This week there's been a debate on the Velolove email list in Vancouver about Critical Mass: should it be abandoned or radically altered now that we have a few bike lanes and a pro-bike council? The debate got me so riled I decided to go to Critical Mass for the first time in years, partly to re-assess my ideas about the event. I also wanted to show support for bike culture in general at a time when the haters are hating and they've taken over Toronto.
A basic medical ethic says: First, do no harm. In other words, don't make things worse or it will be harder to make them better. A few folks think that Critical Mass does more harm than good, especially now that bike culture has invaded city hall.
I don't think CM needs to stop just because we got a couple of bike lanes built in Vancouver. How many Vancouverites really understand how important CM, and other bike-advocacy clusters, really were in that process? The visibility of any interest group contributes to their political success, and cyclists are no exception. So if CM faded away, what would happen to everything cyclists have gained in this city? Do the powers behind the automotive industry and consumer culture in general just fold up their tents and admit defeat?
Would those same people argue that the car culture in Toronto will now sit back and enjoy their victory, stop agitating their base, etc, now that Rob Ford has declared the war on the car is over? Should the cyclists in TO just give up? No to both, of course; cars will keep trying to consume everything put into their gas tanks and cyclists will keep struggling for saner alternatives.
Is there any other activist camp that has a big public party once a month? CM is a vital and unique node, and it should continue.
I can assure you that after a super-fun, polite, and exciting tiny little ride (one person counted 28 riders at peak), I came away certain that Critical Mass can do no harm. We got one unfriendly honk versus dozens of friendly toot toots, lots of hollers, the group stayed very tight (it was small, after all) and corking was barely necessary.