Does Critical Mass help or hurt the cause of bicyclists? This question is as rife with tension as the big helmet question. Neither is a debate I’m interested in dredging up here. Personally, I think Critical Mass in Chicago is great, but I can understand and respect arguments to the contrary, subject to the same caveat I have for any argument: that it be thoughtful and intelligent.
This week, some guy who wants to sell his book on “urban cycling” wrote a highly inflammatory post against Critical Mass, using the horrifying photo of a car driver crashing into (and killing members of) a group of cyclists in Mexico with the caption, “When is something like this going to happen in Chicago thanks to Critical Mass?” The text of his post is as bad, with gems like this: “Critical Massholes are to fundamentalist terrorists what Islam is to cycling.” That does not even make sense, but you get the idea. His book cover is equally awful, a yellow and black graphic of a bicyclist plunging over a car.
I am very tuned in to Chicago’s bicycling scene, but I had never heard of this guy or his blog until today. I’m not buying what he’s selling and I won’t link to his site from here, but apparently his distasteful publicity stunt is working, because he also got the attention of the press.
Earlier today, Chicago Tonight, a local PBS/WTTW news show that I watch nightly, had a discussion about Critical Mass, featuring this guy, along with Gin Kilgore, a Mass participant and creator of Bike Winter and all-around awesome woman, and Ethan Spotts of Active Trans. Host Phil Ponce did a great job moderating. Overall, I thought the segment was a positive piece for Critical Mass. You can check it out for yourself below. After the intro, jump ahead to 3:25 for the discussion.
I am not interested in starting a Critical Mass debate, but I do want to share this video and point out that there are ways to argue against the Mass with dignity and respect. It’s a shame for both sides when those who fail to do so get the attention.