost hit a few people doing so. but since that did not stop anyone a police officer decided to get out of his car and tackle someone at random off their bike. a young man with both lights illuminated. everyone continued a few hundred feet and i decided to go help him because i felt like he didn't know anyone. then i was in trouble. i had a light attached to my handle bars and explained it to the officer but that didnt help. he was looking for someone to blame and i was it.

jax rider said...

I was planning to attend the jax bike night, but I had to go out of town on business. It looked like a great turn out from some of the pics I have seen.

Yea, some cops get their panties in a bunch with cyclist, heck, some get their panties in a bunch because they can. It's never a good thing, but I know several police officers and for the most part, they are all pretty good dudes and dudettes.

I have to give props to them for what they do and what they have to deal with, but 1 bad one can ruin it for all of them.