Argument #6 Against Critical Mass: Running Red Lights

April 25th, 2010 by hughillustration

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In talking to commenters on this blog, and to people critical of Critical Mass for many years, I have begun to hear the same arguments over and over. I find myself saying and writing the same things in response, making the same points over and over.

So this week I am taking what I consider the 6 best and most common arguments against Critical Mass, and try to give them each a fair answer — one answer per day. (In Dave Letterman style, we’re counting backwards, starting with #6.)

First up: Running red lights! Thanks for reading and commenting!

Argument #6: Critical Mass does not stop for red lights. This is not just illegal, it is also immoral.

This is by far the most common criticism of Critical Mass. We hear this from passers by, from the police, from blogs and newspapers. Everyone, it seems, agrees that we should stop for red lights.

Critical Mass does not run red lights just because we can. Actually, the front of the ride generally stops for red lights (allowing the rest of the ride to re-group). However, when a light changes in the middle of the ride, the cyclists generally continue through, and this is done for one reason: Safety.

By staying together in one group, by remaining a dense mass of bicyclists, we can avoid accidents. When we do stop for lights, we find cars and motorcycles get caught up in the middle of our ride, and this is when accidents can happen. By displacing cars completely for a few blocks, we are able to enjoy a safe ride through San Francisco.

You might also be interested to know that Critical Mass has, on at least one occasion, ridden “to rule,” stopping for every light and taking only one lane of traffic (in response to a police crackdown in August of 1997). Surprisingly, the result of this tactic was a Critical Mass that was longer and slower than ever, and this ended up creating even more disruption to motorized traffic than usual. The police backed off as they realized that the best way to minimize the impact of Critical Mass was to allow it to pass quickly.

Is this legal? Probably not. However, we are not the only scofflaws on the road. Most motorists break the law every day, several times a day, when they drive 5-10 miles over the speed limit on most roads. If you believe the law must be obeyed by everyone, at all times, then perhaps you should start by examining your own behavior.*

Is it moral? If keeping people safe is a prime moral goal, our running of red lights is more than justified. We have not had a serious accident on Critical Mass for over 17 years (knock on wood), and this is in part thanks to our habit of staying together through red lights. Meanwhile, thousands of people die each year because motorists are driving over the speed limit. If the police want to enforce the law in order to maintain public safety, it is clear where they should start.

Next up, Argument #5:Critical Mass is counterproductive. It angers motorists and the general public, who will then be less likely to support bicyclists and bike issues.

* Am I saying that scofflaw behavior from one group makes it OK from another? No. What I am saying is that motorists who self righteously declare that bicyclists need to start obeying the law in order to have their concerns heard are being hypocritical. Your failure to drive the speed limit is far more common, and sadly far more deadly, than our failure to stop for red lights.

Here’s the rest of the series:
Argument 6: You Don’t Stop for Red Lights
Argument 5: You’ll Spark a Backlash!
Argument 4: Delaying Others is Rude!
Argument 3: You’re Angry!
Argument 2: I Saw An Incident!
Argument 1: Critical Mass Doesn’t Change Anything!

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18 Responses to “Argument #6 Against Critical Mass: Running Red Lights”

  1. Great post – thanks!

  2. Thomas says:

    But while that may clearly explain the reasons it in no way justifies any if it and it’s a tautaligical argument at best. You break the law an run redlights because it makes it safer to break the law and run redlights.

    The rest is just as illogical and self serving. There’s really no suprise you have to keep repeating yourself. It makes no sense. It validated nothing.

    I’ve never had an issue with CM. It’s delayed my commute but so what? I can spare the time. I have nothing against it’s intent for awareness but I think poor attempts at justifying it like this one only serve to do your cause greater harm. Why not just own up to it instead of trying to excuse it?

    How about, “Yes we run red lights. Yes it’s illegal. It’s a protest. Laws get broken. It’s an unfortunate that such measures have to be taken but we see that as the only way the message of haring the road will be heard. We feel that the minor infractions of of running a few red lights in protest is easily worth any lives it may serve to save by keeping awareness paramount.”

  3. Thomas, that’s a thoughtful comment, but I’m afraid you failed to read my post carefully. Your final paragraph largely re-states my argument (although I reject the use of the term “protest” to define Critical Mass).

    H.

  4. nio says:

    The assertion that one should always obey traffic laws because it’s the law, that’s a tautological argument, and one nobody actually adheres to. Traffic laws are pragmatic not moral, and exceptions are often taken in special cases.

    As Hugh pointed out, maintaining a dense pack by having the front stop for reds, and the middle and tail not, is the most efficient means of getting Mass thru as quickly as possible with as little disruption, conflict or injury, for everyone, cyclists and motorists alike.

  5. Thomas says:

    I did read it but I didn’t take away the same message from what you wrote.

    First because if that were your conclusion the bulk if the post is irrelevent and a distraction from that conclusion.

    And also if it’s not some sort of civil disobedience then there’s no real excuse for breaking the law. It’s simply a matter of one person, or group, asserting that thir desires are above the law. I ant say for sure but I’m willing to bet all the idiots who do u turns in the middle of intersections think their “need” to turn around right there and then justifies it. The fact that more and more people do that diesnt provide the excuse with enough critical mass that it becomes okay.

    I’m interested in seeing the rest if your post though. Like I said, I’m no hater of CM and I’d actually like to see a decent argument made as I’ve ye to hear on yet.

  6. Darren says:

    Other than the safety issue the justifications for running reds are just ‘tit for tat’.

    CM, regardless of exactly how you want to label it is attempting to communicate with the public. In almost every democracy communication is protected provided you do not harm or threaten people nor damage property. Simply being inconvenienced because CM is going through a light or tying up traffic goes nowhere close to be considered a threat or harm. Even if one finds the message unpalatable. It is the cost of living in a democracy. There are check and balances in place (though some would argue that they are skewed against the people) that have to be considered. Riding onto the freeway by oneself to protest cars is foolhardy and puts your life in harms way, this would not be protected. Walking alone topless down a street (Gwen Jacob, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topfreedom#Canada) to protest inequality might make a lot of people uncomfortable but it is certainly not harming anyone.

    I always imagine the people who concern themselves so much with red lights at CM being the same ones who would have given Ghandi jaywalking tickets during the salt marches. The majority of people, even those going through red lights, participating in CM are not breaking the law. They are simply availing themselves of their rights to communicate.

  7. Thomas says:

    You can disregard that last post. It Doesnt further the thread as a whole.

    I am curious about rejecting the term “protest”. If its very nature substantiated breaking the law and its existence is deemed necessary for the good of the whole what would you characterize CM as? Is it civil disobedience? Just an anarchic ride?

  8. Darren says:

    Thomas. What is the significance of whether or not CM is a protest? Are protests by your definition “breaking the law”?

    Protests and assemblies are a human right.

  9. I don’t like the word “protest” to describe Critical Mass. To me, a protest is a group of people complaining about poor conditions, and demanding that people in power make changes. Some people may ride on Critical Mass for this reason, but I think most of us are there “being the change” that we want to see. We are not advocating for more bikes on city streets. We are directly putting more bikes on city streets. We aren’t asking politicians to change the rules of the road. We are going ahead and temporarily changing them ourselves.

    Another aspect of protests is civil disobedience, where an unjust law is broken in order to show how wrong the law is. I don’t think most people on Critical Mass think all traffic laws are necessarily wrong, to the point where they must be broken in order to wake up the public. And this is probably a major point of confusion for the public when they consider our ride. Any lawbreaking on Critical Mass is incidental, and, as I said, necessary for public safety.

    There is a problem with how our cities are organized, a problem that is larger than any particular law that could be changed. We have made motorized traffic the king of our urban environment, with devastating consequences for the environment and for our own safety and enjoyment. To undo that we need a sea change in consciousness, we need a social movement that is large enough and fun-loving enough and intelligent enough to make real changes over the long haul. We can start with rebooting our cities into something more along the lines of what exists in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. And then we need to go further.

    Critical Mass is an attempt to kickstart that social movement. As I’ve said elsewhere, we’ve already had some modest success. We should keep pushing forward, and not stop now, just because someone says what we’re doing is illegal, or rude, or whatever other complaints they have. Social change is messy, but it is also fun, and necessary. Let’s get on with it.

  10. Thomas says:

    @Darren I’m looking for some valid justification of braking the law which this article proports to accomplish. Granted even laws broken in the act of protest or civil disobedience would still be subjective but from the standpoint if the breaker at least the justification can be seen as valid.

    I don’t think this article comes close to giving proprer perpective. I think it, a I said, just created a tautology which is something anybody can do to try to excuse anything, (worse is ‘tit for tat’. Im sorry but that’s how my 7 year old thinks is a good excuse. Motorists can use that with equal justification. I see more bicyclist run stop signs than I see drivers run red lights and I do see plenty if the latter).

    I think Hugh’s previous comment is the most enlightening so far and gives me some food for thought.

    @Hugh I’ve written too much forthe time I have this morning but I like what you had to say in your last comment. If I’m following it’s almost a zen kind if thing. If your asking questions about red lights you’re already lost in the discussion.

    Like I said before, I’d be happier with a flat out “we do it because that’s what Is done for CM.” to answer anything else gives the impression that the ‘other side’ has a point that has some relevence.

    Thanks for the thoughts on this.

  11. rcpeters says:

    I think we should try single lanes and stopping at lights again. It’s one thing to bring up a test 13 years ago and another to try it again. Lets experiment.

  12. Marc says:

    Hello hugh,
    This is my response to this argument as per your request after seeing my website CriticalMassSucks.com. I have already responded to others and to your incivility sucks post as I have mentioned before. By the way, I was downtown San Diego the other day and saw one of my mini D-Bag-O-Meter flyers from my website on a light-post. Looks like word is getting around.

    It seems like you believe that if motorists do something illegal it is fine for you to do what you wish – this is simply not true. Also, as you are probably aware by now, many detractors of CM cannot be lumped into a category called “Motorists” so that you can simply brush aside their valid arguments using the retort that in effect, motorist are worse. This is the primary fallacy that arises anytime someone tries to defend CM. They invariably lump all people that disagree with their stance into a “they” – a personification of all that is wrong with motor-vehicles. This same tactic is used by the military during a war. Remove the human element of those who oppose you so it is easier to discount them (and therefore kill them). They are no longer Vietnamese, they are “gooks” they are no longer muslims, they are “hadjis” — and anyone who opposes CM is not just a normal concerned citizen trying to live their lives respectfully, they are people who are FOR cars and therefore apparently FOR pollution and everything else bad about cars – they are… “Motorists,” as if wheels and an exhaust pipe are growing like appendages from their bodies.

    You seem to be responding as a spokesperson for CM. I thought it was not an “organization”, that it had not real mission or purpose. Is it not a fact that many different people ride in CM for their own reasons – many of which could be contrary to your personal beliefs? Of course this is true, so participation in the mass only allows others to do whatever they wish, with whatever motivations they may have.

    As far as the safety issue, well you wont need to do this if you are not out riding through red lights in the first place, as Thomas correctly pointed out above.

    I asked in one of your other threads for people who think CM is a good thing to please state why they ride, what makes them think that it is their right to disrupt the city they live in. I see you have sort of addressed your personal motivations here. You are not advocating anything, you are simply going out as a mass to take over the streets because you can. You want to see how it is in Copenhagen. Well, may I suggest you take a trip there then? Apparently you admit you are not trying to change anything, you just want to have fun, is that really it?

    As I mention on my website and as I have stated before, I cycle to. I know what a pain it is to stop at a stop sign after going down a glorious long hill and seeing a steady rise on the other side. I know the fear of pedaling alongside cars going 40mph. Try riding down El Cajon Blvd here in San Diego while cars go by at 50mph or faster and you will know what fear is. We have surface streets where cars go freeway speeds. I do not see this fear as my right to disrupt my city however. People in cars sometimes get away with breaking the rules, as do people on bikes. The similarity is that they are both PEOPLE. It does not give one or the other the right to purposely and repeatedly do something that disrupts the other.

    The primary difference between people who ride in Critical Mass and people who do not is NOT a matter of one being “for cars” and one being “for bikes.” It is a matter of being a person that thinks it is okay to act a certain way to your fellow human beings and to society in general. Trapping people in their cars so you can experience the joy of what it would be like without them there is pure selfishness – sorry but it is. I agree we need more cycling lanes and separation from motorist, but simply deciding you will just “do it”, just block motorists off is not a solution to anything – except maybe your once a month night of self-indulgence.

    Do people in cars sometimes drive too fast, do “California stops” and not use their blinkers? Yes! Of course. They do not, however, once a month get together and INTENTIONALLY decide that they will go out en masse and do any of these things. And even if they did, it would not make it right for you to do so. Keep in mind, when a “motorist” breaks any of these laws there is the possibility of them getting pulled over and fined. Anytime fines or arrest happen to CM participants they whine about it or try to file lawsuits!

    Their is simply no comparison to people in cars breaking a traffic law and a group of people going out and intentionally disrupting their city.

    To finish, I agree with Thomas on this point:
    “I’d be happier with a flat out “we do it because that’s what Is done for CM.”

    But I strongly disagree with this one:
    “to answer anything else gives the impression that the ‘other side’ has a point that has some relevance.”

    It is my position, and that of countless others that you MUST answer to arguments against your behavior if you are going to intentionally disrupt the lives of your fellow citizens. And so far, every “response” has been weak indeed. But maybe thats why some people do not wish to actually respond?

  13. It seems like you believe that if motorists do something illegal it is fine for you to do what you wish – this is simply not true.

    No, I clearly stated that I was not making a tit-for-tat argument. The point is that those who argue against Critical Mass because it may break the law should be consistent and insist that motorists begin obeying the law as well. This is especially urgent, since motorists’ failure to obey speed limits kills thousands of people each year.

    Also, as you are probably aware by now, many detractors of CM cannot be lumped into a category called “Motorists” so that you can simply brush aside their valid arguments using the retort that in effect, motorist are worse.

    I clearly did no such thing. Many critics of Critical Mass are pedestrians. However, these pedestrians should be consistent and work to stop rampant scofflaw behavior from motorists, especially since that is the primary threat to pedestrian safety.

    This same tactic is used by the military during a war. Remove the human element of those who oppose you so it is easier to discount them (and therefore kill them).

    I am totally offended by your bullshit argument that I am dehumanizing motorists, or that I or anyone else on this blog has implied that all motorists think alike or even agree with the way our cities are organized. I refuse to answer this stupid line of reasoning, since it is not worth my time and it is embarrassing that you would make such a comment.

    You seem to be responding as a spokesperson for CM. I thought it was not an “organization”, that it had not real mission or purpose. Is it not a fact that many different people ride in CM for their own reasons – many of which could be contrary to your personal beliefs? Of course this is true, so participation in the mass only allows others to do whatever they wish, with whatever motivations they may have.

    Our site clearly says this is not an “official” site, and I am not a spokesperson. I speak for myself and my rather large group of friends who ride in Critical Mass, and for the many, many people I don’t know who think like me. There is plenty of diversity of opinion on Critical Mass, and anyone who has a contrary view to mine is free to start a blog or website and share their ideas. (Last I checked, criticalmass-sf.org is available.)

    I believe you are suggesting that there may be people who are so ideological in their thinking that they view Critical Mass as an anti-motorist event. If those people are there, they do not circulate flyers or speak in public forums to my knowledge. I challenge you to find evidence of such persons.

    You want to see how it is in Copenhagen. Well, may I suggest you take a trip there then?

    That’s like saying, “you don’t like the government here, go to Russia, love it or leave it.” This is my city, and I’m fighting to change it into a better city.

    Apparently you admit you are not trying to change anything, you just want to have fun, is that really it?

    I’m beginning to believe you haven’t been reading what I’ve been writing. I’ve been working to change this city for many years, and my friends and I have had great success. We’re seeing San Francisco change before our eyes, and we are proud to have made an important contribution to those changes. 20 more years and you may yet see Copenhagen-by-the-Bay.

    Try riding down El Cajon Blvd here in San Diego while cars go by at 50mph or faster and you will know what fear is.

    Been there. You should have tried riding a bike in San Francisco before Critical Mass contributed to the changes we have been talking about. It was quite dangerous, and annoying to be treated like illegitimate traffic. Maybe the San Diego Critical Mass will help make some changes there.

    I do not see this fear as my right to disrupt my city however.

    Fair enough. Don’t disrupt your city. I will continue to disrupt mine, and we’ll see who has a more bike-friendly city in 20 years.

    Trapping people in their cars so you can experience the joy of what it would be like without them there is pure selfishness – sorry but it is.

    You know what is selfish? Owning a car. By owning a private automobile, you are taking up vast amounts of public space for travel and for storage of your giant box of tin that is made to carry 5 but mostly only carries yourself. Your car relies on fossil fuels that poison the earth and the air. Children are suffering from an epidemic of asthma and other diseases thanks to the pollution caused by the prevalence of automobile traffic. As a person who believes in the scientific method and trusts the scientific community (you may be a flat-earther, I don’t know), I believe them when they tell us that our activities are contributing to global warming. Your greatest personal contribution? The car that you drive (alone) every day to your job.

    So, you’re probably right. My decision to ride bikes with thousands of others one night a week and to create a small amount of disruption is probably selfish. So what? The harm caused by our selfishness is nothing compared to the selfishness of the vast majority of car owners.

    Do people in cars sometimes drive too fast, do “California stops” and not use their blinkers? Yes! Of course. They do not, however, once a month get together and INTENTIONALLY decide that they will go out en masse and do any of these things.

    Good point. Our scofflaw behavior is coordinated, theirs is just the way things are done. Point taken — so long as we remember that the uncoordinated scofflaw behavior of motorists kills thousands of people a year and contributes to the destruction of the biosphere.

    Anytime fines or arrest happen to CM participants they whine about it or try to file lawsuits!

    I’m calling bullshit on that. We get tickets all the time. I got one a month or two ago. Paid it. The lawsuits that have happened have been a result of police brutality (and they are quite few and far between in 18 years).

    Their is simply no comparison to people in cars breaking a traffic law and a group of people going out and intentionally disrupting their city.

    It’s true, it is comparing apples and oranges. Our apples cause a little disruption one day a month, their oranges disrupt the operation of the climate systems that sustain life on Earth.

    However, history tells us that city planners quite intentionally created this mess we are in. They intentionally ripped out the mass transit systems in the 1950s, intentionally destroyed neighborhoods to build hideous freeway systems, intentionally organized cities around the ownership of private automobiles. Government planners gave tax breaks to car owners, and to oil companies, to encourage this lifestyle. Nothing in American cities happened by accident. It was all planned!

    It is my position, and that of countless others that you MUST answer to arguments against your behavior if you are going to intentionally disrupt the lives of your fellow citizens.

    I have already done so. We ride together to demonstrate a different way of life, and we run red lights to do this safely. If you find that reasoning weak, I can’t help you.

    I understand that you agree with many of the environmental views I have expressed. Where we disagree is on how to make change. Most likely you believe in the conventional methods: writing your Congressperson, writing letters to the editor, demonstrating with a permit. I don’t believe that those methods — or those methods alone — can create systemic change.

    What you need to make systemic change is a social movement. Many thousands of people who know each other personally, meet regularly, and share ideas and enthusiasm. Feminism is a social movement, the gay rights movement is a social movement, the religious right is a (massive) social movement. Each of these examples has had an enormous effect on the political life of this country and the world, and in quite a short amount of time. This was possible because these movements did not limit themselves to conventional politics, but created social spaces where ordinary people could meet each other based around their shared hopes for the future. That’s what we’re doing on Critical Mass.

    I’m sorry if our methods offend you, but I think at the end of the day we agree on the direction our society should be moving towards.

    Good luck!

  14. Marc says:

    /Hugh: No, I clearly stated that I was not making a tit-for-tat argument. The point is that those who argue against Critical Mass because it may break the law should be consistent and insist that motorists begin obeying the law as well. This is especially urgent, since motorists’ failure to obey speed limits kills thousands of people each year./

    Marc: What makes you think others don’t like it when motorist break the law? There is no inconsistency here. Personally I think anyone who breaks any law that exists for the good of society should face the consequences.

    /Hugh said: I clearly did no such thing. Many critics of Critical Mass are pedestrians. However, these pedestrians should be consistent and work to stop rampant scofflaw behavior from motorists, especially since that is the primary threat to pedestrian safety./

    Marc: Okay, sure. whatever. Pedestrians should complain about motorists when they misbehave. Got it. This does not condone CM in any way. Keep in mind as a pedestrian you at least know that a car is SUPPOSED to stop at lights, etc. No such requirements exists with CM.

    /Hugh said: I am totally offended by your bullshit argument that I am dehumanizing motorists, or that I or anyone else on this blog has implied that all motorists think alike or even agree with the way our cities are organized. I refuse to answer this stupid line of reasoning, since it is not worth my time and it is embarrassing that you would make such a comment./

    Marc:It wasn’t meant to be offensive. I saw your illustration under your “I saw an incident” thread where the “motorist” is someone who is apparently driving a jacked-up hummer with the license plate “DUMMER”. CM defenders DO use the tactic of lumping drivers together. You yourself in a post to follow will call motorists “selfish,” as if there are no legitimate reasons to be in a motorized vehicle – which obviously there is. This is the foundation of propaganda. Lump things together so that they can be seen as a “they” – and yes, this is a method of dehumanizing.

    /Hugh said: I believe you are suggesting that there may be people who are so ideological in their thinking that they view Critical Mass as an anti-motorist event. If those people are there, they do not circulate flyers or speak in public forums to my knowledge. I challenge you to find evidence of such persons./

    Marc: Then why did you post this above:

    /Hugh said: You know what is selfish? Owning a car. By owning a private automobile, you are taking up vast amounts of public space for travel and for storage of your giant box of tin that is made to carry 5 but mostly only carries yourself. Your car relies on fossil fuels that poison the earth and the air. Children are suffering from an…../

    Marc: Why bring up selfish motorists if this has nothing to do with what you are doing? Why are comparisons to motorists constantly being brought up if they play no part in your motivations?

    /Hugh said: That’s like saying, “you don’t like the government here, go to Russia, love it or leave it.” This is my city, and I’m fighting to change it into a better city/

    Marc: No, I wasn’t saying love it or leave it at all, although I can see why you would think that. What I meant was that if you want to know what’s it like in Copenhagen (or any other city), then go there and see. If you want to fight to change things here as well, fine – I just think that creating a major disruption in your city each month is not a change for the better.

    /Hugh said: I’m beginning to believe you haven’t been reading what I’ve been writing. I’ve been working to change this city for many years, and my friends and I have had great success. We’re seeing San Francisco change before our eyes, and we are proud to have made an important contribution to those changes. 20 more years and you may yet see Copenhagen-by-the-Bay.

    Marc: As has been successfully pointed out in other threads by others and myself, you can make no claims to any ‘success” as far as biking goes.

    /Hugh said: Been there. You should have tried riding a bike in San Francisco before Critical Mass contributed to the changes we have been talking about./

    Marc: Once again – you can make no claims of helping, or hurting in this regard as discussed in your Does CM Help or Hurt thread.

    /Hugh said: You know what is selfish? Owning a car. By owning a private automobile, you are taking up vast amounts of public space for travel and for storage of your giant box of tin that is made to carry 5 but mostly only carries yourself. Your car relies on fossil fuels that poison the earth and the air. Children are suffering from an epidemic of asthma and other diseases thanks to the pollution caused by the prevalence of automobile traffic. As a person who believes in the scientific method and trusts the scientific community (you may be a flat-earther, I don’t know), I believe them when they tell us that our activities are contributing to global warming. Your greatest personal contribution? The car that you drive (alone) every day to your job./

    Marc: Wow, well thanks for finally coming clean. People who drive cars are “selfish?” May I point out that not everyone lives within a bike ride of their job or school. That some people have children that they cannot cart on a bike. That some people own homes that need maintaining – resulting in large object purchases not possible to transport on a bike? There are a lot of people who simply cannot use a bike. You will never convince them if they are physically unable to do what they need on a bike. I too would like to see more public transportation, more (and better) bike lanes. Viewing those who drive cars as “Selfish” is unrealistically simplistic and does nothing to help.

    /Hugh said: I’m calling bullshit on that. We get tickets all the time. I got one a month or two ago. Paid it. The lawsuits that have happened have been a result of police brutality (and they are quite few and far between in 18 years)./

    Marc: Well Im glad to hear you got a ticket while riding in CM. Every participant should, however – so until that happens those who don’t are getting away with something they shouldn’t. Question: Would ANY of the lawsuits happen if a bunch of people didn’t decide to illegally ride down the street and disrupt their city?

    /Hugh said: It’s true, it is comparing apples and oranges. Our apples cause a little disruption one day a month, their oranges disrupt the operation of the climate systems that sustain life on Earth/

    Marc: Who are the ‘they” in this “their oranges” equation? See this is what I was talking about before. There is no “they.” You feel right in your disruption of the city because it is just against the “they”. It is not. There is CM (a group of people intentionally disrupting their city) and then there is EVERYONE ELSE. Some of the “everyone else” are rude, mean-spirited drivers im sure, but some are decent people who may be doing great things for life and society, some are just normal “joes and janes” who live their life as best they can, and yes, some even ride bikes, just not today.

    /Hugh said: However, history tells us that city planners quite intentionally created this mess we are in. They intentionally ripped out the mass transit systems in the 1950s, intentionally destroyed neighborhoods to build hideous freeway systems, intentionally organized cities around the ownership of private automobiles. Government planners gave tax breaks to car owners, and to oil companies, to encourage this lifestyle. Nothing in American cities happened by accident. It was all planned!/

    Marc: I agree 100%. But if this is so much of a concern to you, (and I agrees it is a good cause) why not ride against THESE PEOPLE! Circle city hall, block off an auto manufacturing plant. Here is an idea: San Fran is close to Martinez, right – that place is littered with oil tanks all along the waterfront. Ships coming in with oil, oil, oil. Why not target those companies out there, rather than your neighbors? I would be for this! See this would be true “activism” of the kind you can be proud of!

    /Hugh said: I understand that you agree with many of the environmental views I have expressed. Where we disagree is on how to make change. Most likely you believe in the conventional methods: writing your Congressperson, writing letters to the editor, demonstrating with a permit. I don’t believe that those methods — or those methods alone — can create systemic change./

    Marc: It sounds lame but you would be surprised what those conventional methods can achieve – especially if its not just one person but HUNDREDS doing it. I will respond with a quote I have on my website (CriticalMassSucks.com). This quote is taken from a pro-critical mass website that describes steps on how to start a Critical Mass Ride. The full link is here: http://critical-mass.info/howto/ And here is the quote:

    “2. Put it into perspective.
    Critical Mass can be fun, but in and of itself, Critical Mass doesn’t change anything. CM is effective only when combined with real advocacy — such as lobbying local and state governments for bike lanes and progressive legislation. If all you and your cohorts do is ride your bikes around once a month, don’t be surprised when nothing changes.”

    I think this sums it up nicely.
    At the end of the day I think you are probably a decent guy – you what to make change and you have found a fun way that doesn’t require much effort. I sincerely wish you luck, however I also wish that no other people join CM, and that its ranks thin and go away for the betterment of every city where CM exists. I guess I just wish more people would take things a step further. What happened to the Bay Area? It used to be the hub of activism and a leader for making change – but now all we get is a bike ride.

  15. I did read it but I didn’t take away the same message from what you wrote.

    First because if that were your conclusion the bulk if the post is irrelevent and a distraction from that conclusion.

    And also if it’s not some sort of civil disobedience then there’s no real excuse for breaking the law. It’s simply a matter of one person, or group, asserting that thir desires are above the law. I ant say for sure but I’m willing to bet all the idiots who do u turns in the middle of intersections think their “need” to turn around right there and then justifies it. The fact that more and more people do that diesnt provide the excuse with enough critical mass that it becomes okay.

    I’m interested in seeing the rest if your post though. Like I said, I’m no hater of CM and I’d actually like to see a decent argument made as I’ve ye to hear on yet.

  16. California Propositions,

    Can you tell me what your comment is in response to? There are multiple comments here, I don’t see what thread you are on.

    I am interested in your point about civil disobedience. Many people agree with you, that the only argument in favor of ever breaking a law is because it is an unjust law, and you break that law in order to protest it’s unjustness. Unfortunately, this is a highly idealistic and impractical view of how the world works.

    Each of us breaks the law every day, and not as a form of protest. We jaywalk, we refuse to pay taxes on the proceeds from our garage sales (yes, you’re supposed to pay tax on that “profit”), and if you’re a motorist, you break the law so many times in the course of a single day that you make a mockery of the rule of law. Please, please don’t tell me that you always drive the speed limit. All motorists drive at least 5 mph over the speed limit! Everyone does. And I bet that when you take a legal right turn on red you don’t come to a full stop. No one does!

    As Nio said above, “Traffic laws are pragmatic not moral.” We follow the law most of the time, but when the pragmatic value outweighs the danger or the consequence, we often choose to break it. This is a fact of life for all people, however they get around, and regardless of political persuasion.

    If you are interested to read the rest of my arguments (there are 6) I have posted links at the bottom of this post.

  17. tech_droid says:

    In reply to “when they drive 5-10 miles over the speed limit on most roads”

    22350. No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.

    Key point is that 1 mile over the speed limit is breaking the law, and BOTH motorists and bicyclists break this on city streets which are rated at 25 MPH. But the basic speed law is in place for a reason, as speed varies due to conditions on the road.

    5 miles over the speed limit is safe most of the time when needing to accelerate to merge in a lane when needed. But as the basic speed law states, “in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property”.

    My biggest gripe with the cyclists in this city are those who feel that they own both the roads and sidewalks. If you want respect in return, abide by the rules and stay off the sidewalk. Sidewalks are for pedestrians and not cyclists.

    Here are common laws broken by SF cyclists.

    It’s illegal and unsafe to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 13. (SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12)

    In the crosswalk or not, bike riders and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians. (CVC 21954 (b))

    Leave crosswalks free and clear for pedestrians. Always stop behind the line. (CVC 21950, 21455)

  18. Tech_droid, it’s clear that many cyclists do not ride according to the law. You’ve listed some of the ways that are common. What I think you are not understanding is my main point, which is that A) motorists also break laws as a matter of accepted practice, and yet B) no one complains as they do about cyclist behavior, despite the fact that C) the threat to public safety is on a scale that absolutely dwarfs any danger posed by cyclists, as expressed in the statistics. Your insistence on focusing your anger on cyclist misbehavior while papering over the dangerous scofflaws behind the wheels of 2-ton automobiles is myopic, to say the least. If you care about public safety, you should focus your attention on the real threat.

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