The last Friday of every month is Critical Mass, an event in which thousands of bicyclists in cities around the world demonstrate their right to the roads. San Diego’s Mass has grown substantially within the last year or so, typically topping 1,000 riders each month. With so many riders, there are bound to be a few who go off-message, or who show up to do something other than advocate for equal rights to the road. Unfortunately, a small subset of the riders who attend each month have temporarily succeeded in turning our local Critical Mass away from its positive agenda, and into something more like a raucous fratboy booze-cruise.
Perhaps this situation has evolved because there has not been a clear, positive concept of bicycle culture in San Diego to help shape the atmosphere of the ride. Some riders seem to arrive with a chip on their shoulders, angry at cars and drivers, and determined to “fuck things up” for everyone. This is not the goal of Critical Mass. Instead of yelling or laughing at drivers who have been stopped by the Mass, we should be smiling and waving. Instead of trying to intimidate drivers, we should be thanking them for their patience and assuring them that they will be on their way again soon. It’s not yielding the important message of bicyclists’ rights to be polite to drivers, it’s just common decency.
Thuggery by bicyclists is not a valid response to thuggery by drivers. Sure, we all have our laundry list of wrongs done to us by inconsiderate motorists. We’ve been doored, turned into, pushed over, yelled at, honked at, and flipped off, but if we turn around and repeat these behaviors on the last Friday of every month, we do nothing to increase the positive perception of bicycling in our community. Indeed, acting like a Mass-hole increases the danger for every San Diego bicyclist, who may become the victims of an irate driver’s misplaced, Mass-induced rage the next day or the next week. Critical Mass is about activism and advocacy, not animosity and anger. So, be an ambassador for bicycling in San Diego this Friday, and don’t be a Mass-hole.