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Critical Mass returns (at least in name)

Posted by on June 27th, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Critical Mass - Portland
Critical Mass in Portland, June 2005.
(Photos J. Maus/BikePortland)

After years of telling people that Critical Mass was dead in Portland, it seems I might have to start telling a different story. Tonight, after a nearly six-year hiatus the well-known tactic of bike-centric street activism will return — at least in name if not in form.

Here’s the ride description via the Shift Calendar:

Critical Mass: People, Planet, Peace Over Profit

Catastrophic climate change is already gripping our planet. But Portland is still clogged with cars, our rivers and rails are highways for fossil fuels, and our air continues to be poisoned by the worst polluters in the country.

We have no more chances. With our future at stake, we have no choice other than pedaling for People, Planet, and Peace over Profit.

Bring your bike.



It might seem like just another ride, but given the sense of ennui among many Portland bike activists these days, and the steady stream of bad news about our climate’s health, we wonder if tonight’s ride will spark a new era in Portland.

To my knowledge, the last time Critical Mass happened in Portland was in 2008. I thought that ride might rekindle the movement, but instead it fizzled completely. There’s even a new documentary by a Portland-based filmmaker that’s screening nationwide called Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland.

PDX Bike Swarm - ALEC F29 protests-2
From a PDX Bike Swarm ride in 2012.

Interestingly, it looks like volunteers with PDX Bike Swarm (FB) are behind this latest incarnation of the ride (traditionally, Critical Mass has no organized leadership beyond a few people who post the ride’s meeting time and place). When we remembered Critical Mass’s 20th anniversary in 2012, PDX Bike Swarm was alive and well following its formation during the Occupy protests.

The Swarm never did really turn into a “movement of its own” as I once suggested it might and it remains to be seen if rallying around the larger concern of climate change and using the powerful mental framework of Critical Mass will spark something with the broader community — many of whom share this worry about the environment and understand the powerful role bicycling should play in our future.

Whether this ride is just a flash in the pan or the start of something bigger, it serves as a reminder that even in Portland, which is regarded by many as a bastion of bicycling and progressive environmental policies, there are people who feel it’s time to head back into the streets.

Here are the ride details:

    Critical Mass: People, Planet, Peace Over Profit
    North Park Blocks, NW Park Ave and Couch St (at the Bronze Elephant)
    5:30pm

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Comments
  • davemess June 27, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    So are we now separating Critical Mass for climate changes versus Critical Mass for bike awareness? I know there can be some overlap, but my guess was that Critical Mass has somewhat petered out here is due to cars already being very aware of bikes (frankly bike boxes and lanes full of bikes have a similar effect to Critical Mass). To me it seemed like other cities were more concerned about bikes taking back the streets (with maybe a few in the crowd more concerned with the environmental side of it).
    From the article it sounds like this new ride is more focused on environmental impact, is that right?

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    • spare_wheel June 27, 2014 at 2:15 pm

      “frankly bike boxes and lanes full of bikes have a similar effect to Critical Mass”

      portland’s dangerous bike boxes are reason enough to mass in the streets.

      being legally required to use second class facilities on vancouver/williams and hawthorne/madison is not critical mass.

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      • wsbob June 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm

        “…being legally required to use second class facilities on vancouver/williams and hawthorne/madison is not critical mass.” spare_wheel

        Don’t believe there is such a law. Tell readers what law you believe it is that requires people to use “…to use second class facilities on vancouver/williams and hawthorne/madison…”.

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        • spare_wheel June 27, 2014 at 4:04 pm
          • wsbob June 28, 2014 at 12:27 am

            Nope. 814.420 does not do what you seem to like to imagine it does. Read the law. You don’t really say in your original comment, but apparently what you’re referring to with the words, “…second class facilities…”, is bike lanes.

            Chris I, in this comment…

            Chris I
            We have critical mass every day, on the Hawthorne Bridge, on Williams and Vancouver…
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            …grasps what actual transportation mode critical mass is, as opposed to disorganized, chaotic, nonconstructive, artificially assembled critical mass.

            If numbers of people biking on bike infrastructure of routes mentioned, is so great that resulting congestion creates conditions hazardous for biking there, by law, that would be a condition allowing them to legally use the main lanes of the road or street, as well as the bike lanes.

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            • Greg June 28, 2014 at 3:55 pm

              The law clearly requires people on bikes to use bike lanes. If spare_wheel considers using bike lanes as “second class”, that is his opinion.
              Just because someone has a different opinion than your own, that doesn’t mean they are reading the law incorrectly.

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              • spare_wheel June 28, 2014 at 7:38 pm

                i think williams has a distinctly second class bike lane but i am vehemently pro bike lane.

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              • wsbob July 1, 2014 at 1:29 am

                “…The law clearly requires people on bikes to use bike lanes. …” Greg

                If, and only if. Read the law.

                If more people bothered to read and understand the law, 814.420, instead of just accepting rumored opinions about it carelessly passed along, they as people traveling by bike, may start to realize the tools to exert greater access to use of the full road’s width already exist, in that law.

                If spare_wheel or anyone else considers a certain example of infrastructure to be ‘second class’, of course they’ve a right to do so, and I respect that. So everyone knows what they’re talking about, they do though, have to be at least somewhat articulate about what they’re referring to, and why they consider it second class.

                spare_wheel wasn’t. I am glad though, to hear him in a later comment, remind everyone that he is “…pro bike lane.”.

                Infrastructure for foot, bike travel, could and should be a whole lot better than it is. Where there really is, routinely, great numbers of people traveling by bike on a given route, a skinny 5′ or 6′ wide bike lane on the right side of the road, likely will be hard pressed to handle that volume of traffic. The answer to that is at the same time, simple yet complicated: Take the lane.’

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      • davemess June 29, 2014 at 7:24 am

        Explain the danger of bike boxes. Are we seeing a lot of crashes and injuries from them? They stop cars from turning right and eliminate right hooks. We only have a few in the city anyway, but my experience with them has been nothing but positive, have you had different experiences.

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        • are June 29, 2014 at 9:13 pm

          the bike box does nothing re right hooks during the green signal phase. kathryn rickson was killed in a green box.

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          • davemess June 30, 2014 at 1:16 pm

            Sorry, I misworded that completely, I mean they eliminate right hooks when there was a red light (granted I don’t know how big a problem that is.

            Have they made the problem worse?

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            • are July 1, 2014 at 7:25 am

              so i do not mean to be dense here, but what kind of right hook problem are you having during a red signal phase?

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        • wsbob July 1, 2014 at 1:51 am

          I’m not certain they’re dangerous, but I don’t like the green colored bike boxes that Portland decided to use, nor the instructions the city directed towards people that ride, about how to use them. That entire idea of advising people riding up to the bike box, to make an oblique left angle at the box, to center themselves in the lane directly in front of motor vehicle traffic, just seems bogus to me. It’s awkward for people to have to do that, and I don’t really see it as a better way to improve safety on the road for them.

          Beaverton has a main lane set back at Milikan Way, at its intersection with Cedar Hills Blvd. No green color. It works quite well. Most people keep their vehicles behind the set back, which leaves people on bikes to their right, ahead of their vehicle.

          The tricky part is in the advance to the intersection, where main lane traffic is directed by pavement markings to cross over the bike lane into the right turn only lane. Inevitably, some people in motor vehicles are like to try race past the person on a bike, if both approach the crossover point about the same time.

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          • are July 1, 2014 at 7:33 am

            you seem to be talking specifically about the copenhagen left box, which is a different story. there may be kinks to work out, but unless you are going to completely redesign traffic flow, if you are trying to accommodate people who are unwilling to merge across traffic into a left turn lane, you are going to have to have some version of the copenhagen left.

            the green boxes that are intended to collect cyclists at the front of through traffic, feeding from a bike lane on one side of the intersection to a bike lane on the other, are in fact inherently dangerous, as they are part of an inherently dangerous system of forcing cyclists to the right edge of traffic.

            i mentioned kathryn rickson specifically because the circumstances of her death are almost entirely an artifact of the striped bike lane and green box approach to engineering this problem. the safe thing to do on eastbound madison between fourth and third is to be in the traffic lane with the cars. and until you get to fourth, that is what the (absence of) paint tells you. but at fourth, suddenly there is a striped bike lane. that paint gives a misleading message, and 814.420 reinforces the message.

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    • joe biel July 2, 2014 at 5:32 am

      60 interviews and 800 pages of police documents do not demonstrate the idea that “car awareness” was a contributing factor as much as a wily police spy who set the tone for enforcement in 1993 was, resulting in 15 years of heavy-handed enforcement, tickets, and arrests for such crimes as “appearing to be a main participant of the event” (before being tased).

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  • Joseph E June 27, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    I would be interested in going, but I’m worried. In some cities, Critical Mass is just a big, fun, Pedalpalooza-style ride. In other places, it attracts anarchists and revolutionaries who want to practice civil disobedience and make a statement, and at times this can also attract hoodlums who just want to cause trouble.
    Does anyone know what this ride will be like? Is it bring-your-kids, or lets-get-arrested?

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    • stephen salter June 27, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      its not sunday parkways. dont bring your kids.

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      • Carl June 27, 2014 at 3:24 pm

        It’s not Devil’s Night. It’s what you make it. Bring your kids.

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        • JV June 27, 2014 at 5:17 pm

          Why not both : “bring your kids and get them arrested”
          After all, civil disobedience should start young.

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    • Todd Boulanger June 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      I would suggest bringing kids and family members…to out populate any negative riders who might show up.

      And nothing strikes boredom in cops monitoring a CM ride is seeing tagalongs and trailers full of kids…from my past CM experience in 90s/ 00s.

      And the same can be said for CM participants…once Mayor Potter rode the event it fizzled too…for that and due to the then successes on the street back in 2006 when there was swift bike momentum in Portland.

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    • Hart Noecker June 29, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      What’s wrong with anarchists and revolutionaries?

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      • Charley June 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm

        Violence.

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      • Chris I June 30, 2014 at 6:37 am

        Tainted message. It’s easy for people to discount your movement if anarchists are involved.

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  • Swami June 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    I remember when the City was not stoked on cycling during the Katz mayorship. Critical Mass was high energy for both sides and many reasons. Shortly after Mayor Potter was elected, he rode in a Critical Mass. That was very exciting. I remember riding with him for a little while, telling him how glad I was that he was participating. The tension between the City and cyclists (and skateboarders) cooled down significantly during his tenure.
    I’ve always loved Critical Mass. Even when the pace is dreadfully slow, it’s a wonderful feeling.
    I hope it returns and grows.

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  • q`Tzal June 27, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Need to call it the “Critical Surveillance” ride: everyone has to show up with recording helmet video cameras.

    <insert evil cackling here>
    That just might have an effect on hooligans AND Dirty Harry wannabes.

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  • Todd Hudson June 27, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    The purpose of CM *was* to make drivers aware of cyclists. It advanced that agenda…until it became a place where anarchists/hooligans/jackasses regularly show up to needlessly antagonize people.

    Years back, I went to a few CM rides out of curiosity. Cyclists were drinking prior to the event and riding with open beers. Riders fired bottle rockets in a densely populated area with lots of pedestrians. A motorist revved their engine at corkers and a swarm escalated the aggression by surrounding the car and pounding on it (it wasn’t moving). Riders took both sides of the street, even though they were going in one direction. Ad nauseam.

    Portland doesn’t need a mob tarnishing the image of cyclists – we already have the Oregonian.

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    • spare_wheel June 27, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      this ride has not yet occurred and you are already calling it “a mob tarnishing the image of cyclists”.

      “anarchists/hooligans/jackasses”

      so noam chomsky is a hooligan and jackass? wow…who knew?

      “Riders took both sides of the street, even though they were going in one direction.”

      the horror!

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    • spare_wheel June 27, 2014 at 11:13 pm

      we were traffic in the pearl, old town, 28th, wiedler and broadway. we payed our respects to people who lost their lives simply trying to get to point B several times. the ride ended at the bike barn and some of the participants drank beer. it was fun and serious at the same time.

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  • groovin101 June 27, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    I never participated in the original movement, but hearing about it after the fact, I always thought of how awesome it would be to get that critical mass (minus the hooliganism that is) in areas that aren’t known for daily riders. My interest leans first towards raising bike awareness, with the environmental impact an important but less focused on outcome that’s realized later.

    As daverness points out, “frankly bike boxes and lanes full of bikes have a similar effect to Critical Mass”. Agreed, but this is only true in the parts of Portland where that’s the reality. There are still large parts of our city and metro that aren’t used to seeing bikes regularly, don’t have sharrows, and aren’t graced with bike boxes either. Seems to me there’s still plenty of room for increased awareness.

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    • Chris Anderson June 27, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      If you are interested in safe and legal awareness raising rides, Kidical Mass is strong and growing: http://kidicalmasspdx.org/

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      • groovin101 June 27, 2014 at 3:42 pm

        Thanks Chris. It looks like the last ride they did was East of 205 too… bonus! Signing up for email list now.

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      • spare_wheel June 27, 2014 at 3:43 pm

        “safe and legal”

        promoting one “awareness-raising” ride by putting down another is lame.

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        • Chris Anderson June 27, 2014 at 3:56 pm

          I’m not putting down Critical Mass at all, I just think the Kidical Mass website positions itself by saying “Kidical Mass is a legal, safe and FUN bike ride for kids, kids at heart, and their families” for a reason.

          IMHO, Critical Mass is about raising awareness by forcing drivers to a mind shift that gets them to start seeing the people outside their windshield.

          Kidical Mass is more about spreading the idea that Portland is (or can be) a great place for even the littlest kids to ride. The interactions with drivers are lots of smiles and people wanting to bring their kids.

          I think Critical Mass of old was super necessary, and there is definitely room in Portland right now for more direct action.

          Personally I’d like to see a revolution of people taking the infrastructure into their own hands. Raising awareness is not enough and Portland is moving too slow and always blaming it on resources. Eg: if people who cared were allowed to volunteer to build diverters on neighborhood greenways, we could get around the budget bottlenecks.

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          • spare_wheel June 27, 2014 at 4:13 pm

            thanks for the explanation. in the context of this thread, the comment came across as a comparison/contrast.

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            • Chris Anderson June 27, 2014 at 5:22 pm

              If there’s anything about the framing of this story that I don’t like, it’s the idea that Critical Mass went away. So many of the veteran bike activists have a connection via the old Critical Mass rides, I think a lot of the cool stuff we have today comes from people who were in Critical Mass.

              If it were on my regular route I’d want to protest the “Nonmotorized Vehicles Prohibited” sign on the Morrison Bridge: http://goo.gl/cCQBZh

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            • Chris I June 30, 2014 at 6:39 am

              …to people that are overly sensitive, or like to ignore reality.

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    • davemess June 29, 2014 at 7:25 am

      Yes, I agree. Even just getting a massive group to ride the bike lanes on Powell and Holgate in East Portland would be a start.

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  • Granpa June 27, 2014 at 1:52 pm

    Prior to the Bush and Cheney’s invasion of Iraq I marched with about 50,000 others in the streets of Portland. During that week, Millions of peace loving Americans marched in the streets across the country to demonstrate opposition to the gathering war storm. Of course that came to naught. Politicians are influenced by speech that is money and citizens that are incorporated. Flesh and blood humans don’t factor into their thinking. Climate change is an issue that is orders of magnitude larger than America’s invasion of Iraq. If Millions of peaceful protesters can’t stop an unnecessary war, how can a couple hundred cyclists harassing commuters in the People’s Republic of Portland change the basis for the world economy?

    I recall that outside of the Critical Mass clique the movement generated ill will against cyclists, and it was main stream organizations like BTA and the City of Portland transportation that actually enacted change to make cycling better.

    Go ahead and ride your bikes for change, but if you need News at 11:00 to explain to the citizenry what was going on then the messaging pretty oblique. It will be policy makers and outliers in many and disparate fields that enact a necessary change. Be that to make change.

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  • Spiffy June 27, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    since critical mass is about the visibility of bicycles and their right to the road they would need to ride on the major commuting thoroughfares to get the message across here in Portland… we already have bicycles all over the place, and cars often don’t realize that we’re allowed to take the lane going up Hawthorne or Sandy…

    this event is just a mass of climate protesters on bikes… hopefully they have a lot of signs to let people know what it’s about…

    they’re hijacking the name of critical mass in order to draw riders…

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    • Todd Hudson June 27, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Define irony: a bunch of people protesting global warming by forcing cars to idle in traffic.

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) June 27, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        This line of argument (most recently used by The Oregonian in their reporting on the Naked Bike Ride) is silly.

        When I am in my car and I am faced with a longer than normal delay, I simply turn the key and my engine goes off. When I can move again, I turn the engine back on.

        No one is “forced” to idle, that’s a choice we make.

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    • spare_wheel June 27, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      I’m going and I plan on breaking these statutes repeatedly:

      http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.420
      http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/814.430

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  • Spiffy June 27, 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Is Critical Mass back?

    no…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_law_of_headlines

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  • Chris I June 27, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    We have critical mass every day, on the Hawthorne Bridge, on Williams and Vancouver…

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  • Mossby Pomegranate June 27, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Sounds like an excuse to wear a black bandana and “stick it to the man”, accomplishing nothing in the process except costing cash strapped tax payers even more money.

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    • 9watts June 27, 2014 at 8:58 pm

      “…costing cash strapped tax payers even more money”

      how is that?
      Or are you still thinking about Idling? I hope not, cause that is really a reach.

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  • Todd Boulanger June 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    And there are more successful models of CM events out there…I remember riding with 8000+ Parisians and the Marie de Paris for a CM ride in 2003 on Earthday.

    The City had outfitted dozens of recycled buses (no seats and wrapped with bike themes) as mobile bike share delivery & repair vehicles to make the event even more accessible to the lay public (this was back before Velib) with free bike rental.

    Imagine if Mayor Hales did that!

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  • pixelgate June 27, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    I just saw this “critical mass” ride by in Old Town. It was amusingly small.

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    • JT June 27, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Yeah, I stopped by at 5:35 to see how big the crowd was going to be and potenttially join, but it only seemed to be about 40 to 50 people at most by 6:00 so I left for my own bike ride. Maybe next time.

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      • Barry Cochran June 27, 2014 at 8:43 pm

        Y’know, it was big enough to take all the lanes as bike lanes, and that’s all that really matters, innit? I come from a part of the world where you are damn lucky to get ten people to do anything at all, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m unsympathetic to your unwillingness to participate if there aren’t lots and lots and lots of people there. I rode, pedestrians (whom we yielded to, as well as transit) applauded us, thanked us, and took pictures, a few motorists became road-ragey, a few more were mildly annoyed, and some (possibly most) took it in stride. Lots of people on the street asked what we were doing and dialogue took place. I call it a successful night. I hope you can call your individual ride a success as well.

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        • wsbob June 28, 2014 at 12:41 am

          “Y’know, it was big enough to take all the lanes as bike lanes, and that’s all that really matters, innit? …” Barry Cochran

          Depends on what the objective is. Not really having much of a good idea of what Critical Mass should be that would be most beneficial to the community at large, may be a key reason the effort in Portland devolved to such dismal depths.

          If bike critical mass was used to present good examples of how considerable numbers of people together on bikes, could function as actual traffic generally supporting the flow of all vehicles in use on the street, that could be something constructive.

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          • Barry Cochran June 28, 2014 at 9:14 am

            Fair enough. As I said, I am relatively new here (two years) and hardly see biking in Portland as the disaster that many here seem to. This is also the first time I’ve participated in anything called Critical Mass. That being said, I think the goals were fairly clear and. more importantly, achieved. We agreed to let transit and pedestrians pass while taking all lanes otherwise. So I would characterize the objective as calming automobile traffic in favor of other modes (not just “vehicles,” but pedestrians as well). Which happened.

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            • wsbob June 28, 2014 at 10:12 am

              When the numbers of people riding together in the event have been relatively small, (JT up above, reports “40 to 50 people” for this most recent one.), Critical Mass has worked fairly well.

              By that I mean that during those occasions all modes of traffic continued to flow at a more or less normal rate, while the example of more than the average number of bikes traveling in one general location together, in a manner that didn’t break down the basic function of the street, was able to be offered to other people using the road, and to people from the sidelines watching.

              On occasions when the number of people riding together in the event rose to much larger numbers, this example completely broke down, likely leaving Critical Mass as a very negative bike presence in the minds of many people that had to endure its consequences.

              Just one example: Seems that many people riding in the big mass, didn’t want to wait for the traffic light cycles, so they chose to instead, just roll right through them, in great numbers, repeatedly causing road users on side streets to wait for at least one additional light cycle before they could proceed.

              Welcome to Portland. Bike use can be good for helping to meet overall transportation needs of the area. At the same time, it does no good to let some people that say they ride and support biking as a viable mode of transportation, abuse bike related events to foster and perpetuate acrimonious, negative relationships between people.

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              • Ted Buehler June 29, 2014 at 1:32 am

                wsbob wrote:
                “At the same time, it does no good to let some people that say they ride and support biking as a viable mode of transportation, abuse bike related events to foster and perpetuate acrimonious, negative relationships between people.”

                bob — what do you think of the Pedalpalooza Mercury Article? Are you going to write a rebuttal?
                http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/slow-leak/Content?oid=12634954
                Slow Leak: Portland’s Lost Its Urgency for Bikes. Let’s Get It Back!

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                • wsbob July 1, 2014 at 12:57 am

                  Ted…you’re welcome to offer a quick summary of the Merc story, unless that’s what you’re implying you have done with ‘slow leak’.

                  I haven’t participated in any pedalpalooza events, partly because I’m out in the Beav, but what I can tell from when I’ve looked at the palooza calender, is that the month long event is generally good, interesting, fun, and doesn’t mess up everyone else besides people on bikes’ need to use the road.

                  The devolution of Critical Mass is what’s unfortunate. It’s great to be excited about biking, and demonstrating what a viable, enjoyable mode of travel and transport it can be. Using biking events like Critical Mass, unwittingly or otherwise, to make enemies of people whose support is needed to advance good conditions for biking, is not good at all.

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              • 9watts June 29, 2014 at 7:48 am

                Three negroes sitting in at a lunch counter, that was o.k. You could still get in there and get a sandwich. But when they all started crowding in there, it became very stressful.

                wsbob: “On occasions when the number of people sitting together in the event rose to much larger numbers, this example completely broke down, likely leaving lunch counter sit ins as a very negative civil rights presence in the minds of many people that had to endure its consequences.”

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                • wsbob July 1, 2014 at 12:47 am

                  Don’t attach my name to your contrived doggerel. Trying to equate Critical Mass with the racial equality lunch room demonstration, is pathetic.

                  The reason Critical Mass participated in by huge numbers of people together, became a dismal failure, was not because of whatever enmity some people may think majority road users have towards people traveling by bike. CM failed because the huge numbers people riding together in association with the event, almost completely refused to acknowledge and respect the rights of all road users to use the road, regardless of their mode of travel.

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                • 9watts July 1, 2014 at 7:51 am

                  Wait a minute. Critical Mass failed? Who drew that conclusion? And on what basis?

                  Or do you mean Critical Mass dried up and blew a way for a spell here in Portland? I think there’s quite a difference.

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                • Mij July 1, 2014 at 8:52 am

                  Wsbob: “Trying to equate Critical Mass with the racial equality lunch room demonstration, is pathetic.”

                  Pathetic? If that’s your criticism of the analogy then I suppose it was a good one. You didn’t say illogical or inaccurate. Too bad 9watts didn’t choose a more palatable example of effective protest that is well known to the average person. Maybe then you wouldn’t have to dodge? The point is to expose how one feels about protest in general, what makes a protest effective, etc.

                  No need to reinvent the wheel. Someone wants change, they read a history book and see how others did it. They apply those methods to choice issue. Are you saying it doesn’t apply? Ok, why not?

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                • wsbob July 1, 2014 at 1:35 pm

                  Mij at:

                  http://bikeportland.org/2014/06/27/critical-mass-back-107941#comment-5125901

                  Your response is vague. Difficult to know from it, what’s on your mind. Racial bias is not the predominate issue that biking as a viable mode share faces. That’s part of why 9watts ploy was pathetic.

                  Exactly what Critical Mass, as a body of people riding together in demonstration, hopes to address or accomplish, that it has presented to the public, is murky to say the least. A huge group of people riding together on bikes, breaking down the basic function of the street, doesn’t offer a positive example to the public, of bikes as viable alternative means of travel and transport to motor vehicles, if that is one of Critical Mass’s objections.

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      • 9watts June 29, 2014 at 7:34 am

        “Yeah, I stopped by at 5:35 to see how big the crowd was going to be and potenttially join, but it only seemed to be about 40 to 50 people at most by 6:00 so I left for my own bike ride. Maybe next time.”

        I think I’m missing something. Someone organizes a protest ride with which you sympathize. You were considering joining. You checked it out. Found it smaller than you expected or hoped. And then, because it wasn’t very large, skipped it?

        You are not stuck in traffic/apathy; you are traffic/apathy

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    • Dan Kaufman June 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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  • Todd June 27, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    It’s all a big typo. Kidical Mass. The torch is passed.

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  • apr June 28, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Barry Cochran
    …Y’know, it was big enough to take all the lanes as bike lanes, and that’s all that really matters, innit? I come from a part of the world where you are damn lucky to get ten people to do anything at all, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m unsympathetic to your unwillingness to participate if there aren’t lots and lots and lots of people there. I rode, pedestrians (whom we yielded to, as well as transit) applauded us, thanked us, and took pictures, a few motorists became road-ragey, a few more were mildly annoyed, and some (possibly most) took it in stride. Lots of people on the street asked what we were doing and dialogue took place.
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    Hmm. Perhaps I saw a different Critical Mass ride, then.

    What I saw at 28th and Burnside shortly before 7 last night were riders going around in circles in the intersection and blocking it for everyone — cars, pedestrians, transit, and quite possibly even other bikes who just wanted to get through. The ride certainly didn’t yield to me as a pedestrian trying to cross Burnside. I was stuck until the intersection cleared out — indeed, the ride created pedestrian safety problems there because no one had any idea what anyone else was doing.

    The “dialogue” you speak of consisted of riders yelling at people in bars and restaurants along 28th that they were no longer able to drive home since they’d been drinking… followed by loud chants that bikes equal beer. There’s some logic.

    What I observed (as a bike-supporter, mind you) was a loosely organized temper tantrum. There wasn’t a single bit of it that was constructive or even basically respectful. It was toddleresque acting out on two (sometimes more) wheels.

    So, the more things may have changed with Critical Mass, the more they appeared to stay the same.

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    • spare_wheel June 30, 2014 at 11:33 am

      a loosely organized temper tantrum?

      this phrase could be used to describe just about any protest by a minority against a majority.

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  • Beth June 28, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I ride my bicycle. Therefore I am my own critical mass. Happy riding.

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  • Ted Buehler June 28, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Great ride. Loved it. Bombed down W Burnside from 14th to 2nd. Spectacular. Took 2 lanes of Wiedler, 3 lanes of Broadway.

    Some of you may take offence to this, but some cars were slowed down in the process. Perhaps by up to two minutes! And yes, some of them were antagonized. Perhaps even 10% of said drivers.

    Bike lanes in Portland are pathetically skimpy.

    Want to see big road spaces allocated to bikes, in Portland, within your lifetime (or the earth’s, whichever is shorter?)

    The advance of bike infrastructure in Portland is pretty pathetic, relative to what we need to accommodate bike traffic. Ever ridden across the Hawthorn Bridge at rush hour? Ridden up Williams? Had cars take over your neighborhood greenway to bypass arterial gridlock? Last year I did the bike traffic count for Williams at Russell. Often touted as Portland’s busiest bikeway, and one of the busiest in the country. Sure there were bikes, but there were at least 3x as many cars as bikes. And that’s just cars on Williams, not even counting all the cars on MLK, I-5 and Interstate.

    If you want to see change, you need to speak up, act, ride, shout, write, participate in civil disobedience, and encourage others to do the same.

    My $0.02
    Thanks to whoever put this ride on the calender.

    Ted Buehler

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    • Ted Buehler June 29, 2014 at 1:17 am

      For further reading, check out the “Call to Arms” section of the Pedalpalooza Mercury. Especially the “Slow Leak
      Portland’s Lost Its Urgency for Bikes. Let’s Get It Back!” article. Very good discussion.
      http://www.portlandmercury.com/portland/slow-leak/Content?oid=12634954

      “But that’s exactly why 6 percent has been so hard to surpass. If Portland wants to reach its potential, Portlanders may have to get mad. The city’s old playbook is no longer enough, and worries that Portland’s finally lost its bike mojo have grown louder, in just the past few weeks, than at any point in recent history.”

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      • spare_wheel June 29, 2014 at 8:48 am

        imo, the quiet resignation to compromise after compromise and the focus on being “liked” by the majority are signs that many cycling activists have just given up. in fact, the only time i hear about the BTA is when another cyclist complains that they never hear about the BTA. WTF happened to the organization that once sued the state of oregon and won? why is the BTA supportive of a city government that has gutted active transport funding and focuses on road maintenance. and while the bike portland commenters are more engaged than the average person, a human being recently died and the commentary on this site focused on hypothetical illegality and helmet use. that was and is f@#*ed up.

        active transport activism in this city is in serious decline and it’s just a matter of time before the majority starts reversing the meager gains already made.

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        • MaxD July 1, 2014 at 4:33 pm

          I was just wondering what happened to the BTA- seems like they were silent on CRC, now silent on the Street Fee (or supportive?!)

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          • 9watts July 1, 2014 at 4:35 pm

            supportive is what I think I read here (with some qualifications, of course).

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          • joe biel July 2, 2014 at 8:24 am

            Watch out! You’re straying dangerously from the unanimously positive messaging they demand! You’re hurting progress! :)

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  • Ted Buehler June 29, 2014 at 1:26 am

    &, from the same article:

    “Every person interviewed for this story agreed on one thing: Portland could be making grander, quicker strides if elected leaders sensed more demand, more outrage, more enthusiasm.

    “The 6 percent figure isn’t just stubbornly refusing to move. It’s being coddled into place by the 6 percent of Portlanders who whistle into work each day on our city’s impressive but flawed bike network, without a thought toward demanding things get better.

    “If Portland’s bike wave has crested, the momentum for a new one isn’t going to come from the politicians pleading with you to pay a street fee and scrambling to keep control of the city’s water system. It’s got to come, as it always has, from the voices of people who realize what Portland could be, and are dedicated to realizing that potential.

    “‘There are a lot of people who’d rather take advantage of the network than pound away for what it’s going to be in 20 years,’ Blumenauer says. ‘We need as many activists as possible at any given point. That’s something the cycling community needs.’”

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  • Ted Buehler June 29, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Jonathan wrote:
    “To my knowledge, the last time Critical Mass happened in Portland was in 2008. ”

    Something at the back of my mind had been telling me this wasn’t the case.

    And, yes, by my assessment, it’s incorrect.

    The Pedalpalooza Kickoff Parade in 2012 was a Critical Mass Ride.

    It might not have been *called* critical mass, but that’s exactly what it was.

    * It met downtown at the p.m. rush hour in the Park Blocks.
    * It bombed around downtown, taking all lanes of all streets.
    * It had a couple hundred people, easily enough to be adequate traffic to fill the streets.
    * It rode around in a few circles, as I recall (rode around the block of a few banks maybe)?
    * Cars were delayed. Many cars. For several minutes at times.
    * The downtown streets were safe for bicyclists.

    Except the lack of militancy (which isn’t my favorite part of critical mass anyway) it had all the elements of a classic 1990s era Critical Mass Ride.

    I had a great time, thanks to PDX Bike Swarm for organizing.

    Pics here.
    http://bikeportland.org/2012/06/08/photos-and-recap-from-the-pedalpalooza-kickoff-72943
    https://www.facebook.com/hart.noecker/media_set?set=a.373942996003133.86243.100001623066825&type=1

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  • Hart Noecker June 29, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    The mass would reach a key intersection, and riders would swarm in a circle, blocking traffic in all directions. Ironically, most of the car honks this disruption elicited seemed friendly in nature, as drivers would wave and snap photos of the mass. When those honks would become aggressive or when somebody would try to push their car through the mass, everybody would exit the intersection, continuing to ride on.

    Photos here: http://rebelmetropolis.org/critical-mass-returns-to-portland/

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  • Gasper Johnson July 1, 2014 at 11:43 pm

    One serious piece missing from the conversation. Critical Mass can be for any reason a rider chooses or even no reason.

    In the Aftermass interview, the founder of CM, Chris Carlson bristled at the need for every action to be instrumentalized to some other purpose.

    Thanks Jonathan for the space to host this discussion. I hope more good thoughts become more good actions!

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  • joe biel July 2, 2014 at 8:23 am

    wsbob
    CM failed because the huge numbers people riding together in association with the event, almost completely refused to acknowledge and respect the rights of all road users to use the road, regardless of their mode of travel.
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    Can you cite something that supports this assertion?

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    • are July 2, 2014 at 9:47 am

      anyone can have theories why CM faded from portland. my theory is it faded partly due to shift.org moving into some of the psychic space CM had occupied, and partly due to a perception the city had embraced the bicyclist.

      to the extent “embraced” should maybe be read “co-opted,” BTA has sometimes identified itself with the wrong end of the equation, but then, as the four-hundred pound gorilla it has had to give up some of its edginess.

      rob sadowski has openly acknowledged there is room on the left. AROW was created to fill at least part of this space, and there have been occasional one-off performance art interventions. there is certainly a role for something like CM/swarm.

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    • wsbob July 2, 2014 at 9:52 am

      Why do you need some citation? If you’re interested in the degree to which people in Critical Mass, riding in huge numbers, acknowledged and respected the rights of all road users to use the road, you could do some research of your own, if you don’t feel what I’ve already written is enough to verify what I’ve said.

      Ask other people. Search out Oregonian or Seattle newspaper archives dating back to Critical Mass’s last big arc of popularity. People riding bikes with Critical Mass during times the numbers were huge, would not stop when the green light turned yellow and then red.

      They kept right on riding through, which I believe is partly the reason the colloquially named ‘corking’ came about: to supposedly enable large numbers of people at a time to pass through more than one light cycle at an intersection, so other road users not with CM would have a chance, despite Critical Mass riders conduct, to get through the intersection. Riding with traffic, as an example of how biking can be a viable mode of travel on the main lanes of the road, amongst other road users traveling by motor vehicle, just was not something huge numbers of Critical Mass riders together, ever accomplished to any effective, continuing degree.

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      • are July 2, 2014 at 10:47 am

        the question joe asked was with respect to the assertion “failed because.” ironic you suggest the creator of a documentary film on this very subject do some research.

        two missteps in two days, robert. maybe you need to slow down.

        from the beginning, CM was never about demonstrating how the bike was a viable blah blah blah, it was about showing there were enough people on bikes that “we matter.” the phrase “critical mass” refers very specifically to the concept that if you have enough people on bikes they can force a path through the space otherwise dominated by cars.

        if your assertion is CM “failed because” of corking and suchlike, what you are saying is the concept itself was flawed. and it is certainly the case that many people have a limited appetite for civil disobedience. but i myself have a different view. i think the CM concept, which originated in san francisco and has spread worldwide, has served a very important function in turning the policy conversation toward accommodating cyclists.

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  • Ben July 3, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Portland does still have critical mass. We just call it Bowie vs. Prince, or Midnight Mystery Ride, or Grilled By Bike… same folks, same missions accomplished — showing what the streets look like filled with bikes vs. cars, everyone having fun and waving and smiling, corking for safety — and no cops. Pedalpalooza + shift = big wins for CM goals, without the contentious name or heavy cop crackdowns. My $.02 of course.

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