08 October 2007

Critical Mass in Minneapolis, or How the heck did I get sucked into this?

From Minneapolis StarTribune:
Bike-riding mob owns the streets of Minneapolis

"Now we know who's in charge of Minneapolis streets. It's a loosely organized group of serial lawbreakers called Critical Mass. Last Friday, 600 or so took over city thoroughfares, breaking traffic laws with impunity while police stayed in the background.

"Every month, Critical Mass cyclists ride through rush hour traffic in cities across the country..."

It's the usual rant about those gosh-durned uppity bicyclists cloggin' traffic and breakin' laws and making everyone's life miserable, and it boils down to a criticism of protesting for the sake of protesting. I can't say I disagree with that sentiment (recent events* aside, really), but I do feel compelled to respond to a few points:

"Critical Mass's philosophy is to infringe on others' rights by disrupting traffic and running red lights."

No, Critical Mass's philosophy, as I understand now, is one of justice--as well as revenge, but the revenge is well deserved. We're talking about one evening a month versus all the other times of all the other days when drivers routinely question, ignore, and even deny our right to be on the road, when law-enforcement officials fail to uphold the pertinent traffic laws that exist to prevent us from dying while we exercise our right to be on the road, when lawmakers fail to pass new laws that are badly needed to fill gaps in the existing laws, when city planners design public ways and spaces that cater to motorists but completely ignore all other forms of transportation. One evening a month, versus the prevailing and too-often state-sanctioned attitudes of society. And on this one evening a month you point your finger and complain about infringement of your rights and wonder why nothing's being done. Well, now, how does it feel?

"Why are Minneapolis police condoning this lawbreaking? Because the guys upstairs do. Two City Council members, Cam Gordon and Robert Lilligren, joined the Critical Mass mob on last week's ride. Mayor R.T. Rybak also rode with the mob once several years ago."

Okay, what two City Council members and the mayor do on their own time (good grief, especially if it was once several years ago) is their own business. I know, in the real world nothing that politicians do is ever just their own business, but still. C'mon, if you want to sling mud, then dig up some real dirt!

"The '60s and '70s brought a sea change. For the middle- and upper-class young people who flooded into the streets, protest became a vehicle for self-assertion..."

You can see where this is going--"The kids these days!" Yeah, all those petulant spoiled rich *cough*white*cough* kids flaunting their countercultural symbols and flouting the law to "express themselves" are just ruining society, aren't they. Well, I've got news for you: at the main event two Fridays ago, most of the participants were older than I am, and a good fraction of that was, shall we say, in different a age demographic altogether. And I'm 25, so you can't call me an overprivileged college brat. (Even when I was in college, I had a federal grant so big it would make a Democrat blush and vote to slash education funding. In fact, it probably did.) And I bike because I can't afford a damn car, so don't call me "middle- to upper-class," either. I may be pretentious, but I sure as hell ain't rich.

Oh, and I'm not anarchist, either--would an anarchist do this?

JMD in 20??
Independent for IL Governor
Welcome to the future.

Vote for me because I don't like anyone well enough to hand out cushy state jobs. And I've never cheated on my spouse. Because I don't have one.

[Tip o' the helmet to Urbana-Champaign Bicycle Commute, even though she doesn't appear to sympathize much.]

*Actually, just the most recent event aside. In case you couldn't tell from that entry, I had a pretty shitty time at the main Mass on the 28th. It was an excuse to ride my brand-new bike downtown during rushhour, see what all the fuss was about, and then brag about it later, and honestly, it wasn't worth it. I was also mutitasking, as I was on my way up to a party in Ravenswood, where I ended up sitting around getting piss-drunk and explaining to people I knew in high school that my life is exactly the same as it was three years ago except now I'm single and facing a layoff. I left without saying goodbye, was called an assortment of nasty words all the way back to the Loop, almost got hit at State and Dearborn, and was harassed for lugging a folded-up folding bike onto the Metra Electric. Yeah, what a power trip. How terribly selfish of me.


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