Much of my free time the past few weeks has been taken up organizing Vancouver’s first Critical Manners ride. All reports say that for the amount of time in which it came together, and not much in the way of format examples we were trying to follow, it went quite well.
And throughout, of course, there was the discussion of Critical Mass vs. Critical Manners.
Luke put together a great post on the two, and while he certainly supports the new initiatives of Critical Manners, he also thinks there is still a place for Critical Mass in its current format. I’m inclined to disagree.
Seth Godin put it best in a recent blog post when he said (emphasis mine):
If you want to challenge the conventional wisdom of health care reform, please do! It’ll make the final outcome better. But if you choose to do that, it’s essential that you know more about it than everyone else, not less. Certainly not zero. Be skeptical, but be informed (about everything important, not just this issue, of course). Screaming ignorance gets attention, but it distracts us from the work at hand.
It’s easy to fit in by yelling out, and far more difficult to actually read and consider the facts.
There was an astonishing (to me anyhow) number of people I encountered who are proponents of Critical Mass and who don’t actually know the rules regarding bikes in the Motor Vehicle Act, and/or know where all the bike lanes/routes in the city are and/or don’t know what a bike box is for. I would put those people in the company of the Willfully Ignorant rather than the Aggressively Skeptical.
And then there are the people who shout (and it is still always shouting) that social change should be uncomfortable!
One Critical Masser said that:
There was time when it was inconvenient to have women in the workplace. And to have black people sit at the front of the bus. Social change is uncomfortable. Sometimes it even hurts. But it is necessary if we are to continue to evolve as a sustainable, equitable and caring species.
And not to pick on her alone – it’s a sentiment I hear often from many who support the ride.
But here’s the thing: In this case, Rosa Parks already has her seat.
Nobody’s saying it’s illegal to cycle on the road. What we are dealing with here is an issue of perception, awareness and education.
We do not need to scream to “take back the streets” as cyclists. We have them, by rights and by law. As do cars, pedestrians and any other tax payers.
What we do need to do is continue to be informed users of the roads, being aggresively skeptical of the number of cycling resources in the city and they way they’re being implemented. We need to be putting forward a positive message of cycling to drivers who are currently unsympathetic to cyclists and therefore unaware of us and/or unwilling to share the roads because of it.
We need to build upon the momentum we currently have in the city with a council who is ready and willing to spend resources on cycling infrastructure.
We need to stop drowning ourselves out with the screaming.