But straightaway the principle of openness is put to the test. Someone has posted details of all the forthcoming Critical Mass bike rides on the Better by Bike events list. Now for those of you that don't know Critical Mass is pretty controversial since it involves a large group of cyclists completely taking over the section of roadway they are using, typically spreading out to occupy two or three traffic lanes to block any overtaking by motorists. To some extent this is a necessary tactic to keep the ride as one coherent body and not allow it to become fragmented.
Needless to say some of the motorists stuck behind a Critical Mass ride and reduced to a snail's pace for anything up to, what, a few minutes (shock, horror) don't appreciate this tactic and tend to express their frustration by illegal horn sounding and, given half a chance, aggressive overtaking. On occasion things can get nasty and violent confrontations have ensued, although that is certainly not the objective of Critical Mass. This facebook site gives more background to Bristol Critical Mass.
Like many cyclists I've always had mixed feelings about the event. It's good to get together with other cyclists once a month to enjoy that fabled 'safety in numbers' and to create a different kind of street culture for a couple of hours. But I've never been comfortable with the inevitable (?) confrontation with motorists. I know they bring the whole city to a standstill twice a day for 250 days of every year but even so I can't help wondering if aggravating them serves any useful purpose.
Anyway back to Jon Rogers and Cycling City. How are they going to react to discovering that they are using council resources to host details of such a controversial event as Critical Mass? Openness is all very well in theory but when it means advertising Critical Mass on a council web site even a liberal democrat like Jon Rogers might have second thoughts. My guess is that Critical Mass will be scrubbed from Better by Bike by noon on Monday.
Pics from Bristol Critical Mass summer 2009