Bad Tactic: Stalling Buses & Traffic for No Reason

December 21st, 2009 by hughillustration

For some unexplained reason, Critical Mass will from time to time come to a complete halt in an intersection, and the ride will just stand around for a while in the street, blocking cars, busses, pedestrians — really doing nothing but taking the space because we can. Of all the bad tactics we’ve seen over the years, this must be the stupidest. What is the point of this tactic? No one knows. It just happens!

If you’d like a taste of how it feels to be on the other side of this sort of tactic, here’s a video made by a bus rider while he and the other passengers wait for Critical Mass to get off it’s ass and move. (It was posted in the comments to Chris’s recent streetsblog piece.)

Boring, isn’t it?

It’s true that Critical Mass causes delays for motorists and busses and other forms of transportation. But the idea behind Critical Mass is not to delay people for no reason, out of some misguided need to assert our power. The point is that we’re moving, like any other kind of traffic, using public streets to get around like everyone else — except we’re doing it together. As the slogan we’ve been using for years goes, “We’re not blocking traffic, we ARE traffic!”

Well, anyone delayed by in this manner, we’re sorry for the hassle. The sad truth is we have folks on Critical Mass who haven’t thought that hard about the issues.

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5 Responses to “Bad Tactic: Stalling Buses & Traffic for No Reason”

  1. ramonchu says:

    don’t necessarily agree with your comment; when Mass occupies an intersection it’s similar to the spontaneous “take back the streets” concept…though I can’t hear any music coming from this particular crowd, leading me to believe the tactic not to be stupid, but rather boring, and thus ineffective, in that no one in the surrounding traffic of cars and buses is drawn to the event. Nonetheless, my beef with CM has always been that the rides don’t go far enough in conceptualizing STREETS FOR PEOPLE, streets as spaces that are more than human sewers meant to move people as fast as possible as if we were toxic waste, streets as places where people can stop and think and talk and drink and laugh and love and scream and dance. CM remains too vehicular, though, forever and ever, must be commended for breaking down that first layer of barriers in the American collective consciousness that sees streets as only for cars (at least they’re beginning to be seen as places for bikes too).

  2. Darren Stehr says:

    I have seen too many times where “We’re not blocking traffic, we ARE traffic!” is used to challenge drivers rather than encourage them to join us. I am convinced that a slogan should better reflect what is happening at CM… something along the lines of “We are community…” Ok it needs some work. Just do not like reducing us to “traffic”.

  3. Darren Stehr says:

    Respectively ‘ramonchu’, there has been an unhealthy obsession with getting even with the car or poor transportation choices with a lot of CM thought/writing. When I go to CM I see people engaging with other participants and with people not involved in CM. As fleeting as CM is to a passerby, it gives them a real taste of how different things can be. I have documented CM in Toronto for over ten years and know that these experiences are positive 90-95% of the time. It brings smiles and encouragement from people.

  4. Darren, I’m not sure what writing or thought you’re referring to. As far as I know, the only writing/thought on CM encourages people to treat motorists and pedestrians with respect. If you have other examples, I’d love to see them. Also love to see your work on the Toronto CM!

  5. Darren Stehr says:

    Almost anything written about CM always references itself to the car and/or conflict between the two groups. Yes the majority of it is from the media but even participants add to it via blogs, etc (Yes I am guilty as anyone else is). …and yes there is some legacy stuff calling for respect of pedestrians and motorists. Participants still heed those words today.

    There is very little consideration to the interaction of participants to those they come across while riding. For lack of a better description, CM is like a big nonthreatening “HELLO!” to your fellow citizens. What other group, other than maybe Christmas carolers, can roam the streets and engage people they come across in a positive way? has ten years of photos/videos from CM. Someone gave Chris my photo book on CM when he was here earlier this year. Maybe you can borrow it from him.