Critical Mass

Well, second time out was a little larger (I overheard 50 something), drier, and relatively without incident aside from a minor bit of stacking and a lost crank arm. Given the dropped parts incident, maybe next time I'll try and show up earlier and bring more of the support tools with me. The handlebar mount for the camera worked to the point that it didn't fall off, but I still forgot to put a video editor on this machine so that stunning footage will have to wait. Also, a bit... jittery. Overall a pleasant, fun ride. We even got some press this time out.

And yet, I've got A Thing about it.

The ride is still pretty small, but we're big enough to get some attention. It's also not too hard for everyone to keep up and together. Even when stoplights get in the way...

Which brings me to my Thing, the Corking. Which I honestly can't rail against, I was taking advantage of it, after all. Corking, if you don't know, is when a couple or more riders come to a stop in an intersection and hold up other traffic that has the light while the group goes through.

Which for a small group like ours, isn't that big of a deal; it seemed most people weren't put out by it too much and there certainly weren't any altercations over it.

But I can't help feeling that we can't say "We are traffic!" without nearly as much authority when we're obviously taking liberties with the rules and laws that govern other traffic. And as the ride gets bigger (I should hope!) and we get more attention, I know I'd rather it be positive attention. Because I'm not going to be able to be upset at the cops if they start yanking us over for interfering with intersections and running red lights. I hope it doesn't get to that, but if we're going to keep doing that we should expect it.

Yeah, it's not as hardcore or what have you to stop and go, but then we get to the problem that seems to divide people about Critical Mass elsewhere: attention is good, but brazenly defying the law probably won't get us the attention we want. And one thing I hear constantly is drivers upset that "those bikes" never obey the signs and such (not that a lot of drivers do, either). Here's a recent Bikepirates discussion for the curious.

Of course, I could just be worried about nothing, and people might be willing to let a certain amount of rule-bending slide. This isn't San Francisco or New York and there aren't even a hundred of us out there yet. We're only about big enough to need slightly more than single cycle of the light to get through. And hey, it's only once a month...

We'll just have to see what happens.

[Edit: more]


S L Parker said...

Hi Michael,

A good post. If you really want people to take the group seriously, you need to settle this issue before the next ride. I don't think you can have it both ways, we are traffic AND we don't have to follow the traffic laws.

You're right in that this isn't one of the bigger metropolitan areas, however, I think that's even more reason not to stick out like a sore thumb.

If things were to continue on the rides as you described, I have a feeling it would only be a matter of time before either you get the publicity that you don't want or someone gets seriously injured or killed (see the photo a bit further down your blog).

Safety must be the group's first priority, even if it's not that of the driver's you're sharing the road with. While the event may only occur once a month, it's the cumulative memory that gives driver's their bad impression and harsh feelings towards bikers and reverses any kinds of gains you could make with events like this.

Both times there's been an event, I've passed on giving it any coverage on my blog (not that I have a huge following) because of these reasons. I can't promote an activity that I don't percieve as safe. I sincerely don't mean that as a slam. I'd like to see the group and event grow, perhaps at some point, even join in. And I think you'd be surprised at how much more credibility it would have if the laws and safety issues were followed!

Again good to see that at least your cognizant of the issues and mulling them over!

MichaelK said...

Thing is, since nobody is really in charge... well, we can make suggestions, but ultimately "enforcement" is first up to the individuals and then up to the police. Actually, even if this was "Courteous Mass" (as I heard one place call theirs) it's still up to everyone there to set the tone. I just hope people think before they decide to get super-confrontational about it.

Anonymous said...

i also reently came across the bike pirates page, and do not want to see problems like that occur on the fort wayne rides. als through searching i have found alot of interviews and videos of other cm rides. here in fort wayne we tend to have fun and try to get drivers excited to see us. this is not the case alot of other places. in videos ive wtched and things ive read i have noticed that alot of riders have an attitude that seems to sy f you if you are not on a bike. if we steer clear of that i will stay happy. and as far as the corking goes. i guess we can't change what people are going to do, so we'll just have to see how things progress.

MichaelK said...

Yeah, there isn't much that can be done while it's going on. I thought maybe a pre-ride "hey guys, we're getting attention now, be cool, you know?" might be a good idea... but then, we don't seem to have anyone like Bad example guy (from that later post).