Jen takes a spin with the rickshaw on Venice Blvd.
I am still sore from Critical Mass. In celebration of Halloween, I thought it'd be fun to decorate the shopping cart rickshaw I had made for CicLAvia and ride that around, with lights, flags and love. It worked! People were freaking out when I passed them with 10 feet of steel behind me. Drivers and pedestrians alike smiled and appreciated the Cyclists Bill of Rights flag flying proudly above my rig.
Critical Mass started off great but because of a few simple mistakes, ended up neither critical nor massive, but simply a few hundred riders in the bike lane on Venice Blvd. Critical Mass is only as good as the riders, regardless of police presence. By following a few basic tenants, we can keep the ride, safe, fun and most of all MASSIVE.
The major problem with the ride is the people at the front of the mass. They forget to stop at red lights when in front to allow the rest of the ride to “mass up” behind. They actually forget to wait maybe 2-3 signal changes so that all the stragglers that are 3-4 lights behind them have a chance to catch up. The gaps in the mass must be filled. Cars among massers is a big no no and leads to confusion and frustration. The cars stop at red lights, and the massers are left behind.
Since it's mostly young kids with little mass experience at the front, they forget about the 1200 people behind them and ride their hearts out, which, to use tour de france lingo, "explodes the peleton" and fragments the mass. If the riders in the front simply stopped regularly (no matter how slowly they thought they were going, the gaps would always come back together.
Some might blame the police riding with us for fragmenting the mass, but that's too simplistic. They did write tickets for running red lights and for riding without bike lights. (I'd rather see them handing out 99 cent blinkies instead of giving tickets.) I personally saw a few cyclists who were unable to follow the simple instruction to stay to the right of the double yellow line and I have no problem with the police citing cyclists for that. As for running red lights, this is our fault, not the police. If the riders at the front simply slowed down enough for the mass to be tight and continuous, there would be no way for police to enforce red lights against individual riders. The bike cops I spoke to agreed and wished they weren't in the position of having to enforce red lights against cyclists, but that's their job, and we shouldn't harp on them for doing it. We need to be better organized so that there is no way they can cite 1 rider.
Here's my plan for a better Critical Mass!
For Critical Mass to regain it's splendor with 1000+ riders, we're going to need a select group of "CM Deputies" to train riders at the front, keep them riding slow, keep them stopping at red lights and keep them respecting the Dos and Donts of Critical Mass. These deputies should have walkie talkies and be stationed throughout the ride, advising the front when a group gets lost at a red or makes wrong turn. I'd guess we'd only need 3 deputies at the front, 2 at the back and 3 in the middle to pull this off.
Deputies need uniforms, and weapons! Well, not weapons, but tools that convey authority, like patch kits and innertubes and tire irons. They also need lights, bright lights that blink front and rear. They need to look like police from the future, not robocopy but high techy.