Aaron at startsandfits raises some valid concerns about the effectiveness of the monthly Critical Mass rides here in New York. Namely, does the increased awareness of cyclists outweigh the damage done to the cyclists’ image in some people’s eyes?
This is a tough question to answer. In the past several months, Critical Mass has become the target of increased attention from the city’s administration and the police department. The city’s sometimes overzealous attempts to quell the ride have spawned a fair amount of media attention as well. One would think that this increased attention is good for the cause, but is it really?
On the eve of a new year, it would seem that the City and the Critical Mass riders are in a pissing match in which neither side is willing to step down. The City doesn’t want to send the message that a bunch of people can run (or ride) amok once a month and the riders do not want to organize and apply for parade permits (which will probably be denied). Both sides have valid points, so what is the solution?
If there is a solution to be had, it will need to come from the riders. No matter how many favorable court decisions there are, the City will continue to throw blockades in front of the ride each month. The City as more resources at its disposal to exact control over the cyclists than the cyclists have to fight the city in court. Rather than continuing down the same road, it is time for the riders to be a little more creative in raising awareness of their cause.
Of the solutions I have seen batted around in various forums, I think the idea of breaking Critical Mass up into smaller groups might be the most effective, even if it is only a temporary situation. It is probably best if these groups of riders obey the traffic laws. This will demonstrate safe riding, and should prevent harassment and arrest. If small groups of cyclists are corralled and summarily arrested, that would only serve to raise awareness of the cause. It is doubtful that arrests would occur if there were no large pack to break away from and the small groups behave lawfully. It will also be very difficult for the police to follow the travels of many small groups. Perhaps after several months of these sorts of rides, a more traditional Critical Mass ride can occur without the hassles we have seen over the past few months.
Whether you agree with me or not, if you are riding in tonight’s Critical Mass. Be careful and have a good time!