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What is Critical Mass? Dispersing Critical Mass? Quotes from Chris Carlsson Related sites Your suggestions?

What is Critical Mass?

Critical Mass, n.
"the minimum amount or number required for something to happen, begin, etc."
--Webster's New World Dictionary of American English, 3d edition. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1986.

Bicyclists from all over the city have been gathering on the last working Friday of every month for a safe communal "ride home" up Market Street together. Lately the group has grown so large (reaching 5000 in July 1997, and regularly surpassing 500) as to attract the attention--and sometimes the resentment--of automobile commuters not accustomed to sharing the road with smaller vehicles. It's also won the attention of Mayor Willie Brown and other local leaders, and several solutions, ranging from arresting all the riders to larger and wilder protests, have been proposed, but none have met with broad support.

What is Critical Mass? Dispersing Critical Mass? Quotes from Chris Carlsson Related sites Your suggestions?

Dispersed Neighborhood Critical Mass?

If Critical Mass is dispersed among all of San Francisco's neighborhoods, is it still Critical Mass?

We think so. Critical Mass, though it hasn't convinced the city to build bike lanes or close Market Street to private automobiles or ease bike access to the Bay Bridge, has succeeded in focusing the city's attention on the transportation problems faced by all city residents and workers--bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.

When citizens' rights are being trampled on or completely ignored, they must sometimes hold "inconvenient" civil rights demonstrations (an often-necessary and cherished method of democratic action) to assert their "right of way". But now that the concerns of bicyclists and pedestrians (and anyone trying to get around the Bay Area) are front page news, we believe that larger and rowdier demonstrations may only discredit the participants and delay the kinds of bike-friendly solutions CM riders are asking for.

How can we translate this brief glance from the public into real long-term transportation solutions? If those of us who believe in sane, sustainable transportation start to employ some other less confrontational ways of raising awareness on a weekly--or even daily--basis, maybe we can get achieve Critical Momentum and make progress on the city's transportation needs.

Comments or questions?

What is Critical Mass? Dispersing Critical Mass? Quotes from Chris Carlsson Related sites Your suggestions?

Quotes from Chris Carlsson, one of CM's earliest xerocrats:

"We are drowning in moralism! Worse still, it is a primitive consumer moralism! [This] leads people to ridiculous, philosophically retarded syllogisms like 'Cars Are Bad; You're In A Car; You are Bad.' Motorists are not bad. They are not moral failures, nor thoughtless, greedy or rich, just because they are in a car! ... [L]et's face it, not many people trust, believe in, admire or have any control over oil companies, car companies, government transit bureaucracies, or local transit systems.... Bicycling and other alternatives are self-evidently better than sitting in a traffic jam or waiting for an overcrowded bus. The more we can live up to that truth, the more people will jump in--not because they were made to feel guilty, but because they want the pleasure and increased health and convenience that comes from bicycling. People will get out of their cars and onto bicycles when they think it will make their life better, not because someone tried to make them feel ashamed for participating in an absurd, suicidal transportation system."

"It is a terribly rash assumption that someone stuck in their car is necessarily a big supporter of the status quo. Consider instead the complexities of human choices and constraints and try to create openings in people's minds, rather than assuming that someone who hasn't adopted your choices about what to buy, how to get around, and lifestyles in general is your conscious enemy and deserves your moral condemnation, rage, or self-righteous taunting. It's not easy to proceed politically when we take seriously how difficult, deep and personal are the changes we seek. But pleasure, passion, and patience can bring real progress. Remember, the Americans your scorn today must be your allies tomorrow if you are serious about changing life!"

Both quotes cited are from Jacob Resneck's excellent CM page.

What is Critical Mass? Dispersing Critical Mass? Quotes from Chris Carlsson Related sites Your suggestions?

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What is Critical Mass? Dispersing Critical Mass? Quotes from Chris Carlsson Related sites Your suggestions?

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