We ride the last Friday of every month all year round. Meet at confederation park (elgin and laurier) at 5:30, ride leaves at 6pm!

This is a team blog. To join the team (and get access to post and/or administer the site), email criticalmassottawa@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

More Discussion From Neil

Flame war aside, some good points have been raised here. Friday’s Critical Mass was the first I’ve ridden in, and I think it’s a positive event with a good message. I also think that some things that shouldn’t have happened, happened.

When we ride as a large group we attract a lot of attention to ourselves. That’s the whole point of Critical Mass. It also means that we need to be doing things safer and cleaner than any other time we ride. It wouldn’t take much to make the event a lot less of a nuisance to drivers and pedestrians without compromising its spirit. If we want to turn to police who stop us and say we’re not doing anything wrong, then we better make sure we aren’t.

The city says everyone on a bike needs a bell and a little reflective tape on their front and rear forks. Spending six or eight dollars at MEC or a cycling store will set you up with these. If there are people on the rides who really can’t afford them, maybe some of the riders with more income can chip in and pick up some bells and tape to distribute.

While you’re at it, get a helmet. You can get a perfectly good one for about fifteen bucks, it shows everyone you’re safety conscious, and it could save your life if something does go wrong on the ride.

The city also asks us not to ride on the sidewalk. We all do it now and then, but let’s avoid doing it on the rides. There are enough of us on the street that getting hit from behind isn’t a real danger, and we’ll avoid getting pedestrians angry.

Whenever we’re on a street with more than one lane in each direction, let’s keep at least one lane clear so that traffic can pass by us. It’ll annoy fewer drivers, and they’ll get a great view of us as they cruise past. If what I saw Friday is any gauge, some of them will smile and wave. There’s really no good reason to ride in the oncoming lane, as a few people did. It’s not safe, and I can’t see how it improves the event. As for running red lights, it’s probably impossible to avoid it completely.

For the non Critical Mass riders who are reading this, I’ll explain quickly. The whole point of the ride is to travel as a group, and from time to time a light will change as the pack is travelling through an intersection. This means some of us have to run the light to keep the group together. In order to keep things safe, some riders usually line up on either side of the intersection and “cork” the traffic, just until the pack gets through. We don’t do this to piss people off, we do it to keep riders from getting hurt.

On the other hand, if a light turns red as the group is approaching an intersection, STOP! Use the pause as a chance for the riders to re-group and re-organize. Running the light isn’t safe anyway. If you are corking, be nice about it. Smile and wave, even if the drivers are honking and frowning, and always say “thank you” as you ride away.

If the worst should happen and a motorist decides to start trouble, DON’T ESCALATE THINGS! Hold your ground till the pack gets clear of the intersection, then ride away. Don’t flip them off, don’t yell; heck, don’t look angry if you can help it. And of course, do NOT start a physical confrontation. No good will come of it.

If the cops show up, PLEASE don’t instigate. Get out of the way if they drive up with their lights and siren on (same goes for any other emergency vehicle). If they stop you, be polite and answer their questions. If you’ve followed the other suggestions I’ve made, you’re not doing anything wrong anyway, and they have no grounds to fine or arrest you. And it should go without saying that talking shit or shouting “more bikes, less cops” does us no good at all. The whole point of what we do is to promote bikes and bike riding in the community at large. If we want the community to treat us with respect, we need to show respect to its other members. Let’s attract attention, but let’s be smart about it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While you mentioned reflectors, you should also have lights as well, they may not be as critical with the longer daylight hours in Spring and Summer, but I noticed and mentioned that the Winter shots had a lot without lighting. It is also against the law to ride a bicycle without lights during the night time hours. I think it is 1/2 hour before sunset and 1/2 hour after sunrise. I would guess you can expect the Police not to be as tolerant as they have been.

10:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I prefer riding with the HPVOoO guys on Sundays.

2:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The law requires a bell(Ontario Highway Traffic Act uses the words "bell, gong or horn"), as well as (i believe) a front white light (non flashing) and a rear red reflector (or light - again non flashing), as well as white and red reflective tape on the front and rear forks respectively. Also, helmets are madatory if you are under 18.


9:26 PM

Anonymous Rob said...

Here's the Citizens for Safe Cycling's night cycling pamphlet. Strangely you need a rear reflector but not a rear light. I think rear lights are very important, they're a very good safety investment on a bike! And they're dirt cheap.

(The answer is all of the above.)

12:18 PM

Anonymous iceowl said...

I think we should have some sort of plan for what should happen if there's an ambulance behind us. There's no possible way that we can all just move to the side without causing chaos and injury. Perhaps this is more justification for using only one lane?

12:54 AM

Anonymous chris613 said...

Good suggestions, Neil.

There's no reason we can't do CM and be courteous as well; the psychological condition of our road users will never improve if we ride with angry faces.

Like many of you, I just want to ride my bike. Riding in a mass was the safest I've felt on those roads in a long time. In downtown rush hour traffic, I feel we move at roughly the same speed that a car normally does, but pack a lot more people into that area. Being a living example of such a safe, beneficial, and efficient use of public roads is (In my own personal opinion) the most positive result of the event.

There's no reason this can't be done within the bounds of the law. There seems to be an impression (at least among the motorcyclists who have dropped by), that people who participate in CM are some sort of fringe menace. Somehow, a few people breaking the rules has led to the perception that safe, efficient transportation is... illegal. That is certainly not the message we want to be sending to our fellow road users.

Finally, on the point of multiple lanes. the HTA says:

147. (1) Any vehicle travelling upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at that time and place shall, where practicable, be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic or as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway.

For CM, this means two things:

1. If we are travelling at "the normal speed of traffic at that time and place" we can have as many lanes as we want. Sirens excepted.

2. If travelling slower than traffic in a multi-lane, then we are free to occupy the entire right lane legally. If travelling slower than traffic in a single lane, we can occupy as much of the lane as is needed for safety. In my estimation (IANAL) any more than a dozen bikes in a downtown block need the whole lane for safe use.

The next bit taken from http://www.bicyclesource.com/body/safety/laws/ontario-laws.shtml:

"If it is not safe to pass, do not allow the car to pass unsafely! Until there is a safe chance to pass, ride solidly in the middle of your lane to declare your rightful spot in the law. Once there is a chance, return to the right to signal that it is now safe."

1:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The whole point of the ride is to travel as a group, and from time to time a light will change as the pack is travelling through an intersection. This means some of us have to run the light to keep the group together."

Cool, sometimes I ride in my car with my friends, maybe I'll just run the reds as well?

You want to be treated the same, yet have different rules.

7:48 PM


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