April 1996 Critical Cacophonous Mass


Last month a questionnaire was circulated among the assembled riders at the beginning and later by the sfbike@cycling.org electronic list. Fourteen responses came in by E-mail, and 31 responses through the regular ole US Mail. The results are presented for your edification and amusement and possible provocation...

How often have you been on Critical Mass?

1st time: 7 / 2-5 times: 15 / 10-20 times: 11 / over 20 times: 10

What is your estimate of today's crowd :

10 guessed 1,000, 11 said 500-800, one said "a shitload," another said "smaller than most," and other numbers guessed were 175 (twice), 300, under 900, 1200, 1500, and 2000.

How would you describe your identity as a bicyclist?

A very large majority of respondents declared themselves as commuters (37 out of 45), or recreational (32), eco-activists (22), too poor to own a car (8), messengers (only 2), and others were a crash survivor, "too smart to need a car" and a general cycling enthusiast

At what age did you become a regular bicyclist?

a range from 5 to 36, average age: 17 2/3 (7 under 10, 18 betw. 10-19, 12 in their 20's, 5 in their 30's)

How many years have you been an urban cyclist?

range from 1 to 32, average: 9.69 years (26 under 10 years, 17 over)

What does Critical Mass mean to you?

At different times it means different things. Overall I like to keep in mind my understanding of the original ride inspired by the scene in Ted White's "Return of the Scorcher" where a visiting American bike builder, whose name escapes me, describes the way uncontrolled intersections in China work by a critical mass reaching a threshold whereby it can safely enter and pass through the intersection. Obviously this civilized kind of system fails to work here, even in controlled intersections. Maybe because I appear to be, and am, Chinese, CNN interviewed me about this before the August 94 ride granting me my 15 seconds of fame. Yahoo! Does anyone remember "skid lids"? / A chance to see friends, I hardly ever get to see, riding in the streets relaxed, without cars, derbying in circles at the end / a unique opportunity to meet and mesh with fellow cyclists of all walks-o'-life and varied interests, concerns, and causes... a generally 'good-time' kinda' ride with a big bunch of folks... a result of the masses (no pun intended!) wanting to do something, and collectively making it happen. / Reminds people that we have a right to the road. Gives a wonderful feeling of security on roads where that feeling would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. / Empowerment to cyclists and increasing awareness in drivers. Although I believe it could do a more effective job in the last respect. / It's fun and I hope that it encourages people to bicycle and I hope that it makes more bicyclists politically active. / A safe, joyous ride on city streets in the company of like-minded people, without the ever-present danger, annoyance, noise and smell of cars. It's a taking back of our city, just for a couple of hours -- a very liberating and inspiring time. It gives a sense of what could be possible if more people considered the effects of their actions (and inactions) with regard to the environment, and opted for responsibility over convenience. / Love, peace, and community, or tired, quiet, feckless realienation within a crowd. Depends on the month. Thankfully, much more often the former than the latter. / Increasing implosion followed by very large explosion! / A show of strength to pedestrians and automobiles that there are alternatives. / it means I can go on a bike ride in the city without having to be all agro, it is a time that I can meet other bikers, learn new routes thru the city, shows motorist that we are something to be dealt with, maybe educates motorist to look for bikers more. / I like the fact that at least one evening a month cyclists can take to the streets with reasonable saftey. I also feel that there are important messages about: 1) cycling as an alternative eco-friendly and healthy means of transport, and 2) cycle saftey and that cyclists like death as little as any one else and are considerably more prone to experience it unless auto drivers are made aware of the presence and rights of bikes. I also maliciously enjoy giving it back to the car drivers one night a month, though I reckon they still get the better end of the deal. / increase bike awareness, social event / An awareness event to gain attention of City and others to help make San Francisco a more "Bicycle Friendly" City / Celebrating the freedom of what a bicycle means to each one of us. Getting together with others that share a strong common interest, bond--cycling and rejoicing! / It is a chance to have fun and make a political/eco-statement at the same time. It means enjoying community safely rather than riding alone. It is a place to see old friends and possibly meet new ones. / Simultaneously one hell of a political-environmental statement and one hell of a monthly party! / Recreation, fun and a great way to make a political statement / It's a night out with the boys usually but sometimes my daughter comes too. It's a meeting please, a be-in, the liturgy of the bike movement / A massive bike ride, an opportunity to take over the streets and briefly shut down the car traffic / I enjoy it in aprt as pure fun, but it's also great to see so many cyclists together supporting one another and making a statement / 1) fun, 2) camaraderie and community, 3) excitement and adventure (even when the fun is missing--i.e., police), 4) a way of showing our numbers and strength, thereby lending credence to cyclists' concerns and desires, 5) an organizational and motivational tool that fosters and increases bike activism / Not fearing for my life while on the street. Incredibly empowering. An ability to inconvenience motorists (delicious!) / Fun! A chance to interact with and be surrounded by other bike nuts. An opportunity to show everyone how positive bikes can be and how much more preferable they are to smog-monsters / A celebration of the bicycle. It's an opportunity for the exchange of ideas, new ways of thinking, making new friends with similar interests and letting drivers know that there is a positive alternative to driving. / A unique opportunity to ride around SF on a bike and be "in the majority": enjoy a transportation system where bicycles come first and cars second. CM raises others' awareness of bicyclists / A chance to ride without being threatened by cars. I like the fact that once a month cars have to wait for us and stay out of our way / Ride my bike with other people / Cyclists take over the streets. Sweet revenge to see angry motorists actually having to stop for us. Fun for all who participate. An excellent way to show support for non-car transit / It makes the presence of bicyclists impossible to ignore. It's like "here we are, like it or not, but DEAL with it." And for the most part we are an obviously affable and benign presence, and many spectators respond to that / It's a fun excuse to hang with other cyclists and tour our gorgeous city and discover new treasures of S.F. It's also an attempt to turn others onto bike-commuting or at least using public transport and car pooling. Prime people watching and cool bike viewing / Freedom, emotionally liberating, social event, adrenaline, exercise / I have most enjoyed the CMs when people stick together and ride slowly as a mass. The March CM was too fast I thought--people spread out and saw it more as a joyride (which it is), but forgot it as a statement. The police have ruined this feeling because the need to stay together is lost / A socio-political gathering of people brought together by a common love for cycling...and a great excuse to cut out early on a Friday / Fun bike ride with friends, sometimes fashion show or costume party. / Participating in the initial catalyst moment before everyone finally realizes that we are right. Riding free without a drunk drive (face it--they're all drunk) on yer ass is very "empowering" / freedom and empowerment / It is an expression of hope; the hope that our culture can find an alternative to the automobile. CM is also a political statement about the insanity of the automobile culture and, I hope, an enticement for others to kick the car habit and use bikes as a means of urban transport as well. / I've grown quite fond of this bike ride. I enjoy it for all its elements--as celebration, as protest, as ritual, as city happening. What could NOT be fun about riding around town with a thousand or so other people, stopping traffic,k waving to onlookers, and enjoying this beautiful city? I do it, first and foremost, 'cause it's fun. I love waving to people and making them smile. I love connecting with other bikers and the people who poke their heads out of the windows to watch. For a couple of hours the city is friendlier. We're not strangers, passing by with our noses to the pavement. Instead, we notice each other. I laugha nd wave and encourage this the whole way. Most people smile and wave, even cheer, in return, some are startled to be noticed by me, and some are downright mad at this interruption in their lives--I don't care, I love it all. Most days I ride my bike and fear for my life, but during Critical Mass that same ride becomes a spectacle, and every one involved, the bikers and the watchers, become connected through it. I think Critical Mass is so successful because of this. The event transcends our ordinary lives for a few moments. Hell, it's only a bike ride--no big deal. But get one or two thousand people together, and it's an event--part theater, part spectacle, part ritual. It's fun and easy and asks onl that you show up. No big commitment. Everyone is accommodated (except cars!). But it's also a political event, and though I would hate for the ride to be merely (and exclusively) a protest, I'd also hate for it to become too tame, too accommodating. The streets are not safe for cyclists. Cars are destroying our environment and our urban quality of life. These are political and social issues, some of which can be dealt with through legislation. Critical Mass highlights these issues/problems in a direct way--it takes over the streets, disrupts the "routine," and asks us to reconsider the way transportation in this city is imagined. Cars are not a necessity but a luxury--there are better solution to the problem of getting around. At the very least, it's gratifying, as a cyclist, to be part of this "show of force." Hopefully it increases everyone's awareness of cyclists and will lead ot new traffic laws that enhance our protection, even if it doesn't lead ot new laws that encourage cycling and discourage driving (heaven forbid!). I'm angry, as an urban cyclist, that I feel so vulnerable when I bike, and CM gives me an opportunity to feel safe. This is political, yes, but it's also personal, and if nothing more is accomplished by the ride than those few hours of safe cycling, that's enough. On Friday, at sunset, with the glow on the buildings and pink clouds in the sky, hundreds of bicyclists in front of me and hundreds behind me, and I'm tooling slowly up Market happily jingling the bells on my bike, and I look both ways up Van Ness and see the long lines of stuck cars waiting not on the lights but on us, I just think "Gawd, I loooove this town!"

Do you feel there is a growing institutionalization of Critical Mass?

Unfortunately, yes. Sometimes I describe the ride as becoming like the Bay to Breakers with no political or social awareness among some riders but in a way that's okay to some extent. / if it means do i think (some) people are trying to use it to their own advantage/gain, yes. i would hope it (mass) remains an unorganized grassroots sort of thing; that's part of it's greatest beauty; that it has happened at all, & can happen for the equal benefit of all/none. / Yes, and I think that is virtually inevitable, unless people make a strong effort to prevent it. / As long as Critical Mass events don't turn into commercial affairs, their "institutionalization", in my opinion, would be a very positive development. Only if the event becomes enshrined as a well-known and much-talked-about monthly City tradition will there be the many thousands of participants at every event, whose presence will help bring about an eventual change of collective consciousness that will demand better infrastructural services for bicyclists and give support for the establishment of car-free zones in some commercial sectors, such as Jefferson Street and Market Street. / OBVIOUSLY. / yes, that's what we are doing for...bike lane legislation, right? I also think that is a good thing to see the cops on bikes sweeting it out on the front-line. they need to see what the bike messagers see everyday (rather than riding their bikes to the donut shop). / I'm not really qualified to comment given that March was my first SF ride but one thing I noticed, or rather didn't was any serious attempt to explain to all the stranded auto drivers and pedestrians what exactly is going on. In London the London cycle campaign prints up a whole bunch of flyers that are distributed at the start of the ride to cyclists who can then distribute them to interested onlookers/motorists. The flyers usually contain general information about CM and it's aims. All sorts of other people on the ride also distribute their own flyers as well. / not yet / yes, police management inevitable / Yes, with the routes being set and mapped out before each ride--no more surprises! / It is inevitable and I am mixed about it. With all the police presence we become less aware and streets don't get corked by us or the police. I think we have to work within the system, but we can also make our own efforts outside of that system. / No. And only in S.F. would I expect a question like this to be asked. 1,000+ cyclists taking over the streets and making drivers squirm is a powerful thing, no matter how staid it may seem to a few vocal Critical Mass oldtimers. / No, but I think the novelty is wearing off. We're going to have to do something to keep it fresh and interesting / My first ride was also the first ride with a police escort. I like the idea of choosing the route, but an amplification system is needed. / Perhaps. I haven't been involved since the early days--only during the past year. But I imagine that it must feel somewhat more institutional now. Still, I don't feel like the ride has lost its soul and its spark. / I think it has become institutionalized to a degree, but it not getting moreso. From within I welcome it. It's cool to have traditions and the same people, and "memorial rides" of particularly good ones from the past would be cool. From without I think it sucks. / Some last year. It's now leveled off. Not sure how I feel about it. I guess as long as it leads to more bike commuters then it's good. / I relish that fact and support its growht. I tell everyone I know about it. The spirit and participation is as traditional as any community event I know of / Definitely it's become an institution, and I think that's OK. I'm ont an anarchist, and I'd like to see CM continue to raise public awareness and encourage cycling without being confrontational to law enforcement and without portraying cyclists as menaces to society / It's good. I think it's seen more as a valid political statement from bicyclists vs. a bunch of crazy bike messengers causing trouble and taking over the streets / Yes, it's great. It'd be nice to get rid of the cops. It's nice that people accept the ride as a regular thing. Once, the cops said 'If you don't cooperate, we'll be forced to stop these events.' -- Please! / Well, yeah, sort of. A lot of original people have dropped out. My main complaint is that the rides have speeded up and become more the province of the lycra/spandex set, who see them as a mindless excuse to party / I didn't really like March's BART protest thing. Critical Mass is in itself its own form of protest and I regretted the ride being so short so some people could get everyone to protest for them. I think the BART protest should have been on another day. / Yes, it seems we are led by our police escort. I preferred Kash shouting instructions to the pack. I do regret the change, it was inevitable. I suggest 5 C.M.-week in groups of 100-200. / yes, get rid of the police / Sure--most interesting fringe trends wind up mainstream in time, but isn't institutionalization the whole point of this? If institutionalization breeds familiarization, awareness and-or acceptance then we should appreciate it. / yes, I agree that CM is more institutionalized now and my poor attendance record of late is evidence of this trend / No one fraternizes much, as if they were in an institution. However, for the cops who bicycle along, it must be somewhat liberatory and joyous... The problem with institutionalization is that participants become spectators in an event that is laidout ahead of time and lose their sense of responsibility. Quick check one ___Anarchist brigades in the Spanish Civil War or ___churchgoers who park their cars down the middle of Valencia Street / I don't mind the institutionalization as much as the overbearing police presence, direction and control of Critical Mass. I'd like to see CM remain dynamic and keep evolving and yet retain its sense of purpose. / Yes, I think it's inevitable. I welcome it to the degree that I'd have never heard about it if it were not organized and regular, but it would be a shame if it lost its spontaneity and become "bureaucratic."


17 support police escorts, 16 oppose them, 4 argued they are both a help and a hindrance, 4 like some bike cops, but with less "management", and various people offered comments on the police presence:

i haven't seen any problems with the so-called "escorts", tho' their best efforts (in my view) are to block (motorist) cross traffic @ intersections for the benefit/safety of all. however, when they (police) begin to try to impose their own ideas of what is an 'acceptable' route (and quit 'escorting'), or attempt to limit the alternate routes people wish to use, i believe they have overstepped their boundaries, welcome, and usefulness. i would suggest that if they (police) have problems with scofflaws (or whatever) on alternate routes, let them deal with those problems THERE, away from CM, not try to control the mass. (after all, if cyclists are legally equal vehicles on the city streets, then what difference does it make if those 'scofflaw' cyclists started out riding with the mass, or not? if those cyclists want to be on their own, let them! the police should focus on them in the situations cyclists have chosen to be part of...) in all fairness i must say that the bike cops i have met have been very much more 'human' than many of their regular counterparts... but it's obvious that those same bike cops prefer not to be seen chatting with us cyclists by their peers... they've been very chatty (with me) in a kind of 'undercover' way almost under their breaths while riding... pretending to be looking somewhere else, (as if avoiding being seen looking/speaking with us cyclists), being more responsive when addressed as 'just another guy' (/girl; tho' i haven't seen any lady bike cops...), tho' that seems to me to be the norm with people in their profession, and people in general. it would seem to me that there must be a good deal of a split amongst the (police) ranks with regard to CM, but i've gotten the impression from those i've spoken (whispered!) with that most of them personally kinda' dig it too! / Ideally, I wish they would stay home because they are irrelevent to the original intent of the ride. Unfortunately, people outside the ride seem to underst and an armed police presence more than a critical mass of human beings on bikes. / I like them for the way CM goes now it lends a certain air of legitimacy to it. I also really like getting the bike cops out and about with other cyclists. / I support them as long as they escort / I don't mind them coming, but they shouldn't have motor vehicles. / I favor limited police involvement, but feel that the current event is often too isolated from the public due to this barrier. / Stay Home. Friday Night Skate doesn't have them. / yes (especially the cop on bicycles!), but I will say that the motorcycle cops that are SUPPOSE to be out front stopping traffic need to get farther out front. and the bicycle cops need to get there ass in gear so they don't lose (pinch off) the leaders (not to mention the leaders need to stay with the pack) / Yes and yes. If the cops are cool then an escort can be handy, especially if tempers flare. I saw at least one seriously stresses motorist loosing her rag at the ride. But your police suck (probably because they're on a power trip because some nutter saw fit to arm them). A friend of mine out here has been arrested on one CM and ticketed (for running a red light) on another. In London I have never heard of either arrests or ticketing. So until your police become human I'd say they should stay at home. / support - increases their awareness of bikes -- maybe more bike cops will be seen as a result (less gas, less threatening than cop cars, etc. They seem to have become much friendlier and mellow over the past 12 months (well, there was that one ride a few months ago) / I am mixed on this issue. We are so big now, but drivers can be very unruly and impatient. And some riders like to taunt and hassle drivers. / FALSE CHOICE! The point of Critical Mass isn't about police. It's about a huge mas of cyclists. For me, police presence is neither here nor there. I do fear if we get too confrontational and "anti-cop," they'll react violently, and Critical Mass will become another small, obscure lefty event. I think there's a silent majority of riders who ride the Mass because it's "safe," and aren't into being arrested or clubbed. Police confrontation will scare us away. / I'm not thrilled about the police escort, but I think it's worthwhile because I don't want the ride to provoke ugly confrontations, or collisions between bikes and motorists. / The police lessen our impact and squelch the spirit of CM. To a degree, the police have co-opted CM. / I didn't at first. Now I do because the ride becomes too dispersed and motorists would try to squeeze through the gaps otherwise / Why are there so many? / Police escort gives credence to CM, gives it some justification (to non-cyclists) / But CM'ers must plug-cork intersections and 'educate' drivers / safety issue--IMPERATIVE / ONLY if they are on bicycles / I regret the police. I never ride at the back because there are always a bunch of police and it makes riding uncomfortable. / ONLY so long as they assist with traffic and DON'T try to control the road or the ride!! I feel ambivalent about the police--they're a help AND a hindrance!

What do you prefer in terms of distance, hills, neighborhoods, destinations when it comes to CM routes? Do you like it leading to parties, benefits, clubs or events? Or do you prefer it always end at a public park? Or something else? [Most SF Critical Mass rides are about 5-7 miles.]

Responses were extremely varied. For distance, half a dozen said "just right," 2 wanted to go 20-35 miles, 6 checked "longer," 3 "shorter," suggestions were made for under an hour, 12 miles, 4-10, 5-10, 8-12, 5-8, 10, 10-12, 10-20, and 10-15 miles... 5 wanted steeper strenuous rides with more hills, 19 wanted "medium," 11 wanted "mellow," comments follow:

I like longer rides and good variety. Organized events at the end of the ride haven't seemed to work too well although those few times like the club on 16th Street? and that restaurant at in China Basin? worked nicely. Gotta have a park. / don't want to go to ghettos for the sake of going to them. I think its rude to have a thousand white people on bikescome through their neighborhood destinations when it comes to CM / distance; cross-town is good for me. a good bit of a ride, without a fierce ride to wherever you started (or want to wind up). neighborhoods; no preference; who cares? (besides, there's lots of cool neighborhoods; we could hit most of them eventually if we wanted to; i like variety!) i like the idea of it ending at a park, as did the one mass i participated in. primarily because that way there's no bike parking hassles, (i wouldn't lock my bike anywhere and expect to see it again!) no costs associated with hanging out with fellow "mass'ers"... plenty of room for everyone to do their own thing../.I've enjoyed both the parties, and the park destinations... the longer rides do not appeal as much to me... they represent a barrier to some, and really miss the point of the ride which, in my opinion, doesn't have anything to do with recreation, endurance or fitness. / I think the ride should be accessible to everyone. No really steep hills that newbies can't manage or might turn people off. Other than that mix up the routes to keep people coming back. Mix up the destinations too. / Variety. Would like to go along waterfront. A benefit or event would be fine if it was relevant. Otherwise I prefer a public park / I like the mix -- I love the spring/summer trips to Ocean Beach, Twin Peaks and Sausalito, but I also love the shorter, more urban trips to Lombard St., North Beach, Broadway Tunnel, Chinatown. I liked last year's CM that ended in Alta Plaza Park, 'cause I live nearby (:-)). I usually have plans on Friday evenings, so probably wouldn't attend post-CM events or benefits -- but I still think they're a good idea. / It's the ride that matters. Length and destination are less important than the group synergy on the ride itself, the feeling of community. / 90 minute ride ending at a park or benefit on the last Friday of each month. I also feel an effort should be made to promote groups of cyclists riding home together EVERY Friday night. / The farther the better. We should get around to southern parts of the city more. / last months (March) was great... distance was great, maybe a couple of steeper hills (up), but the steep down hills are dangerous because of bykers going down. I would also like to see us go up or down division (which is the route I take to CalTrains, people getting onto or off of the freeway are NOT looking for bykers). parties would be GREAT. or events in public parks. but I also like the idea of non-violent protests of public transit, for instance, CalTrains just increased its byke copacity to 24 but that is no-longer enough and I often get denied a ride home because it is full. / CM should try and be as inclusive as possible to encourage as many people as it can on to two wheels. But at the same time it shouldn't discourage people by being a damp squib. I think it is probably necessary to vary the length/hills/strenuosity/location of the ride each month. I think that the ride should however go on long enough to really put across the point (1h+) and to bring the message to as varied and audience as possible (ie. hid different areas each time) Parks are nice in the summer but perhaps impractical in the winter. It is nice to end with some sort of event but the main thing is getting a message across to non-cyclists so the ride is the really important bit, the rest is just icing / variety (but not too much emphasis on hills -- we should focus on keeping the group together, but also balance it with the ability to go fast at certain points. . .would be nice to have a specific event to end at / no hills, moderate distances and a variety of neighborhoods / We should wind through neighborhoods more. Stern Grove was fun, Lombard St. was great. S. of Mkt, China Basin. / The routes have been wonderful! Ending in a park is always a great way to unwind. Some ultimate later destination (club or party) would also be an option. / Today's was too long. We spend too much time downtown, I'd like to end at beaches more often. / Variety / The ride shouldn't be demanding, but at least a few challenging stretches make it more interesting / Keep it available to everyone! any neighborhood as long as it will be reasonably safe for us to get home afterwards / I like it when the route selected takes us on many car-clogged streets (such as Market, Howard, and Van Ness) / I would love to target different embassies, corporations, etc., who are engaged in particularly heinous actions at the time of the ride. This has been done to great effect in London and other cities / Longer than March's and the North Beach ride a few months back / Don't let it become commercial, ending at a noncommercial event would be good / Black Rock Playa, Nevada, crashing the Black and White Ball? or to the Mermen playing on the beach? or straight to the drunk tank and Lucky 13? the Sunken parking lot at City College? / I love going all over, especially downtown and residential areas. A variety is good--sometimes it's nice to have a definite end--Twin Peaks, Sausalito--and sometimes it's nice to simply tool around, like March.

Have you ridden in Critical Masses in other places? If so, where? 25 people answered negatively to this. 2 had ridden in Berkeley, 2 in London, one in Rio de Janeiro, one in Silicon Valley and one in Bloomington Indiana.

What do you want for Critical Mass?

Stay as is: 4

Become more/less contestational and protest-oriented: 14 checked MORE, 4 LESS

Be more/less theatrical or ritualistic: 16 MORE, 1 LESS

Be more/less coordinated and clever: 20 MORE, 2 LESS

Become part of a larger eco-political movement: 15 YES

Be more/less of a party (go to bars more often): 9 MORE, 2 LESS

Be more/less of a party (study Lenin and Mao!): 0 MORE, 4 LESS, one comment: "more political awareness of CM "point" would be good"

General comments on future wishes for Critical Mass:

I would like the ride to be more inclusive but these kinds of things tend to be less than inviting to women and people of color. Remember Alan from Stockton with the music trailer? I miss him and his music but I felt people were a bit unfriendly towards him. Ultimately I think he wasn't made to feel welcome because he and his music was too ethnic for some. Sorry if I offend the white liberals out there but it's something you wouldn't understand. / Any of these sound fine, but overall, I liked the suggestion of *multiple* destinations of smaller groups. That would allow better etiquette at lights, and less of a *parade* atmosphere. After all, "critical mass" means, enough cyclists to foster the safety of those in the group. I'm *definitely* in favor of using it as a forum for progressive causes... even if it's just to encourage activists to come petition, leaflet, gather signatures, etc. / At the moment critical mass is not very effective at raising a realistic awareness of cyclists. Seeing a huge crowd of cyclists go by running red lights and stop signs with the blessing of the police is not what a normal vehicle cyclist interaction should be. One thought I had at a very good way of raising awareness would be to send a couple of hundred cyclists off in packs of 6 or so with the express directive of obeying all the rules of the road. They'd go in all different directions all over the city. Because the group of cyclists would be as big as a vehicle and acting like one, lots of drivers would be exposed to the idea of cycles as vehicles and to sharing the road with cycles. Perhaps everybody could meet at a common spot with the different groups having traveled different distances. I'm not sure how well this would go down. It would change the character of the mass dramatically and I really like some aspects of the big group- ie the camaraderie. It would also take a lot of decipline, probably more than some of the people in CM have. / To be more accepting of the diverse range of bicyclists and less of the control freaks who are helping the cops. / Mainly for it to have a positive effect. Become more contestational/protest-orientated Be more theatrical but never ritualistic, ritual leads to tradition, tradition to arogance and politics a bad call. Be less coordinated and more clever Take on relevant eco-political ideas but not to chase people away by becoming involved in things outside the area of road safety-pollution eg nuclear power, a bad thing in my eyes is not that relevant to road saftey and toxic auto emissions and it is quite possible for a CEO of a nuclear powercompany to want to ride thier bike in safety and so agree with me on the aims of CM yet disagree with me over nuclear power etc. Encouraging a communal atmosphere is great becoming overtly political will only narrow the appeal of CM / Whatever we do, don't force anything. Let it be spontaneous, not contrived. And don't lose sight of the original purpose. / More messages, signs, themes, balloons, flowers, flags, wigs, etc.. / It should go slower again like it used to so that ANYONE can participate and everyone can chat. / I like the way it is, with elements of all of this, but it will and does change,if only week to week. Sometimes more of a protest, sometimes a celebration. I'd only regret if it became one or two things to the exclusion of the rest.

What's your favorite thing about CM?

Seeing friends, kinship, absence of fear of cars. / derby with SF's finest citizens / good chance for me to hang out with fellow cyclists of all types that i might not meet in any other forum. / Cameraderie, Safety & Xerocracy / The people the really neat people who do it for fun and the laid back attitude. The activists. / I feel less threatened by the autos when on CM. / Happy people, ringing their bells, whooping / seeing all you good people regularly, finding a good space for sharing ideas and zines and such / the hugeness / That it's just a bunch of people out on their bikes / ability to increase awareness, social / All these cyclists from all walks of life together / Riding my bike with 100's of others on a quiet city street is Great. / Relentless wackiness / The feeling of solidarity is great. / Waving at pedestrians, drivers and other onlookers at I drive by / The spirit / almost everything, fun, excitement, get to go places I wouldn't ordinarily, overall increase in cyclists' political clout / the possibilities! / it's fun, pro-bike and bigger than any of us (regardless of the cops and how many riders show up--it just keep going and happening) / Riding by tongues that hang out of faces / Being able to ride without cars and the festive atmosphere / stopping cars / social interaction with like-minded strangers / Blocks and blocks of blinking lights and ringing bells, the days of the corker / great people watching, always see people I know / I like stickers! / Cheering pedestrians, noise makers / I like seeing all the cool bikes, meeting friends, and waving to people--it's like a parade / I like the festive atmosphere and camaraderie I feel riding with other Massers. I like demonstrating the joy and potential of the bicycle as an alternative means of urban transportation. / Waving to people!.

What's your least favorite thing about CM?

but don't like intimidating cops on motorcycles and fast hammerheads spreading the mass too thin with their take back the streets and in your face approach. / pretentious, overly-moralistic, too-serious individuals / the bad attitude some of the more militant eco-nazis have whilst trying to promote a good thing that happens to be fun, too! (something about attracting more flies with honey than vinegar comes to mind...) it's too easy for the non-initiated to discredit a 'preaching scowl with a cause' than someone pleasant who's obviously enjoying themselves... smother them with kindness! (it may terminally frustrate them to not be able to easily find faul with you and/or your cause...) / Screaming cyclists (one of the benefits of the bicycle is that it's normally *quieter* than the auto). Running red lights (it's kinda fun, but it seems to cause more trouble than anything else -- though I know there *were* problems with cars getting into the flow...). Cops. / The people, the fuck the police and fuck the drivers people. I don't seek confrontation (I won't shy away from one that's deserved) and prefer to educate rather than argue. / There aren't more bicyclists participating / pointless confrontations with the police (whoever initiates them). / cop control of the ride / Cold San Francisco nights and cranky drivers. (Put on a fuckin' smile!) / The twits who try to control the ride. Why don't they just go to Police Academy. / the piching off of the leaders by the over-weight cycle cops (but it is funny to see the cycle cops pant like out of shape fools) / would like to see a greater variety of riders, including families, kids, women, minorities, etc. / I think challenging the police is a stupid waste of time. / The apparent factionalism in the ranks, and the weird scenes that happen with "breakaway" groups. Weird tension. / Confrontations with cops--they are just doing their job. Leave 'em alone. / slowness when the riders are bunched together / I think the police lessen our impact on motorists and sometimes take away from the fun. / People who antagonize cops. Cars. / going slowly / A set route. How about 3 or so planned routes and then we all go on our own favorite route? Or we vote on one and then "tyranny of the majority." / CMers who want to hassle police (actually very rare) / the police suck / Political handout-sign my petition guys / I don't like some of the arrogant, confrontational attitudes displayed by some cyclists. It alienates many non (but possibly would-be) cyclists. In addition I don't like the overberaing police presence. /

Do you ride more often after being on CM than before? 11--YES, 19--NO

Have you perceived an increase in numbers of bicyclists in SF during the past few years? 21--YES, 2--NO, 8--DUNNO

Can you describe it? It seems like there are more, but I'm also much more aware of cyclists since I started riding in CMs and commuting by bike. It's not my commute route, but I'm always amazed at the number of bikes commuting down Market and Valencia in convoys! / When I'm at a red light, I almost always have someone to chat with. Bike racks are full. I never have to wait long for a pump if I have a flat. Sexy biker bodies swarm the nights, dinging their bells in sly harmony. / Yes. I see more bicyclists as I turn onto Market and also on Eddy going down to Market. / Seems like there's been an increase, but I haven't seen data to document this. / In my office building a year ago, parking for bikes never filled up. Now it does (16 spaces) / Many more / Dramatic increase, some are more dangerous than cars!

How does bicycling affect your ideas about the world you'd like to live in? Or does it?

I get depressed because my ideal world seems progressively unattainable. In s ome ways I hope for some kind of cataclysmic event like what happened to Cuba to change things. Then we'll get segregated bikeways and a realistic gas tax. / world without smog / i'm aware of a number of other places that have been developed with the idea of personal transportation not necessarily requiring a personal automobile! (mostly in europe...) i'm certain after having seen some of these places personally that our development of our urban areas here hasn't been the most desirable for the long-term life on our planet, or with enough regard to the planet we leave behind for our children. i have to believe that people (in general) would be happier and healthier if they could commute by bike more. (note; not necessarily exclusively! i believe the 'less-car' philosophy is more workable and desirable than the 'car-less' philosophy...) i would highly promote the idea of giving more thought to developing in a manner that would encourage cycling as a viable means of transpo, with bike access to all public transpo. / The bicycle is the perfect vehicle. It's the most efficient, not only in terms of propulsion, but its construction. Its simplicity and economy have remained unrivaled since its inventioned, despite the onslaught of technology. / Certainly I would like to see more bikes, less cars. Saves money, (for the bicyclists and for highway building and maintenance), cleaner air, reduces demand for oil, probably saves lives. / As I said above, I see bicycling as a healthier, more socially responsible way to get around. I think a society based on petroleum consumption and internal combustion engines is crazy and ultimately doomed. We have to look at alternatives, and bicyclists can help show the way. / Cycling pulls us back down the isolated social scale and helps to reconnect individuals face-to-face. / That we (S.F.) should shut the city off to cars, period! or at least charge everyone who buys a car in the city a couple of bucks (to pay for public transit, and street maintenance) / Cycling is great healthy, cheap (except when some bugger has your bike) eco-friendly and people-friendly (much less dangerous to other road users). I am not so nieave of authoritarian that I think it is for every body, but I feel that cyclists get a really bad deal in terms of their vunerability, the environment they have to cycle in and other road users general perception of them as periferal (if they are noticed at all). CM is one of the ways that the cyclists of the world can demonstrate that they exist and that they feel there is a need for change. / dedicated signals seem like a bit much to ask for. Bike lanes are GREAT (16th is pretty sweet now) / It does a great deal--makes me realize how enslaved we are to oil companies and auto mfrs. just so we can be chic. / Much healthier way to live--people, cities, environment. / I wish everyone would get cycling. We don't need cars except for those long trips! / The bicycle gives me a physical pleasure and independence that other transport doesn't. It is a very rational way to move about in a big or small city. / I support bicycle friendly everything. CARS KILL EVERYTHING! 'nuff said. / Very much--Live to ride, ride to live / Absolutely. Mao's concept of work changing consciousness applies. After 10 or 20 years your world view is formed by your mode of moving from A to B / It's integral to my style of living and the way I look at the world -- breathe the air, open your eyes, depend less on machines, make our communities more livable / Bicycling makes my own personal world more enjoyable and I think that more bikes and fewer cars would make the world a better place, but I don't think a pedal revolution would make as much of an impact on the world as some people believe. / Much more environmentally aware. I now detest, abhor and hate automobiles. I'm now questioning the whole idea of technological-economic progress and pretty much all conventions. / Bike riding has been a very positive influence on my life. Healthy fun, clean, less congestion and a good alternative (especially to drugs, boredom, crime, unhealthiness and oil consumption) / ECOTOPIA / Big difference. Biking makes it easier not to own a car and lets you feel a lot better about yourself and what you are doing to not pollute, not contribute to freeway building, etc. / I like that I can get places with my own power and in fresh air. I don't like dealing with inconsiderate motorists and the danger they bring / I would like to at least bike to work at least part of the year / Yes. Cars are evil, expensive. We subsidize car use. This should change. I vote, talk to my politicians, etc. / Yes, I feel a great sense of communion with anyone who choose not to drive--a sense of being "partners in crime." Also I am constantly made aware of how bicycle UN-friendly urban planning is. / More "user friendly" transportation. Big incentives for carpooling and not driving yourself / Yes, less cars, cities could be so different from one another and so much more pleasant with tighter restrictings on car use. / cycling gives me time to contemplate things like that / I like breathing cleanly and smelling things and fine peace on my bicycle. I don't figire I'll ever own a care--purely preference / I realize how much space in a city is devoted to accommodating cars and not people--streets, parking lots, overpasses; and how much people believe in force and intimidation over civility or fairness. / Bicycling has inspired me to drop architecture and go into urban design and planning / I see more clearly how rude drivers are--and if they're in cars it's worse. / Bicycling is about unity and connection with my community and neighbors. It's about being connected and in touch with my environment; with the climate; with the city's streets and buildings; with its sounds and smells. The experience of travel on bike is, I find, diametrically opposed to that in a car which I find alienating, desensitizing and environmentally noxious. While I get a sense of connectedness on a bike, it also gives me a sense of independence and freedom; freedom of movement and independence from a centralized, dehumanized automobile culture. / To some degree, I bicycle because it's a low impact mode of transport. And it seems to me a city should, as much as possible, facilitate and encourage cycling--and provide excellent public transit--as the preferred modes of getting around--it's cleaner, often faster, more enjoyable, less traffic, etc. I DEFINITELY support the creation of car-free zones in downtown!

Do you see Critical Mass as political? or apolitical? or somewhere in between?

POLITICAL=19, apolitical=0, IN-BETWEEN=16

Whatever people's individual motivations, a group of 1-2K bicyclists taking over city streets one a month is a very powerful political statement! / It's political from the "politics of everyday life," community building paradigm, but there isn't enough argument, self-examination, or strategic thinking to actually accomplish any more than the momentary freedom of the ride. To be more political, people would have to think about more than 2 hours per month, and about permanence, and also about autonomy from authoritarian "aid" and control. / CM seems to fall at a fantastic intersection between working inside AND outside of the SYSTEM! / would like to see more political / It is political but looks more like fun and hysteria to non-riders and the media. / but all liturgy is political / 1) political at first, 2) apolitical now, 3) would love to see it become political again /

Do you come to CM from a "politically active" background? NO--11, YES--16

Do you vote? YES--35, SOMETIMES--6, NO--1 comments: Always, although I don't have blind faith in our representative oligarchy. A democracy you say? Get real.

What else would you like to say about Critical Mass?

Hope it never ends. / i hope it keeps happening! (if nothing else, it's a hell of a party!) / One of the best Movements I've ever taken part in. I feel the bulk of our efforts should be getting more riders out onto the streets every Friday night. / CM was stared with the aid of the messenger community--now we hardly show up because we're treated like shit by other participants. One lady actually said to me and my group, "Do you have to ride in this? The streets are yours all day long, No offense, but you make us all look bad." Needless to say, we weren't thrilled by her attitude. I wish it were an isolated incident, but it is not. Maybe a Messenger Appreciation Critical Mass? / It's not that I would like to see Critical Mass become protest oriented just to be loud--would really like to see the city of SF become lots more friendly to bicycles (bike paths, driver awareness, more commuters on bikes, bike "parking", etc.). In order to be heard--must be organized. As mountain biker, I've seen all our trails on Mt. Tam and others closed to us--why? SHouldn't we have right to at least some trails? As individual it is hard to fight "City Hall." / MORE, much more people need to get involved in getting biker legislation passed (including myself) -- more rights for cyclists. / I think we should try to make more little Mass rides. Say just to group together with others at a light and ride hom together. This actino would be more fun than being an individual who happens to meet up with others once in a while and say hello. And it is a safer way to ride. / I love it, and have turned many "normal" people on to it. If it gets too weird with the cops they will be scared away. Critical Mass, not Critical Mess! / I like the protest-political aspects of CM, but sometimes we go too far. The Union Square stand-off w/cops last year was infantile, and I left early. We can protest creatively without getting into macho standoffs with the police. / Remember, it's a be-in. Don't use for utilitarian political purposes / It's a great event. Shouldn't try to manage it too much. The air of spontaneity is a key to the great feeling / CM constantly runs the risk of alienating motorists with the "outlaw biker" nature and image that it has by definition. It's important that they not be alienated, for they make up a much larger bloc of voters than cyclists do. Most motorists would support many of the cycling reforms proposed (and these changes will affect them), so their support of cyclists' goal swill make political change easier. We need to start handing out flyers thanking them for waiting and explaining our motives like we used to do. Maybe we should even write editorials or letters to the editor in local papers so that people don't think we're just a bunch of motherfuckers who block traffic once a month / More themes would be nice, and I think routes and themes should be sent over the net so that the word about themes or routes could be planned for ahead of time / The "regroups" that happen every few miles on some CMs are a good thing. It allows slower riders to catch up. It allows the group to "mass" again instead of spreading too thin. No matter what anyone does, some cyclists will ride very fast. If you don't use "regroups" or some other technique for slower riders to catch up, then CM becomes an event for hard-core cyclists only. CM will be more successful if it is open to ALL people with a bike. That includes the casual/recreational cyclists. / Without being too organized, it should do more to educate others. Perhaps encourage individuals to come us with flyers, etc? / The Bike people rule! / thanks for the fun. How about a weekend event? / Change is slow. The rides are still serving a good purpose, and, as always, they basically have a mind of their own, which is good. I wonder how much effect anyone can have over making them more political, more social, or even widening their impact at all. But amassing so many cyclists on a regular basis will probably, over time, encourage people to bike more, network more, and recognize cyclists as a force to be reckoned with. This is the kind of "snowball effect" I'd love to see happen. / I love it and look forward to it each month! Let's put the additional protests a la BART protest at the very end of a long ride. How about an optional trash pick-up at the end of a ride at the beach, a park (McLaren) with city-provided bags, brooms, etc. / Keep it safe, positive, and productive. There are probably people who want it to be more hardcore and protest-oriented, but alienating motorists and city officials more than necessary to make a statement only serves to breed contempt. That's bad. If Mass could be used as a forum to encourage specific action by the city to help cyclists, it'd be great. If we had an official "membership" roster of who we are, perhaps we could create a more coherent "voice" which we could use to influence policy / Keep doing it and having fun at it making the most of felicity and general goodness toward others with less of an emphasis placed on political agendas or "bicycle rights". Cars are our friends. It may be kinda fun to take CM to a place and have a safety demonstration in cooperation with local authorities--giving them a feeling of excitement through an exchange of ideas involving motorists, etc. / Bring more flyers explaining intent to hand to the baffled yet cheering pedestrians, bring horns and bells / keep it slow / I'd like to see more women there and it would be fun to get groups of kids out there like from the projects or neighborhoods. / Last September, while passing out flyers prior to CM which called for the demolition of the Central Freeway, I realized that many Massers have lost sight of the point of the ride. To me the connection between Critical Mass and the removal of the Central Freeway was clear. Critical Mass is a demonstration of bikes as an alternative to the dominance of automobiles in our environment. The potential removal of the Central Freeway is a step in that direction. Nevertheless, many Masser just didn't get it. "How will we get around?" many asked. Huh? To many riders CM is a chance to "party in the City." I love the celebratory atmosphere of CM but its philosophical and political direction seems to have diminished. Perhaps it's time to revive the ride's sense of purpose. Educational leaflets, pre- and or post-CM rallies might help. / Now that I've started, I don't want to stop! Long Live Critical Mass!!

Do you support the concept of a comprehensive grid of segregated bikeways with dedicated signals, curbs, and traffic rules for bicycles in San Francisco? If so, why? If not, why not?

YES= 24, NO= 9, MAYBE = 5 comments follow:

In the current political economic climate, I don't support major infrastructural changes. As an underclass, bicyclists cannot alienate any of our potential coalition partners by asking for expensive projects. I would like changes in vehicle code enforcement, more education and awareness so that current infrastructure accommodates alternative transportation. Obviously some costly changes are needed to modify some structures. Unfortunately without something like segregated bikeways, a sizeable potential group of riders will not chose bicycling: Catch-22. / yes, it works in Amsterdam / no. i have seen bicycles and autos commingle and coexist on the same roadways, and don't believe that in an enlightened society (like we'd all like to think we live in!) with proper vehicle education (motorist AND OTHERWISE!) that there's a justification for the excessive cost and real estate that segregation of motorized and non-motorized vehicles would require. (especially since we are all supposed to have the same rights and responsibilities on the road...) in holland, in a bicycle/motor vehicle accident, unless extenuating circumstances can be proven, the motorist is almost automatically considered t o be at fault. i think this would be extreme considering the way i see most american cyclists ride, as it assumes the cyclist is generally operating in a proper manner, but in a society that doesn't focus in THE CAR as an extension of your personas, the bicycle operator EARNS and gets due respect. THERE, cyclists DO generally operate properly, and in the case of an accident, it's not usually the cyclists fault. but their laws have been written in a manner that's reasonably conducive to cycling../. No. Too expensive, and too difficult. It'll be easier to calm traffic, and make other improvements (like connecting routes which have been cut-off by freeways creeks, etc.). I especially like the idea of peak-hour restrictions --see the Bay St. Clearway in Toronto (bikes buses & taxis only). In Toronto, they also prohibit on-street parking during peak hours on many roads... *really* helpful ('course they may already do this in SF, 'dunno). / No its probably not cost effective. Bikes and cars will always have to mix. The money would probably be better spent making certain streets very bike friendly (timed lights, traffic barriers, and smooth pavement) and put the rest of the money into public transit. / I have two concerns about bicycling that relate to bike paths vs. bike lanes.One is speed, the other is safety. I think one can get reasonable speeds with either approach. So safety is the issue. I may be wrong but I think the evidence is that in an urban environment the bike lanes are safer. Not to mention cheaper. / Sure, so long as it took space away from the segregated carways with dedicated signals, curbs, and traffic rules. There's plenty of excess car capacity in this city. / Yes. Cars are not only ugly, but their MEAN! A bikeway system would give us increased protection and safety, as well as more respectibility. / Bikelanes and bikepaths yes, more signals no. Traffic planning is already at an all time low in SF, and every little group (including CM) is only solving their own little (in comparison to the whole) pathetic needs. We have idiots like Brown who want to tear down the central freeway without putting any kind of alternative in place. I drive to work quite often. I live in the Richmond and work in the East Bay and I need my car during work. I ride to work when I can, but public transit is right out. There needs to be a comprehensive overhaul of the entire traffic structure in SF and bicycles should be a part of that plan with the intention that if a safer way is made then more people will ride. As it is now, the actual driving time from one part of the city to another is comparison to what it should take is pathetic. The twits on the Board of Supes tore down the Embarcadero, ugly but efficient in moving people and built this new thing on the ground. It looks much better but the lights are not timed, the speed limit is around 25 and it takes far too long to go that way. We need some sort of ring around/through the city like Chicago or Munich. And this new ring should also allow for bicycles. / Yes, would like to see a user friendly, not-too-complicated system. / No to traffic rules, but YES to bike lanes and ways, signals / Hell Yes! Because we need to respected as an equally viable and practically smarter method of transport. If we had safer methods to travel, more would join us. / OF COURSE. I've been to Germany and Scandinavia and it works great! / No, sounds a little much. Just give me an extra 3 feet of space on the road and I'm fine / In some places, segregated bikeways make sense, while in general, I believe bikes belong on roadways. However I'd like to see a comprehensive bike route system to encourage more bicyclists and bike commuters / Yes, but once it happens we will look back at the golden years of bicycle anarchy / Yes, to enhance the safety and pleasure of bicycling / In areas where this is feasible I think it could be a good thing. A lot of people who might want to ride a bike are just too intimidated to do it on the streets of S.F. But given the funding and political constraints, I don't think that it would be feasible to develop a totally separate system. In most areas we'll need to share the road / Upon second thought--No. While the idea sounds attractive initially ... Bikes are vehicles and should be ridden on roads; the roads (and motorists) just need to be made bike-friendly thru traffic calming, realistic bike lanes, road improvements and car-only stop signs and signals, and motorist education / We should discuss this at a much later point (10-20 years from now), for now we should be talking about how to traffic-calm a few streets / Yes, safety and increases enjoyment and therefore encourages more people to ride / Yes, because when the city evolved there were no cyclists to give input. We need retrofitting for locomotion. / Absolutely. The bicycle is a clean, efficient, healthy, social, cheap form of transportation. The car is not. Let's improve transportation in SF. / It would be great if we could have a system described here (just like Holland), but American drivers would have to completely change. I would prefer wide bike lanes on most streets (Dream: eliminate parallel parking) / Well, if we get our own rules, I want cars, pedestrians, rollerbladers, etc. to have rules and follow them as well. I'm opposed to rules without rights. If we had our own paths, it would not be as necessary to break existing rules. I'd rather go without special paths and continue getting around without special rules. If paths mean signals, etc. for bikes, forget them. / SURE. What am I supposed to want, more cars? / Possibly, but I would like to know more about it. I definitely want SF to be more of a bike friendly city. I definitely want more bike lanes like those found on Baker St., upper Market near Castro. And Santa I also want more places to lock a bike. / Yes, more bikes = less traffic (I drive too, of course), bikeways = safer cycling = more cyclists / Yes, if they were really comprehensive. And would their existence mean bikes would not be allowed on the "car streets"? / Stuff like this has to make sense fiscally, politically, functionally and logically. Sure, it'd be great to have all that stuff, but not at the expense of snarling traffic for motorists and blowing the city budget. Balance is the key. Let's figure out what will REALLY help and take it one step at at time / No, although there are areas of the city which are les suited for bikes and could be improved, I'm not in favor if "comprehensive grids" and don't see their necessity in SF as I've encountered few situations which are unavoidable / 1) reroute auto traffic to accommodate bicycle-only streets, 2) Tear down Central Freeway, or blockade so only traversable by foot/bike, 3) electric shocks in car seats, activated when vehicle runs a yellow or red, double for MUNI, esp. J Church, 4) All city officials and cops ride a bike to work twice a week, 5) 2-way bike bridge from Embarcadero to Emeryville, 6) Critical Mass Aug. 30 at Burning Man! / Yes, all cities in American need far more bike lanes with curbs preferably. / Yes, it's better to have bike thoroughfares for commuting. Most people I talk to don't bike in the city because they don't feel safe. Bike routes should 1) have minimum train tracks, 2) shallow grade, 3) no bus lines, 4) go useful places / I have mixed feeling about it: separate bikeways means we've given the streets over to cars. On the other hand people who otherwise might not bike because of safety concerns, might do so with separate bikeways--although they aren't necessarily safer--especially when cars use them for parking (i.e. Market St. bikeway) / Hmm, sounds a little too involved, and unrealistic. I support car-free zones--only pedestrians, bikes and MUNI. There SHOULD be more bike lanes and traffic laws shouldn't equate bikes with cars (imagine!!). Laws should treat bikes more like pedestrians.

Are you following the slowly evolving Comprehensive Bike Plan for SF?

YES=22, NO=10, Don't care=2 Have you participated? Y=8, N=14, sort of=12

Have you participated? sort of - but again it is a selfish plan that does not address the needs of the greater whole of SF and their transporation needs. /

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