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A Butcher-Knife Is Being Held To The Throat Of Critical Mass

I want to launch this discussion from one we've already had- going back and forth about whether we're going to stop at the red lights or stay together.
Because, let's face it: when groups of us stop at lights to avoid getting ticketed by police, it's as if a freight train releases and separates each and every rail-car in mid-route. Loses momentum, loses power.

This is a real dilemma, as I see it. I want someone to blame, but I just don't know. Is it police to blame? Rowdy and rough radicals? The whole fucking system?

Let's hear some ideas. Because I'm not going to stay home next time for sure- but I am not going to get in trouble with the police for running red lights, either.
Without passing judgement 27.Oct.2002 08:26


I can say that for close to a year there were no cops along for the ride...NONE. The rides were great, because we moved at a good pace and were able to cork for safety. At first, all the riders were good sports, having fun and not causing too much trouble. Of course there were some aggressive motorists who tried picking a fight, and we would deal with them accordingly, but nothing got out of hand. As word got out about these responsible self controlled rides, the less responsible element started showing up, seeing an opportunity to exploit the hard work of others (sound familiar?) The July ride was filled with newbies, and senseless confrontation. No longer were we defending ourselves from aggressive motorists, we were the ones who were picking fights. Harrassing people in cars purely because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then the cops came back. The newbies who were exposed to CM during the cop-free days wonder why things are so fucked up now.

Now one of two things will happen, as has occurred with practically all other American CMs. The responsible riders will retake the ride, pressure the city to back off, smooth things over with motorists, and continue building numbers or the aggros will run it into the ground and eventually stop showing up themselves. It's your choice.

How About This? 27.Oct.2002 14:48


I have seen posts that propose running reds, while at the same time, stopping for pedestrians. I have a hard time picturing how this might be accomplished. By law, if not in practice, pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way, and I strongly support this law. However, stopping suddenly in front of a large group of cyclists can be dangerous for everyone. Worse yet, if most people stop, and a pedestrian proceeds only to have someone whiz by, putting both in danger, and alienating a natural ally.

In my opinion, the safest way to proceed would be for the entire group to pass as one unit. The pedestrian would have to wait, similarly to what happens when a bus or a long truck does not have time to safely stop for a changing light, and a pedestrian is forced to wait for the rear end of this type of long vehicle to pass. A triple-trailer truck might be the most extreme example of this, and since I believe they are allowed on Portland city streets, this situation seems unavoidable.

However, the Portland police have apparently changed their mind on allowing corking as the safest method for allowing the ride to pass. This presents a problem for those who are not willing to risk a ticket or a police attack, which I think is reasonable for folks that can't afford a ticket and all of its potential costs, as well as those who are not willing to risk the safety of their children who might accompany them.

This is a complicated problem, but I propose the following as a possible solution. Riders who are not willing to risk confrontation could ride on on side of the group, perhapse the right side. This would allow riders willing to risk confrontation to pass on the left.

This could have several side bennefits. It could help keep the ride from getting too strung out. It could provide the left side riders with a possible legal deffense of claiming insufficient room to stop 'safely' without resulting in a rear end collision from riders behind. It would allow more moderate riders to proceed after the police are occupied with the first wave, either by waiting for the light, or by making the determination that it is safe to proceed. This, I believe, is legally legitamate (for example- if a rider determines that a traffic signal is malfunctioning).

The second wave of moderate riders could, justifiably, pass the detained riders on the sidewalk if neccesary, even in restricted sidewalk riding areas, in order to avoid the road hazzards created by the police. By this time, the light will probably have changed, allowing the most conservative riders to proceed. Any opinions on this plan?

I would like to thank City Commisioner Charlie Hales for joining the Mass ride a year and a half ago, witnessing the police harassment on the ride, and instructing the police to back off, from what I understand. This provided for some fun, and relatively safe rides in the months following. To those who seem to be attempting to badger others onto doing something that they don't want to do, good luck. How effective do you think I would be if I demanded that you stop at every light?

Lastly, I ride because I believe critical mass to be a monthly celebration of bicyling. Trying to make it more than that muddles the message, and it is almost guaranteed that the press will look for the dumbest, or most extreme message to present as represetation of the ride. Bikes as alternative transportation, bike safety, bike awareness, etc., are all implied in the celebration message. I am convinced that encouragement and education are far more effective tools for change than dicouragement and ridicule.

If the numbers stay strong and continue to grow, the ride is effective, reguardless of how fluid it is. Special Mass rides could be (have been) organized for specific political statements and dirrect action. One more thing, why not take the ride on a route that doesn't have a light at every intersection? Why not the waterfront? Why not past Vera's house, below 21st Ave. near Beau Thai, from what I hear?

Critical Critical Mass. Some history and...? 27.Oct.2002 16:58


As one of the "orginizers" of the first Portland CM I have seen many a ride come and go.

The pre-Mass meetings discussed many of the same issues that are surrounding the current CM flame war.

The big question was WHAT does CM stand for and what adjenda should we promote in Portland?

After about five meetings that ground on for HOURS - we found that we could only agree agree on the following...

Critical mass is a group of cyclests who meet the last Friday of every month under the Burnside Brideg in SE Portland at 5:30.


Individuals are responsible for:
1) Their own actions
2) Promoting their own opinions.

Yes, there ARE people who shape the mass. They do this by leafleting, talking to the media, running red lights, stopping at lights, staying at home, starting other rides, feeding the hungry before the ride, intimidation, name calling, smileing, waving and getting hauled off the street by "the mang".

My point?
Celebrate the debate! Publish your ideas and let them live or die on their own merit. If the mass want's it the Mass will adopt it. Expect dissent! Support debate and resist (as much as you can) personal attacks. Rather- Explain your position and carry on with action. Don't be suprised when some people follow while others don't.

CM is a brilliant reactionary response to the car dominated society we live in. Once a month people that care about bikeing take to the streets and ride with 50 to 1500 other bikers.

It continues to amaze me that for the last SEVEN, almost EIGHT years, the mass has not died - despite heated internal debate or the best efforts of the ticket issuing, pepper spraying "Peace Force".

Ride on,


group cohesion/right of way 27.Oct.2002 18:57


"801.440 "Right of way." "Right of way" means the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed and proximity as to give rise to danger of collision unless one grants precedence to the other. [1983 c.338 81]"

i don't interpret this to mean that 'a pedestrian has the right to cross against traffic control devices in order to maneuver along/across a roadway'. maybe i'm wrong, correct me anyone if so.


811.010, subsection 2

"(2) This section does not require a driver to stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian under any of the following circumstances:

(a) Upon a roadway with a safety island, if the driver is proceeding along the half of the roadway on the far side of the safety island from the pedestrian; or

(b) Where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead crossing has been provided at or near a crosswalk."

this is just an example, there may be others in this jumble of law.

and just why do they call it a "Mass" anyway? i remember when the police jacked me and a friend at a protest, it was primarily because we fell back from the larger group (as we saw it).

i don't like any politics, not even 'group', but group 'cohesion' seems necessary for certain reasons--if i was a member of a group and i knew somebody might be trying to mess with its cohesiveness, i just might get mad enough to get over myself and start trying to work for a good solution (maybe not a safe one) that the group will have to agree on (to keep that group cohesion thing valid).