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.
File this under “schlocky local news strikes again.”
I could not watch the entire video because I was shaking in rage from the opening line: “Bicyclists on the streets of Chicago face many dangers, but they may put themselves in that position and frequently frustrate others on the road.” (Next up on Channel 7 news – Domestic violence victims: why don’t they just leave the guy??)
This is how the mainstream media uses a few examples to twist reality and perpetuate false truths about bicyclists. I ride through Chicago every day and I see hundreds of bicyclists riding lawfully and courteously. Anyone could stand on the corner of downtown Chicago during rush hour and record footage of drivers and pedestrians breaking traffic laws, but no one’s broadcasting a story about how those who die in car crashes everyday are asking for it. This story is bullshit, total car-head on display.
I’ve long been a fan of The Guardian, so when they launched a bike blog over the summer that collates all their cycling coverage, I signed up to receive updates. So far, I’ve not been disappointed. It covers a broad range of cycling culture and news.
There are women contributors who write about everything from harassment to riding in a skirt. The show’s current podcast, second in what’s to be a monthly series, included an interview with cyclist and Olympic medal winner Victoria Pendleton, who said that while she enjoys racing and can’t wait for London 2012, she looks forward “to the day when I don’t have an agenda [while riding]” and can “just toodle” around with her friends. Perhaps she was imagining that while posing for this picture.
Pendelton with a Pashley Poppy, from the Daily Mail via Cyclechic.co.uk
Also featured were reviews of the new Trek Soho (described as “stately” yet “slightly chunky”) and the Sirrus Elite (the “boy racer” of hybrid bikes), and an inside look at Pashley (not only is business up, they’re opening a new distribution center . . . in Taiwan!).
Check out today’s BBC Woman’s Hour, which posits that women are actually more at risk on a bike than men (six out of seven cyclists killed in London by “heavy goods vehicles” this year were women), though no real reason or further figures on this were given. Training videos for truck drivers, safety devices like proximity sensors, and other ideas for improving cyclists’ safety are discussed. It’s nothing ground-breaking (I was disappointed that the discussion with four female commuters focused on, you guessed it, helmet hair), but at least women are speaking for themselves, even if it’s just for a minute or two. You can download here (right-click and “save target as”) or stream it live here.
I don’t have cable. My boss teases that I am one of the few people under 70 who will be affected by the digital TV conversion next month (for the record, I’ve been ready since February 2007). This does not affect my life in any major way, but it does explain why, on the few occasions I turn the TV on in the morning, I watch the “news” shows on one of the major networks.
“Today” used to be the default, just because everyone else watches it, but once I found out that Harry Smith rides his bike to work, I decided to switch to CBS’s “Early Show.”
Yesterday morning they had a segment on “choosing the perfect bike.” I think Dottie will be pleased that they chose the Jamis commuter! Since I’m not a road bike aficionado, I was underwhelmed by their other choices, but check it out for yourself. My favorite part was when the lady showing the bikes said that you don’t have to spend thousands, but “the thousands are pretty great, I’m not going to lie.” I’m off to write a letter to the show saying they should have suggested a Batavus.