Pitiful Mass

The meek and mild will protest as usual, but it has to be said:

Critical Mass is a bicycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in over 300 cities around the world.[1] While the ride was originally founded in 1992 in San Francisco with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to cyclists,[2]the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets on bikes.

A whole gang of us went on the Prague version of Critical Mass last night – the “cyklojizda”. Of course, they can’t just call it “Critical Mass” here. It has to be different. And oh, but it is. Last night’s ride was disorganized in comparison to a cicada colony high on ketamine. To start with, they “organize” the thing to start at 6pm on Namesti Jiriho z podebrad – which is super, if the school bell rings at 5:45, they let you out of the turkey farm early, or if you live on JZP and your mom agrees to wake you up. What about people who have actual jobs who ALSO ride their bikes and are concerned with the state of road safety and cyclist awareness in the city? Aren’t these the people we are trying to reach? Or is Critical Mass really just an anxious benchfor the benefit and theatrics of the converted?

Groundhogs display more singularity of purpose and long-term planning than this group. They got lost every two blocks, pausing in the middle of the road (the only time they actually managed to get on the road to begin with) to examine a 1940’s era map under the light of their mobile phones. In response to a friendly “Anyone know where we’re going?” in Czech, I got a grinning twat telling me in horrible English that it’s good to have a bell and a helmet. Why is that? So you can ding your twatty bell to alert the caretaker he-nurse that I’m making fun of you and not fear repeated blows to the skull??

I’ve never seen anything like it. After about 45 minutes (during which time we covered maybe 4 kilometers and actually gave way to people WALKING SAUSAGE DOGS faster than us bikers, a few of us gave up and split. The near-manic level of indecision in effect last night was contagious. We bumbled around a few dark streets, talking about maybe going to a bar or something, before finally slinking off home and, in my case at least, falling asleep in my socks and snorkeling gear.

So what’s the answer? God forbid we risk harming “solidarity” with fellow bikers, but the folks leading that ride were a danger to themselves and others – a good reason to keep cyclists off the road, rather than a demonstration of the benefits of the opposite.

Is it time to organize a “real” critical mass in Prague? Anyone interested?

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~ by themicah on March 22, 2010.

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