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November 21, 2005

CycleDog on CM, and on Cycling

Why do people ride a Bike?

Ed, the Cycledog, says this:

...somehow I don't see cycling as advocating any particular political viewpoint. Sure, there are some who ride as a statement against Big Oil and consumerism, but there's a much larger group that rides simply for the fun of it, or the exercise, or to save money.

How very true!

It is those people, like me, who have made cycling a part of our life as a fun way to exercise, commute to work, and/or get out and see the world around us.

Last week, in the midst of my correspondence with Chris Carlsson, I wrote Ed, who has been a Road Cyclist since the 70's, and an activist just as long, for his thoughts on the subject and he sent me an e-mail reply that he re-edited for placement on his Blog ( The Comments are also worth your time ):

I wish to share my thoughts at the same time that I share his essay:

So let's begin:

Kiril, you and I are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, and I really don't have any problem with that. We're both cyclists, and that supercedes political interests. Who knows? We may even disagree about cycling, but if we can do so respectfully and without descending to personal attacks, our arguments are stronger. I may disagree vehemently with someone's ideas, but I rarely malign their character.

I agree that a common interest in cycling SHOULD supercede political interests.

To paraphrase: Some of the best Cycling Advocates  I know are Liberals.

I don't hold that against them, and hope to show that folks on the Right, like myself, have just as much to contribute to the discussion. ;-D

Like you, I find CM disagreeable in the coyness with which they approach their intent of disrupting traffic, disobeying the law, and just generally raising hell. But I'll admit there was a time in my life that I would have reveled in the anarchy. I'm older, and presumably, wiser now. If a group of motorists acted in a similar manner, no one would extend them any sympathy when the police arrested them. No one would accept their self-serving justification as mitigating the offense. Why should we treat cyclists any different?

Reveling in the Anarchy once appealed to me a well and so i rode in an ordinary CM in LA 1 one time, and enjoyed myself, despite the bad cycling I witnessed, enough to want to ride in an event at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

As I've chronicled in an earlier post, my experience there cured me of any interest in participating in CM, and set me on the path of disagreement with its practices, and the misguided co-habitation of many with non-cycling political causes.

I also agree about the analogy about car drivers.

The difference in how the 2 are reacted to, by the Far Left anyway, comes down to Political Correctness.

The Chainguard site has a slogan: Same Rights, Same Rules, Same Road.

Yes! It sould not be so damn hard to edumicate cyclists about this, but it is.

Same with car drivers.

Is it because too many people look at the Bicycle as just an expensive "Toy"?

When I wrote about CM earlier this week on the state advocacy list, I said:

What constitutes a critical mass of bicycle riders? Two riding side-by-side? A group of 4 or more riding two up? A bigger group? Or can a critical mass consist of just one cyclist riding legally and responsibly, thereby showing the motoring public it's entirely possible to negotiate traffic in safety and comfort?

I'm thinking about this from the standpoint of how many cyclists are necessary to have an impact on motorist's thoughts and behavior. I submit that a critical mass (lower case!) can consist of merely one law-abiding vehicular cyclist.

Now THAT is such an awesome, yet simple, statement of fact that is it any wonder it gets lost amid all the political posturing?

If I didn't think 1 person can make a difference i would never have begun The Cycling Dude in the 1st place.

When I ride my bike I carry a pack of "business cards" to pass out to cyclists I encounter.

I strike up friendly conversations with cyclists, and car drivers, when I see them doing something unsafe, in the hopes of educating.

It is in these encounters that I often discover how ignorant, or just plain afraid, people on both sides are.

I don't think the simple act of riding a bicycle requires any political agenda, so in effect, I take a simple approach: I ride my bike because I like to ride my bike.

Yes, it all comes down to that basic concept: I LIKE to ride my bike!

We all have a common interest in safe cycling, better laws, better, and more, places to ride, and everthing else, and it all comes back to the fact that we ENJOY this activity of bicycling.

But there was a time I would have reveled in the anarchy of a CM ride. Blowing through intersections en masse and pissing off motorists would have been a cheap thrill. Does that really advance the cause of cyclists? If we believe in "Same Rights, Same Rules, Same Road" it certainly doesn't!

An individual or a group can be a critical mass simply by riding responsibly.

The fact that CM DOES NOT advance the Cause of Cyclists was why I wrote so much about, and against, it.

But I've realized that doing that takes valuable time away from the main focus of why I do this Blog.

People with more time, and resources can do a better job than I in keeping an eye on CM, and holing the movement to account.

I want to concentrate on spreading the joy of cycling through what I do best: Writing about my rides, spreading the word about cycling stories, issues, and websites, and doing all I can to encourage folks to get off their asses, or even out of their car, for a few hours of exercise, and exploration.

Kiril, I've been a road cyclist since 1972. I learned the hard way about riding on the road, and my learning curve went way up when I took the Road1 and LCI course through the League of American Bicyclists. Riding a bicycle isn't a death-defying feat. Cyclists are not near-suicidal thrill seekers. Yet many of them are absolutely terrified of riding in traffic. I think CM represents an over reaction to that fear, and it's a chance to 'take revenge' against all those motorists whose transgressions are real or imagined. The unstated principle seems to be that unless cities do something to accommodate cyclists, then the anarchy will continue. In my opinion, even if a city were a cycling Mecca, the anarchy would continue. It's just too tempting to the yobs among us.

A very perceptive analysis of CM.

I don't think the protests would stop if they got all they wished for related to cycling. The focus of the rides would be turned elsewhere by many.

I became an instructor through that LCI class. We stress the importance of riding predictably in traffic. Traffic law is all about predictability. When anyone operates outside the norms, he creates problems for himself and others on the road. And when a cyclist’s fear causes him to ride unpredictably, he jeopardizes his safety instead of enhancing it.

The sad thing about being a vehicular cyclist is that most folks, cyclists, and car drivers alike, think such cyclists are "operating outside the norm" by taking lanes, making left turns, etcetera...

Critical Mass is this same fearful behavior amplified by the number of cyclists. It won't produce positive change in government policies or motorists behavior. The most effective approach is to get involved in government. Sit in those boring committee meetings and pore over planning documents. The dull nuts-and-bolts approach clearly doesn't have the panache of raising hell in the street, yet it's a better way of producing results. And more to the point, it actually works.

Getting involved in your community....

THAT is the best way to improve things for cyclists in your city, county, state, or nation.

The involvement you describe will do more to improve the lot of cyclists, and the impression people have of cyclists, than any disruptive mass ride during rush hour, or at a political event.

That is why I have links to websites for the Congressional Bicycle Caucus, and the British equivalent known as the UK House of Commons: All-Party Parliamentary CYCLING Group.

Americans can see if their state is represented in the Caucus, and see the current state by state, and even political, make-up of the membership.

It is my hope that this info will encourage people to get involved by contacting their leaders, or visiting city, county, and state websites to find information on bicycling laws, and facilities.

I plan on doing this myself for Orange County, in the coming year, along with plenty of bike rides, so people in MY community will be made better aware of the state of affairs here.

November 21, 2005 in Critical Mass | Permalink

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