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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Syracuse Critical Mass Ride 

I was excited to see that someone had gone through the effort to organize a critical mass ride in Syracuse (see Link for Flyer). Granted I don't usually get excited about mass exhibiting like this, preferring to make more subtle avenues, but I am interested in my rights to the roadways and thought I would check out the ride and lend my support as a part of the mass.

I must say there was a pretty good turn-out, much better than I expected. Everyone met at the steps of Hendricks Chapel on the Syracuse U. quad at 5 pm, but due to some promotion mistakes, we had to wait around till 5:30 to leave as different times had been posted in different places. We headed out north towards and through Marshall St, then back towards South Campus, and then north again through Westcott, then turn-around and back south along Westcott, then back to the Syracuse Campus ending at the student center.

It was a good ride all-in-all. We stayed together well at first, even with some skateboarders in the group. Folks were doing good jobs of protecting the riders from cross traffic at intersections by blocking the side streets. The route went through a combo of university property, some quieter residential areas, and the main drag from main to south campus where traffic was backed up quite a bit by our ride. It felt great to be part of such a large group of riders, it felt safe to be on the street, I mean really safe as a part of this bubble, and I had never experienced riding so slow in the middle of a traffic lane before (we had to keep a pace doable for the whole group ya know).

But what I didn't like was some of the following: not stopping at red lights when we encountered them (I have no problem with the group going through lights that change red from green while we are in the middle of the intersection transverse, but when a stoplight is red and the first rider reaches it the mass should stop); passing cars on the right and the left both while travelling in the traffic lane and while they were stopped at lighted intersections; riding on the wrong side of the street and headlong into and around oncoming traffic; yelling aggressively at people in thier cars who are minding their own business; and yelling loudly to anyone listening "We Own the Streets!" (we don't solely own the streets, and neither do the car drivers, we share them, and should be considerate of each other).

Basically, I was there to show people in cars that bicyclists have the same rights to the road as they do, that we can coexist peacefully, and that I am not a threat to them; but this group managed to undoubtedly alienate many car drivers during this mass ride, and probably even scare them, and they certainly did not give good example of the kind of riding behavior that car drivers should be able to expect from bicyclists. I was going to hang with the group a bit further as they made way towards Armory Square as part of an extension to the main ride, but the group was getting more out-of-order, crossing intersections haphazardly, slicing through parked cars on all sides, and causing some drivers to honk and show signs of contempt towards us bicyclists. I left soon enough and peacefully made my way home.

I don't quite know what to say further. Was the ride a success or a failure? I am sure everyone of the ride would have a different opinion. Perhaps I just wasn't aware of what the purpose of the ride was? If it was to alienate and be aggressive in general causing a lot of muck-muck, then I am not down with it. I have mixed feelings as to how I should support this group, if at all.

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