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, February 07, 2007

Article and Response About a Vancouver Film on Critical Mass (That I hope we can bring to Ottawa soon)

(See below for Article - This is the Response)

A big Thank You to Barry Link for taking the plunge and writing about this important film.

As someone who has been a stubborn Critical Mass rider for many years [and thus able to furnish Robert with some footage] it is amusing to observe the various public reactions to it. It truly is a grassroots formation; now that many riders know, the media finally begins to learn.

It is poignant the initial judgement that Link made of how he "[couldn't] stand the people involved," was based solely on ignorance. Also, Bill Rees is offended by the riding, but has never done it. This is generally the mindset of strong opponents to the ride - their judgement is based on a myth of violent antagonism or hippy/dismissive stereotypes. Our culture will not evolve to cohere if we are always judging others based on second hand prejudice.

Rees highlights the most typical complaint of the Critical Mass tactic - that we are blocking traffic. What uninformed non-Mass riders like him forget, is that bicycle riding IS traffic. That traffic jam that stalls you frustrated trying to cross the Lions Gate Bridge, could just as easily be caused by an abundance of self interested motorcar use - and most days of the month it is. Merely by occupying this space intentionally [instead of unconsciously] and in a group, we become the targets for the road rage that is inevitable with our insanely feeble cars-only-traffic system. By riding on Critical Mass, I have begun to learn what a street actually is: how our assumptions about what constitutes 'traffic' blind us to the most important public sphere.

Only experience can teach this. We have been conditioned to think of the reckless endangerment us all - as a merely 'pedestrian' concern.

When we act together, with awareness of the human impact on the streets, then anything is possible. The most inspiring part from the film, to me, was that bicycles are peoples' dreams made real.



Russell Adams Buker


Filmmaker focuses in on power of pedalling in numbers

By Barry Link

"I'd like to join a Critical Mass ride. Except I can't stand the people involved."

It's a comment I've heard more than once from people in past years, including from my own mouth. Critical Mass is the monthly bike ride that's part joy ride, part political rally. Starting at the Vancouver Art Gallery and then proceeding several hours through the heart of the city, it can now pull in a thousand or more riders who through their numbers take over any roadway they choose.

And as portrayed in filmmaker Robert Alstead's documentary You Never Bike Alone, the sight of those hundreds of bikes gliding in an unending column across the Burrard Bridge is a beautiful sight to see.

I'm a vanilla bicyclist. I meekly stick to the bike routes. I seldom ride at night. I wear a helmet and bike clothes from MEC and I always make sure I go forth with a pump and at least a bottle of water mounted on the frame. And on a Saturday night, when faced with a trip through the fog and cold from my home near the Fraser River to Tinseltown in the Downtown Eastside, I naturally drove my 18-year-old Isuzu putt-putt to the theatre to see the latest showing of Alstead's film. Many people, including writer Matt Burrows from the Georgia Straight, rode their bikes to the theatre, and you could see dozens of their bikes chained up to the railings outside the International Village Starbucks after the movie. It made me feel like I'd personally slurped down a tank of gas and farted it out as carbon into the atmosphere.

But their commitment, and Alstead's film, also made me like these people. Alstead, a frequent feature contributor to the Courier, has put together a compelling and intelligent film. Deftly edited and covering a lot of ground in 80 minutes, it maintains an entertaining pace while examining and celebrating Vancouver's bicycle activists, with the Critical Mass movement at the centre of it.

To his credit, he recognizes the controversy involved with Critical Mass and other bicycle radicals. At first, the police didn't know what to do with them and made the odd arrest. Car drivers were befuddled and angered when they blocked major thoroughfares. According to former councillor Gordon Price, providing some of the most fluid commentary in the film, Critical Mass has had no effect on civic politics or planning. Most councillors and city staff have never even heard of it, he says. The notable exception would be the NPA's Peter Ladner, who's seen participating in a ride in the film.

Even their natural constituents are uncertain. UBC's Bill Rees, a committed bicycle commuter who developed the ecological footprint idea, has never participated in the rides because he thinks they are politically counterproductive. In the film he recalls how he was stopped dead in his car by a Critical Mass rally as he was frantically trying to cross the Lions Gate Bridge to the North Shore to reach his ailing mother. No doubt, he says, other car drivers facing similar emergencies have also been frustrated if not exasperated by a road blocked by cyclists displaying a strong sense of entitlement.

They also have a strong sense of having their freak on, with colourful bikes and dress. Some are drawn to the rides because they'll support any cause going. Others see cars as the epitome of an industrial capitalism run amok. But most, it turns out, want to have fun and to enjoy biking in this city without fear of being run over by an SUV.

They're more goofy than freaky, and more charming than goofy. And what bad things can you say about that group of cyclists who occasionally ride naked through city streets in the name of making those streets safer and pollution free?

Critical Mass rides in some cities have fallen apart thanks to the tactics of deliberate confrontation with drivers and cars. According to Alstead, the Vancouver activists have practised peaceful responses to angry and potentially dangerous vehicle drivers and past harassment from police.

What's the secret to their strength? They've discovered the beauty of human-powered momentum on wheels. On an a sunny spring day, or almost any day, even in the rain, there's nothing quite like hitting the road with your bike. We could all do with more of it.

As the increasing network of bike routes in Vancouver demonstrates cycling has come a long way in Vancouver, even if it has a long way to go. Critical Mass, and the movements like it, might not be so much a cause but an example of that progress.

The next screening of Alstead's film is 2 p.m., Feb. 11 at Pacific Cinematheque. See www.youneverbikealone.com for more information.

published on 01/31/2007

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Anonymous chaosmachine said...

Hey guys, here's the pictures from last night. Pass 'em along if you know someone who was there. :)

March Critical Mass Photos
Otesha Fundraiser

- John

7:44 PM

Blogger RealGrouchy said...

Re: This is generally the mindset of strong opponents to the ride - their judgement is based on a myth of violent antagonism or hippy/dismissive stereotypes.

I went to a critical mass ride once. At the beginning, everyone seemed to agree that traffic laws would be obeyed (something about bikes being traffic, maybe?), but we hadn't gone three blocks until that was blown out of the water.

So I turned around and went home, and never went to one since.

The photos (e.g. of the bike lifts) keep me from being "ignorant" without having to go to one.

If you expect car drivers to share the road with cyclists, then share the road with them.

- RG>

11:29 PM


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