Thursday, October 18, 2007

Response to Katherine Kersten's Oct 3 Column-Critical Mass

A while ago I sent this in as a letter to the editor. It didn't get published so I'm posting it here.

In Katherine Kersten's October 3th column she discusses Critical Mass: a monthly bicycle ride through downtown Minneapolis. In her column she defines Critical Mass as a loosely organized group of people, and she is right to do so. However, the unconsidered side of her definition is that different people ride for different reasons: some of these are environmental and geopolitical and some ride to improve the condition of commuting cyclists. I consider myself in the last category and in this letter I will only attempt to speak for these riders.

Like most cyclists in this category, when I ride ( to work or in critical mass ) I try to follow the law: I ride to the right, I yield and stop when signage directs me to, signal my turns, and at night use lights. I also ride as cautiously and courteously as I can, when I can by riding on trails and low traffic streets and by wearing high visibility clothing ( the day-glow spandex isn't for fashion ). But like most other cyclists of my type, this hasn't kept me safe: for no reason I can understand people buzz, honk, yell names, throw things like rocks and full unopened pop cans at me, or worst of all don't even look for me at stop signs or lights.

While this happens only occasionally, why do people act like this? I don't know. I don't want to think most people are evil, so the only reason I can think of is because people don't know the law. So to me, CM and activities like it(like this letter) are the only way I can think of to inform them.
So while Kersten might not agree with the methods of Critical Mass, to me this is the goal. Do I wish some people were better behaved? Yeah I do. Intentionally blocking traffic is counterproductive to most of the rider's individual goals but what can I do about it? It's a loosely organized group of people. In the end I can only hope the word gets out: cycling isn't a crime.