Saturday 28 May 2011

Forget Critical Mass. What About Critical Pass?

I'm not a big fan of Critical Mass. If you don't know what that is, look here.

In my opinion, and it is just my opinion, it annoys other road users too much. I feel it alienates cyclists that little bit more, a bit more fuel for the Us and Them'ers. Don't get me wrong, I like the sentiment, showing off the freedom of cycling, demonstrating the fact that the roads are for everyone including cyclists etc. I just feel it does more harm than good.

However, one comment made to me recently by someone else on an internet site in relation to my filtering video, got me thinking.

What we really need is a mass demonstration of the utility of cycling and the futility of driving (at least during the urban rush hours). This is something that my filtering video shows quite well to a small online community, but it doesn't make those that matter notice, i.e. the people on the cars. Critical Mass doesn't demonstrate this, as those taking part tend to be cycling slowly, often holding up other traffic.

So what would make people, people who were actually sitting in their cars in a huge queue of traffic take notice? How about a few hundred cyclists safely and carefully filtering (legally) past the queues of rush hour traffic.

Instead of Critical Mass, why not have Critical Pass?

It's not straight forward of course. Queuing traffic can vary from day to day. Sometimes the roads are unexpectedly quiet, sometimes they are unexpectedly busy! You'd also need to find a lot of cyclists who on a work day were willing to meet up and all cycle from one place to another. Perhaps it wouldn't work in places where there are lots of cyclists already, although that would depend on the numbers who take part.

There would also be the safety issue, i.e. everyone would have to cycle at their own risk, but would be VERY strongly encouraged to filter safely and legally obeying all road laws as they do so.

However, if it worked it would be quite a spectacular demontstration to the frustrated car drivers of the advantages of taking to a bike.

Of course this is just an idea floating about in my head. It might never happen. It might be that it can't be arranged. or that no-one is interested in doing it.

It's just an idea. What do you think? Would you want to take part in a Critical Pass?


  1. We had a "Critical Manners" ride in Vancouver where we all rode in the bike lane en masse (since filtering here is illegal). The route was pre-determined and we practiced proper hand signals and such...

    Didn't get much attention although we had over a hundred riders out... Might be worth a try to see how it goes

  2. Critical pass sounds more effective... more visible and better shows the space advantage of a bike.

    We were pretty careful to try and get our little event cast in the best light possible, so they made it clear that you better darn well wear a helmet, stop at the lights, use the hand signals, etc

  3. I've tried punting this for several years now as the critical mass in its current format attracts those who delight in confrontation because they have a mission/point to prove.

    Like you Dave, I find a great benefit of flowing through the 16.00-18.00 queues and have on occasion, as a light relief, gone South on Newton Street cross the M8 over the St Vincent St Bridge and head up North Street to cross over either at Sauchiehall Street or go up the queue on Woodlands Road and back down to St Vincent. In the current conditions a short circuit should see you passing the same cars and buses at least twice.

    I think we may need to start this small with a happy band of confident traffic jammers who can flow through and regroup at selected points, as it may be difficult to convert a critical mass because of the embedded car haters. Charing Cross would be good because a video can be shot from the upper floor of one of the blocks that overlooks the motorway and roads alongside capturing the flow of cyclists from above.

    Alternatively we try for getting a group to the head of the Switchback- Crow Road stretch when you hit it (around 08.15?) Might attract a few couriers (if they get up in time!)

    Critical Pass sounds good term and it might film like some of those alleycats filmed in the US by Lucas Brunelle - how he keeps filming and following at times beggars logic - brilliant one in Boston worth viewing - a bit more towards the 'edge' than your commute

  4. It's a great idea. Would require communication with other cyclists to find out where the 'dependable' queues are! Can see this working down south too.

  5. Flashmob option with SMS to mobiles probably at going home time - couriers finishing for the day - seeking a bit of sport, cycle commuters up for a variation on ride home etc.

    Central options - Dobbies Loan/Charing Cross, avoid Renfield. Castle Street to M8? - too many potholes to throw you.

  6. Hi Dave H,

    I agree that we don't want it too big to start with, and that there are many locations in Glasgow that would work. I'm also wondering about having some form of signage at the side of the road somehow alerting drivers to the fact that lots of cyclists are flying past. Signs on lamposts? Other cyclists holding signs? Hmm. More thinking needed. Dave, do I know you from elsewhere online?

  7. You know me from many places including dust ups with Firstbus

    Must get my own camera soon