Don't Just Blame the Cyclists

In response to the Vancouver Sun's recent editorial chastising cyclists for blocking traffic with Critical Mass rides, Gary Engle declares that the op-ed didn't go far enough: there are lots of other villains responsible for causing traffic chaos.

Engler declares that the police should arrest all those who have caused so many traffic headaches -- such as the developers and planners who've produced Vancouver's sprawl, people who refuse to use public transit and those who argue against transit investments because they don't want their taxes raised. Then he concludes,

"Imagine how many fewer traffic jams there would be if all these people were put behind bars. If they were locked away before the next Critical Mass, my bet is that even 10,000 bike riders in the downtown core would barely be noticed. But if they still cause a traffic jam and disrupt the peace, I say arrest them too and throw them in jail."

Full Story: A Critical Mess? Yes it is



Typical critical masshole response

This letter is typical of those folks who particpate in critical mass. To justify his own law-breaking, he simply spits out a list of the supposed wrong-doings of everybody else. However, notice that none of the things that he claims people should be jailed for are illegal acts (bad policy, poor judgement, etc. sure, but nothing illegal). Just more narcissism from our social betters (reinforced by printing his letter).

These clowns do the same thing in San Francisco. I was a bike commuter for three years in SF and would/will not associate with these guys.

Lex Injusta Non Est Lex

Likewise, slavery was legal in nineteenth century America, and the underground railroad helping slaves to escape was illegal. British taxes on the Amereican colonies were legal, and the Boston Tea Party was illegal.

I myself believe the classical natural law philosophy of Thomas Aquinas: that we have a right to break unjust laws that are contrary to our interest, and we have a duty to break unjust laws that are contrary to our moral obligations.

Charles Siegel

Nice comparison

Running a stop sign is now eqivalent to resisting slavery? Wow!

While I agree with you and Mr. Aquinas, my comment really focuses on the attitude exemplified by the writer (which I have come to see as typical of critical massholes through my experience with them)... they are simply a bunch of narcissitic attention-whores. No impassioned defense of his actions against the tyranny of traffic regulations. No explanation as to why those traffic regulations are unjust or his necessary duty to break them. Nope. Just a screed about past politcal decisions and everyday choices made by everyday people that the author obviously dislikes (again, none of which were/are illegal) to deflect from his lack of a coherent argument defending his actions. His rebuattal has the moral equivalency of a toddler's tantrum.

It's sad the supposedly grown adults have such poor social skills when proper bike accomodations/infrastructure would be a beneficial additive to most cities. Attitudes like those displayed at critical mass actually hinders public acceptance of cycling as a normal behavior and something that should be funded via tax dollars.

Mr. Aquinas????

Please call him St. Aquinas, not just Mr. (I call him St. Thomas myself, but you may not know him well enough to call him by his first name.)

It seems very clear to me that, given the fact of global warming, protests to reduce automobile use are more important than the American colonists' protests against the tea tax.

But I agree with you that critical mass participants are generally immature. I rode with a critical mass once, but I decided not to go again because I thought the attitude of many (not all) participants was rather like a childish temper tantrum.

I hope for more serious protests against the automobile in the future, on the level of Martin Luther King's protests against racism.

Charles Siegel

Apologies to St. Aquinas

Got me on that one Mr. Siegel.

What is just and unjust?

If you choose to forego the car and get around on your own power, that is a forward-thinking, positive, generous act that will benefit the world immediately and in the future. Your actions are just. Even if you bend the rules a little bit.

But the traffic laws, for the most part, are not unjust. They're neutral, although if the police enforced them selectively (for example, singling out cyclists while ignoring dangerous drivers), that would be unjust.

I've been to some events that are similar to critical mass where the local police (Los Angeles) gave us the right hand lane (which we're entitled to anyway) and traffic flowed smoothly and everyone was safe. We block intersections until all the riders pass, which may violate the letter of the law, but it keeps the ride together and moving, and doesn't delay anyone more than a few minutes.

This is a "demonstration," more than a protest. A demonstration of how bikers and motorists can coexist (at least until the bikes take over in the natural course of evolution).

The "massholes" are really a small minority, just as the motorists who do rude and dangerous things to cyclists are just a small percentage.

Every time you ride in an urban environment, you'll encounter several drivers who are considerate and polite and even go out of their way to keep you moving safely. But the motorist who yells at you is the one you'll remember.

If you escape the encounter unscathed, forget about it. That person is not important. He'll suffer from ulcers and high blood pressure while you're getting good exercise and saving a lot of money.

Have some compassion on the angry people in critical mass, too. Every urban cyclist has horror stories of dangerously stupid drivers. Sometimes it feels good to vent.

Biking is Freedom

Biking behavior

I'm a supporter and user of non-car transportation. I would agree that cars are a far bigger danger than bikes. In the United States there are a hell of lot more cars used for transportation, and they're a lot heavier, and (generally, though not always) faster.

But I still could get seriously injured by the bikes I encounter whipping through the stop sign as I cross from a transit station to my house. This happens a couple of times per week. I've had dozens of near misses--hopefully they'll stay that way. I try to maintain perspective, but my feelings at those moments (especially when I had my daughter in tow) were not particularly charitable towards bikes. This is not an obscure location where a pedestrian is a rarity, this is an intersection where hundreds of pedestrians cross every weekday.

"They" (cars)"are bad too" is not s statement demonstrating a positive, responsible riding culture. Some cyclists speed up when they see a pedestrian, much like car drivers speeding up at a crosswalk, others weave a few inches away from me.

I couldn't care less if cyclists go through stop signs when there's no one around. That's not a formal arrangement, but it's an informal one that works. But in my experience at least half of cyclists won't stop at a stop sign even if there's a pedestrian present. The biker's sense of entitlement as the operator of a vehicle who doesn't want to slow down or stop seems to take precedence.

Cyclists--like auto drivers--want stop signs removed so they can legally cycle faster. The air quality folks say stop signs increase emissions. But given current American cycling culture, neighborhood residents are understandably fearful for their safety if bikes and cars are given an even freer hand. They feel like stop signs are the only protection they have. Car culture has to end, but bike culture has to change.

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