Tag Archives: Critical Mass

Bike Bits: Lionel Shriver, women on wheels & more

Happy Monday! Here are a few bike-related links I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the past few days.

HerStoria magazine coverHerStoria magazine has a piece on the early days of women and bikes. Though there’s nothing groundbreaking here, it’s a good overview of the questions that cycling raised around the turn of the century—and a reminder that a backlash for challenging norms is nothing new.

Would these  ‘free’ or ‘new’ bicycling women become sexually outré and masculinised , turning their backs on traditional family values and undermining the natural authority of men? If so, such daring women were nothing short of a threat to the well-being of the race and of the nation as a whole.

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Shriver

The July issue of the Atlantic has a piece on the London cycling scene by one of my favorite authors, Lionel Shriver, who tackles the subject with her typical contrarian charm.

Cycling was once my little secret. While the clueless lavished fortunes on train tickets, car repairs, and taxis, I saved a bundle. I got my exercise, while the proles, after a prolonged, miserable journey home, had to face another trip, to a stuffy, jam-packed gym.

My secret is out.

But she’s not rejoicing about this: for Shriver, cycling hell is other cyclists. More specifically, London cyclists, whom she says are more “cutthroat, vicious, reckless, hostile, and violently competitive” than those in America or Europe. If you’ve ever contemplated the dark side of achieving critical mass, and then felt guilty for it—read this piece.

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Also in the gloom-and-doom department: this piece on the Atlantic Cities blog on the failure of the latest transportation bill.

Lawmakers had the opportunity to achieve transformative change. They didn’t seize it.

(Surprise, surprise?)

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And finally, Lovely Bicycle had a thoughtful post on women and food. Though I’ve never counted calories, this disconnect between hunger and the need for nourishment that begins when you get older—and the anxiety it can cause—struck a chord with me:

At age 12, feeling hungry simply meant I needed to eat something. But by age 22, this connection had become severed. There was nervous hunger, cravings for comfort food during all the endless studying, emotional eating.

What links have you enjoyed this week? Share in the comments.

p.s. Our e-newsletter is delayed this month, but we promise delivery later today!

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Critical Mass in the News

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.

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First Suburban Critical Mass a Success!

The Critical Mass ride that Melissa organized was a huge success! Fifty people showed up for the first Critical Mass ride in Aurora, a town about an hour from Chicago. There was a mixed group, including families with children, city employees, young hip guys, lycra racers, older riders, chic cyclists and even a tall bike.

The ride was definitely a Critical Mass in all the best ways.  We had lots of cheery balloons, smiles, waves and “Thank You” signs. The reaction from drivers, pedestrians and other on-lookers was overwhelmingly positive.  Motor vehicle traffic was very minimally obstructed, as most of the route had two lanes going in each direction, making it easy for cars to go around the group.  (I did not witness any negativity at all, but if some drivers were upset by the ride, that is their problem. No progress is ever made without upsetting some people who prefer the status quo.)

Check out these pictures, which describe the ride much better than my words can.

…and there was the press.

Resulting in the third positive article about bicycling in one week in the local paper, “Fifty turn out for Sunday (Critical) Mass.” The next ride will be October 31.

Go Aurora!

Anyone out there living in other a smaller town or the suburbs should consider starting their own movement. All it takes is some people, bikes and passion.

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