electric posts from the portland critical mass list-serve
1. on drivers' responses to critical mass
2. web documentation of extreme under-taxation of drivers
3. ballistic: randy albright
responds to a portland tribune letter-to-the-editor containing a motorist's death threat to CM riders
on meeting with city officials
4. call-to-action rant from NYC
5. james howard kuntsler: parking lot nation
6. a skirmish in the civil disobedience debate
7. november '02 - a "permitted" ride - ha!
8. a small joust with the wheelmen
They'll Be Pissed
Sent: Thursday, November 21, 2002
Subject: they'll be pissed
People in cars are going to be angry sooner or later.
I support the efforts of those who talk to drivers, explain what we are
doing, give them flyers, whatever. It's a GOOD idea to communicate with
people, find common ground, and generally avoid conflict.
People who are driving cars have a wake-up call coming, and it's gonna piss
them off. I like Critical Mass because when things are good, it's pure
pleasure to ride the bike, be with other people, and not feel hunted. But
that is only a point of departure.
Critical Mass is an indictment of car culture and however much we try to be
nice and respectful there will be angry drivers. The cops and most of the
media support the status quo. Ultimately we can't accommodate them because
they are wrong. People who operate internal-combustion engines in the
atmosphere that we breathe, on the only planet available, are pissing in the
That was a cliche, so try and visualize it. You're at a dinner party, they
bring out a nice big bowl of soup, it's smelling great, and then somebody
gets up on the table, drops their shorts, and urinates in it. Dig in!
We will never make car drivers happy. Those people who honk and wave when
CM goes by are schizoid. They are poisoning the air at that moment.
For me, it doesn't matter if some newbie, doofus, or provocateur gets a
permit which will be immediately breached and make us look like assholes.
Hey, we aren't playing along with the majority and that makes us assholes!
--to them. In twos or in thousands, we are a nuisance.
I don't know whether I'll go to the meeting tomorrow or not. In the past it
never seemed like a good idea to get acquainted with cops in the context of
activism. I'm on the street a lot and payback would be pretty easy.
However, being is a messenger is just my job, it's not a compulsion. So
maybe I will go. Don't expect to say much; don't expect to make nice
There may be times when it seems that Portland is a good bike town, 'they'
aren't hassling us too much, we can all get along. Translation: these
crumbs sure are tasty.
We do have the moral high ground and that is about the most irritating
situation possible for anybody sitting inside a car. Cars suck. Old stinky
cars suck, hippy vans with earth first! stickers suck, and new cars with
well-tuned engines suck too. Not even global hegemony can change the fact
that most of the people living will see the end of cheap oil, and likely
many will see unmistakeable climate change. Sound science? Happy
When did this become a rant?
Briefly: We can't make them happy unless we pack it in.
Marko, for those who scrolled down to the end, had a point. Let's have all
flavors of rides, let's not have bikes hollering at bikes. The confusion of
recent rides has made them less fun. It has also made them more effective
in pissing people off. Multiple masses clog up traffic, they're harder to
I don't like cars mixed in with CM. I see that as leading to unfortunate
events which will be 'rectified' with a legal process of some sort that will
polarize the situation even more and make half the stuff I do every day an
act of civil disobediance.
Guess that's what it will take.
Some people don't want me on the street, some people don't want me on the
sidewalk. See you on the freeway.
From: alex harvill
Sent: Thursday, November 21, 2002
Subject: Re: they'll be pissed
I do however beg to differ on one point, though. You state that, "People who
are driving cars have a wake-up call coming, and it's gonna piss them off."
Personally I suspect that there will never be "one" wake up call. Nature
seldom works that way. This is the flaw with the common ideas of
"revolution" and "rapture" respectively.
Change is gradual as is adaptation to that change. I doubt that we'll wake
up one day and find that all the oil is gone, just as we'll never see the
exact beginning of the revolution or the (christian) faithful disappearing
and being teleported to heaven. The oil is running out and climate change is
occurring, the shift in perspective necessary for "revolution" is underway,
and the "faithful" (I do include myself) are watching our brothers and
sisters adapt to these new realities.
Critical Mass is the velvet hammer driving the point home. And it will
continue to do so. Of the thousands of people who see Critical Mass every
month, how many do you think stop to consider why we do it? One? Five? Ten?
More? The rides are growing, and those folks are coming from somewhere. CM's
goal shouldn't be to save the world. If we keep riding that will take care
From: Amy Stork
Sent: Friday, November 22, 2002
Subject: they'll be pissed
Robert, I liked reading your rant but I want to comment on one piece:
>We will never make car drivers happy. Those people who honk and wave when
>CM goes by are schizoid. They are poisoning the air at that moment.
Sure, people are schizoid, and we live in a schizoid world. When you
live in Beaverton; when you have children; when you have the kind of job
that "forces" you to drive... you have to make choices. Sometimes they
are devil's bargains. Reducing people to two categories, car-drivers and
not-car-drivers, doesn't forward the revolution. People can be just
about any place on the transportation continuum. Rather than condemn
(and I guess, as someone who drives less than most but more than you, be
condemned) for not being on the perfectly pure end of the continuum, I
want to spend my energy moving myself and others along it. A lot of people
know the evils of cars and feel guilty about driving. But they don't see their
own power to change--YET. These are probably the people honking and
waving at CM.
They are a lot closer to you than the unrepentant drivers - and they are the ones
we are most likely to convert. I like it when they honk and wave.
cars don't pay their share
From: timothy m mcgilvrey
Sent: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 7:40 AM
Subject: Re: Oh boy, cyclists not paying their share... again!!!
Some other sites:
>Below are some starting places. What I could not find is how much, if any state/local gas tax is spent on portland streets vs. property taxes (which we all pay). Most of those gas taxes are going to highways not local streets that most cyclists use.
and from the pdx critical mass forum page a detailed discussion of cycling's hidden environmental costs:
two responses to the portland tribune letter-to-the-editor containing a motorist's death threat to CM riders:
From: randy albright
Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2002
To: Portland CM List
Subject: Critical Mass = Bicyclists' Civil Rights Movement
This is my epiphany and my vision.
Critical Mass is at the vanguard of the bicyclists' civil rights movement.
The rides will continue to grow, and participants will expand their activities to include other types of direct action and culture jams, including ticketing of SUVs; blocking arterial entrances to downtown on self-proclaimed car-free Fridays, in the absence of an official City designation of car-free days downtown; performing Do-It-Yourself bicycle safety improvements including painting bicycle stencils on the pavement at key hazard points for bicyclists; and other direct actions yet to be imagined. In the spirit of civil disobedience and rider safety, 'corking' on CM rides will continue.
My position results from ten years of participation on the City of Portland's Bicycle Advisory Committee, during which time I have had to sit and listen to a steady stream of cars-first, bikes-last apologists, including politicians, bureaucrats, planners, engineers and others, explain why bicycles will be left out of, or cannot be safely accommodated on, this or that road or transportation project. Urban bicyclists should not be settling for the so-called 'bicycle-friendly' projects the City managed to build when they had adequate funding, which in most cases consist of marginally safe bike lanes located only where it is convenient and non-controversial, and a handful of separated recreational paths that provide limited access to real-life destinations. Now, according to the recent Oregon Appeals Court ruling posted here, bicyclists will be forced to ride in these unsafe substandard bike lanes or face further police enforcement.
As a participant in the past several month's Critical Mass rides, I have observed first-hand the police brutality against CM riders and the police bias towards bicyclists in general; the mayor's unreasonable and uncompromisingly uncooperative attitude toward bicyclists in general and CM in particular; I have experienced first-hand for most of my life the rude and dangerous motorist behavior that all urban cyclists have to put up with on a daily basis; the repeated failure of our transportation bureaucracies and other public agencies to adequately accommodate bicyclists safely on our public streets in their planning, development and enforcement activities; the infighting among CM participants regarding the issue of 'corking'; the hateful letters from motorists directed towards bicyclists that the local papers feel so free to publish; and now, finally, the publication of overt death threats in a local paper directed towards bicyclists in general and one individual in particular who did nothing more than openly express a pro-bicycle, pro-CM viewpoint.
I predict that Critical Mass will continue to grow as long as urban bicyclists are routinely endangered by 'normal' motorist behavior; as long as larger and more dangerous motor vehicles fall into the hands of poorly trained motorists with bad attitude and open hostility towards other road users; and as long as the double standard continues to exist which allows motorists and the police to insist that bicyclists obey all existing traffic rules while motorists are universally free to speed, run red lights, and otherwise endanger bicyclists, pedestrians and other users of public streets.
To quote Chainguard On-Line: "Cyclists should expect and demand safe accommodation on every public road, just as do all other users. Nothing more, is expected. Nothing less is acceptable."
Se y'all on November 29.
From: randy albright
Sent: Wednesday, January 08, 2003 11:57 PM
Cc: Portland CM List
Subject: Tribune CM Death Threat Letter Revisited
I too interpreted the text of your letter to constitute a death threat directed towards Alex and other Critical Mass participants. In case you have forgotten, in your letter you stated, and I quote:
"If Critical Mass Riders continue to engage in stupid and unsafe behavior, it is quite likely that riders, such as Mr. Harvill will find themselves pinned beneath an axle with a body crushed to a pulp."
Nothing in your explanation below, least of all your invoking of your 'first amendment rights to free speech', gives you the right to engage in this form of passive-aggressive hate speech. In your letter, you directly threaten all Critical Mass participants, and Alex in particular, with death by deadly force caused by vehicular homicide. I am reasonably certain that neither the Tribune nor any other newspaper would ever publish a similar letter written by a white racist threatening death by any means to people of color.
Perhaps if you had a better understanding of the fact that law-abiding bicyclists are endangered and threatened on public streets in Portland every day by rude and inconsiderate motorists--motorists who feel free to themselves speed, run red lights and commit other violations of the law on a routine basis--then you would also understand that Critical Mass is the natural response of bicyclists seeking safety in numbers, demanding respect, and refusing to be treated like second-class users of our public streets or submit to a double-standard of obedience to the law for motorists and bicyclists.
Critical Mass rides are supposed to be celebratory and fun, not warfare in the streets between relatively harmless bicyclists and police equipped with riot gear acting on direct orders from the Mayor's office. Cars travel in large groups every day. It's called 'traffic'. When was the last time you saw or heard of a motorist being beaten, pepper-sprayed, handcuffed and arrested simply for a minor traffic infraction???
The only violence I have ever observed on a Critical Mass ride was instigated either by the police or a motorist, but Critical Mass will never get a column-inch of favorable coverage in the car-, truck- and SUV-sponsored local media. In view of the unprofessional and violent behavior the police have exhibited towards Critical Mass, and the biased media coverage, I personally have begun to view Critical Mass as the civil rights movement for bicyclists, where for a brief two or three hours a month dedicated bicyclists engage in non-violent civil disobedience in support of their right to use and be safe on our public streets.
Letters like yours encouraging further violent behavior towards bicyclists by motorists not only have racist overtones, they also have an overall negative effect on enhancing cooperation and mutual respect between motorists and bicyclists using our streets on a daily basis. You should have thought long and hard about this before mailing your letter to the Tribune, and relegated it to the recycling bin instead.
Contrary to your lame excuses to Alex for what you wrote, and your demands for an apology, I believe that it is really the other way 'round, and it is actually you who owes an apology to Alex and other Critical Mass participants, and to bicyclists in general.
[ok, this isn't randy, but it's on topic:]
From: Jym Dyer
Sent: January 09, 2003
Subject: Tribune CM Death Threat Letter Revisited
"If Critical Mass Riders continue to engage in stupid and unsafe behavior, it is quite likely that riders, such as Mr. Harvill will find themselves pinned beneath an axle | with a body crushed to a pulp."
=v= This should be put into historical context. This sort of passive-voice threat has made its way into newspapers before. Perhaps this all-purpose multiple-choice version of the above will be illuminating:
(a) Queer Nation activists
(b) Women's Libbers
(c) Civil Rights marchers
continue to engage in ______________________________ behavior,
it is quite likely that ______________________________
such as ______________________________
(a) Matthew Shepherd
(b) the ones at Ecole Polytchnique
(c) M.L. King
will find themselves ______________________________.
(a) beaten to death
(b) gunned down
=v= I don't mind free speech. I like to see those who make such threats out in the open, with their hateful ideas preserved for posterity. An even greater historical lesson, though, and one we can certainly hope for in this case, is that of redemption.
on meeting with city officials:
From: randy albright
Sent: Monday, November 25, 2002
To: Portland CM List
Subject: November 22 meeting with City
Here's my take on what was and wasn't said by the City at the 11/22 meeting.
What was said: The City failed to be persuaded by arguments that CM occurs
for only two or three hours a month, that CM occurs after the peak evening
rush hour, that corking helps keep the riders safe and clear any given area
quicker, etc. Perhaps we will see more bike cops on the east side this
month instead of the cruisers and motorcycles that typically take over after
the river crossing. It was unclear to me what, if any, additional
enforcement the police would perform against CM participants that don't
follow the permitted route.
In the process of denying that such a situation exists, the City made it
pretty clear that a double standard is in effect for cars and bikes, and
that City streets are managed first to facilitate motor vehicle access and
convenience, and last for bicycle safety and accessibility. Although the
City denied it, it is also pretty clear that it is unwritten City policy
that bicyclists are supposed to meet the highest standards of compliance
with traffic regulations (especially on a CM ride), while motorists are free
to cause gridlock, speed and run lights with impunity. Although the City is
unwilling or unable to provide adequate resources for motor vehicle traffic
enforcement, they can and are devoting tremendous resources to enforcement
against bicyclists on Critical Mass rides.
The City once again claimed that the cause of the recent police crackdown on
CM rides resulted from an increase in the number of complaints by motorists
delayed in traffic by CM, and increasing instances of petty vandalism caused
by CM riders. We've heard all this before from the City; I think there's
more to it than that, read on.
What wasn't said: I am reasonably certain, although I can't prove it,
that the Portland Business Alliance (http://www.portlandalliance.com/ formed
recently as the result of a merger of the Downtown Chamber of Commerce and
the Association for Portland Progress) is probably lobbying the Mayor to
crack down on CM. The Portland Business Alliance is responsible for such
recent gems as (1) lobbying the City to strengthen and enforce the sit/lie
ordinance, (2) proposing to allow more cars and parking spaces on the
transit mall, and (3) proposing further reductions in city and county
business income taxes and license fees, shifting the tax burden further onto
Six years ago, the Association for Portland Progress vigorously opposed new
City Code requirements for bicycle parking downtown, successfully lobbying
City Council to make bicycle parking code compliance downtown voluntary
rather than mandatory, and then failing miserably to support its end of the
bargain, the result being a serious deterioration in both the amount and
quality of privately funded bike parking installed in the downtown area
during the last six years, during which time bicycle commuting into downtown
has just about doubled.
I am guessing that the Business Alliance thinks CM is bad for business
because in their view CM inconveniences and discourages suburban shoppers
from driving downtown to spend their wages on things they don't really need
in the shops of the Business Alliance's members. Being who they are, I
suppose the Business Alliance considers CM a 'quality of life crime' akin to
panhandling, drug dealing, etc., and want the City to stamp out CM to make
downtown 'safer' for suburban shoppers. You can be sure these folks have
the Mayor's ear, they aren't shy about telling her what they think, and they
are used to getting what they want from the City.
Who Owns The Streets?
From: randy albright
Sent: Friday, November 22, 2002
To: Portland CM List
Subject: Right of Way Manifesto
Sorry this is sort of a long post, but the web site is in frames and I
couldn't create a direct link to the sub-page. Much more like this can be
found at: http://www.rightofway.org/, an organization founded in NYC by
Charles Komanoff as a spin-off from the more mainstream Transportation
Alternatives. This is about NYC, but of course much of what is stated below
also applies to PDX.
Right Of Way Manifesto
Poe's story "The Purloined Letter" turns on the idea that sometimes the best
way to hide something is to leave it in plain sight. The idea is amply
illustrated for New Yorkers by two glaring scandals that can be seen in
action, any day, on any streetcorner, by anybody who ventures outside his
There's an unacknowledged crime wave of lawless behavior by drivers -- a
crime wave that takes the lives of 250 or so New Yorkers every year.
In a gigantic theft of public property, the car-owning minority of New
Yorkers has stolen the streets from the non-motorized rest of us.
Thugarchy, the rule of the road
Stand at a busy streetcorner in midtown any weekday morning and just watch
what happens. You'll see a dozen dangerous crimes a minute: drivers
"squeezing" the light or just plain ignoring it, drivers bullying
pedestrians out of the crosswalk in a very lopsided game of "chicken,"
drivers stomping on their accelerators and peeling out of a stalled lane
into another that offers an irresistible ten feet of Open Road, only to
shudder to a squealing stop half a second later.
Enforcement is essentially nonexistent: when was the last time you saw, or
heard of, a driver being ticketed for not yielding the right-of-way to a
pedestrian? Or for reckless driving after forcing a cyclist off the road? It
just doesn't happen.
Speed limits, of course, are a standing joke; most drivers in New York
couldn't even tell you what the speed limit is. Whenever there's an
opportunity for drivers to open it up and make time, God help the carless.
And quite apart from the nominal limit, the concept of "reckless driving"
simply has no meaning at all to drivers and police alike: cars roar down
narrow side streets at thirty miles an hour, desperate to make a light; they
may, by chance, be under the limit, but they're way above what is safe and
Obviously, nobody cares: not the Mayor, not the cops, not the District
Attorneys. The police have an informal, though freely acknowledged, rule
that a driver who kills a pedestrian has to be violating at least two laws
before he'll be charged with anything. So the vast majority of killer
drivers roll away from the scene of the crime without even any points on
Not only do the authorities not care, but most New Yorkers simply accept
these conditions, without indignation, as an inescapable fact of life; the
Purloined Letter principle at work.
But this tyranny of motorized criminals is not a law of nature. It could be
otherwise. It will be otherwise when people wake up to the reality of what
is being done to them. So the first of our goals is this: to make the
Who owns the streets?
Everybody knows the theoretical answer: the streets belong to all New
Yorkers. But reality is quite a different matter.
The reality is that the Department of Transportation has one priority: to
move as many cars as possible, as fast as possible. All other street
users -- pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, people in wheelchairs or children
in strollers -- are an afterthought at best.
Again: try the experiment for yourself. Go to a big, busy intersection and
time how long the "walk" lights last. Go to 95th and Riverside, where people
crossing from one section of Riverside Park to the other are expected to
walk around three sides of a square, crossing four streets, in order to
facilitate the lordly progress of cars to and from the West Side Highway. Or
look around in your own neighborhood: you're sure to find a similar example
of through-the-windshield engineering.
Consider the Queensboro Bridge, where the lane for pedestrians and cyclists
was recently confiscated for car use. The reason given, of course, was to
reduce congestion -- although all traffic engineers, by now, know the dirty
secret that increased capacity results in more traffic, and thus increased
Think how much public space is devoted to free parking. Everybody knows how
expensive New York real estate is, yet we reserve a huge amount of it for
drivers to leave their cars in, and we don't charge them a penny. How much
would you have to pay for another hundred square feet of space in your
apartment? That's what a car takes up at curbside.
All this in spite of the fact that car owners are, by a substantial margin,
a minority of New Yorkers: around 40% of households (not individuals!)
City-wide, considerably less in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
But car owners, like gun owners, are regarded by politicians as a
constituency. The carless are not so regarded, because they have -- so
far! -- no consciousness of their status as a disenfranchised majority.
This, then, is the second of our goals: to awaken the sleeping giant -- the
majority of New Yorkers whose civic patrimony has been stolen from them for
the benefit of a greedy few.
What do we want?
Bringing cars under control is not an insoluble problem. Cities elsewhere
have done it. There's a well-understood set of techniques for the purpose.
Enforcement. Easy, and obvious, and it pays for itself in fines. Are you in
the intersection after the light changes? You get a ticket. Brush a
pedestrian out of the crosswalk? Get a ticket. Driving faster than is safe
on a narrow side street? Get a ticket. A few hundred dollars per driver
later, our drivers will be the envy of the world for their tameness and
Reduce the flow. One reason drivers are so hysterical in New York is that
there are just too many of them trying to fit into too little space. Sure,
there are people who really have a legitimate reason to be driving. But
there are plenty who don't. There are lots of ways to sort out the two
groups. One technique is simply to charge drivers what they really cost:
including their costs in land use for roads and for parking, the costs of
road and bridge maintenance, and the indirect costs of noise, pollution,
policing. The list goes on and on.
Traffic engineering for people, not for machines. It's time the Department
of Transportation woke up to the fact that not everybody gets around in a
car. Much can be done just by changing a few settings on the traffic light
controls. For example: four-way reds, so pedestrians won't be chased out of
the crosswalk by turning cars. More pedestrian signal buttons, and a quicker
action for them. "Walk" signals that last long enough so you don't have to
be an Olympic sprinter to make it across the street.
Education. Drivers believe they own the road -- and who can blame them,
since nobody has told them otherwise? Time to start telling them. Paint
"YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS" in every crosswalk. Put public-service spots on TV,
and make it clear in no uncertain terms that pedestrians, cyclists, and
skaters are also on the street by equal right under the law, and morally by
an even greater right, since their road use is less costly in every way.
The bigger picture
American car-madness has taken its toll throughout the country, not just in
New York; indeed, in some ways New York is relatively fortunate (we still
have a functioning public transportation system, for example, at least for
the time being). These larger social costs include the waste of open space,
the decline of community, the pollution, and of course the Vietnam's worth
of deaths every few months. Who hasn't lost a friend, or more than one, in
the killing grounds of the American highway system?
We can't change all this overnight. But we can make a start. And there's no
better place to start than New York City, where alternatives to the car are
already used, every day, by the majority of our citizens.
It can be done. And, as so often in the past , New York can show the way.
it's not just SUVs
From: randy albright
Sent: Tuesday, November 26
To: Portland CM List
Subject: Parking Lot Nation
James Howard Kunstler
November 22, 2202
For quite a while now it's been fashionable among the
environmentally-minded to decry the ownership of SUVs. It occurs to me that
this reveals exactly what is wrong with the conventional thinking of the
progressive / green crowd.
Would the everyday environment in America be any better if it were
full of high gas mileage cars instead of honking big gas-guzzling Chevy
Denalis and Ford Expeditions? I don't think it would make a damn bit of
difference, really. We'd still be a car-dependent society stuck in a
national automobile slum. The problem with America is not big cars, it's the
fact that we're always in any cars of any size so much of the time, and that
cars of all sizes have such an overwhelming presence in our lives.
The anti-SUV mantra is related in spirit to the quixotic project by
Amory Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute to design an
environmentally-friendly "hyper-car." Such a high mileage, low-emissions
vehicle, they say, would help usher in a sustainable way-of-life in America.
What horseshit. It would do nothing to mitigate the degraded public realm of
Parking Lot Nation. It would not lessen commuting distances or times. It
would not reduce the number of car trips per day per household. If anything,
the hyper-car would only provide moral justification for continuing to live
in a drive-in dystopia. It would make suburban sprawl seem normative and
desirable, instead of what it is: the most destructive development pattern
the world has ever seen.
There's an interesting explanation for why they pursue this project so
zealously. Environmentalists are keen on the culture of quantification. It's
easy to count up the number of carbon dioxide molecules in a cubic foot of
air, so reducing them makes you a moral victor in the jihad against air
pollution. By the same simplistic reasoning big-cars-bad, little-cars-good.
In the age of austerity and global strife that is coming down the pike
at us, we are going to need walkable neighborhoods, towns and villages and
richly multi-modal transportation systems, including public transit. In the
meantime, I really don't give a fuck whether Americans drive Humvees or
Toyota Celicas. All of them contribute to make my everyday world a worse
a near conflagration
extinguished by the brute force of rational argument
the april 2002 ride again manifests conflicting styles of Critical Mass :
From: ayleen crotty
Sent: Saturday, April 27, 2002 11:59 AM
Subject: APRIL ride
Checking in here to report on last night's ride.
I miss having a strong contingenct of smart riders at the front. The ride did
a lot of things I consider ineffective (and sometimes stupid). It rained hard,
but we persevered.
HUGE THANKS to Sara for being vocal when a few folks through it'd be fun to
turn into oncoming traffic on a one-way off of Broadway. Amazing how folks
preach not following the mainstream crowd and buying into the system, yet they
follow someone's foolish move without thinking twice, just because it's
There was a lot of blowing of red lights and merging into approaching traffic,
a lot of dangerous riding. I'm an advocate of disobeying signals and signs
only when necessary to keep the ride together.
Heading west on Burnside toward NW 23rd/21st, a cop ordered over his
loudspeaker that we better move out of his way because he had to get somewhere
and he'd pull our butts of our bikes and haul us to jail if we didn't move.
Most folks moved, some were very slow to. He didn't have sirens on.
Through 23rd/21st, some riders chose to ride into oncoming traffic and we
blocked in a bus. Not cool. Some shouted "Let the bus go", but by that point
the bus had been stuck for a bit.
We, again, headed east to 21st on that street car tracks street. Foolish, and
a few folks spilled. Others were just sort of nervously riding. It's not a fun
street, especially in the rain.
Heading south on 21st, a fire truck came through on a cross street. Riders
were *pretty* good about moving out of the way, but some skirted through the
intersection. Not cool. The truck got stuck because of the foolish drivers
who couldn't seem to move out of the way, even though CM wasn't in their way.
Not cool. The truck had to wail on it's horn to get the cars to move. I can
see the headlines now "Critical Mass blocks fire truck".
Again on Burnside heading east a few folks rode into oncoming. Not cool.
We turned North on Broadway towards the bridge! Amazing. Breaking routine.
On the bridge, we were taking two lanes and the cars we were holding up got
pissy and dangerously swerved around us by driving in the oncoming lane. If
that's going to be the outcome, I don't think it's worth it to take two lanes.
The cars came very close to riders while we were on the steel grating, which is
hard to ride on, especially when wet. Dangerous, not cool.
We turned North on MLK for a bit, but most folks did a U turn and headed back
south. I left the ride at that point, so this concludes my report.
The ride left me with a strong sense of "Do I want to be a part of this?"
Which is a shame to think after riding CM in one city or another for nearly 8
years. The question of "What can we do to encourage riders to ride more
effectively" is once again brought to mind. It's something we've discussed so
many times before. I can't say I'm doing anything more than discussing it.
Sent: Saturday, April 27, 2002 2:23 PM
Subject: I will obey...
I will stay in my designated lane. I will stop for all traffic signals. I
will do everything I can to be as acceptable of a citizen on our fine roadways
as possible. I will endeavour to make CM as politically correct and socially
comfortable of an event as possible. I will listen to the police. When angry
drivers try nearly kill me and my friends because they are late getting home
for the season premier of "The West Wing", I will graciously yield for the sake
of a more positive image.
Thank you for helping me see the light. Surely, a person with 8 years worth of
CM experience is far more versed in what CM stands for than the rest of us.
From: Ed Stastny
Sent: Saturday, April 27, 2002 4:13 PM
Subject: Re: I will obey...
I guess we all have our own ways of dealing with careless drivers and a
relatively oblivious public. Some will be snide and sarcastic and
inflammatory (like REXELLA). Others, like Ayleen, will host bike
awareness call-in shows, organise bike-summer events, have after parties
at their house, work with people rather than against them and generally
be more effective than invective. Thank you again, Ayleen.
Both tactics make a difference. Personally (yes, my very own personal
opinion, not some kind of dictate), I think CM rides should be an
inconvenience to automobilists, but not a danger. Riding into oncoming
traffic is stupid for everyone involved. Blocking busses is
counter-productive to any "encourage mass-transit" ideal. Blocking
emergency vehicles is a danger as well. I thought all of this was
obvious, guess not.
> Surely, a person with 8 years worth of
> CM experience is far more versed in what CM stands for than the rest of us.
The same REXELLA who quotes themself on a sticker in Red & Black's
bathroom? A "radical" statement about Southeast Portland? Aren't we
the ubiquitous muckraker.
From: Karl Anderson
Sent: Saturday, April 27, 2002 5:32 PM
Subject: Re: I will obey...
> I will endeavour to make CM as politically correct and socially
> comfortable of an event as possible.
[rest of ad hominem attacks deleted]
In this case, I think most of us will settle for your showing some
respect for your fellow massers. You forgot to respond to Ayleen's
points - come back when you have something to say, eh?
From: rail hed
Sent: Sunday, April 28, 2002 3:16 AM
Subject: Re: APRIL ride
The question of "What can we do to encourage
> riders to ride more
> effectively" is once again brought to mind. It's
> something we've discussed so
> many times before. I can't say I'm doing anything
> more than discussing it.
> hey all,
i ride CM to help raise awareness of bicycles and make
my city a safer place to ride, i like to bring my
it has been so much fun. certainly we could see a
continual increse in our numbers if it is a safe and
fun thing to do.
it seems to me some people want to raise the
confrontation level... is this going to aid the future
of critical mass?? is more confrontation going to
increase our numbers?
not going back to the days when on every ride riders
were thrown to the ground by the scooter pigs.
during the week i use the bike racks on the buses
also. these are the people we want to build alliances
with NOT alienate!
Thanks for bringing up the discussion AY, it must be
tuffer on you since you have stuck out your neck with
the p.d... the rides ARE safer and more fun since the
people that did have discussions with the p.d.
From: Ken Southerland
Sent: Sunday, April 28, 2002 10:35 AM
Subject: Re: APRIL ride
> during the week i use the bike racks on the buses
> also. these are the people we want to build alliances
> with NOT alienate!
Absolutely! The people on the bus are the good ones. They have
chosen a method of transportation which is more inconvenient than
having one's own personal vehicle roaring away on the roadways. I
imagine their inconvenience tolerance will only go so far though.
One ride that I was on, I was appalled that we were blocking the bus
from doing its normal route. It had been trying to go for some time
it appeared when I approached the intersection. The bus driver was
getting a little irate though. I stopped at the intersection and
turned around and yelled for everyone to stop. Amazingly, they did!
The bus went through, the driver thanked me, and then a few other
massers thanked me as well. We had no problem catching up with the
rest of the group. Try it, it works.
From: ben salzberg
Sent: Sunday, April 28, 2002 6:22 AM
Subject: Re: APRIL ride
On Sat, 27 Apr 2002, ayleen crotty wrote:
> The ride left me with a strong sense of "Do I want to be a part of this?"
I totally empathize. In some sense it was really nice to have the bike
cops along on the ride---they sort of reined in unruly behavior just by
their presence. In their absence, CM riders need to step up and confront
individuals' loutish behavior.
> Which is a shame to think after riding CM in one city or another for nearly 8
> years. The question of "What can we do to encourage riders to ride more
> effectively" is once again brought to mind. It's something we've
> discussed so many times before. I can't say I'm doing anything more
> than discussing it.
Well, I think there are at least two things that can help. One you said:
> I miss having a strong contingency of smart riders at the front.
Having a core group of folks who are willing to confront unsafe riders
is very helpful. Also, I think flyers or a pre-ride talk can help. We have
yet to have any mass-to-mass conversation at the ride, we only have a few
folks on this list. If anarchy is going to be anything but chaos it needs
work from the community, and some attempt at consensus or at least
Sent: Sunday, April 28, 2002 7:28 AM
Subject: Re: What I Would Like to See For Critical Mass
On Sun, 28 Apr 2002, Douglas Duguay wrote:
> What a victory it would be if every last Friday of the month the city
> of Portland closed a number of city streets so bicyclists could have
> the run of the city.
This is contrary to my personal view of the purpose of CM. I see CM as a
time when riders have the strength in numbers that the cars have on most
other days on a given street and, therefore, are able to demand respect
from the automobile drivers.
Closing off the streets implies a "separate but equal" type of policy that
I don't personally support.
The purpose of CM, as I see it, is to raise the awareness of bicycles
within the mind of car driver and increase the amount of respect and
consciousness. I don't think general unruliness does anything to help
Now, you may feel the need to take revenge against car drivers, but I
suggest that you do it on an individual level... take revenge against the
offenders if you feel you need to (and have the authority to) "teach them
a lesson". But revenge against a population isn't going to do anyone but
create more bitterness and probably escalate hostility.
Those riders that feel free to raise hell during CM because they are
protected by large numbers need to realize how amazingly dangerous an
automobile is. A car is a deadly weapon that can be used with almost no
forethought or effort. And worse yet, the use of an automobile has been
shown to INCREASE anger and frustration and dehumanize those outside the
car (see road rage). So you can feel safe and secure acting like a shit
during CM, but you're endangering the TENS OF THOUSANDS of people that
ride their bicycles on these city streets alone.
If you want to take up a dispute with an individual, go for it. But make
sure that they know you are acting by yourself to redress a particular
grievance with an offending individual, not fighting some mythical war for
bicyclists everywhere against all car drivers.
> Families could come ride their bikes in safe Portland streets. What a
> statement it would be if the "Number One Bicycling City in the US"
> could create a safe environment for bicyclists to play on weekends.
That "safe environment to play" is available in parks and scenic
corridors. The city streets are for transportation and we need to make
them safe for all transportation to coexist, not time-share.
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 3:38 PM
Subject: Woop! Woop!
O.K. I can't help it if sometimes the snide REXELLA comes out, especially after
he has to breathe rush hour fumes heading westbound on the Ross Island (perhaps
that's what fuels my "anarchist" ideals). People, I'm joking around...
Sometimes you take yourselves too seriously. I've done my time on CM in
Portland, even got a "Failure to use bikelane" signature ticket in July 2001.
As a personal code, during CM I don't ride in oncoming traffic, block buses, or
make that big of a stink at all. However, one of the most defining moments of
CM for me was during one ride that ended up in NW (surprise...) Some of
those "dirty anarchist who are just out to burn britches" engaged a limosine
that was waiting on 21st. They encircled it, chanting class-war ephitets to
the limo's patrons, who I'm sure we're shaking in their Armani's.
I guess the question that's plaguing me is: At what point does the CM cease to
be a political statement, and instead become a happy-work-with-the-police
saturated PR mobile? Is the point to co-exist with cars, or to outdate them?
Even inside of CM, there seem to be some class differences...
Ayleen, and others, you're doing good work, honestly. But you must remember
the origins of CM (at least as I understand them): no leaders, no
spokespersons, no rules. I'm sick of the temperature rising, the smog, the
fuckers waving Amerikkkan flags (you can almost smell the burning Afghani's in
the exhaust). I want to promote biker safety during CM, and if I see someone
WAY out of line, I'll call them on it. But in the meantime, don't scold me
like a child. I can cork with the best of them,
"We are a generation of LSD driven maniacs in the universe. We'll do anything
we can to drive people crazy, out of their heads and into their bodies."
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 9:16 AM
Subject: Re: Woop! Woop!
On Mon, 29 Apr 2002 gaughan wrote:
> O.K. I can't help it if sometimes the snide REXELLA comes out,
> especially after he has to breathe rush hour fumes heading westbound
> on the Ross Island (perhaps that's what fuels my "anarchist" ideals).
I think you should put some more thought into your "anarchist" ideas. If
you want both civilization and anarchy, your primary motivators should be
respect, compassion, and generosity.
> I guess the question that's plaguing me is: At what point does the CM
> cease to be a political statement, and instead become a
> happy-work-with-the-police saturated PR mobile?
Well, it appears that your thinking finds "political statement" and
"happy-work-with-the-police saturated PR" as mutually exclusive. But all
political statements are just PR and working with or against the police is
really an issue-by-issue/event-by-event consideration.
I ask this: Is it still "civil disobedience" if it's uncivilized?
> Is the point to co-exist with cars, or to outdate them?
First and foremost, cars are here to stay. And, believe it or not, they
have their purposes. Yeah, they shouldn't be used probably greater than
90% of the time they're used today, but I, for one, am glad of ambulances,
fire trucks, local delivery trucks, and easy travel for the infirm.
Second, if we "take the streets" one day each month, we'll be marginalized
into a "one day a month" allowance by the general public. But what we
need is to be welcome on the streets EVERY DAY. This has nothing to do
with how many cars are out there... only that those cars that ARE on the
streets have respect for the bicycles that are there. And the best way to
gain respect is to show respect.
You can't take respect by force... and those who do try this get only
fear, the false respect that breeds hatred and terrorism.
> Even inside of CM, there seem to be some class differences... Ayleen,
> and others, you're doing good work, honestly. But you must remember
> the origins of CM (at least as I understand them): no leaders, no
> spokespersons, no rules.
And YOU need to realize that "no rules" isn't the same thing as "anything
goes". If you piss people off, you WILL see consequences. Doesn't matter
if the people you piss off are motorists or cyclists, you will still face
reckoning for your actions with each individual.
With freedom comes enormous responsibility. And a lack of designated
authority does not leave a lack of personal accountability.
> I want to promote biker safety during CM, and if I see someone WAY out
> of line, I'll call them on it. But in the meantime, don't scold me
> like a child.
Now, see, here's a fine example of misapplied reasoning or at least a
We both have the right to determine what we personally consider "WAY out
of line" and will make our own choices on when to "call them on it" or
"scold" them (depending on your point of view).
But what you've written seems to imply that YOU have the right to
determine what's out of line for others, but we can't do the same for you.
I call bullshit.
From: Lisa Brandt
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 8:51 PM
Subject: Re: Woop! Woop!
On Mon, 29 Apr 2002 16:16:34 -0700 (PDT), Jeme wrote:
>And the best way to gain respect is to show
My rule of thumb is that I don't do anything that would piss me off
if a car did it. I'm annoyed by people (in cars or on bikes) who
think that the rules of the road are for *someone else* -- they get
some special dispensation from the Pope because they're so important.
I get quite a few surprised looks, waves, and smiles when I actually
stop at a stop sign. I think this goes a long way towards changing
the way that car drivers think about "those bike people."
Lisa Brandt <@> Portland, Oregon
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 9:27 PM
Subject: Re: Woop! Woop!
> I get quite a few surprised looks, waves, and smiles when I actually
> stop at a stop sign. I think this goes a long way towards changing
> the way that car drivers think about "those bike people."
I'm convinced that the reason I almost get killed every day on my bike is
because most drivers have had bad experiences with bicyclists and tend to
resent them. I've had people pull right out in front of me for no other
reason than to mess with me. It really pisses me off, but I've also been
riding in cars and had bicyclists pull out in front of the car for no other
reason than to mess with the driver. I think what bicyclists have to
understand is that you don't do anything but make the bike riding experience
in this town worse by acting like a prick. Like it or not, in a car vs.
bicycle altercation, the car will win every time. You're not really proving a
point, you're endangering your life.
I'm a firm believer in the "You catch more flies with honey" way of thinking.
Just my $.02
From: Sam Gray
Sent: Monday, April 29, 2002 3:33 PM
Subject: Thoughts from a CM newbie
First, a little fuel for the ad hominem:
<mememe>I'm currently licensed for both cages and motorcycles, and in my
life, I've used just about every form of personal transportation I can
think of, except perhaps a microlight. (Give me a few years.) However,
since getting the driver's license ten years ago, I gave up human-powered
transport until I got my recumbent in January of this year.<mememe>
Consequently, I have ridden in exactly *one* Critical Mass ride at the end
of January. I'm "fresh meat," in other words -- a potential recruit,
possessing the zealotry of a recent convert. (Speaking of which, if you
know anybody who wants to buy an '88 Acura P.O.S., send email!)
When I went on the January ride, I didn't really know what to expect. I
mostly showed up because I was in love with my shiny new toy and any excuse
to ride was a good one. Lo and behold, I had a GREAT time, with two major
exceptions. One, the front of the mass blew through all but one or two red
lights, and two, going east down SE Hawthorne, we made a left turn onto
20th against the very obvious signage and (more importantly) in front of a
lot of cars who were coming down the hill in the rain.
In post-ride emails, I also read about some riding into oncoming traffic,
and a confrontation with a pretty aggro pickup truck who blazed by the Mass
coming off the Hawthorne bridge after apparently identifying as a cyclist
All of this bugged the hell out of me, and has kept me from riding in CM
since. Just when I'd started thinking that was maybe a one-time thing
(post-ride reports in Feb and March were good, as I recall), I read that
the latest ride had that and more.
Sorry if I ramble; I'm a bit tired as I write this. I just wanted to speak
up as a newcomer and let you know that those tactics not only alienate the
anonymous internal-combustioners, but potential cycling allies as well.
As a (sympathetic) motorist, the one thing I knew about Critical Mass for
years was the motto, "We're not blocking traffic; we *are* traffic." If
the famed cell-phone-wielding SUV yuppie of urban mythos drove into the
oncoming lanes, blocked buses and fire trucks, ignored traffic signals, and
did the other stuff Ayleen was talking about, cyclists (and everyone else)
would be screaming bloody murder. So what makes those same behaviors okay
for cyclists, Mass or otherwise? (And I don't want to hear the phrase
"temporary autonomous zone." On the road with cars, we're neither
autonomous nor exempt from ballistic intervention.)
From: alex harvill
Sent: Tuesday, April 30, 2002 11:12 PM
Subject: the current state of CMass
Not having ridden since halloween, my views might lack merit, but I would
like to comment on some of the points which seem to arise on this list
seasonally. This will seem disjointed, because I don't really feel like
ordering the ideas, hopefully you will understand my perspective
1) As Downtown Precinct Commander Rosie "Kaiser Soze" Sizer remarked at one
of the police negotiations, the reasons the police were interested in
smothing things over with CMass were the negative media campaign against the
police that some CMassers were waging, and the pressure from city hall which
Ayleen and others sparked by repeated "comments from concerned citizens".
Remember these tools, they work. The photo of Will Levin being "assisted"
from his bike across the handlebar was extermely valuable in demonstrating
the level of police harrassment CM periodically faces.
2) There is a natural ebb and flow to the ride in Portland due to the
weather. Winter rides tend to be small and relaxed, no cops, no testosterone
brigade...just the passionate, funny hat wearing, noise maker squad. As the
days grow longer and the pavement drier, the Agros turn out, and the cops
soon follow. Perhaps the "wuss ride" needs to be dusted off again, it really
is fun. The wuss ride gets to do exactly what it likes because the riders
cooperate with one another AND any police will probably be fucking with the
3) Ultimately, any definition of what Critical Mass should be is flawed. We
must simply respect ALL CMassers regardless of their seniority, and
undermine car culture in whatever way we can. If this means riding headlong
into traffic, so be it. Handing out cookies to corked drivers, so be it.
Shouting matches with police in the street or polite negotiation in the
"Justice" Center. I will accept no criticism for sweet talking the police,
nor will I accept criticism from the police for inciting a bike mob dressed
as Ronald McDonald. I determine the best tactic for myself on a minute by
minute basis, and do not expect anyone else to follow. My ride is what I
4) That said, I think the police are going to freak out over BikeSummer. The
Wussers (myself likely included) should revive the grand old tradition in
front of Powell's Tech store and go on the offensive with the media
portraying ourselves as fine upstanding citizens. This will make the police
look like fools (not hard) and confuse the driving public (also not hard). I
promise to Wuss on the next ride if there are any other takers, perhaps we
should dress like Mormons.
The police have been furiously lobbying for two utterly counterproductive concessions: no corking and a parade permit. after much maneuvering, just before the november ride they found a brand new masser (one ride under his belt - on which he was injured by a car) fool enough to apply for a permit. then convened a hasty and confusing meeting between city officials and whatever massers they could round up, and produced the most rashomon ride ever. i mean, all critical mass rides are like the blind man and the elephant, but this one took the cake. below is one warning post from a friendly wisconsin rider, followed by 5 ride reports.
From: Matt Logan
Sent: Friday, November 22, 2002
Subject: Re: Critical Mass/accident stats
> I realize that the Portland police are eager to see a version of
> Critical Mass that has no impact on the city, and that a participant
> has come forward that appears willing to join with you in this
> effort. I am sure you are savvy enough to realize that this has
> very little chance of succeeding (owing to the very nature of the
> Critical Mass phenomena).
> I participate in Critical Mass in Madison Wisconsin, and last April
> when a cyclist went to the effort of obtaining a permit and planning
> a route, participants abandoned that route within 10 minutes. see:
> http://www.madisoncriticalmass.org/images/4_22_2002 for the results.
> Have you considered the long term impact of this course of action?
> I imagine when the permitted ride is abandoned, the Police will
> have an excuse to take more extreme action than normal because
> Critical Mass has broken an agreement with the city. The problem
> is, there is no organization, no leaders, and therefore no
> accountability for one rider's actions based on another riders
> promises. However, this will not stop the Police from claiming that
> the participants have broken an agreement.
> If I as a motorist were to promise on behalf of all other motorists
> in Portland not to block traffic by participating in rush hour
> (i.e.. creating congestion) by taking up a single lane and sticking
> to a pre planned route, would the Police then take action during the
> next rush hour to punish Portland Motorists for breaking my
> agreement? After all, motorists who are impeding the normal (i.e..
> at speed limit) flow of traffic are breaking the law. I doubt it.
> And this I think reveals the true nature of your relationship with
> Critical Mass - you are undertaking this course of action for purely
> political reasons. While there are a plethora of life threatening
> acts of motorist lawbreaking going on all around the city, the
> political problems brought about by Critical Mass outweigh the
> public safety, thus justifying taking resources away from normal
> traffic enforcement.
> I would suggest that instead of trying to neuter Critical Mass by
> encouraging non representatives to make agreements on behalf of
> people they do not represent, and then having the Police enforce
> laws that have comparatively little positive effect on public
> safety, that you instead work with the city and riders to change the
> laws that make participating in a "bicycle rush hour" any more
> against the law than participating in a car rush hour. I would
> certainly appreciate any information you might give me as to why
> this course of action is not possible.
There must have been some weird vortex, because people either loved or hated
this ride. I loved it, up to the point we were FORCED across Hawthorne
bridge. Starting out, along the permitted route, I had concerns. I knew,
though, that the awesome power of Critical Mass would prevail and the route
would be lost quickly. After the mass ignored the third turn in the
designated route and continued South on 3rd, the police had no idea what to
do. I had reservations about "Jim" having applied for a permit, as I thought
the police and City Hall would use the excuse that by ignoring it, we'd
invite a draconian response. The police, though, were thrown a curve and
missed badly. They were on the defensive from the outset and continued to
lose ground. This ride is evidence enough that Critical Mass cannot be
After the lap around PCS, when the police made the roadblock and were met
with a beautiful bike lift, hundreds of holiday shoppers saw that the police
were completely out of control. I didn't hear any mention from the peds
about "those damn trouble making cyclists." The bystanders understood all
too well that the police were saying, "stop mocking our authority or risk
injury." When the police break out the riot gear to respond to a bunch of
cyclists, they lose.
In addition, the ambulance on Burnside put the lie to the accusation that CM
blocks emergency vehicles. Since the uphill side of Burnside was blocked
with cars (through no fault of ours by the way) the mass quickly opened a
lane for the ambulance to use. Ironically, the ambulance was blocked by a
dangerously oblivious SUV driver after passing the mass.
Who has photos of the bike lift?
So, for a while we were afraid of the bridges because they would come after us. Then we used to cross the bridges a bit hesitantly for fear the East Precinct would be waiting for us on the other side.
Then last night they FORCED us over the bridge.
The riot gear, what was with that? Did they put that on just for show in front of the shoppers/peds? Because when they did that, they really did put on a show. It was incredibly ridiculous looking. They looked SO harsh. I was a ped at this point as I snapped some shots (missed the bike lift unfortunately). I had the wonderful opportunity to dialogue with the peds (my bike helmet gave me away as someone who probably knew what was going on). I was eager to spread the love of bikes to these folks. Most of them reacted like, "The police are doing all of this for BIKES?!". Another biker acting as a ped kept broadcasting "Your taxpayer dollars at work". Only one shopper/ped was negative toward the situation (that I noticed) and he said, "And it's all because of YOOOOU." in a negative, acusing tone. But yes, as Alex noted, the shoppers/peds were supportive.
What a sight. Our vehicles are harmless enough to be lifted over our heads yet they come after us with riot gear.
I didn't quite GET the gear though. They just stood behind us. As if we would have gone back down the wrong way on the one-way to face them? Surely they know CM better than that. WE (as a whole) don't go the wrong way on a one-way (though a few idiots/energetic riders try it here and there).
I very much enjoyed last night's ride.
it was a surreal ride, with an extreme disjunction between what the police flyer dictated and what the ride actually did. the police promised that a motorcyclist would lead the ride, but there was never any sign of one (kudos to somebody for countermanding that witless idea). they adamantly forbade corking, but refrained from ticketing any corkers (though some confused officers still ticketed red-light running, simultaneous with other officers shepherding the ride through other reds). perhaps a mere 50 officers was insufficient to do more than defuse all the situations where angry/confused shopper-drivers got caught in the mass due to insufficient corking. the cycle officers were apparently forbidden to cork, though many of them seemed to want to. either the police would completely disappear for a while (to re-group?) or motorcycle officers were playing leapfrog (doing 25 mph on the downtown sidewalks!) trying to at least take over corking towards the front of the ride. they didn't even try towards the rear, where it would probably have been more effective.
it's mostly wishful thinking, but my impression from the ride and from sara's description of the pre-ride conference with city attorney/mayor's office/police brass, is that the city is inexorably learning that cycle officers can best police the ride (the one cycle officer at the meeting defended corking).
i saw several serene-faced officers, and observed a noticeably increased air of courtesy and mutual respect between police and massers. what better evidence that we've once again achieved critical mass?
(i've been trying to get a count of our numbers on the last few rides. for the record, my count was 550 riders in august, 1022 in september, over 1100 in october, and 190 last night)
I stopped while cops wrote a ticket to a guy for going through a red light - early in the ride. The cyclist was super-pissed because everyone around him went through the light too. He didn't have an i.d. and the police were warning him that if he gave false info he'd be in big trouble. The cops persisted in talking mean and the cyclist persisted in talking back. He was also issued a citation for not having a light and warned that he should always carry i.d. while riding. When the cops were done I offered the guy one of my alien lights to put on his bike, but he refused the offer - pointing out that he had a head-light dangling around his neck. I went to put the alien on my own rig, and when I turned around he was gone. I went in search of the ride and was about to give up and go for a piece of escape from NY pizza when a throng of motor-cycle cops charged past. I followed them, and sure enuf - we were re-united.
According to the TV news lady - Critical Mass went too many times around the square and police had to take action. She said we "spoiled the party" and dubbed us "the bad cousin" who just can't behave when the family gets together in our City's living room. 12 citations and one arrest for riding under the influence of alcohol and disorderly conduct were reported.
I a lot of riders were confused about the start of the ride. Some of the
riders I talked to that rode the unpermitted ride THOUGHT they were on the
permitted ride and were surprised with a ticket. The permitted ride started
with 11 riders, half of which were intending on going on the un-permitted
ride. As the ride progressed we swelled to a maximum of 18 riders. We had
6-8 police motorcycles clearing our route up to three blocks ahead
(literally chasing the cars and frightening the peds away) and corking.
Because of our small size and escort it was one of the fastest CM rides
I've ever gone on. It felt like we were riding with the president.
Bystanders looked at us passing with their mouths agape not knowing if we
were being captured by the police (except we were waving, honking our
horns, goofing and weaving) or WHAT IN THE WORLD MADE US SO SPECIAL
to get such an escort. One rider rode a wheelie most of the way up Broadway.
I planned to go on the permitted ride and I was not expecting to enjoy the
ride so much, but the irony of being treated as VIPs made this ride one of
my most memorable. After going around downtown and NW we encountered 2
other large CM rides, one at Powells and the other on Burnside and 5th,
where we lost all but myself and one rider. Us two were going to continue
to finish the ride with our 6-8 motorcycle cops but at Burnside and second
they abandoned us--without even saying goodbye! We acquired about 6 more
lost CMers and rode about downtown for a bit looking for the mass. We asked
for directions at a car accident in NW but the (friendly) cop was on
another radio net and couldn't direct us to CM. We gave up and pedaled to
Disjecta Gallery but was early and then went to my party in NE.
Portland Tribune January 03, 2003 letter to the editor:
Many avid cyclists respect traffic laws
The Portland Wheelmen Touring Club sponsors rides 365 days a year as part of Portland's transportation picture. We do not intentionally block roads, purposefully provoke motorists or have melees with our police departments. Our members use their bikes for pleasure, exercise and commuting. And, like most cyclists, we are responsible, law-abiding users of our area's roadways.
The recent Critical Mass rides in no way represent the beliefs or purposes of our organization. It hurts the cause of cycling to have the public link bicyclists with conflicts with the police. Having motorists look at a group of cyclists as an enemy will not increase our safety or bicycling privileges.
We believe in the right of a free people to protest government policies. This should not be an excuse for lawlessness. The mass that is truly critical is the mass of people needed to rediscover the bicycle as the most efficient form of individual transportation.
Portland Wheelmen Touring Club Portland
From: Fred Nemo
Sent: January 04, 2003
To: pdx CM
there are wheelmen that are regular and loyal critical mass riders of long standing, so ron ing not only does not represent critical mass, he also doesn't represent the wheelmen. also, sara just went on their annual new year's ride and reports that there was extensive mass blowing through red lights, among other crimes, so it seems mr. ing is just misrepresenting all over the place...
From: Kevin McConkey
Sent: January 06, 2003
To: Fred Nemo
My name is Kevin McConkey, I am the new Vice-President of the Portland Wheelmen. In your e-mail you state that Ron Ing "is just misrepresenting all over the place"... You're not being very fair to Ron considering you're doing the very same thing. Ron never claimed to represent critical mass. Ron, PWTC President at the time, did represent the views of the Wheelmen. The letter he wrote was presented to the Board and approved, then presented to the general membership at a meeting and approved. If you are a member and don't attend meetings to make your views and feelings known you can't very well state that the President isn't representing you. I also was on the New Years day ride and can honestly say I saw no one run a red light. We as a group rolled through many stop signs, and anyone paying attention noticed the cross traffic at those intersections waved us through. I'm not saying we don't break any traffic laws, we do, all too often. What Ron was trying to say is we don't break laws just to piss people off. As a board member I welcome you to any club meeting, please come and share your views. If we are misrepresenting you or any other member please come and make your feelings known
From: Fred Nemo
Sent: January 05, 2003
To: Kevin McConkey
thanks for your considered response. i think the crux of these disagreements lies in the perception of one individual representing the views of everyone in their organization. it is an outrage (though understandable coming from people whose only source of information about critical mass is apparently channel 12) that you should characterize wheelmen's lawbreaking as a matter of courtesy yet characterize CM's lawbreaking as intended to piss off motorists. the only rides that have featured the aggro hooliganism that you so cherish imagining as typical of critical mass rides have occurred in the immediate wake of outrageous police misconduct, and have been perpetrated by 4 or 5 self-styled "anarchists" (out of 500-1000 riders) who soon disappear. if the police appeared at wheelmen rides and violently arrested those of you who are waved through stop-signs by benevolent motorists, you would more quickly take my point.
From: Fred Nemo
Sent: January 05
To: Kevin McConkey
this may be more than you want to know. you may be interested in a couple of precedents: early on, the BTA took a very dim view of critical mass, going so far as to schedule a simultaneous "visibility ride" to show how it is properly done. finally, someone managed to get karen frost-mecey, the then BTA president, to come on a CM ride. she was given a ticket in her first 5 minutes on the ride and the BTA has been a staunch ally ever since. Charlie Hales, as outlined below, had a similar conversion experience. Finally, at our last confab with the police bureau and the mayor's office (in october), the most vocal advocate for allowing the mass to "cork" was the one bike cop in attendance. if you are interested enough to study the issue, i think you'll find that the crackdowns on and disinformation about our rides have more to do with the chief's and the mayor's political agendas than law enforcement.
[attachment: A Slightly Personal History of Portland Critical Mass]
From: Kevin McConkey
Sent: January 06
To: Fred Nemo
I found all this very interesting, I did'nt realize that the police had harrassed you so much in the past. I'm sorry that there are people riding in CM now that give the rest of you a bad name. It also does'nt help that they've attracted the police back to your rides in such a negetive way. I hope in the future we can all work together for cyclists rights. We have enough opposition as it is we don't need to be fighting each other. Kevin