It came to me last night that I need to be angrier. At least here. What about cycling makes me angry? Besides the French, I couldn't immediately come up with anything. Then it hit me, one of the few cycling subjects (besides the French) that will get me steamed. Critical Mass.
I have browsed a few websites, seen a few gatherings (here in Fairbanks only, I must admit) and come to one conclusion. In general, Critical Mass lends itself to lawless mob type actions and is itself a danger to myself and cyclists everywhere. While I understand that at the heart of their beliefs is the desire to promote bicycle advocacy, their leaderless and aimless movement actually seems to work against that desire. It is rare that great things are accomplished without some sort of leadership, bicycle advocacy really isn't special in that regard.
The people I have seen show up for Critical Mass events are not folks that I generally see riding elsewhere in Fairbanks. In fact, the only time I see most of them on bikes is at one of their gatherings. That being said their equipment (read bicycles here) are generally to be ashamed of. Please don't think me a bike snob. I rocked a Trek 4300 for the first couple winters I rode because it was what I could afford at the time. Realistically it is still all I can afford, but an addiction is an addiction. I had a less expensive bike that was well maintained, because I relied on it. The bikes I have seen here at Critical Mass rides are suspect to say the least. Which leads me to wonder, why are you advocating cyclists rights if you don't even love your own bicycle enough to maintain it? If you are reading all this and steamed because you are actually a person who shows up to these things and rides the rest of the year as well, please feel free to drop by the shop and introduce yourself and tell me what exactly it is that I am missing.
The worst thing by far, in my opinion, about Critical Mass is their tendency to block traffic, often illegally. It doesn't take any sort of special education to tell you that this will piss off motorists. For those of you that don't know, there are basically two kinds of motorists, those that hate bicycles, and those that are indifferent. My guess is that every Critical Mass gathering successfully converts X number of indifferent motorists into motorists who hate bicycles. X is a number based population size of your town, size of the ride, and the number of fixed gear single speeds contained in the group. I don't have the formula totally worked out yet, but you get the picture. That being said, Critical Mass folks are offered a certain amount of protection riding on a Friday with big group during rush hour evening traffic. It is protection that I don't have early in the morning on a Wednesday in January when I am riding to work.
In short, Critical Mass folks, I think your tactics suck. I wish you would just stop it. I know you really don't care what anyone thinks (which is strange, because that is kind of the opposite of advocacy), but if you insist on having your silly rides and want to keep me happy, please feel free to show up at my house any given morning and ride with me into work. It will make me lots less nervous about unexpectedly finding out which motorists out there you have pissed off in the past.