Critical Manners Bike Ride Vancouver

We did It!
August 14, 2009, 9:14 pm
Filed under: The Ride

A little over 100 cyclists completed the Critical Manners ride in Vancouver tonight to… not much fanfare at all! Exactly what we were aiming for.

Cyclists showed that we can take on the streets of Vancouver, riding with traffic and within the law, and everyone gets where they’re going pretty easily, with no stress, and even a little bit of fun!

Thanks to the cyclists who showed up, and thanks to the pedestrians and motorists along the way who cheered us on!

There will be a some more follow-up posts over the next few days, but in the meantime, please comment and share your thoughts on the ride.

Did you participate? What did you think of the format and the route?

Did you notice us? How did we appear to pedestrians, motorists and other cyclists?

Do you want to see it happen again? Be sure to say so!

Anything else to share? Drop it in the comments.



I really enjoyed the ride. The stopping and starting was a bit difficult.I don’t think it was too distruptive to cars or pedestrians but people noticed.

Comment by Kathryn Roberts

Positive experience on the whole. A few fuddles here and there (Running of red lights to stick with your pack? Boo!), but good fun. 🙂

Comment by Brad Beattie

Thank you to all who participated & organized this alternative ride. Gave me lots to think about. Would love to see it continue & flourish. Maybe finding a pub as an ending point would keep conversation flowing – lots of friendly folks that I enjoyed meeting.

Here’s a bit more food for thought concerning the need for things such as tonight:


Comment by Amanda

Congratulations on a successful event! It’s the first time I’ve gone riding downtown while following the traffic laws (I’ve been in 5 Critical Mass rides). As an inexperienced biker, I appreciated that this route followed some easy bike lanes. I don’t know if this kind of event can grow more popular, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it.

Comment by Glenn Tarigan

My wife and I particpated. Although I liked the concept, I felt the riders got too strung out to make much of a visual impact. I think having much shorter routes, and varying the routes to different areas of the city would have more of a visual impact.

Comment by David Rohn

I was really pleased to take part in this … I was intrigued when I read about it beforehand and in my head, committed to doing it. I’ve not ridden Critical Mass.

As far as being noticed and making a ‘point’ – I think Critical Mass and Critical Manners have many shared goals, just a different approach. Critical Mass makes its point through the sheer volume of people and the effect that has on traffic. Besides not having the volume of people, the goal of this event is to successfully share the road as opposed to taking it over completely. But if the point is to make a ‘point’ – perhaps we need some sort of visual (something to pin on shirts or helmets) that identifies the group as being distinct.

It may also provide drivers with more of an incentive to not kill us, if they think we’re part of a group (because that would be extra bad).

Comment by Rachel Fox

yes we did it!
and we learnt and we want to do it again. maybe in the coming weeks. lets get a Tshirt going so that people know.. oh these well mannered people are from this group. Because we were all following rules and stopping at traffic lights where we should, maybe we didnt appear to be a group. if we all have the same dress, people will take more notice. it was fun. and at Vanier park lets have a party/picnic/music/dance in the end 🙂 lets start our heads rolling. Good job Everyone

Comment by heman

Great ride, thanks for organizing this Jennifer!

I’m done my helmet-cam video of the ride, it’s up on YouTube now here:

Comment by Alex

Would definitely like to do it again!

We didn’t manage to make the start, or even most of the ride, but did end up riding most of the designated route and merging with the rest of the group at Burrard and Davie.

Riding Davie was a little sketchy, especially since I was dragging along two riders that aren’t experienced with cycling downtown. I decided to have us all just walk our bikes on the sidewalk, but still made up enough time to catch up.

It was still a lot of fun, and my drag-alongs seems to have enjoyed themselves as well.

Comment by Yang

The ride was felt more dangerous than my regular commute or critical mass for a couple reasons: 1) riding in bike lanes meant I had to really keep an eye out for potential door prizes ( I normally take up the right lane on routes w/o bike lanes) 2) cyclists in the group who were not comfortable signaling to stop and stopping at the same time 3) drivers who would try to push their way into the bike lane to turn and not waiting for a couple more cyclists to pass when we had the right of way 4) cyclists who let drivers pass at the last second w/o taking into consideration that there’s a group of cyclists behind them who may not be expecting a quick stop

Taking the right lane on Davie (?) still pissed off some drivers since we were single file and ended up taking up the entire block instead of bunching up at the lights and taking up two or three car spaces BUT it is the law. I thought about letting cars into the right lane with me but that would have been unsafe.

I will ride again if planned ; any ride is a fun ride. Thanks to all who helped organize this ride. Maybe a longer ride – it was way too short. And maybe a ride that really cris-crosses the DT streets several times. Going over the Burrard was a great idea

Comment by Lee

I did not go on the ride. But the video shows waay too much riding in the door zone. More accidents occur by dooring, than by rear collision, but not being able to see the car behind you is intimidating, so many riders stick to the door zone. Bike lanes give a false sense of security in this regard.

Bike lanes also do little to prevent right hooks at intersections. I’d rather be in the lane in order to pass a turning car on the left.

Comment by Mark

I saw the ride advertised last week and wished I could be there. I hope there will be another so I can participate. I am a commuter cyclist and have attended one critical mass, June 2008. I have been reluctant to join another because of haw I felt after it was over. The ride was great, the weather was fantastic but I couldn’t help feeling the event did more harm than than good to bicycle awareness.

Maybe Critical Manners could assemble at a dedicated spot on the last Friday of every month and see how many massers feel like I do.

Comment by Craig McBride

I had a great time and hope more will be organized.
I think a longer route would be better. Thanks for organizing this.

Comment by Jan

Ride was fun. Thanks for organizing it.
One of the reasons that the groups got so spread out was that everyone was single file and was caught behind a few slow riders. When I saw the group in front was about 3 blocks away, we finally went around the slow riders and everyone else followed.

Comment by Joe

I live in Washington but visit and bicycle in Vancouver maybe every other month. I’ve never been around during a Critical Mass ride but after reading about the last one I wasn’t sure if I wanted to participate, even though I want to be supportive. Your Critical Manners event is much more to my liking and if I know about your next one with enough advanced notice I will definitely try to arrange my schedule around it. Please do it again!

Comment by Doug Tanaka

Glad you all had a nice ride.
Now maybe you can give up the name and call your ride whatever you want it to be.
There are many rides of many names in the city and I’m sure yours wasn’t the first spurn of CM and even tho yours is born out of a vision of something apart from Critical Mass, you basically stole from the brand if you will.

That said, be who you, not who you aren’t.

Comment by TRUTH BE TOLD

Thanks for organizing this. I enjoyed the socializing part at the start and the end and agree that having some destination activity like potluck picnic, pub or just a cool place (like Vanier park 🙂 and a definite intention to hang out is nice. The actual ride part was a bit of a bust for me. The group quickly became fragmented as tail-enders like myself were stranded by red traffic lights. Consequently I was riding alone much of the time. The lead group stopped for a long time in the street at the corner of Pacific and Granville. This was a mistake because it entirely blocked the bike lane for through traffic, which I’m sure you didn’t plan for. I was surprised police riders present seemed to condone it. A commuting cyclist vented at the group as she rode by: “you’re blocking the road!”, which we were. I felt intimidated by some very aggressive rush-hour car traffic. It seems to be a rule with some drivers that they will not slow down to follow a bicycle even for 10 seconds. They must zoom up alongside to cut in and turn right immediately in front of me ! I like to think I drive more thoughtfully than that. The stop/go (mostly stop) in traffic jams was very tiresome. I have felt safer and more relaxed on Critical Mass rides. Having a goal and intention to hang out at the end would make the difficult parts of the ride easier to swallow. And maybe some less stressful, more congenial, picturesque routes planned with the emphasis on cycling for pleasure. Does anyone enjoy mixing it with rush hour traffic jams downtown ?

Comment by John

The rush hour traffic is very aggressive and one way to improve upon this is to take one lane of traffic and bunch up. It’s not legal but not all laws make sense or are safe. I am not saying that we go through red lights like CM. A small group of 100 should at least bunch up as it actually causes less traffic jams

Comment by Lee

But a ride like this should not be breaking laws in order to cause less disturbance. Stop being so polite! and assert your rights!

I’m not a fan of Critical Mass anymore simply because it has no context (ie it doesn’t point out the flaws, it ignores them). I would be a fan of Critical Manners if it emphasized the problems like you stated.

Bike lanes are not a problem, per se.

Comment by Mark

Hi Jen,

I enjoyed the ride. Thanks for organizing it, and kudos for pulling it off so successfully.

My suggestions, in no particular order:

It was very difficult to hear you making announcements at the start of the ride, when you were using the bullhorn. First, the bullhorn wasn’t loud enough. Second, you were positioned in the middle of the crowd, so at any given time the bullhorn could only be pointed at a small portion of participants. Next time, consider moving outside the group and then pointing the bullhorn (or other sound system) at the whole group.

While a map of the route was available online, it could not be easily printed. It would be helpful to have a downloadable and/or printable route map available, eg in pdf format. If you don’t know how to do this or don’t have the tools, please let the group know. I, or someone else, could help with this.

I was disturbed by a gentleman who was apparently part of the ride, who was towing a small trailer behind his bike that promoted Critical Mass. Rather than riding in the available bike lanes, he chose to ride straight down the middle of the right hand vehicle lane. First, his trailer promoting Critical Mass could cause confusion among onlookers regarding the identity of the Critical Manners group. Second, his riding in the vehicle lane and singlehandedly blocking an entire lane of vehicle traffic was completely at odds with the spirit and intention of the ride. If we have another ride and are fortunate enough to again have a police escort, I would ask that the officers be briefed ahead of time about this and if the individual in question isn’t willing to observe the rules of the ride then he be spoken to and, if needed, separated from the rest of the group. The police have a vested interest in the success of Critical Manners, so I’m sure they’d be willing to consider this.

The group got heavily fragmented because of the traffic lights (and also possibly because of confusion about the route). I’d prefer it if the group could be more cohesive, though I’m not sure the extent that is possible if we stick to roadways. It might help if the front of the group were to stop periodically and wait for the rear to catch up (eg after every 5 traffic lights or intersections the front stops for 60 seconds or until they can see the back), though this could conceivably block other cyclists not part of our group. Alternatively, we could plan a route that incorporates less traffic stops. One route that I suspect would work well could involve a portion of the bike path that extends all around the False Creek Seawall, down to English Bay, through Lost Lagoon, part of Coal Harbour, and even around Stanley Park. Given the size of our initial group, we could probably do this without inconveniencing other users of these pathways. Our entire group could pass by in a minute or two and individual riders could still stop as needed if pedestrians are impatient to cross our traffic. Or there is the new Central Valley Greenway path, that apparently runs all the way from Science World to the New Westminster Quay, though I haven’t tried this path yet myself. For more information on this path, see: These options may be less appealing to you though, if a primary focus of yours is for us to be seen by motorists.

In terms of visibility, several people have suggested we get custom shirts made in order to enhance our appearance as a cohesive group. That would be wonderful, but I expect it would entail a fair bit of work along with some potential financial risk on the part of whomever were to organize it. This is especially true given that this is a new group and we’re also nearing the end of summer. And it would be further complicated by the fact that new riders may wish to join the group further down the road and also want to purchase shirts then. An alternative could be to request that everyone wear a t-shirt of the same colour. Eg, everyone likely has a plain white t-shirt that they could wear. It would be hard to not think that 100 cyclists, all wearing plain white t-shirts, were not part of a group.

Lastly, like some others have suggested, I’d also be up for some kind of social activity at the end of the ride. But I’m not sure what would be possible or practical, and organizing something would take additional work on someone’s part.

Once again, congratulations on a job well done. If you hold another ride I would certainly plan to participate.

Comment by Dave


I am not sure if anything can be done to keep people out of the CManners ride. The trailer guy was riding legally in the right side lane; cyclist are not bound by law to use the bike lanes. If I want to promote C Mass or Anti-Olympic sentiments I should be allowed to.

The fragmentation of the group is a side effect of riding legally, and it will cause frustration among cyclist and drivers but that’s the reality of traffic downtown.

I disagree with riding on bike paths that are separated from the traffic. One of the goals of CManners is to share the roadways with drivers.

Comment by Lee

Sadly, it is the law to ride in a given bike lane, assuming it is on the right most side of the road.

City of Vancouver Street and Traffic By-Law No. 2849
(as of March 30, 1999)

Slow Moving Vehicles


The driver of every slow moving vehicle shall drive such vehicle as close as possible to the right hand edge or curb of any street unless it is impracticable to travel on such side. For the purpose of this section a bicycle shall be regarded at all times as a slow moving vehicle.

Comment by Mark

Hi Lee,

Thanks for your comments.

To clarify, I’m not saying I have an issue with people promoting other random things during the ride, eg Olympics or whatever. My issues with the fellow in question were

1) That people might see his trailer and not only incorrectly identify our group as a result, but possibly identify us as being part of Critical Mass when the Critical Manners ride is designed to be the antithesis of Critical Mass.

2)That he was riding in a manner exactly opposite to what the Critical Manners ride was intended to promote, ie sharing the road, using bike lanes where they are available, not blocking vehicle traffic and obeying the law. (As Mark pointed out, he was also apparently breaking the law by not using the bike lanes.) This was one of the founding principles and top priorities of the ride. When the group was formed for such a purpose, and this purpose was clearly communicated, I don’t understand why someone would want to join the group on inaugural outing yet behave in a way completely contrary to this central goal.

As for riding on bike paths that are not located on vehicle roadways, such as the seawall, I’d still be up for it. Perhaps I could benefit from a further clarification of the priorities for these rides. My understanding is that these rides are intended to promote things like sharing the road, obeying the laws, having a good time and meeting other cyclists etc. To me, riding on a non-vehicle roadway like the seawall would lessen our visibility on vehicle roadways but we’d still be visible to many people, we’d still be observing laws, we’d still be making use of some of the cycling infrastructure that the city has provided explicitly for cyclists, we’d still be sharing such pathways with other cyclists and pedestrians, and we’d probably be more able to enjoy the ride as a social experience also. So we’d still be covering a lot of our bases. But if the top priority of the ride is to share vehicle roadways then I agree this would be a bad choice. Again, I’d therefore appreciate some clarification on the priorities and how important it is that we ride on vehicle roadways.


Comment by Dave

Dave, The suggestion that the trailer tugging biker be removed… is insane. Totalitarian much??

Second… the idea of riding almost entirely on the seawall (the path you described is called the seawall) utterly defeats the purpose of any such ride, I think. The seawall is a leisure route for recreation, cyclists need more respect on the real roadways to get to everyday places in the city. Cycling is a lot more than scenic play time.

Comment by Mark

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your comments.

I confess I don’t understand your labeling of my previous suggestion as totalitarian and insane. My understanding of totalitarianism is where a central person or body exerts complete control over many different aspects of something, including aspects very minor and inconsequential. The reason I took issue was because the gentleman joined the ride yet was behaving contrary to the very purpose and goal of the ride. I only suggested that he be removed if he remained unwilling to honour this central purpose and goal after it had been explained to him again. To me, if a person joins a group or a club that is all about performing a certain function, and then the person not only refuses to perform that function but instead performs a function that completely conflicts with the purpose of the group, it is reasonable to have that person excused from the group.

It seems to me you’ve created a bit of a paradox here. On the one hand you’re suggesting that to sole purpose of the ride is to get more respect on roadways, yet you also believe people should be welcome to join the ride and behave in a manner that only pushes this goal further away.

In regard to the purpose(s) of the ride, as I mentioned above in my reply to Lee, I would appreciate some clarification from the organizer as to whether the primary goal is to ride on roadways, if there are other goals too, and how they rank. I’d suggested the seawall route because I thought there were some other goals also (eg riding respectfully in general, social interaction, etc), and thought that they might be better accomplished at the expense of the roadway one.


Comment by Dave

How about the group divides into 3 groups based on speed. No predetermined route; but the groups stay within a predetermined area. We all criss-cross the downtown area with the plan to meet up at 8pm at Vanier Park. Leader of the pack decides where to go.

Comment by Lee

I was commuting home, only to run into Critical Manners, what a mess! They succeed in BLOCKING CYCLING TRAFFIC very well, so I was forced to ride in the car lane or do 10km/h and I follow rules too.
When I was almost passed the mass (mess), they decided to turn left from the bike lane without signaling and I almost T-boned them. I think it was pretty dumb, take it out of the core if you wanna ride.

Comment by veloaddict

I was commuting home on transit when I ran into Critical Manners. The fact that the bike lane is curbside meant the bus would have to make its way through the line of cyclists to make its stops.
Vehicles in the left hand lanes may easily pass the cyclists but it really made the commute home grindingly slow and frustrating.
Ultimately, I think we just need dedicated bicycle paths.

Comment by eddy

Congratulations and thanks for putting this on! I had a great time and enjoyed meeting other riders and receiving cheers of encouragement from pedestrians and drivers. I look forward to doing this again.

I feel that planning the route ahead of time was a great idea, and essential for this event since by following the rules of the road we will naturally splinter into sub-groups and some solo riders. I thought the route was a good one, criss-crossing nicely over the downtown core. There were only a few wrinkles, like turning up Davie (which just isn’t very friendly at that time of day, especially sharing it with buses (I’d rather have used Helmecken or Drake)

I’d also recommend riders consider using the alternative style of left-hand turn where you simply ride straight through the intersection and just pull off to the right side of the road on the far corner. Then you need only to change direction to the left, and head off in that new direction once the light changes, again on the right-hand side of traffic. I don’t use this method very often when riding on my own, but it seemed preferable for me at Pender and Richards, for instance, when there were about fifteen riders all staging up and into the left-turn lane. (of course there could be a clumping problem with several people all using this approach too – so perhaps a mix of both techniques, with half the people using each, might help everyone get through more readily)

Thanks again for organizing this!

Comment by Ian

Is that method of left turn even legal?

Comment by yrmom

Certainly. It is sometimes referred to as a Box Left, apparently. I just checked online for references, and here is an example (scroll down to find ‘The Box Left Turn’):

Each step does need to be performed with care (like anything else you’re doing out there), as you may have cars following close behind you, and the new street may have cars in motion, preparing to do a (right) turn of their own. This is just a suggestion; make your own choices.

Comment by Ian

To add to my response below – the city of Vancouver has already painted some of these exact ‘Box Left’ turn boxes onto some intersections – you can see one example using the Google Maps website – Zoom into Vancouver and look at the south side of the intersection of West Georgia and Nicola (Look at it up close in Google Maps’ Hybrid-mode or Satellite photo-mode). Another official painted bike-box was available to you at Hornby and Dunsmuir during our inaugural Ride.

Comment by Ian

cool. thanks for the tip.

Comment by yrmom

Are taxi drivers permitted on the bus lane on Burrard Street, southbound? I had a close encounter the other day.

Comment by Lee

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: