Bicycle Diaries: Massholes

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and the summer's
first mass

There's been quite a discussion on the CCM listserv in anticipation of tomorrow's Critical Mass. It was sparked by the following email from Rob Sadowsky, the Executive Director of the Active Transportation Alliance - formerly the Chicago Bicycle Federation.
A top Chicago Police deputy approached me Sunday and wants me to relay a message to Critical Mass participants. He shared that the department is not interested in stopping Critical Mass, but it is concerned with two behaviors:

1. Drinking and drugs while riding.
2. Aggressive and violent activities, specifically concerned with this
around corking. Chicago Police will issue warnings and possibly
tickets starting this Friday.

I also want to add that I think that the individual I talked with really did get what Critical Mass is about in principle and that was a bit enlightening and hopeful. I told him I’d pass the message along.
As a frequent masser, I actually think it's a good sign that the CPD got in touch with Rob before tomorrow's mass. First, they obviously realize the summer's 1st mass is going to be huge - if last month's numbers are any indication. They'd rather work with massers rather than trying to stop us. Second, they are quite clear about the two issues they'll actively confront. I've learned the hard way that drinking to excess not only endangers me and my bike but threatens other bikers and cagers. As for corking, I've always felt it was a means of cooperating with cagers instead of challenging them.

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On last month's mass, I corked a woman who was trying to cross N. Humboldt Blvd. on Cortland near Palmer Square. She had stopped to let the mass pass but her car was blocking car traffic coming down behind her because massers were zipping around her front bumper. She was more frustrated - understandably - than angry.

I stopped and told her I would get the massers to give her more room in front so she could pull farther up. As folks were going by I simply yelled, She's ok. She gets the mass. Give her a little room! And massers did. Everyone was great; they whooped and cheered. She pulled up. She even got into the mood, rolling down her windows and cranking up her stereo. I then told her it would be 10 minutes tops before we passed, then she could go. I stayed with her the whole time and explained what we were about.

Certainly this type of feel-good story doesn't happen all the time. But I believe that the privilege of massing obligates all of us to at least try to be helpful to drivers AND to avoid, as best we can, being provoked by frustrated or angry drivers.

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