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Statement about the July 2008 incident in Seattle.

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As seen on Adbusters and Rage Against the Machine!

Don't get a permit

When local police learn of your ride, they may insist that you get a permit, perhaps a parade permit. Don't do it. The point of Critical Mass is that biking is a right, not a privilege. Cars don't need permits to ride on the streets, and neither should cyclists. They may threaten to arrest you if you ride without a permit. At that point you'll need to consider whether you're willing to get arrested to make your point. If you're not, and you choose not to ride or choose to get the permit, then you've allowed them to "put cyclists in their place". It's not an easy choice for some. (Austin CM was told it needed a permit, refused to get one, and then suffered arrests of riders. CM'ers went to court and either won their cases, or had them thrown out of court.)

Here's the experience of Portland, Oregon CM'ers in November 2002.

One rider writes:

The police have been furiously lobbying for two utterly counterproductive concessions: no corking and a parade permit. After much maneuvering, just before the November ride they found a brand new masser (one ride under his belt - on which he was injured by a car) fool enough to apply for a permit. Then convened a hasty and confusing meeting between city officials and whatever massers they could round up, and produced the most Rashomon ride ever. I mean, all Critical Mass rides are like the blind man and the elephant, but this one took the cake.

Another rider notes:

I realize that the Portland police are eager to see a version of Critical Mass that has no impact on the city, and that a participant has come forward that appears willing to join with you in this effort. I am sure you are savvy enough to realize that this has very little chance of succeeding (owing to the very nature of the Critical Mass phenomena).


I participate in Critical Mass in Madison Wisconsin, and last April when a cyclist went to the effort of obtaining a permit and planning a route, participants abandoned that route within 10 minutes.


Have you considered the long term impact of this course of action? I imagine when the permitted ride is abandoned, the Police will have an excuse to take more extreme action than normal because Critical Mass has broken an agreement with the city. The problem is, there is no organization, no leaders, and therefore no accountability for one rider's actions based on another riders promises. However, this will not stop the Police from claiming that the participants have broken an agreement.


If I as a motorist were to promise on behalf of all other motorists in Portland not to block traffic by participating in rush hour (i.e.. creating congestion) by taking up a single lane and sticking to a pre planned route, would the Police then take action during the next rush hour to punish Portland Motorists for breaking my agreement? After all, motorists who are impeding the normal (i.e.. at speed limit) flow of traffic are breaking the law. I doubt it.


And this I think reveals the true nature of your relationship with Critical Mass - you are undertaking this course of action for purely political reasons. While there are a plethora of life threatening acts of motorist lawbreaking going on all around the city, the political problems brought about by Critical Mass outweigh the public safety, thus justifying taking resources away from normal traffic enforcement.


I would suggest that instead of trying to neuter Critical Mass by encouraging non representatives to make agreements on behalf of people they do not represent, and then having the Police enforce laws that have comparatively little positive effect on public safety, that you instead work with the city and riders to change the laws that make participating in a "bicycle rush hour" any more against the law than participating in a car rush hour. I would certainly appreciate any information you might give me as to why this course of action is not possible.

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