Warning: Parameter 1 to wp_default_scripts() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/public/wp-includes/plugin.php on line 571

From Critical Mass to Critical Manners

Since the start of the Burrard Bike Lane Reallocation Trial, the temperature of the relationship between cyclists and drivers has occasionally flared up, and I’ve unwittingly and unintentionally exposed myself to more negativity about my choice to be a cyclist and my occasional bending of the law than, really, is mentally healthy.

After this blog post, I’m officially putting myself on a moratorium for comments on Critical Mass, because it’s literally been affecting my ability to ride with a clear mind. I’m going to hunker down, tune up my gears and my brakes this weekend, and eat plenty of ice cream. If you are interested in my actual thoughts on the event, I left a comment at Raul’s blog that sums it up tidily.

I’m glad that there are people out there who have been able to not only keep cool heads, but channel the frustration with the ridiculously polarized debate into something constructive. I was pleased hear about Critical Manners, a ride taking place on August 14th to celebrate another kind of cycling culture — one that’s polite, respectful and still advocating for improved cycling facilities. I was also tickled to learn that friend and fellow Communication alum Jen Watkiss is the brains behind Vancouver’s Critical Manners ride.

From the Critical Manners Vancouver site:

The idea for a Critical Manners Vancouver ride was born out of her frustration with the Critical Mass event. Once a demonstration of the vast numbers of cyclists riding in cities, it’s become a race to the bottom, a fight for dominance between cyclists and motorists and a brazen showing of flagrant disregard and disrespect for the law and fellow citizens who dare to choose not to ride.

Critical Manners is about being the change you wish to see in the world.

It’s about being thankful for and using the over 300km of bikeways in Vancouver. It’s about showing that cyclists and motorists can co-exist peacefully and encouraging more people to ride. It’s about proving that cyclists are, at their core, very nice people who want to do the right thing!

You know what would make this even event even more awesome? The Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition offers classes on how to safely and assertively bike in traffic. For those who have made the shift to becoming a full-time cycling commuter for financial reasons, it would be great to be able to get a watered down or taste-test of their classes (that usually go for $25), just prior to meeting up on the 14th. I think there are plenty of people who would love to follow all the rules but just haven’t been able to get a quick and easy explanation of what’s safe AND doesn’t piss off motorists (in my recent experience, this varies a lot depending on the driver in question) by disrupting traffic, which is often the sentiment those roaring engines and squealing tires give.

The VACC held a peaceful ride from David Lam Park to the Burrard Bridge on the first day of the reallocation trial. During this ride, drivers flipped us off from their cars and cut us off, endangering the cyclists, in order to go onto the Granville Street on-ramp. It’s hard not to see this kind of behaviour as representative of all drivers, but as someone once suggested to me, I’ll try not to let all the bad apples spoil the bunch. I’ll have to just remember the other cyclists that say, “Sorry,” when they can’t see me, the cars that acknowledge me when I request eye contact, and the ones who are gracious when I thank them for stopping for me.

Some short video from the aforementioned ride:


  1. Jackie W

    Great post, Karen. My head is also spinning with Critical Mass debates. But despite the clear hatred of the event expressed by those I know and love (my dad being one of them), I went on the ride today anyway and it. Was. Awesome. People made way for a pair of fire trucks near Main and Broadway and thanked cars for waiting. Of course there were also the shirtless dudes shouting loud profanities at all and sundry from their balcony that conveniently overlooked the Granville Bridge, but there was an equal measure of supportive drivers, honking horns and waving and cheering. I like the idea of Critical Manners, too. Thanks for posting about it!

    Posted July 31, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks for posting this, and for pointing to the Critical Manners ride; it’s an idea long overdue. The single thing that’s kept me away from Critical Mass rides is the antagonism of drivers. This picture from yesterday’s ride sums it up for me: http://www.nowpublic.com/environment/friday-mass-gets-critical-photo-02

    Cyclists in CM rides can’t demand to be treated as equal rights traffic when they won’t behave as traffic, and while the events have built a strong presence and a feeling of safety in numbers for cyclists, they’ve taken as many or more steps backward by creating anger, frustration and prejudice in the minds of drivers. I’d go as far to say that Critical Mass riders who make a point of antagonizing vehicle traffic never truly want respect and fair treatment on the roads because it would take away the justification for venting their anger at vehicles and their drivers.

    Now we see Critical Manners, and I’d love to see this idea take off. I’ll be out for the August 14th ride to support it in a way I never could bring myself to do for Critical Mass.

    Posted August 1, 2009 at 7:00 am | Permalink
  3. As the intend of Critical Manners seems to be to ride according to all the rules I have to wonder about this part:

    183(2) A person operating a cycle
    (d) must not ride abreast of another person operating a cycle on the roadway,

    So what will happen? Will they string out 1000+ riders, squeezing as far to the side of a lane to let cars pass?

    What happens at traffic lights? Instead of having 10 bikes bunch up in the space of an SUV you now have a few hundred bikes all lined up, also bunched to the side?

    This isn’t going to be a group ride in the least, they will end up with four or five bikes riding behind each other as they make it through the intersection, how the cops plan on keeping track of them (or helping along) is a bit beyond me, does every cyclist get their own police escort?

    It’ll be interesting to watch this.

    Posted August 4, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink
  4. Hey, I had another idea for an experiment between Mass & Manners: https://www.socialtext.net/lukec/index.cgi?critical_bikesense

    Posted February 24, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *