Argument #4 Against Critical Mass: Delaying Others Is Rude!

April 27th, 2010 by hughillustration

Photo by Tyrell Voight Kampf

This week I am taking what I consider the 6 best and most common arguments against Critical Mass, and giving them each a fair answer — one per day.

Today’s argument: “Delaying Others is Rude!” Thanks for reading and commenting!

4. You are causing people to be delayed. This is rude and uncalled for.

It is true that people are delayed by Critical Mass. Mostly the delay is only a few minutes, and is on par with the traffic problems every other day of the month. But on occasion, especially in the warmer months when our ride gets larger, the delays can be longer.

This is unfortunate, and it is not the intention of most people on Critical Mass to cause anyone unnecessary inconvenience.

But if I can re-frame this problem for a moment, let me just remind you of the sort of delays and inconveniences that bicyclists experience every day of the month.

First, we are delayed by the fact that we ride in the “door zone”, the space between moving cars and parked cars. By riding in the door zone, we will arrive at our destination much later than otherwise, as we are slowed each and every time a car pulls in or out of a parking space, each and every time a driver exits, each and every time a delivery truck double parks.

By riding in the door zone, we are also choosing to accept a risk that a door will open on us, causing a serious wreck that can be deadly. Many motorists don’t know this, but bicyclists are not required by law to ride in the door zone. We are entitled to take the full lane when safety requires it, but we rarely do.

Here’s another example: taking a left turn. As bicyclists, we are entitled by law to merge with traffic in order to turn left on a two-way street. However, this is often too dangerous. So we often wait through one light, cross the road, and then turn to wait with the cross traffic to head the other way. That’s two lights instead of one, all so that you can get where you’re going and so that we won’t risk injury.

Put another way: We risk our lives and accept constant delays as a matter of course in our daily commute, all so that you — the dominant form of traffic — can get where you are going quicker.

One day a month, for only a few hours, we reverse those rules. Thousands of us ride together to see what the city would be like if bikes, rather than cars, were the dominant form of transportation. We do this once a month, and we like what we see. During Critical Mass, we can feel how much better life is, how much better our city is, on these new terms. Suddenly, rather than scurrying around town, afraid for our lives, we can take a leisurely stroll while exploring our city. Suddenly, the air is filled with laughter, conversation and music rather than car horns and exhaust fumes. The daily commute becomes a celebration of life, rather than a deadly and dangerous gamble.

Is this tit-for-tat? Not at all. We know it’s not your fault that our cities are poorly organized. We are not trying to delay motorists as payback for the delays we suffer. We are simply asserting ourselves! We are saying that we are traffic too! And we’re trying to demonstrate, for ourselves and for you, that our form of traffic is actually better — more efficient, more social, more fun, and less dangerous. We’re trying to make our city great.

We know we create delays, and for that we would like to say We’re Sorry! But again, let’s remember that it is only for a few hours each month, always on the last Friday of the month. Why not leave your car at home? Wouldn’t it be great if one day, it became a tradition in our city that most people walk, take public transport, or bike on the last Friday of each month?

We invite you to join us every month to see for yourself!

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!


11 Responses to “Argument #4 Against Critical Mass: Delaying Others Is Rude!”

  1. Shelby says:

    I love the idea and support what you have accomplished and what you still want to. I LOVE public transportation and prefer to leave my car at home, however I was not only “delayed” to a reservation, but in a cab with the meter just running away while we sat… and sat… and sat… through multiple lights! I was splurging on the cab, usually I’m a bus gal. It was so depressing watching my dollars go down the drain.
    I drive in fear of not seeing a cyclist and really do my best to stay aware, but if they do not obey traffic signals, what am I to do?? I think Critical Mass should do what they do, but ride in large groups that DO STOP for the lights. I think you’d gain more respect from the driver’s who want to hate you.

  2. Tom says:

    I don’t understand why Critical Mass cannot use Critical Manners as an example of how you can lead a movement with obeying the laws at the same time.

  3. About Critical Manners: Is this ride still in existence? I believe that it is defunct. You know, when you ride single file you don’t have much of a chance to socialize, and I suspect this is one reason that experiment did not take off.

    I answered the question about red lights in the first post in this series:

  4. Richard says:

    Note in the picture for this post there are 11 heads (that I count). 6 of them are helmet-less. This speaks to the intelligence level.

    Re: delays, the argument that bikes are delayed every day, hence it is ok to delay autos is just stupid beyond belief. Bikes are not exempt from delays that occur in daily traffic. CM IS NOT daily traffic. Autos experience many delays similar to your whine – double parked vehicles, horrible parallel parkers taking forever as traffic backs up behind them, etc.

    As for the “door lane” and making left turns, good lord, take an urban biking course. If you are too scared to claim the lane, park your bike. Seriously.

    “The air is filled with celebration rather than exhaust fumes”. Patently false. You speak as though all the auto traffic just disappears. You fully know it’s there, only idling. If anything, CM increases the amount of exhaust fumes during their ride.

    The daily commute is a deadly and dangerous gamble? What, do you ride down 101 in the fast lane? If it is so deadly and dangerous, then why would bike ridership in the city be increasing? Why would you even ride your bike? Biking in the city is NOWHERE CLOSE to living as a gang member at Double Rock. Please, go live there. Go serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. Go fishing in the North Sea. Then compare that to biking in San Francisco. Absolutely ludicrous.

    And finally, the apology for causing delays knowing full well you are going to cause a delay again? That’s analogous to a husband cheating on his wife and apologizing, knowing full well he is going to cheat again. The apology is empty and meaningless. As a daily bike commuter and one who enjoys biking the Bay Area and annually putting over 2,000 miles on my bike, I find CM as I find these illogical arguments – stupid, ludicrous, and meaningless.

  5. Interesting that you find it stupid to suggest that bicycling is a dangerous activity, and also stupid to wear a helmet.

    The argument, as I said in the post, is not a “tit-for-tat” argument. I am saying that we all accept delay and inconvenience (and also threats) as part of life in an urban environment. Bicyclists experience greater delays, inconvenience and threats to our safety than motorists do 29 days out of the month. On the last Friday, motorists may have to experience some delays on our account.

    If you don’t like delay, don’t live in San Francisco. You might consider moving to Walnut Creek. There, the traffic is relatively light, and you are sure never to be inconvenienced by bicycles (though you may have deal with heavy motorized traffic).

    Please don’t insult me by saying my concern about riding in the door lane is unwarranted. I assure you I can take the lane if I want to. However, I choose not to take the lane in most cases, for two reasons. 1) as I said in the post, I am polite and do not want to create inconvenience, and 2) taking the lane, while legal, makes motorists very angry. Taking the lane means getting in fights, and I like to avoid fights if I can, since I don’t travel armed.

    Yes, the daily commute is a deadly and dangerous gamble, anywhere in this city. You are discrediting yourself by arguing otherwise. The increase in ridership is taking place in spite of the dangers because of changes to infrastructure that making cycling safer (but not by much) and by cultural changes that have made bicycling a mainstream travel choice for millions of people (a cultural shift in part triggered by Critical Mass, as I argued in Argument 1.)

    On the question of my apology, I would like to tell you a story. I used to live on Harrison Street, and once a year my home became unlivable thanks to Carnavale. On more than one occasion, I was prevented from accessing my home without providing ID to a person who was not a police officer. When I complained, the organizers apologized, but the problems continued. Were they sincere in their apologies? I think so. Welcome to life in the big city!

  6. Richard says:

    “Bicyclists experience greater delays, inconvenience and threats to our safety than motorists do 29 days out of the month. On the last Friday, motorists may have to experience some delays on our account.” If you really believe this, you are delusional. Every day I commute to work, I pass traffic backed up. It is much quicker to commute on a weekday to my workplace than to drive or take mass transit. I would say the same for anyone that bikes within a 10 mile radius of the city.

    Biking is not inherently dangerous due to traffic. Helmets are a safety consideration similar to safety belts. There are a myriad of possibilities for having an accident unrelated to automobiles – getting your cleats caught and falling, having a flat tire, jumping a curb and missing the angle. Three weekends ago, I was riding in Marin and saw a girl misjudge the lip on possibly a 2″ rise to a driveway. She crashed and was bloodied but her helmet obviously protected her. No cars in sight, no cars involved, but the helmet was a great safety device.

    Your story about “Carnavale” (sic) is cute and pretty, but does nothing to confirm your apology is sincere.

    “We risk our lives”?? Dude, write for a soap opera. “Every day, I get on my bike and wave my fist at the sun beating down at me; then I pull out into that most dangerous place in the world, the bike lane. Death engulfs me as I ride down the lane avoiding the flaming exhausts, the hate, oh my god, the hate, I am but a mere bicyclist changing the world one pedal stroke at a time.” What a drama queen you are.

    “If you don’t like delay” – I am not the one complaining about delay. You are the one whining about how “oh my god, a car pulled out of a driveway and I lost 5 seconds on my commute, I am so distraught over these continued delays on my commute”. I am pointing out the stupidity of your arguments, but you are so blinded by your righteousness, you can’t see how ridiculous your arguments are.

    Your arguments are weak, specious, extremely tit-for-tat, and as mentioned, delusional. Critical Mass is stupid. There is simply no way to prove that Critical Mass triggered the cultural shift in biking. That point was clearly made to you by another on a different page of your blog. I would argue the shift in biking has occurred to a much greater degree in the past 3 years than the previous 10 and that CM was was already waning at that point. Critical Mass is a waste of resources, fuel, and time. Critical Mass is for lemmings. You, sir, are a lemming.

  7. You’ve called me some names: “delusional,” “insincere,” “drama queen,” and “lemming.” I think you are more interested in angry denunciations than in dialogue.

    I notice that your arguments for whether cycling is dangerous and where the threats lie are anecdotal. How about some statistics? Bicycles account for about 1% of trips in the United States, but they constitute 2% of fatalities. The leading cause of death? Collision with motorized traffic due to negligence on the part of the motorist.

    I like your point that for many shorter trips across town, bicycling is actually faster than driving. However, this doesn’t mean you aren’t being delayed by the dangerous actions of motorists. As you ride from the Mission to downtown on Folsom Street, for example, you enjoy the protection of the a bike lane. But you will find that your journey is constantly disrupted by motorists pulling in and out of spaces, by illegal double parking, and by motorists taking right turns into your space. You will have to frequently merge with the car lane, and this will earn you angry honks from motorists. If you need to turn left, you will need to merge with motorized traffic, and this will earn you more angry honks. That’s my commute experience on a bicycle, and I find it quite different from my experience driving, for the simple reason that our traffic laws, our roads and the organization of our cities assumes the predominance of motorized traffic.

    You seem to think my discussion of the dangers of cycling is overly dramatic, but it is not. I have not overstated the dangers, I have not exaggerated them. I have cited the well known, well documented and undeniable dangers of cycling in an argument that you do not agree with. Rather than address my point, or agree to disagree, you are putting words in my mouth and using ridicule to score a few cheap points. I am not impressed.

    “I am not the one complaining about the delay.” Yes, you are. Here is your comment from a few days ago: “Tired of sitting at a light for over five minutes while CM overran everything, I made my turn. Once again, CM would not allow me to clearly pass, even though I was asking to be let through. At that point, I lost my temper and started yelling and cursing that I was coming through. I had to kick at one cyclist who meandered into my lane. I got into a verbal confrontation with a young rider who took offense at my cursing, never mind that no one paid attention to letting me through until I started yelling and cursing.”

    Sounds like you are very clearly complaining about being delayed, and also that you are the one that is a drama queen, based on your own testimony.

  8. Richard says:

    Hugh, I was angry about a delay specifically caused by CM. You post pointless arguments about CM delays. If there is a traffic back-up re: cars, I am not delayed. If someone is double parked, I am not delayed. If someone is parallel parking, I am not delayed. If someone is turning right, I am not delayed. In each of these instances, auto traffic is much more likely to be delayed than an urban cyclist that knows how to whip around cars without braking at all. Of all the incidents you point out for delaying bikes, the only valid one is people pulling out of a driveway, and if you stop for someone pulling out, I would assume it is to be polite, much as letting someone merge when you are driving.

    I would not have been delayed as much as I was during CM except the lights were intentionally held red DUE TO CM. I have never experienced lights being held red for a length exceeding one minute for any non-sanctioned or non-permitted event except for CM. While I obeyed the light, CM cyclists ran into pedestrians, bitched about being slowed by pedestrians, and yelled at drivers. It became apparent that the light wasn’t going to change for a while because of this idiocy so I left.

    Now, let’s look at some of the holes in your logic:

    Carnaval SF delayed you en route to your house. They apologized and you felt it was sincere. Therefore, your apologies re: CM delays are sincere. There is no causal connection here. Your logic is erroneous.

    You claim CM is responsible for bike lanes and a shift in consciousness. Yet this is based on no factual evidence, it is simply something you believe. Again, no logic was presented in arriving at this conclusion.

    You point out a statistic yet you don’t reference it. Therefore, there is no logical connection. The statistic could be true, it could be made up, it could be false. I have no way of knowing because you just rambled off a statistic. As near as I can find, approx 700 bike fatalities occur each year (source: CDC). According to the League of American Bicyclists, “Studies indicate that as few as ten percent of injury crashes are reported to the police as they do not involve a motor vehicle, and/or do not happen on the roadway. Indeed, a recent Federal Highway Administration study found that 70 percent of bicycle injury events in emergency rooms did not involve a motor vehicle and 31 percent of bicyclists were injured in non-roadway locations.” This would certainly undermine your contention because now the statistics are skewed. Bicycling Info references these same statistics. Based on the 700 fatalities per year and the 2001 (most recent ref I could find) National Household Travel Survey 10 Year Report of 3.3 BILLION bike trips per year, that amounts to a whopping .0000002% fatality rate per bike trip (United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. National Bicycling and Walking Study, Ten Year Status Report October 2004. Accessed at: Now, if I had been aware that the odds of me dying as a bike fatality were the outrageous figure of 1 in every 5 million trips I took, then I would have gotten off my bike much sooner!! Because lord knows I take 5 million bike trips every week. Or in other words, the chances of dying on a bike ride are slightly more than zero.

    I bike down Folsom all the time. You write as though there are 5 incidents per block. I have already pointed out that it is easy to pass cars parking, pulling out of parking, turning right, etc. I do agree that it is more difficult to make a left turn due to 4 lanes of one way traffic, but again, you simply have to be an effective and attentive rider. It’s really quite simple to gauge the traffic flow and cross without delay. It sounds to me like you are simply scared to ride in traffic. While that is understandable, don’t blame your fear for your delays. If someone honks at you, screw them, that’s their problem, you have done nothing illegal or wrong. Their anger is not your issue.

    So again, your logic is skewed, your use of statistics is skewed, and I assume a mocking tone because it is like having a discussion with Glenn Beck. I’m done with this thread. You have no argument that justifies CM delays. You have no argument that CM has done good in the world, only conjecture. And I called not only you a lemming but all of CM. How else can you explain a CM poster here stating that the most recent CM leaders had an urge to “FSU”, yet all the riders still followed? Have a good weekend.

  9. Mike says:

    Looking over the site, and the comments, it is clear what the agenda of CM is. It is to disrupt, cause inconvenience, and generally be an around around nuisance.

    As a driver, biker, and pedestrian, I think it is important that each member follows their respective laws. Unfortunately, this site specifically advocates its members to break numerous laws. If you expect people to share the road, then no one should be above the law.

  10. Mike, you’ve made an assertion without providing any evidence. Perhaps you could find a few quotes from our site that back up your claims?