What Critical Mass Got Right & Wrong

December 21st, 2009 by hughillustration

Chris has a great piece up on streetsblog that encapsulates a lot of the conversations many of us long-time Critical Mass participants have been having. It’s a long-ish, thoughtful discussion of where the ride came from, where it’s been and where it’s going. I’m excerpting a quote here, but if you’re interested in Critical Mass, you should definitely take the time to read the entire piece:

Averaging between 750 and 3000 riders on any given month, the birthplace of Critical Mass keeps going strong, in spite of the total lack of promotion or organizing during this past decade. But many of us long-time riders have been dismayed to see the persistence of silly, aggressive, and counter-productive behavior that makes the Critical Mass experience worse for our natural allies on buses, on foot, and even folks in cars who might join us in the future. Not to mention that it makes it worse for us cyclists too, to the point that many former regulars have stopped riding. Part of the frustration for us long-time riders is that we went through all these issues quite intensively back in the early-to-mid 1990s, and to see them cropping up again is a harsh reminder that we’ve done a piss-poor job of transmitting the culture, the lessons learned, from one generation to the next. Plenty of current Critical Massers were under 5 years old when we started it, and the ride’s culture has been more loudly and consistently transmitted by distorted representations in the mass media than it has by those of us who put our hearts and souls into it for years.

Chris makes a nice plug for our blog, but the truth is that it’s going to take more than internet chat and blog posts to change the culture of Critical Mass. It takes face-to-face communication, and hopefully that’s where all this discussion ends up: in conversations between real people in real space in the public streets of the city, talking about how we can change life for the better.

Link: Streetsblog San Francisco: A Lost Decade for Critical Mass?

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2 Responses to “What Critical Mass Got Right & Wrong”

  1. John says:

    Would it be so hard, or contrary to the ethos of a leaderless Mass, to organize 50 people to ride at the head of the pack for each ride next year? I have never observed the details of what goes on at the head of the Mass, but the physics seem to be that momentum finally builds to the point where there is consensus to ride, and Market St is the path of least resistance. But how hard could it be to NOT start up Market? Or for an organized group to set the proper pace, and lead less repetitive routes. Anarchy has its place but a little organizing could go a long way.

  2. John: It’s not hard to do what you suggest, and takes a lot fewer than 50. We’ve done it many times, just encourage people to go out the back way onto Embarcadero or turn off Market early. Why don’t you give it a shot next month? Remember, YOU”RE IN CHARGE.