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May 10, 2005

Bikeblog's Michael Green Responds

I left the following comment over at Bikeblog, Sunday, hoping to have someone respond:

I have gotten so sick of reading, and being told, that Critical Mass "is not an organization, it's an unorganized coincidence. It's a movement ... of bicycles, in the streets", and everyone is encouraged to show up, and just start riding, blah, blah, blah.

Can we stop with that BS for good now?

Time's Up is an activist organiztion, with a major focus on bicycling issues, openly promoting monthly Critical Mass rides.

CM is not leaderless, and unorganized it surely isn't, especially when organizations set up and publicize a CM event.

Time's Up does many good things on behalf of cycling issues, and is to be commended for that, but think for a moment.....

I mean, REALLY THINK....

I'm all for Freedom of Speech, and Assembly, when done in a peacable, non-threatening manner and, most importantly, legally.

And I think bad cops should be punished, as do most cops of my acquaintance.

However, isn't it possible that the reason the city is so focused on CM is that far too often those attending, and even sponsoring, such events, in the USA, and around the world, have agendas far different than the supposed "promoting sustainable environmental solutions" that ordinary "real cyclists" think they are attending these rides to promote?

If Time's Up, and other Bicycle Activism groups, did what was neccessary to ensure their sponsorship of CM kept Anarchists, and other disruptive elements uninterested in better bicycling, out of their events then maybe the rest of us would respect the movement, if not agreeing with its tactics.

CM supporters should use all that energy to make sure that their precious Critical Mass focuses on issues relevent to Bicycling, because as long as it does not entirely do so it does more harm than good to the cause of Bicycling, and the impression many car drivers, law enforcement, and government officials, have of cyclists in general.

The Cycling Dude
Costa Mesa, Ca.

My comment included a link to this blog, and to my CM Archive.

What follows is the response, yesterday, from Michael Green, the writer of BIKEBLOG, moved here, from its original spot in the comments to one of my posts:

Dear cycling dude,

I appreciate your comments and would like a chance to respond. I understand your frustration about defining critical mass, especially in this world of non-democratic hierarchical top-down prepackaged events. I would still have to argue that critical mass is a leaderless event. Just because certain individuals show leadership and promote the ride is no reason to claim that they are in charge and take responsibility for an event that happens in over 300 cities around the world. I do not understand why this sickens you so much? This issue about definition is really coming to a head here in New York City. The police seriously want a definition of critical mass…they are looking for a head in which to chop off. They want to claim Time’s Up is responsible for Critical Mass and they want them to apply for a permit. A federal judge ruled this out because he could find no validity in the cops argument. “Who would ask for a permit?” No one takes responsibility for the ride. I realize Time’s Up is the most prevalent in promoting critical mass, but it is also advertised in Time out magazine, on various blogs, on email list servs…should all those people be held accountable? Should I be held accountable if I go to critical mass and ride at the front of the pack and suggest everyone goes left at the next intersection? The police would love that. The police are so desperate for a leader that they are trying to sue 4 people as the leaders of critical mass, because the cops saw their names a bunch of times in article about Time’s Up. I doubt they will succeed in State court, but this hasn’t stopped them from putting 4 people through legal and financial hell just because they are in search of a black and white-tidy little packaged definition.

Like I say, your frustration is understandable…but what really disturbs me is your ignorance on the crack down of critical mass in NYC. I may have some expertise in this field since I have attended just about every ride since 2000.

This is not just a few bad cops wilding on a Friday night. This is a systematic crack down on descent and on people’s rights of free assembly. This has been going on ever since the twin towers fell. When President George W. Bush and the right wing republicans got a green light to label anything they didn’t like as either terrorism or on the home-front anarchism. This ism words have come in very handy for the police. Our police chief even said, “the ride was peaceful and then it got taken over by anarchists.” Who are these people? I know people who claim to be anarchists, they weren’t being violent on the ride. I’ve been to critical mass in at least five other cities and NYC has always been the calmest and self regulated. Besides this is NYC, if people go around punching SUV windows like they do in Portland Oregon, your libel to get shot. All of this manifested at the Republican National Convention when the same scooter cops who had been friendly and helped facilitate the ride for six years suddenly turned their mopeds into the crowd and started making arrests…violent arrests. 5,000 people attended this event. Was critical mass targeted because it got too popular? Right before the convention a document surfaced called “operation overlord II” This was a manual for cops to use during the RNC to handle large scale demonstrations…in it’s pages is a section on critical mass. So this bike ride has become part of the police’s checklist of things that are to be stopped at demonstrations. Part of there propaganda used to scare the rank-n-file officers, make them not understand that this is a peaceful bike ride and not a group of hooded anarchists breaking windows and hating the W.T.O. These are commands that stem from the mayor and chief of police who think it is an appropriate response to the bike ride to turn it into a police state. Every Friday night since RNC in August 2004 it has been a terror to ride your bike. Never knowing if an undercover will leap off his bike and throw you to the ground or if you’ll be given a 200 fine for running a red light even if your no where near the ride. Not knowing that if you bike is locked up a cop may come an cut your lock and confiscate your property. This is the world we are living in. This is what should make you sick and tired.

I am so sick and tired of people scapegoating anarchists or ecoterrorists when the can’t just sit down and think about what it means to have a constitution and the fact that you don’t need a leader or a permit to ride your bicycle with a group of people on a Friday night.

Maybe this will help you think more about critical mass…I mean really think.

I pray the WTO, the IMF or the RNC never comes to Costa Mesa California, because all of your rights will be suspended and we can all blame it on anarchists.

Michael Green
Not the leader of critical mass

Now, why can't the folks over at the Green Party show this much conviction, and this much guts, by venturing into my place for a little sharing of views?  :-D

So far 1 person has weighed in on the debate over at Mike's place, and you can to, if interested.

May 10, 2005 in Critical Mass | Permalink


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Tracked on May 11, 2005 3:01:54 AM


I came across your peice on Bikeblog and responded. its a bit emotional and spontaneous, and i hope relays my thoughts and feelings. It may come off as an attack, which is meant slightly, only because i was taking things personally. I do respect your opinion's, and want this dialogue to continue in all forms of communication.
And a comments board on a blog will never represent all of my points and perspectives.
So please dont take offense, but continue to speak. Its tolerance, of ideas and tactics, that can create a stronger movement

Im going to be a bit emotional and inarticulate to cyclingdude's peice. I strongly agree with all the comments and BikeBlogs response to his peice.
I want to say that NYC Critical Mass used to be the most "tame" mass ive been on after over 5 years of riding in them, in more than 6 different cities and towns.

In Austin we rode thru the Whole Foods, we rode thru the North Loop Mall on Buy Nothing day, held minutes long puppet shows on the Congress Ave Bridge, and were exetremely aggressive towards car culture. The ride there has suffered from it, and I was completely empowered and inspired by it.
Those were the most "aggressive" rides ive been on, and they weren't moments of "PR" for cycling but an opportunity to create a safe, "autonomous" zone for cyclists. I could care less whether the ride makes the news or not, its so many different things and has an audience on the street, the public sees it. And here in NYC they SUPPORT it. Every time i ride with more than a couple of people, pedestrians shout "is this critical mass?" And finish off with some gesture of support for us and bikes.
Because everyone in NYC KNOWs the cops are WRONG and ridiculous for criminalize the Mass rides and cycling in general. I find it absurd for someone in California to discredit the work that is being done by all the Bike org's in NYC and Critical Mass as a Demo(Protest, tactic, etc) without even experiencing the support that we have of the NYC public.
I also want to express a bit of an F.U. to Cycledude, cos if the rputation of C.M. was the fault of "Anarchists" and so called troublemakers, then things would be percieved exetremely different, we are few, and the cops in NYC are 35,000. They are the "disruptive element." People who share a philosophical affinity with me, involved in the rides, are not your enemy.
I ride at least 14 miles a day, to/from work. My bicycle is my main form of transportation, i demand an end to the destruction i see in Car Culture. I want cities to be drastically altered, where urban designs prioritize people and more communal interactions. So please keep your "red-baiting" out of the dialogue, its about the police tactics and not folks with radical philosophies & interests, it is about altering systems of power AND sustainable solutions. And its about a different thing for every single rider, so respect it.

and if the law, cos when cycling is made "illegal" in NYC who the hell will fight for YOUR rights, liberals, the cops? think again, and look for the real allies, you can be critical without being a cop.

Posted by: anarkissed | May 17, 2005 1:01:38 AM

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