Critical Manners Bike Ride Vancouver

Ride Postponed
September 9, 2009, 8:34 am
Filed under: The Ride

I’m amazed and inspired by how strong a chord was struck by cyclists fed up with being painted by the Critical Mass brush, and how many came out to support the first Vancouver Critical Manners Ride.

Unfortunately, as it sometimes does to the best of volunteers, life happened and I’m not able to continue to organize or lead the next Critical Manners ride.

But never fear! There are still some great opportunities to get involved in the local cycling community, get involved in advocacy that actually makes a difference to the cycling community and ride with other like-minded pedal pushers.

Join your local chapter of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, and keep your eye on Pedal Etiquette.

The VACC has some upcoming courses on riding safely and legally in traffic. They’re also partnering with MEC to put on a number of Great Rides throughout the lower-mainland. And don’t forget, Bike to Work Week Fall Edition is coming up.

Pedal Etiquette is an emerging group, focused on riding (and walking, and driving) respectfully every day. I’m excited to see how it develops.

And of course, if you’d like to pick up the torch and take on the leadership of Critical Manners, please email criticalmanners.vancouver [at] gmail [dot] com!

Edited Sept 16th, 2009: There is quite the discussion going on in the comments here! However I’m going to ask the participants to “agree to disagree” and close comments.



Maybe you could try a leaderless, mob driven organization. It helps with leader burn-out.

Comment by vanhackspace

oooh, someone’s a comedian 😉

Comment by criticalmanners

Actually, it sounds like a good idea.

Comment by Brad Beattie

No, ill stick to the fun loving positive group hug-in mentality.It aint about leading, its about riding.

Comment by Rika

My brother & Sister cyclists,

It is with a sad heart that i write this letter. I have been riding the downtown core for almost 9 years now, and on a bike full time for most of my life. My bike is my life, my kin and my soul mate. I am proud to be a cyclist and all that goodness that comes with it.

As such i must say what is on my mind. I believe that the Critical Mass exercise, as rooted in an original hope of empowering cyclists that is was, has become an antagonist blemish on bike culture. In a time when cyclists should be reaching out to car drivers in a peaceful and respectful way, i see nothing but antagonistic, arrogance as they ride willy-nilly around the streets of Vancouver compounding the aggravation that drivers must face on their commutes home to family and friends. This is NOT the way to make friends and allies, it is turning motorists and even other cyclists away from what is supposed to be an expression of freedom and a love for two wheels. It is compounding the problem you are attempting to solve.

I beg that whomever is organizing this event take into consideration that many of those you are annoying on friday afternoons are not evil right wing oil loving motorists bent on ruining the environment by guzzling gas and running over flowers, rather many simple must drive for one reason or another.

The great non-confrontational peace activist Gandhi set a good example, through Ahimsa, ( ) by reaching out to those who oppressed him in a peaceful and respectful way. Enabling a respectful equal dialog aimed a better future for both parties. Please, as a fellow cyclist i beg all who participate in the critical Mass, to consider those you are oppressing; motorists, bus commuters & pedestrians and for a moment ask yourself, are you really engaging in a positive constructive way forward for all parties involved? or are you illiciting violence and anger in your actions? Are you simply mimicing the attitudes of those you seek to overthrow. Becoming just another road hogging, narrow minded bully?

I hope that one day cyclists will gain more respect and equality on the road, i see it happening already. But i hope that we attain those rights through qualities that best represent cycling and cyclists; respectfulness, peacefulness and consideration for others.

Peace through two wheels,

Comment by Rika

Thank you for such a lovely sentiment Rika! That is exactly the message Critical Manners has set out to share. We will accomplish far more by working respectfully together than by antagonizing each other.

Comment by criticalmanners

“…great non-confrontational peace activist Gandhi…”

I don’t think it is fair to call Ghandi “non-confrontational.” He was “non-violent” but not non-confrontational. He directly confronted the oppression that existed in his society although in a peaceful and respectful way.

His swadeshi policy directly confronted the British textile industry. And it certainly inconvenienced those in that industry. His salt march also directly confronted British authorities. And again inconvenienced them. Just like the Critical Mass rides, Ghandi was not afraid to inconvenience people who were engaging in destructive practices.

Also like the Critical Mass rides Ghandi advocated civil disobedience. He was thrown in jail several times.

I think that if you ever went on a CM ride you would discover that most people on the ride are following Ghandi’s example of non-violent respectful civil disobedience. Recently a small minority has been disrespectful and caused some problems. And the media has blown it out of proportion.

Ahimsa means doing no harm (or violence). Unfortunately those who choose to regularly drive motor vehicles are doing a great deal of harm and violence.

Comment by rob

Well, I’m sure that all 10 of you will be more than welcome at the next Critical Mass ride.

Comment by Bobbie

I guess you didn’t see the ~100 people out to the Critical Manners ride.

Comment by Chris

I am sorry to see this polarized discussion here and how it’s been presented in the media. This is not an either/or situation. It’s a false dichotomy to say that either you ride strictly by the rules of the road, or you are ‘willy nilly’ all over the place frustrating drivers and wreaking havoc.

I am not a regular critical mass rider, but I don’t see them (on the whole) as being antagonistic. And I don’t think that we can ever expect all cyclists to be one way in the world. We are different people with different ways of coping with the very very imperfect cycling infrastructure in Vancouver. We are not cars, we are not pedestrians: we have very little legitimate space and we have to negotiate complex (and imperfect) rules and dangerous situations everyday as we ride our bikes throughout the city. I have no idea why anyone would think that they can coerce the whole group of us to conform to a certain set of rigid behaviours under these conditions. Cycling safely, respectfully and thoughtfully can be done in many ways, and I think Critical Mass rides are often all of those things (safe, respectful and thoughtful).

When I ride, sometimes I have to take the whole lane, and sometimes I have to take part of the sidewalk (slowly and yielding to peds), and that’s just how it’s gonna be until the infrastructure is complete enough that I don’t have to constantly improvise in order to prevent being injured on my bike.

Comment by danaput

rika is absolutely right.

rob: it’s what the media does now-a-days, “blowing everything out of proportion”

and how exactly is ALL drivers of “motor vehicles doing a great deal of harm and violence”? HYPERBOLE is cheap, and doesn’t do cyclists’ cause any good.

it may be a small rogue faction of CM, but when this minority group takes over the broader ideology of CM, and turns into ideologues like Bobbie, that is not good for anyone on either side.

Comment by MiK

… ALL drivers of “motor vehicles doing a great deal of harm and violence”?

Please read what I wrote carefully. Misquoting someone does little to further rational, intelligent dialogue.

I did not say “ALL Drivers….” I did say “…those who choose to driver REGULARLY…” (everyone may need to drive occasionally).

6,000 people die each year in Canada from pollution related to motor vehicles. The number is 60,000 in the US (figures come from the American Lung Association and others).

Those numbers don’t include all the people with health problems like asthma that don’t die.

Hundreds of thousands of people are already dying as a result of climate change (those figures come from the WHO).

Unless we make dramatic changes in ghg emissions (the science indicates a reduction of 80-95%) in the next few years it is likely that climate change will result in suffering for millions (billions?) of people.

Locally private light duty motor vehicles are the largest source of ghg emissions.

And there is also the deaths and injuries for accidents, the toxins released into the watersheds and soils, the large environmental impact of producing vehicles etc. etc.

Comment by rob

thank you all for responding so well to my thoughts. I agree, Gandhi was confrontational, but from a root of peace.
My thoughts as posted came as a result of me hearing negative comments about CM directly from many many people. not one or two but pretty much everyone who in some form or another encountered the event on the road. It was losing its purpose, to enpower cyclists in a positive sense.
Demonizing cars in general is not much different from demonizing the CM people over a few bad eggs, cars are not the problem, fueling our cars is. more fuel effecient, cleaner burning cars are a must.
I wonder if many of us cyclists consider the environmental and social damage our cromoly, aluminum and titanium framed bikes cause through metal ore mining around the world?

Comment by Rika

Rika, you have to realize that the automobile is the enemy. There is no making peace with it. The resources consumed to build an automobile are astounding. The resources required to maintain an automobile are astounding. The amount of damage that the automobile inflicts upon society are astounding.
If I created a new sport tomorrow that killed over 5,000 people per year and injured over 1/2 million people per year I’d be put in prison faster than you could say ‘huh?’.
yet we tolerate ‘accidents’ and other mayhem in the name of the automobile.
There is no making peace with the automobile, the automobile is a machine that destroys everything in it’s path.
Bicycles are not looked at as being a serious mode of transportation. Car drivers look at bicycles as only being toys for children.
That’s why car drivers go ballistic when ever strides are made toward increasing bicycle infrastructure.
I was just in Kelowna for a few days. Most bicycles, even with helmeted riders, are riden on the sidewalk. Kelowna is car country, and the car is king and worshipped. Bicycles are not even looked at as being a serious mode of transportation.
And one last thing. Who has ever been turned down from a job for not owning a bicycle? Yet I know of numerous employers who will not hire anyone who doesn;t own a car, even though a car isn’t required for the job to be done.

Comment by Bobbie

“…cars are not the problem, fueling our cars is. more fuel effecient [sic], cleaner burning cars are a must…”

Sorry, but the evidence points to the contrary.

Even if everyone somehow immediately switches to a fuel efficient car like a Prius, ghg emissions would still be way too high.

Here is a good article on why fuel efficient cars are not the solution:

And here is a good article on the many ways that cars do harm:

“I wonder if many of us cyclists consider the environmental and social damage our cromoly, aluminum and titanium framed bikes cause through metal ore mining around the world?”

I know I have. The bicycle is not a “zero-impact” product. The question really is which is more sustainable.

Bikes do have a materials foot print that is magnitudes smaller than that of a car. One reference I found calculates that a minivan uses 127 times the materials of a bike.

It is clear that manufacturing cars for everyone is not sustainable. It seems much more reasonable that bikes might be sustainable.

Finally an interesting article on Ghandi and cars:

Comment by rob

See Rob, and Bobbie above, cars are *a* problem, but insisting on polarizing the discussion and insisting that cars need to cease to exist isn’t a reasonable expectation. Leaping into the extremist position and calling out car-owners for ruining the planet is not what will convince people to get out of their cars and try cycling. Making cycling a viable alternative and showing the positive (rather than self-righteous) side of the issue is what will persuade them.

Also, considering all the harm you’re both so concerned with, I hope you’re also both Vegans, because industrial food production (specifically beef) is considered by some to be just as bad as, if not worse than driving for the planet.

For the record, I eat beef, just less. And I still drive, but less. I generally feel pretty good about my life and my choices.

The extremes of any issue seem like lonely, angry places.

Comment by criticalmanners

“…insisting that cars need to cease …”

You are advocating a respectful approach to this issue. I would think that a respectful approach would be to not misquote or misconstrue the positions of others.

I have never said that cars need to “cease to exist.” I have said that ghg emissions need to be reduced by 80-95%. And since cars are the largest contributor in our regions that means a dramatic reduction in car use. This is especially true in urban areas where there are other alternatives available (transit, cycling, etc). But there may be some uses where a limited number vehicles may still be needed (cargo, emergency vehicles, etc).

“…extremist position…”

I don’t understand how this is an “extremist” position. It is just being honest about the science. To try to claim that our current transportation system is sustainable is dishonest.

If I tell you that when an apples detaches from a tree it will fall to the ground would you see that is an extremist view? It is just an honest description of the science.

I find that applying labels like “extremsit” to someone’s views is rather judgemental and often an attempt to avoid an honest discussion of the issues.

“…calling out car-owners for ruining…”

Again I have never called out individual car-owners for anything. I am honest about the effects of car driving in general but I don’t direct judgement against individuals in particular.

“…also both Vegans, because industrial food production (specifically beef)…”

I try (and sometimes fail) to make ethical decisions based on the empirical evidence available (rather than just latching on to labels like “vegan”).

Based on this I have reduced my use of motor vehicles by 90%. I have also reduced my meat consumption by over 90% and the small amount I do eat is rarely industrial.

BTW, the argument that a Vegan diet is best to reduce ghg emissions is controversial and based on a limited understanding of the entropic pyramid. See the writings of Bill Hollman and the recent Cornell University study for more on this.

Comment by rob

critical manners wrote:
“…seem like lonely, angry places…”

I find this comment particularly interesting and strange. Since I have become more involved in advocating real solutions for the ecological problems we face I found a greater sense of peace, joy and community.

Why do you think that advocating real solutions to our problems would lead to anger and loneliness?

Comment by rob_

Rob, I said the extremes seem like angry, lonely places. And I believe working toward real solutions requires compromise and collaboration – the opposite of sticking firmly to an extreme opinion.

Comment by criticalmanners

Bobbie, how do you propose we go about living our lives without the use of cars and trucks for transport?
I think there is a disconnect in some who see only an idealized world without comprehending how deep into a system we are, one that relies on vehicles for such things as food and goods transport and medical first aid. (i suppose your bike was ridden to the bike store?)
Sure lets get rid of all the vehicles and see how quickly your world crumbles into a chaotic mess.
1000’s of people are injured and killed on bikes every year around the world without the help of cars.
I see the auto industry as having the potential to becoming a leader in green efficient lifestyles. Providing safe and green modes of transport.
Anything in the hands of a wrong attitude can be perverted into bad. (i.e. some Bikes at Critical Mass)
My family live in edmonton, in your world Bobbie i would have to ride my bike to see them! how often would i get to see them then?
Be realistic! not angry and polar! we are all in this together. Lets work together, not as enemies! I love you : )

Comment by Rika

Rika, you ask: “how do you propose we go about living our lives without the use of cars and trucks for transport?”

Answer: The same way that numerous other cities have managed to so so.

This isn’t rocket science, but it does mean standing up to the auto industry and considerable re-thinking about the way we currently do things.

Comment by anon

Hi Rika, I know the comments below were directed at Bobbie, but I hope you don’t mind me answering them…

“ do you propose we go about living our lives without the use of cars and trucks for transport?”

I know this might come as a shock ….. but people have lived for thousands of years without cars and trucks. And they somehow lived long meaningful lives, created great works of art, music and literature and travelled.

But we don’t have to eliminate all motor vehicles – just dramatically reduce their use.

” (i suppose your bike was ridden to the bike store?)”

Last time I bought a bike I took the bus.

“… the vehicles and see how quickly your world crumbles into a chaotic mess…”

If we are forced to make this transition quickly it will be difficult. And we will have to make the transition. There is just simply not enough resources for us to continue to make our car addiction. So rather than wait until the emergency arises we should be beginning the transition now. It will make it easier.

“1000’s of people are injured and killed on bikes every year around the world without the help of cars.”

Could you supply a reference for this. I seriously doubt this is true. There are many bike fatalities each year but most involve motor vehicles.

“I see the auto industry as having the potential to becoming a leader in green efficient lifestyles. ”

I provide two links above the critique this argument in detail. Do have some analysis of why their points are wrong?

“My family live in edmonton,…! how often would i get to see them then?”

High-speed rail would be the safest cleanest and least destructive method. We should be demanding this infrastructure be built.

“Be realistic!”

I am. Our current use of motor vehicles is not sustainable. We can’t solve the climate crisis, species depletion and other environmental issues if we continue our current obsession with the motor vehicle. It is unrealistic to think that our current transportation infrastructure is sustainable.

“Lets work together, not as enemies!”

I would love to but we need to honest. I can not honestly support the current level of motor vehicle use. It is just too destructive. Will you work with me to change it?

“I love you : )”

And I love the thousands of people who are negatively affected by our current level of car use. And the millions of future generations who will pay for our bad habits. If we really love those people than we have a responsibility to change the society around us.

Comment by rob

Well, now that I’m back in town, I’ll get back in here.
Rika, there is one major flaw in your argument for the continuation of cars as the norm. And that is you assume that cars in and of themselves are not a problem. You seek to externalize all of the costs associated with the automobile.
Tires, plastics, heavy metals. Just where do all of the tires go every year? You don’t think that every tire is recycled, do you? Why do you think we have piles of burning tires that seem to occur every year. Car batteries have lead. Do you honestly think every battery is recycled. What is the life of the lead plates used in a battery? You do realize that the plates in batteries have to be smelted down to be formed into new plates. I could go on and on, but until you start to stop externalizing all of the costs associated with the private automobile you will never begin to understand why the private automobile can not exist for mush longer

And some of your justifications for the automobile are tenuous at their best.
First aid? Are you serious? Most of what ambulances respond to are motor vehicle related incidents. Get rid of the automobile and you’ve gotten rid of a majority of the need for cars. And since when were public ambulances considered private vehicles. I didn’t say anything about getting rid of public vehicles, nor did I say anything about getting rid of the infrastructure required to move goods. It’s the private automobile that is the problem.

You see the potential for the automobile industry to become green? I’ve got some swamp land in Florida that I’d like to sell to you. The automobile industry can not by it’s very nature become green. It’s against their best interests. For a vehicle to be as green as possible it would have to last much longer than the seven years that a car is supposed to last for. The automobile industry will not support that. The automobile industry is based upon fresh new sales. They can’t sell if no one is buying.
Rika, you can ride your bike to Edmonton if you want to be silly. Me, I’ll go visit my father this year again in Morinville riding on Greyhound.

The fact that you have to resort to these hysterical gross exaggeration’s of an existence without cars is the real reason why critical mass will still be relevant. You are like a cigarette smoker. You know what you are doing is bad for your health and bad for the health of those around you, yet you smoke. And just like the other smokers, you can’t see that you’re addicted to your habit. You come up with all sorts of straw man arguments for the continued existence of the single passenger vehicle, just like a cigarette smoker keeps citing all sorts of disproved ‘scientific’ theories provided by the tobacco companies as to why smoking is good for you and essential for tobacco growing states.

Comment by Bobbie

Excellent response, i read the site regarding transporting goods without use of vehicles (although their main example city, Venice is rather abstract, apply it to a city like New York and Tokyo if you want a more realistic model) I agree and would fully enjoy a city where there are less vehicles. But even in their examples they generalize. their are some major issues. Like pricing, would the increased technicalities of moving goods increase cost or availability of those goods? Would fresh seafood become unavailable in say Regina?

The infastructure changes seem profound, would it not be more economical to rethink the car, focus on solar, or electric for example, and build out of recycled, bio materials?
Not to mention we are considering here deconstructing a part of our culture that is enormous, from car clubs, to Daytona (the 2nd biggest sport in the US i beleive)
Why cant we put as much effort into figuring how to live together in a world that has cars! as much as some are considering getting rid of them. i love cars! 1968 Camaro… 66 VW Spilt Window Safari Van.. if those cars were made of hemp fiber and run on water… wow!!!!!

Comment by Rika

A car made out of hemp would still be grossly inefficient in terms of its energy consumption. You simply can’t take expect a person travelling with 2000lbs of materials surrounding them to ever be as energy-efficient as a person astride 25lbs of materials.

Hey I used to love cars too. But then I moved to the city and realized they are too dangerous and environmentally-damaging to be allowed here with us.

Comment by anon

“… Like pricing, would the increased technicalities of moving goods increase cost or availability of those goods?”

Trucks are not very efficient for cargo. Ships and rail being more efficient could actually lower costs.

But the real question is what price do we put on human health and the rights of future generations to have quality of life. If we are living a life of love for others shouldn’t we be willing to pay a bit more so that other humans and future generations might have a healthier life?

” Would fresh seafood become unavailable in say Regina?”

People lived in Regina for decades without fresh seafood. Are our privileged tastes worth sacrificing the health of future generations.

And if we really need fresh seafood there is always rail…

“… changes seem profound, would it not be more economical to rethink the car,…”

Why would it be more economical to focus on unrealistic solutions (see the articles I linked to above) that don’t yet exist rather than on solutions which already exist (high speed rail for long distances, electrified rapid transit for medium distances and cycling/walking for short distances).

“… focus on solar, or electric for example, and build out of recycled, bio materials?”

Ironically my day job focuses on solar. Although it has some limited use to make our society more sustainable trying to convert all cars to run on solar is ridiculously unrealistic.

“Not to mention we are considering here deconstructing a part of our culture …”

We have made such large changes in our past. At one time slavery was a large part of our culture.

“Why cant we put as much effort into figuring how to live together in a world that has cars!…”

Because there is no evidence that this is realistically sustainable. Don’t take may work for it. Look at the work of some like Bill Rees who has spent decades looking at the concept of Ecological footprints.

” i love cars! ”

I used to as well. But I came to realize how destructive and unsustainable they are.

Comment by rob_

The costs of keeping the infrastructure in place to support the private automobile eat up most of your municipal and provincial tax dollars. They may not always show up as proper budget line items and departments can often move things around. For instance, the money to redo the sea to sky highway. Where did that money come from? There never was a budget to upgrade that road. The budget line only appeared after Vancouver won the Olympics. The dollar figure for rebuilding the sea to sky highway is in the billions of dollars. And to plan for a budget like that, it takes years.

Street lights. Those massive 200 watt high pressure sodium street lights. Who pays to maintain them and power them? Street lights are not meant for pedestrian safety, or they’d be shining over the sidewalk, not the road.
Traffic lights, who pays to maintain them and who pays for the electricity used by them?
Roads. You don’t honestly think that gas taxes even pay for a tiny portion of road maintenance, do you?
And this doesn’t even touch on the subject of road building.
Storm drain run off. All the grease, oil, anti freeze and fuel goes somewhere when it rains, doesn’t it? It usually ends up going down the storm sewer.
Pollution. What happens with all of the particulate that is discharged from the tailpipe of a car. All internal combustion engines, not just Diesel, produce varying amounts of particulate.
Rubber, those tires that go on your car wear down with time. Where does all of that rubber go?
Brake pads, where does all of the friction material go?

I could go on and on, but car fanatics just can grasp the concept of externalities.

Comment by Bobbie

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