Friday, while Seattle's Critical Mass was taking the Viaduct by storm, enciting the slog sturm und drang over here, I was taking my students on a bike tour of the North Side of Chicago. After hitting a number of key sites—James T. Farrell's grave, canals and pumping stations, Chicago's only waterfall, the old Indian treaty boundary line, the Vienna Beef Hot Dog factory, Nelson Algren's boyhood home—I left them at the Billy Goat and set out to scout out my next tour, which will cover the near south, west and north sides.
On my way southbound on State Street, I was twice blocked by Chicago's Critical Mass. Each time I stood there steaming along with drivers and pedestrians, a CM dolt shouted "Join us!". The first time, I just said, "No!" The second time (after scooting through a gap in the lead group, I got stuck near the middle as they looped around) I said "Fuck you!" One of the tattooed, fixed-gear, Ancient Celtic hairdo messenger types took exception, and circled back, telling me I was a sonofabitch and should go fuck myself, and perhaps he'd teach me a lesson. . . which led me to reach back and grab my U-lock off my rack and let him know he'd be in for more than a civil conversation if he wanted to continue along this path. He rejoined his tribe to show Chicagoans . . . well, I'm not exactly sure what.
The overwhelmingly negative response to the CM Viaduct Putsch in the comments of Frizzelle's entry should be setting off some alarm bells in CM. If liberal bike-loving slog readers think you're a bunch of jerks, what must the people who drive—the people you're trying to convince of the righteousness of your cause—think about you?
The suggestion I made last time CM was a big slogging deal stands: if CM wants to make a point that cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as all users of the public roads, then show that with a protest that demonstrates it. Start at dozens of remote locations, and have everyone converge on Pioneer Square or the Space Needle or some other central location, riding single file and obeying all traffic laws along the way. The sight of hundreds or thousands of cyclists all over town, stopping for red lights, letting little old ladies cross the street, signalling their turns—it might change a few minds.