The Chainlink

Showing Up: Fight the Internet for the Soul of Critical Mass!

After holding out I finally joined The Chainlink last week (I'm a Facebook & Twitter avoider too).  Yeah!  I get an email about events this week.  Yeah!!  After a bad run-in with a car yesterday, I decide to cheer myself up by going to Wicker Park Critical Mass. Yeah!!!

...only to find a 20+ strong crowd of mostly hipsters (and Chopper Carl), the vast majority of whom:
  • heard about the ride from the Chainlink
  • have never been on a Critical Mass
These kids are standing around waiting, no, begging for someone to follow.  I make an impromptu map and we set off 40 minutes late... and it's clear from the start this is not a usual Mass.  No cohesion, no corking, no sense of direction, no parade pace (Carl's buddy with a sound system bike could barely keep up).  And then one kid yells "Let's stop at the grocery store!" and 3/4 of the ride follows him across oncoming traffic and then sits confusedly in a parking lot.  After we get going again, I decide leading is too much work and slip in at the very back of the ride... only to find that folks thought they were following me.  I bailed a few blocks later.

This was not a Critical Mass - it was clueless mob.

I don't blame the kids involved (how could they know any better?  they've never done this before) but the the veteran riders who promoted WPCM and didn't show up.  Last night, The Chainlink showed me that we have an amazing tool for recruiting and organizing - but when we plan events like this and then don't follow through, we put our culture at risk. 

You can't ride your bike on the Internet.  As Alex said: "If you don't show up, you don't get to vote. If you don't vote, you don't get to complain."  Drivers and pedestrians and the public are not on this site - the righteous fury of our keyboards and screens is not going to get us more bike lanes or reduce dooring or show the world how much fun they could have.

Unplug, people.  Your bike misses you.

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Yup, that's 19 more than the last time I attended.
Whoever listed the ride on the internet without planning to show up with a route,complete timeline/itinerary, bullhorn, sign-in sheets, waivers, first aid kits, and a mobile bike repair station should be drawn and quartered.

M.A.R.K. said:
Sorry to hear WPCM was a bust.. Or was it? Having 20 people show up is better then having zero people show up. Whether they were clueless or not.
Yeah Pete. That rendition of what happened sucks! You took charge which was your choice. You did not have to. No one has to.

And i have ridden Mass before and let's be honest, it's usually a clueless mob. It's people drinking and riding bikes. Something I'd like to point out is that with a small mass corking isn't that necessary and a couple of times i saw a guy stop and cork for 5 seconds. Why on earth get off your bike for 5 seconds?

I'm still laughin' about the grocery store stop. One of our riders, that I will not out, thought that a guy on a bike was with us and followed him on his grocery store run. Fuckin' funny! ;-) You might need to relax just a little.

I was happy to see so many faces that were happy and ready to ride. And as far as people asking to start riding that built to a fever pitch and then we rolled. We never leave on any set schedule. If you wanted to leave earlier. Then start circling man.

We ended up goin to a bar that we hit on the FBC ride and saw turtle races. Aaron also managed to break his wrist. And i had a drunk guy that wasn't with us rub my thigh when he was aiming for Laura's. His friends put him in a cab. ;-)

Was a lot of fun!
I like to blame my wrist for ruining the ride and internets.....damn navicular bone
Ahhh yes, we also found Amanda while riding randomly and ran into Aaron and John at the bar! Then Aaron broke his wrist being Aaron! ;-) Great Ride!
Gabe said:
Yeah Pete. That rendition of what happened sucks! You took charge which was your choice. You did not have to. No one has to.

I didn't take charge. I started doing something because I was bored of waiting around. A bunch of folks started following me... until they started following some/no one else.

And i have ridden Mass before and let's be honest, it's usually a clueless mob. It's people drinking and riding bikes.

If that's all it is, then we've dropped the ball at the main Mass as well. Critical Mass is not just a show of numbers - it's a show of what the world could be like. When we are as thoughtless in our actions as folks in cars are, all we've shown is that we can make pains in the necks of ourselves. Perhaps we're overdue to remind ourselves of that difference.

Something I'd like to point out is that with a small mass corking isn't that necessary and a couple of times i saw a guy stop and cork for 5 seconds. Why on earth get off your bike for 5 seconds?

We cork for the same reason we don't ride as fast as we can. We cork to create space for ourselves and keep all of us safe, including the slow guys on sound system bikes and folders. Or did you just ignore those guys while getting drunk with your friends?

I'm still laughin' about the grocery store stop. One of our riders, that I will not out, thought that a guy on a bike was with us and followed him on his grocery store run. Fuckin' funny! ;-) You might need to relax just a little.

And the rest of the ride followed them, and then just stood in the parking lot looking confused until I came over and asked what they were waiting for. At which point y'all decided you didn't have a reason for being there, and took off again (into oncoming traffic). I thought that was a dumb way to leave the lot, so I rolled down the sidewalk and wound up at the back... where I chatted with several folks who thought I was at the front leading them.

It's hard to be relaxed about people acting like sheep. Sorry if that offends, but I don't know what else to call it.

I was happy to see so many faces that were happy and ready to ride. And as far as people asking to start riding that built to a fever pitch and then we rolled. We never leave on any set schedule. If you wanted to leave earlier. Then start circling man.

That's exactly what I did, actually - I was the first one on my bike.

A mob follows itself. The individuals in a Mass lead themselves. That's a real distinction, and an important one.

If you'd like to have Last Friday Cyclist Mob, you're welcome to do so. But out of respect for the people who have worked long and hard for almost 20 years, both in Chicago & globally, to build Critical Mass, please don't call your mob a Mass.

Well, this whole rant is facilitative at the very least.

We are in the process of our third Bicycle Renaissance.

The first, at the end of the 19th century, was borne out of transportational/utilitarian needs, and took on a social element.

The second, in the 1960s-70s, saw bicycles as primarily a sport/leisure/recreational/consumerist pastime, which bled somewhat (but not a whole lot, really) into the utilitarian as a few isolated individuals discovered that their bikes were also pretty convenient for getting from A to B.

The current bicycle rennaisance has components of sport/leisure, utilitarian/transportational, and social.

I don't think it would be unreasonable to argue that building and strengthening all three of these prongs might be a good way to try to push us into a full-fledged bicycle age rather than leaving us pining about the wane of the millenial bicycle rennaisance.

Don't discount the power and the value of the bicycle as a soclal tool. If a neighborhood mass consisted of a bunch of 20-somethings showing up and standing around chatting for 2 or 3 hours and then heading on their separate ways, it would still have value towards "the movement."

Too nice out to write any more-- on my way to recycling and to Blue City.
H3N3 said:
Yup, that's 19 more than the last time I attended.
Whoever listed the ride on the internet without planning to show up with a route,complete timeline/itinerary, bullhorn, sign-in sheets, waivers, first aid kits, and a mobile bike repair station should be drawn and quartered.

That's bull Howard & you know it... we've both on mini-Masses as small as 5 without all that and it's still the Mass. ;-)

Getting 20 cyclists together does not magically transform them into Critical Mass. It takes effort and teaching and communicating to pass on those real-world practices & ideas which make the Mass different from a mob. When we instigate folks and then send them blindly into traffic without the benefit of our collective experience, we put not only them at risk, but whatever weird awesome bike culture we're trying to build at risk as well.
critical mass has no leaders...you need a soap box it seems though...cm is different for everyone....you want it to be one thing and others have their own idea...nothing is right or wrong it just is what it is....you shouldnt need a map for a simple bike ride...unless you are a tourist or leading people to some place
So what exactly is it that you want?

Are you saying the event should not have been listed?

Are you saying whoever listed it advertised it falsely?

Are you saying whoever listed it was negligent for not showing up and "leading?"

Are you advocating that the event no longer be listed?

I honestly don't know what your intent is, apart from the suggestion that the internet is somehow responsible for what sounds like a bit of a haphazard neighborhood mass (with an unusually high turnout proportional to the amount of effort that went into promoting it.)


Pete Fein said:
H3N3 said:
Yup, that's 19 more than the last time I attended.
Whoever listed the ride on the internet without planning to show up with a route,complete timeline/itinerary, bullhorn, sign-in sheets, waivers, first aid kits, and a mobile bike repair station should be drawn and quartered.

That's bull Howard & you know it... we've both on mini-Masses as small as 5 without all that and it's still the Mass. ;-)

Getting 20 cyclists together does not magically transform them into Critical Mass. It takes effort and teaching and communicating to pass on those real-world practices & ideas which make the Mass different from a mob. When we instigate folks and then send them blindly into traffic without the benefit of our collective experience, we put not only them at risk, but whatever weird awesome bike culture we're trying to build at risk as well.
Aaron Bussey said:
critical mass has no leaders...you need a soap box it seems though...

Ideally, CM has no followers either. Lack of leaders doesn't mean lack of purpose

The Chainlink & the rest of the Internet echo chamber isn't my soapbox... when I want to be heard, I shout in the street & I'm not afraid to look like an idiot while I do it. What about the rest of you?

cm is different for everyone....you want it to be one thing and others have their own idea...

What I want is for it to have some idea, some purpose... it doesn't have to be mine. That's not what I saw last night.

nothing is right or wrong it just is what it is....

All relativism gets us is the status quo, in this, the best of all possible worlds. Take a stand instead.

you shouldnt need a map for a simple bike ride...unless you are a tourist or leading people to some place

Where were we leading ourselves last night?
H3N3 said:
So what exactly is it that you want?

Are you saying the event should not have been listed?

Are you saying whoever listed it advertised it falsely?

Are you saying whoever listed it was negligent for not showing up and "leading?"

Are you advocating that the event no longer be listed?

I honestly don't know what your intent is, apart from the suggestion that the internet is somehow responsible for what sounds like a bit of a haphazard neighborhood mass (with an unusually high turnout proportional to the amount of effort that went into promoting it.)

Yes, I'm saying that whoever (hi Payton) listed this event without showing up for it is being irresponsible.

I'm saying that we have a tool here that lets us reach 3000+ people in under a minute (we both know how long it would take to flyer that many bikes), and as such requires that we be responsible in its use. I'm saying that despite that power, it's not a substitute for flyering, or for riding.

I'm also saying that it seems to be high time that CCM reminded itself of what makes us us, and not just another mob of bikes.

And finally, I'm saying it's time to clean the house. ;-)
This thread has been brought to you buy 'taking things to seriously' and 'sore butts,' thank you and good night.

Sheeze.

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