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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Replies to This Discussion

OK, so to distill it all to concise points since you apparently can not:

1) You feel the mass was not well organized and that people where riding A) unsafely and B) to fast and where upset it did not measure up to the ideal mass.

2) You feel that even though Chainnlink gets people out to many of then are 'too new' to properly do a mass and there are not enough 'old timers' around to pass on the knowledge.

3) You feel this lack of 'old timers' is endangering the whole concept of Critical Mass.

4) You feel you ride Critical Mass every day, what ever that means, even if you aren't riding...

5) You feel we (not sure why you are including me, or anyone else, into your statement but whatever) are in danger of losing our identity through inactivity.

6) You do not like the concept of mass as a unruly drunken mob or a ride where the only point is to have fun.

7) And this one is implied to me; You think that the concept of Critical Mass is a fixed criteria.

Now I refute:

1) I agree this is often the case on every Critical Mass ride, ESPECIALLY the down town one and agree that everything should be done to prevent it and every Mass I am on I put effort into doing so. Many times I have yelled at people to ride safe, stay out of oncoming traffic or sprinted to the front to tell people to slow down. If you are not, or are unwilling, to do those things shut up because unless you are working to enact change you are simply another part of the problem. Of course this means you have to accept that you may never change these things but still does not mean you stop trying; Every large Mass I am on I end up unhappy about part of it but I try to change it from inside rather then uselessly complaining.

2) People have lives and you can't expect everyone to make every ride. Along those lines you where there so why did you not pick up the torch and lead? Oh, wait you did but then when things stopped going your way you got frustrated and stopped... You think every ride like that goes the way the leader wants? Why would you expect it from a ride where part of the whole concept is that there is no leader? I am confused as to how you can be such a proponent of a movement that has no leader but get so upset no one leads an event that is part of that movement... Think about it.

3) See above for most of it but also consider this: Mass is supposed to be an evolving concept.

4) How do you ride a ride that is meant to 'take back the streets through sheer numbers' every day even when you don't ride? This doesn't even make sense.

5) This one does not even make sense to me; Critical Mass does not define me as a person or a cyclist nor should it define anyone else or the cycling community as a whole. I know there are a lot of active cyclists in the Chicago area who give back a ton to the community and have a strong desire to not be associated with CCM. If we use CCM as our identity as a community we are cutting out a lot of good people.

6) Like it or not the Mass is a unruly drunken mob, especially in the summer. Half the people there are just there to party and make trouble which is a lot of the reason people have problems with CCM; if you do not see this or believe it you are lying to yourself. As for having fun as a purpose; what other purpose is there to ANY bike ride? Sure it is a way to let people know we have a right to the road and all that other stuff but trust me on this one, people come out because it is fun. Have a ride for the same purpose but make it no fun and no one is coming to your ride.

7) Critical Mass is not a fixed entity, it has changed over the years and will change in the years to come. Before my time, and the advent of 'Happy Friday' CCM was a much less friendly and happy event.

And with that I am done with this conversation unless you say something that is a clear and original statement or argument to any of these points because up till now you are continually repeating the same argument over and over again and never addressing or discussing the things that others have said. The idea is to have a discussion of evolving ideas and concepts not to simply repeat the same thing over and over again.

Pete Fein said:
Twenty people showed up on Friday for Wicker Park Critical Mass. Fifteen of them (3/4ths) heard about it through The Chainlink and had never been on any Critical Mass ride before. These folks went home with the idea that Critical Mass is "usually a [drunken] clueless mob" "the whole point of [which] is to have fun" (your words, not mine). During the ride, we repeatedly rode into oncoming traffic, antagonized drivers, nearly ditched our slower riders and generally followed the crowd without thinking & acting for ourselves. That hardly lives up to the ideal of the Mass (and I'm happy to provide more references than y'all care to read to that effect).

Getting people to show up is easier than ever, thanks to the Internet. That's a good thing. Transmitting the practices and values that make Critical Mass different from just a mob of bikes is as hard as it's ever been. It requires the continuous, active, on the ground involvement of the 'old hands' - and the cultivation of new ones. When we call for a Mass and then don't turn out to pass on our culture, we run the risk of losing it entirely.

The Chainlink is an incredibly powerful tool for organizing and recruiting. We could probably get 20 people to show up uninvited at Howard's house next week for a party. However, it's not the only tool - we still need to flyer - and more importantly, to ride. Otherwise we're no more than an echo chamber, and a Critical Mass in name only.

I ride Critical Mass every day of my life, even those days I don't get on my bicycle. I'm proud of that, and incredibly grateful to many people in this community for what they've taught me. But I'm scared and angry to see us at risk of losing what makes us us through negligence.

notoriousDUG said:
Well then what is the point? Restate the point of your original post with no commentary beyond a clear and concise statement about what it is you wish to say.

It seems the only point you have been trying to make is that the ride was not as organized as you want it and it is all the fault of The Chainlink but maybe I am confused as to your actual point.

Pete Fein said:
And, for the record, I think I had a really important point to make here, but it got totally lost in the course of my acting like a jerk. Sorry 'bout that. ;(
Yeah I'm done too. Namaste.

notoriousDUG said:
OK, so to distill it all to concise points since you apparently can not:

1) You feel the mass was not well organized and that people where riding A) unsafely and B) to fast and where upset it did not measure up to the ideal mass.

2) You feel that even though Chainnlink gets people out to many of then are 'too new' to properly do a mass and there are not enough 'old timers' around to pass on the knowledge.

3) You feel this lack of 'old timers' is endangering the whole concept of Critical Mass.

4) You feel you ride Critical Mass every day, what ever that means, even if you aren't riding...

5) You feel we (not sure why you are including me, or anyone else, into your statement but whatever) are in danger of losing our identity through inactivity.

6) You do not like the concept of mass as a unruly drunken mob or a ride where the only point is to have fun.

7) And this one is implied to me; You think that the concept of Critical Mass is a fixed criteria.

Now I refute:

1) I agree this is often the case on every Critical Mass ride, ESPECIALLY the down town one and agree that everything should be done to prevent it and every Mass I am on I put effort into doing so. Many times I have yelled at people to ride safe, stay out of oncoming traffic or sprinted to the front to tell people to slow down. If you are not, or are unwilling, to do those things shut up because unless you are working to enact change you are simply another part of the problem. Of course this means you have to accept that you may never change these things but still does not mean you stop trying; Every large Mass I am on I end up unhappy about part of it but I try to change it from inside rather then uselessly complaining.

2) People have lives and you can't expect everyone to make every ride. Along those lines you where there so why did you not pick up the torch and lead? Oh, wait you did but then when things stopped going your way you got frustrated and stopped... You think every ride like that goes the way the leader wants? Why would you expect it from a ride where part of the whole concept is that there is no leader? I am confused as to how you can be such a proponent of a movement that has no leader but get so upset no one leads an event that is part of that movement... Think about it.

3) See above for most of it but also consider this: Mass is supposed to be an evolving concept.

4) How do you ride a ride that is meant to 'take back the streets through sheer numbers' every day even when you don't ride? This doesn't even make sense.

5) This one does not even make sense to me; Critical Mass does not define me as a person or a cyclist nor should it define anyone else or the cycling community as a whole. I know there are a lot of active cyclists in the Chicago area who give back a ton to the community and have a strong desire to not be associated with CCM. If we use CCM as our identity as a community we are cutting out a lot of good people.

6) Like it or not the Mass is a unruly drunken mob, especially in the summer. Half the people there are just there to party and make trouble which is a lot of the reason people have problems with CCM; if you do not see this or believe it you are lying to yourself. As for having fun as a purpose; what other purpose is there to ANY bike ride? Sure it is a way to let people know we have a right to the road and all that other stuff but trust me on this one, people come out because it is fun. Have a ride for the same purpose but make it no fun and no one is coming to your ride.

7) Critical Mass is not a fixed entity, it has changed over the years and will change in the years to come. Before my time, and the advent of 'Happy Friday' CCM was a much less friendly and happy event.

And with that I am done with this conversation unless you say something that is a clear and original statement or argument to any of these points because up till now you are continually repeating the same argument over and over again and never addressing or discussing the things that others have said. The idea is to have a discussion of evolving ideas and concepts not to simply repeat the same thing over and over again.

Pete Fein said:
Twenty people showed up on Friday for Wicker Park Critical Mass. Fifteen of them (3/4ths) heard about it through The Chainlink and had never been on any Critical Mass ride before. These folks went home with the idea that Critical Mass is "usually a [drunken] clueless mob" "the whole point of [which] is to have fun" (your words, not mine). During the ride, we repeatedly rode into oncoming traffic, antagonized drivers, nearly ditched our slower riders and generally followed the crowd without thinking & acting for ourselves. That hardly lives up to the ideal of the Mass (and I'm happy to provide more references than y'all care to read to that effect).

Getting people to show up is easier than ever, thanks to the Internet. That's a good thing. Transmitting the practices and values that make Critical Mass different from just a mob of bikes is as hard as it's ever been. It requires the continuous, active, on the ground involvement of the 'old hands' - and the cultivation of new ones. When we call for a Mass and then don't turn out to pass on our culture, we run the risk of losing it entirely.

The Chainlink is an incredibly powerful tool for organizing and recruiting. We could probably get 20 people to show up uninvited at Howard's house next week for a party. However, it's not the only tool - we still need to flyer - and more importantly, to ride. Otherwise we're no more than an echo chamber, and a Critical Mass in name only.

I ride Critical Mass every day of my life, even those days I don't get on my bicycle. I'm proud of that, and incredibly grateful to many people in this community for what they've taught me. But I'm scared and angry to see us at risk of losing what makes us us through negligence.

notoriousDUG said:
Well then what is the point? Restate the point of your original post with no commentary beyond a clear and concise statement about what it is you wish to say.

It seems the only point you have been trying to make is that the ride was not as organized as you want it and it is all the fault of The Chainlink but maybe I am confused as to your actual point.

Pete Fein said:
And, for the record, I think I had a really important point to make here, but it got totally lost in the course of my acting like a jerk. Sorry 'bout that. ;(
Wow, thechainlink is never short of a good rug beating!

I have participated on a number of WPCM's, lot of great rides in 08'. It was something I did before thechainlink existed. I loved the fact of no pre-planned ride and it was totally democratic! I felt it empowered the ride more that it was like minded individuals meeting up to demonstrate our importance and to create awareness on the streets. Over the last year I have seen the numbers drop on this particular ride till I feared it was going to disappear. So bravo to whom ever got it posted on thechainlink. (maybe include a note that it's unlead)

I also have been on some WPCM's that someone had stepped up and planned a route and destination. Bravo for them going through the effort of putting a great evening together. It still incorporated the spirit of riders taking back the streets.

So, my comment is that this gripe was useless and unwarranted. You’re only putting negative vibes out! If you truly cared, get involved, step up! Make a difference in positive way. Maybe your thread should have been about safe CM riding tips if you want to educate newbie’s. (By the way, corking is illegal and I have had friends arrested, be careful!) No one made you join thechainlink and/or the ride. So your gripe has very little merit in my mind. Especially, if you keep the community at arm’s length or remain "unplugged".

Why don't you do piece for the Derailleur on how to lead or behave on CM. Or show up with a map and a idea and proclaim to be the leader, take it over. Sounds like you made an attempt but realized that life (the ride) is not perfect.

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