What is it with Critical Mess, er, Mass?
Billed as a “grassroots reclamation of public space on the last Friday of the month, which allows cyclists and other self-propelled people to move safely and comfortably through city streets in a car-free space,” it seems more like a giant mobile mob to me.
Along with a few thousand other people inching across the Lions Gate Bridge Friday evening, heading for the PNE or the Lions game, I enjoyed my first full encounter with Critical Mess.
It’s bad enough Lions Gate is only three lanes, so lines can get long and frustrating as traffic engineers try to fiddle with the flow, opening and closing lanes according to a mysterious formula. But on Friday, we knew something was up when only one lane was given the coveted green arrow.
Then, emerging from the Stanley Park causeway came the outriders, or the “corkers” as they’re called in the language of Critical Mess, a vanguard of hard-looking un-helmeted scouts pedalling across the bridge at an insane speed, making sure there are no cars to impede the progress of the main mess. “Remember,” advises the Critical Mess web site, “do not cork oncoming traffic in opposing lanes.”
Then came a line self-appointed banditos, who dodged in and out of the cars, slamming their brakes in front of freaked out motorists, spoiling to get hit. Among the banditos were field generals who controlled the antics of their trained seals. You could tell, because they had just enough IQ to wear helmets.
Then followed the Main Mess, a vast unruly blotch of politicized peddlers, trading insults with the gridlocked motorists, fuelled by Noble Intent. Speaking of intent: Why are these people so intent on turning a nice bike ride into an exercise in self-righteousness?
I’m a cyclist. In fact, I’m a MAMIL (Middle-Aged Man in Lycra) who goes for long rides every weekend. My getup may scare small children and dogs and for that I am sorry, but mostly my fellow MAMILs and I (and our female cohorts) try to obey the rules of the road. We’re treated with courtesy by the majority of motorists. Occasionally we suffer the ignorant or impatient behavior of a few motorheads, but not enough to provoke more of the same on the last Friday of every month.
If Critical Mess is so intent on teaching their fellow human beings a lesson, they should go out next time and signal when they’re going to turn left or right or stop at all the red lights. Now that would be truly radical.