You want to fix Critical Mass?
Stop acting like anarchists and start acting like a protest movement.
- Get official buy-in. Get permits if you have to.
- Announce the time — and the route — in advance. Perhaps last Friday’s fiasco wouldn’t have happened if the driver had known the ride was going to happen on his street.
- Bring in the community more. And that not only means possibly getting some bike cops mixed in, but also get the community itself to buy in to what you’re doing.
- Get a real purpose. Corking isn’t the solution, it’s uncivil disobedience. Critical Mass, despite its size, cannot point to one single positive thing it’s done to improve conditions for bikers in Seattle.
- Can the “silence” and the smug, self-serving Seattle passive-aggression. If people ask you why you’re riding, tell them. If there are angry drivers, talk to them respectfully.
- Identify the problem riders and self-police. If someone’s being an ass, do something about it.
Civil disobedience movements have always been about respecting others while disrespecting injustice. And being respectful of others and respectful of community mores is possible even while standing against injustice. Look at the Civil Rights marches of the early 1960s — African American men and women and children wearing their Sunday clothes, walking home from work, sitting at lunch counters, marching in Birmingham and Selma and DC. What turned the course of this country was watching white cops turn firehoses and truncheons on well-dressed, respectful African Americans seeing a little equality. It appalled white America. And they were willing to listen to a suit-wearing preacher from Atlanta via Montgomery, because they were increasingly afraid of what would happen if they didn’t listen to the ones who were respectful.
By comparison, the WTO protests couldn’t find their dignity. They turned to pageant, then to farce, then to violence. And in the end, the anti-WTO movement became marginalized as the globalization movement just got better security and marched on. A lack of respect for this city, and the people of this city, may have stopped the WTO meetings, but they lost the war on globalization.
So, Critical Mass, ball’s in your court. Do you choose the way of the bike lane, seeking to protest peacefully while working towards a transit system that respects all forms of transportation — bike, car, pedestrian, bus, or train? Or do you choose the way of the sharrow, the way of chaos, anger, and the marginalization of everything you believe in?