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“Here We Are. Let’s Take The Gardiner”

053008criticalmass_01.jpg053008criticalmass_02.jpg
Photo by TObike from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.
It’s been a busy day for the Gardiner. First, Waterfront Toronto announced plans to dismantle a section of the expressway from Jarvis to the Don Valley Parkway, with David Miller formally scrapping the planned Front Street Extension. And then, late Friday afternoon, more than two hundred cyclists rolled up the Jarvis Street ramp to slowly and steadily (and illegally) take the entire westbound expressway over.
The cyclists were part of Critical Mass, the huge group cycle that takes place on the last Friday of every month in Toronto and around the world. According to Martin Reis, who was in the pack, the decision to ascend the ramp onto the Gardiner Expressway was spontaneous (even though it bears some resemblance to a similar but much smaller Los Angeles freeway ride from two weeks ago), and was not intended to be a huge statement: as Reis put it, the groupthink was more along the lines of “Here we are. Let’s take the Gardiner.”
The cyclists started off in the merging lane, then gradually took over the rest of the lanes, controlling all of them by about the time they reached York Street. “We basically became like one giant automobile,” Reis says. Fellow participant Nick Syperek told Torontoist that “it was exhilarating to see Toronto from that angle.” Reis saw no confrontations between cyclists and motorists, characterizing the entire thing as “very very civilized, [and] very peaceful.”
About twenty minutes after their trip began, police officers funneled the cyclists off the expressway and onto the Dunn Avenue off-ramp. (The Star says they rode all the way from Jameson Avenue to Dunn, which is a 200 metre trip and would have been a little less fun than the 7 kilometres west from Jarvis to Dunn.) The Star also reported that one man was arrested—according to Reis, it was a younger man who refused to follow police orders and seemed to have tried to get past the cop cars (Reis has heard rumours that that man has since been fined and released). At least two more participants—including Angela Bischoff, Tooker Gomberg’s widow—confronted police officers and were ticketed.
But no matter. Today was, Reis happily pointed out to us, participant Derek Chadbourne’s birthday. Chadbourne runs The Bike Joint on Harbord, and was ecstatically pronouncing the impromptu Gardiner trip the best birthday present he could’ve gotten.
More photos from Torontoist’s Flickr Pool in the slideshow below.

Comments

  • Lands Down

    Pretty inconsiderate of them.

  • tino

    We are traffic.

  • Acadie

    Groupthink = Follow the lead fool. They are lucky some nut was not barreling down the Gardiner and seriously hurt any of them. Yes I know it is usually a crawl but doesn’t mean some idiot would not be on the road as per usual trying to get nowhere fast. Then you have a photo of some of the Group of Fools without so much as a Bicycle helmet on. Groupthink, I agree not one of them can think for themselves, sounds and looks right to me.

  • TokyoTuds

    As I think bicycles are not normally permitted on highways, this action would be considered non-violent civil disobedience. I hope that it helps raise awareness of cycling issues, but perhaps Critical Mass shouldn’t make a habit of hitting the highway.
    I hope to have a chance soon to join Critical Mass, however, on a nice ride down University Ave., or over the Bloor Viaduct and through Greektown, and the like.
    Cheers,
    Tuds

  • EastToronto

    I just looked through all the Photos and some woman brought her child onto the highway endangering the life of that child. If you know who she is you need to report her to the Authourities, she endangered the life of that child, this is not civil disobedience, it is reckless and child endangerment. If I find out her name I will, I cannot believe that, raise awareness if you want, but to take a child onto a highway is just repulsive and utterly disgusting. And the moron is smiling. A Child on a Bike on the Gardiner Expressway, don’t people have any sense about them. I want to know why the police when it was seen did not charge her with child,endangerment, I have a copy and will be trying to find out who she is and sending the Police a copy and asking why she was not arrested at the scene.

  • McEVIL

    This looks like a scene from some post-apocalyptic movie like Stephen King’s ‘The Stand’ where a group of survivors struggles to leave the once populated city to make it to the place where all of humanity is gathering to make one last ditch effort against Satan or the vampires or the last human child to be born.
    Which gets me thinking: Why do most of these people WALK to their destinations all the time? Maybe a car, which inevitably runs out of gas, is used; but once that’s over they just WALK.
    Note to self: in case of Armageddon, pack bike in car.

  • toddtyrtle

    I think the phrase “child endangerment” is excessive – this is a group of several hundred people and the likelihood of anything happening (unless, apparently, at the hands of police, but that’s a different story) is slim to none.
    EastToronto, you’re being a bit ridiculous and alarmist. Seriously, if you want to help with reducing so-called “child endangerment” perhaps you could work towards getting better cycling infrastructure and fewer cars on our streets. Given my experiences on the roads, it is *far* more dangerous being a cyclist alone or in a small group on the street (just ask those hurt or killed on the streets in the past week) than it is to be part of a group several hundred strong on the Gardiner. This is much of the point of the Critical Mass ride is that the traffic is much less of an issue when you are part of a hundreds-strong group.
    Hey – why not forget about tearing down the gardiner, though, and leave it up. It is obviously an excellent high capacity cross-town bike lane!
    -Todd
    who is patiently and happily watching the gas prices rise waiting for them to get high enough so that the Gardiner always looks like that.

  • chantelle

    In 1998 I left at 2 am and took the gardiner all the way to Hamilton on my way to NYC.
    I didn’t know I was such a rebel. I was from the stix and couldn’t imagine there were laws against such things.
    I am giving away my bike this week because after getting hit by angry drivers 3 times over the years I give up and choose life.

  • Svend

    A nice peaceful ride, didn’t see any angry participants or spectators.
    I’m glad the cops chose to funnel us off instead of confronting us, that was our intended exit anyway.

  • Lenin

    EastToronto – You know you sound insane right? It is so sexist how people think they can just step in and tell women how to raise their kids with threats of having their kids taken away from them.
    Child endangerment? How many kids have asthma or cancer because of the pollution all those dinosaurs in cars emit!? Get your priorities straight.

  • AdamSchwabe

    FYI, Derek Chadbourne, referenced in the post as the owner of the Bike Joint, also runs the annual Toronto Ice Race!
    http://deartoronto.com/2008/03/10/dear-toronto-8-toronto-ice-race/ :)

  • Kevin Bracken

    This rules :)

  • angelab

    I was not “confronting the police” as the article said. I was politely asking an officer where they were taking the arrestee so that we could meet him there with his bike. That’s when 2 cops grabbed onto my handlebars while one yanked onto my coat and pulled me back. I stumbled, almost falling, when 2 more officers lunged for me and slammed me up against a cop car, wrenching my arms behind me, handcuffing me.
    Another woman, witnessing this brutality, called them on it. They grabbed her then and did the same thing.
    We spent the next hour being harrassed before being released with mere traffic violations.
    The rest of the ride though was a blast.

  • Val Dodge

    Acadie,

    They are lucky some nut was not barreling down the Gardiner and seriously hurt any of them.

    Nuts in cars aren’t exclusive to the Gardiner. This is the danger that cyclists can encounter any day, anywhere. For a Critical Mass ride, the Gardiner is probably no more dangerous than University Ave. or the Eaton Centre.

  • Catherine Kustanczy

    Nuts in cars aren’t exclusive to the Gardiner. This is the danger that cyclists can encounter any day, anywhere. For a Critical Mass ride, the Gardiner is probably no more dangerous than University Ave. or the Eaton Centre.

    Agreed, 100%.
    I was hit by a van just walking across St. George in January, never mind biking, although there have been numerous, scary close enconters, every single one of them by drivers in too much of a hurry, not stopping, not looking, not thinking. THAT is dangerous.
    As to the “endangering children” argument, I’d say vehicular use (rather, overuse) endangers us all. Wake up and smell the petrol fumes.
    I love the sight of bikers along the Gardiner -it’s just beautiful and inspiring. Naive as it may sound, I honestly hope this sort of mass transit becomes the accepted norm over time.

  • ajax_cyclist_cb

    I’m a driver of a midsize car. I use it when I need to use it, usually when hauling my family or something heavy around.
    I’m also a pedestrian – (well, everybody is)
    I’m also a suburban cyclist, I use my bike on my daily commute to and from the GO station, as well as for smaller runs to the local video store, drug store etc, and for recreational use. I use my bike a lot more than I use my car.
    IMHO This stunt on the gardiner was a stupid, reckless thing to do, and though I would normally applaud actions that raise awareness for cyclists, these kind of stunts will more likely turn people against cyclists and harm the cause. I encounter enough hostility from bicycle hating idiot drivers as it is and dont see the need to add fuel to their fire. (I realize that’s not all drivers – please forgive the generalization)
    Sorry, but I really dont see how this is going to make people more sympathetic, the majority of people are not cyclists. they are automobile drivers and pedestrians.

  • matty

    Chicago closes down Lake Shore Drive once every summer so people can bike the whole 26 miles or whatever it is.
    Pretty cool.

  • David Topping

    (I’ve just added a dozen or so new photos, courtesy of Reis himself, beginning here.)

  • e dagger

    Stuck at a light going North on Jarvis while the bikers passed, I had plenty of time to think about stuff.
    I thought of many reasons why the stunt was dangerous (Jarvis is an ambulance route – it has a 2 way center lane), cool (I love when people stir up shit), and annoying (try sitting at a light for 15 minutes while you watch people enjoy the day on their bicycles).
    The one thing I couldn’t figure out was the reason for it. Please inform me when someone figures it out because so far it seems they were out to annoy. Oh!, and if your intent was to raise awareness and support for your yet to be clear cause? Try being the first bikers in history to obey the traffic laws – 200 people on bikes is still noticeable when stopping at a red light to let the other lanes of traffic of traffic pass on a green.
    That being said the pics of the Gardiner were pretty cool – I just wish I knew why you were messing with everyones day. Hopefully its a reason I can stand behind.

  • Val Dodge

    The one thing I couldn’t figure out was the reason for it. Please inform me when someone figures it out because so far it seems they were out to annoy.

    Read the link that David posted in the article.

    Try being the first bikers in history to obey the traffic laws

    All cyclists will obey the traffic laws around the same time that all drivers do.

  • Svend

    Why should my taxes pay for these roads that choke us and make our city less civilized and more dangerous? A cyclist was killed this week by an inconsiderate driver yet no charges were laid, why was anyone charged for this incident that didn’t hurt anybody?
    Let’s take back a bit of the roads.

  • shamez amlani

    the children that were riding in this powerful Temporary Autonomous Zone were surrounded by two hundred guardians who weren’t just making their physical environment safer, but were unpaving the way to their future. i think many of the drivers up there got it and were charmed and amazed by the spectacle…they’re people too and were mindful to keep us safe
    to criticize this 20 minute breach of grid sterility is surreal considering that it would have amounted to the exact same thing had we been in cars.. only really boring and a lot more dangerous in fuming hunks of metal
    why tear down the gardiner? imagine an LRT, bike path, walkways with picnic spots, great views…we could revitalize the underpass once the cars are gone with flea markets, farmers markets, basketball courts (i saw that in paris)…imagine retrofitting the city without spending billions & causing environmental mayhem only to create more private-owned commercial property that doesn’t serve the people.
    this ride showed ANOTHER TORONTO IS POSSIBLE…
    40 years since May 1968 in paris…”under the cobblestones…the beach!”
    LOVE TO ALL THE REBELS

  • e dagger

    “Read the link that David posted in the article.”

    “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.”
    Let’s be honest. Everyone who uses the roads in this city are complete a-holes about it (surprisingly pedestrians are the least considerate in my opinion.)
    Can we give merit to the idea that maybe the reason a lot of people took the ride is strictly because of the motorists vs. bikers vs. pedestrians mentality? I mean there’s plenty of undertones to the friction between the groups (or however you may be traveling that day) it in this thread alone. I have friends who when walking hold up cars, and flip off pedestrians while they’re driving – it’s all about people thinking they have the right of way on the roads.
    That’s why this ride kind of annoys me. I guess doubt the motives of this particular group and after reading the link provided above (Thanks David) it seems they’re just a bunch of dicks.

  • Rosemary Mosco

    At this risk of sounding like a mom, you guys need to wear your helmets. My helmet has saved my brain twice now. Cover those noggins!
    Oh man, somewhere my mom is smiling.

  • goomann

    I was on that ride and the only time I felt endangered was when the cop cars buzzed us to get to the front of the pack. I think this whole argument about child endangerment is ridiculous because the number one killer of children under the age of 21 are automobiles so those kids are safer on bikes. Ban cars, ban cops and the city will be a safer place.

  • Catherine Kustanczy

    Let’s be honest. Everyone who uses the roads in this city are complete a-holes about it (surprisingly pedestrians are the least considerate in my opinion.

    Does this mean we deserve to be struck?
    I can’t say for certain, but the relentless nastiness -this “us vs. them” mentality -has to stop. Part of the reason is, I suspect, that people in cars are totally disconnected from their environment and their fellow travellers. Disconnection results in judgement, results in hostility. Cyclists tend to feel slighted and abused by the drivers, so ride with an air of (dangerous) entitlement. This is a broad generalization, but still. There is judgement, anger, hostility, rage -and it has to stop.

    this ride showed ANOTHER TORONTO IS POSSIBLE…

    … and another way of viewing ourselves and our relationship to others, including our fellow commuters.

  • AJB

    I encountered this display of mass idiocy yesterday. The thing I found funny was that, as a pedestrian, I was almost run over by the morons on bikes that were blowing through their red light as I tried to walk across the street, on my green light.
    I also remember seeing the child involved in this and I was surprised that a mother would involve her child in something like this. The fact that she later took him onto a FREEWAY on his bicycle is shocking, and yes it is, by definition, child endangerment.
    I think it’s safe to say that, under no circumstances whatsoever, a mother should direct her child to ride his bicycle on a freeway.
    Also noted was the lack of helmets which to me just illustrates how sometime in the future at least one of you will have a rude appointment with Darwin as you “protest” in vain to add that sliver of self-worth you apparently lack.
    As a cyclist in this city, and one who is fully aware of the trials a cyclist goes through trying to navigate steets filled with idiots in cars, I have to say that you do not represent me and next time you try this shit you should all be arrested.

  • AJB

    Additionally, to the simple-minded who are arguing that cars are more dangerous to the child than this stunt:
    The very nature of your argument proves my point. If cars, in a normal situtation, on a normal street are dangerous to a child on a bike then why the hell would you take the child onto a freeway?

  • saving the earth

    I am extremely proud of the Critical Mass group.
    Thank you for making a conscientious effort to protect the children of this world by putting your best foot forward.
    Happy Birthday Brother!
    Love your Sister.

  • iantri

    “All cyclists will obey the traffic laws around the same time that all drivers do.”
    The logical fallacy should be obvious here.
    Some people commit thefts, ergo I should be allowed to steal whatever I want until everyone stops doing it?
    I am a daily cyclist and TTC user, and the attititude of some cyclists is shit. Unfortunately, what you notice in a streetcar or vehicle is the misbehaving cyclists — cyclists running red lights are obvious, cyclists waiting at the light are not.
    But there is simply no good excuse for not following traffic law. Do that, and it just might reduce your risk of getting hurt.

  • Evalynn

    As the mother of the two happy-looking boys in some of the pictures (ages 12 and 8), I want to say that It was one of the safest bike riding moments they have had. Trying to get them to school every day with inconsiderate and dangerous drivers on the road is much more dangerous. Last night they were surrounded by 340 careful conscientious bike riders who took care of them and protected them from car traffic. The only thing that was scary for them was the police sirens and brutality. They partook of the exhilaration and camaraderie and will never forget the view of their city from the Gardiner.

  • Val Dodge

    The logical fallacy should be obvious here.

    It’s not a logical fallacy; it’s a statement of fact. You’re reading something into my comment that isn’t there. I’m not asking for exceptions, nor am I whining that, “everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?”
    I’m not saying that people, whether on bikes or in cars, shouldn’t obey traffic laws; I think they should. I’m just stating the pretty obvious fact that they don’t. No matter what vehicle they’re driving or riding, most people bend or break traffic laws every day. It seems to be human nature.
    It’s not that cyclists have to shape up, or that drivers have to shape up, it’s that bad road users, whatever they’re driving or riding, have to shape up. If you can figure out a way to cure cyclists of their bad habits, you will also have found a way to cure car drivers of theirs. So as I said, cyclists will obey the law when drivers do.
    Besides, easing passage for both cars and bikes is not about everyone following the letter of the law, but following the conventions that most people have long agreed on.

  • quest

    Hey David, is there a way to run the slideshow without the entire page reloading every time I click a thumbnail? When I’m at work on dial-up (sadly, it still exists out in the countryside) it takes forever to view them.
    -Jerrold

  • David Topping

    I shall look into it and see if there’s a way. (Something along the lines of a printable version of any article, not just those with slideshows, that would remove all content but the article and associated imagery would be nice.)

  • sonyactivision

    Change the name of this expressway to The Darwin Expressway and let the bikers have at it with the cars. Whoever wins wins, and whoever loses gets recycled into a lovely earth-friendly artificial reef in the lake.

  • Amanda Buckiewicz

    I’m totally on team bikers.
    And for the record, the girl in the first photo in the grey sweatshirt doesn’t have her helmet because she lent hers to me and I haven’t given it back yet. So that’s my bad.

  • jericho1ne

    Whatup T.dot!!! I see the same idiotic comments on here that I saw from the same type of people that entirely missed the point of the LA Freeway Ride. I love it.
    Keep driving you robots.

  • heys

    Critical Mass = Gandhi. (Brave non-violent protestors for what’s right)

  • David Topping

    …which makes drivers…?
    I’m a bicyclist, I’m a pedestrian, I use the TTC, and I’m a driver. (I obey the laws for each, for the record.) It’s fine to romanticize any one of those positions, but not at the expense of the other groups. Critical Mass—cool or brave as they may be—is not on the same level as Mahatma Gandhi, nor is your average driver on the same level as British soldiers massacring Indians. Language like that is unnecessarily divisive, as is the idea that driving a car is somehow wrong when for many people it’s far and away the most practical way for them to, say, go from work to home.
    I agree that there would be a number of benefits to moving away from (but not abandoning) a car-centric culture, and I think it’s pretty obvious that Toronto is on the cusp of that shift. It’s just be nice if some people in each group didn’t see all members of the other groups as dangerous, careless, aggressive jerks who only want to rule the road.
    [Edited this message on Sunday night; realized I forgot to say Critical Mass is not on the same level of Gandhi.]

  • Evalynn

    Check out this blog about the ride:
    http://citywithoutcars.blogspot.com/

  • Val Dodge

    I agree that there would be a number of benefits to moving away from (but not abandoning) a car-centric culture,

    I think it’s past time to abandon a car-centric culture. That’s not to say that cars should disappear entirely, but that they should no longer trump all other considerations when it comes to transportation, neighbourhoods, building permits, zoning, or urban planning. Giving up car-centric culture doesn’t mean giving up cars, it just means considering alternative modes of transportation on (at least) an equal footing. Others may take a more radical view of cars.
    I don’t want bikes to be the only vehicles on the road; I just think that people shouldn’t be marginalized for the sin of selecting a vehicle that is two tonnes lighter than―and a hundredth the cost of―most others on the road.

  • leif

    This is the future. The time has come to ban motorists from blocking the Gardiner Expressway and make way for vastly more practical forms of urban transportation, such as the bicycle. Critical Mass made history as it flowed smoothly westbound atop Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway at rush hour, Friday 30 May 2008. You can’t argue with success.

  • leif

    Time is money! Nearly 400 cyclists made it from Jarvis to Dunn in a mere 20 minutes. No cars or door prizes, no streetcar tracks, no traffic lights, hardly any pot-holes, nice wide lanes. Hurray for elevated super-highways! Lets build more elevated bike lanes for Toronto’s traffic now!

  • AJB

    Ghandi? The Events? The Berlin Wall? Made history?
    Holy. Shit.
    If any of you actually believe that your fleeting and annoying bike ride will go down in history on par with any of those people or events then you are batshit delusional.
    The fact that you would have the obnoxious gall (triple pun intended) to even allow such self-revering thoughts to enter your mind illustrates to me that your “protest” or your “movement” or whatever you’d like to call it is nothing more than an aggressively mediocre attempt by a bunch of sad people trying desperately to bring some sort of meaning to their lives.
    You’ve accomplished nothing. Check that, as a cyclist now I’ll have to put up with the stereotype that I’m some sort of wannabe Che with bad parenting skills and poor judgement.
    Thank you, thank you for displaying your dumbassery for all the city to see so that now we’ve taken a step backwards in finding a solution for this problem.

  • saving the earth

    AJB you negativity is overwhelming and non productive.
    Try to keep a positive thought or you will make yourself sick Friend.

  • saving the earth

    Evalynn thank you for the link.
    I wish I could have been on the ride with you all and reading the blog helped me to experience the joy of the event.
    As well thank you for being such a great parent to your children!
    Fantastic!

  • montrealshorts

    Dumbest things I’ve heard in a while:

    “It is so sexist how people think they can just step in and tell women how to raise their kids with threats of having their kids taken away from them.”

    - Lenin, In response to criticism of a mother taking her children for a bike ride on a highway, at dusk, without a police escort, on a Friday night.

    “For a Critical Mass ride, the Gardiner is probably no more dangerous than University Ave. or the Eaton Centre.”

    - Val Dodge

    “I think this whole argument about child endangerment is ridiculous because the number one killer of children under the age of 21 are automobiles so those kids are safer on bikes.”

    - goomann, explaining the obvious safety advantages that children enjoy by riding their bikes on highways, instead of being driven in cars on highways.
    Classic.

  • e dagger

    I bought a Jack Johnson ticket today and for 50 cents extra you can buy credits to offset your carbon footprint. I bought 3. It was just like when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon.
    Remember to wear your helmets.

  • AJB

    “Saving The Earth”, thank you for your concern about my health. I realize your duties as the Gaianic messiah keep you busy so it’s nice that you take the time to care.
    Don’t fret, I’m quite well. It’s just that sometimes the stupidity of the AnarChic Hipster subset swells to a critical mass and I can’t help but cry out in protest.
    Viva la revolucion! And remember, under the Gardiner, the Lakeshore.
    Yours truly,
    Voltaire

  • iAManugget

    where are all the segways?

  • friend68

    It just seems kind of sad and depressing that the most vocal of the cycling advocates (at least justing by the posts) take such an aggressive and extreme attitude.
    I agree with a lot of the things that cycling advocates want, both in the city and in new developments, but when a suggestion that cyclists also obey the rules is met by angry cries of “ban the car,” or “rules are only put there because of dangerous cars” — or the if the judgement of a woman to take her child on a bike on the Gardiner is above reproach because she is on a bike — it just the prospect of any real dialog seem impossible.

  • andrew

    AJB, despite being somewhat snide, has totally kicked ass with that Situationist slogan.
    I like the theory of Critical Mass, but in practice it turns out that as per usual some people tend to lead. It does lend itself to the kind of posture that brooks no disagreement and communicates at volume. What, however, I hope people could gain from it is the courage to bring that kind of ownership of public space into their everyday lives in useful ways. The concept of Critical Mass, as I understand it, comes from observing Chinese traffic patterns and how cyclists and pedestrians can brave unregulated car traffic when sufficient numbers are achieved. People need to do that more with each other as pedestrians and bike-commuters for safety and efficient traffic use when dealing with cars. It makes sense, or should, even to car drivers: wouldn’t you rather be delayed by ten or fifteen minutes because of a pack of cyclists taking the lane, than be delayed by emergency vehicles around a lone cyclist who was injured or killed?

  • saving the earth

    AJB yes it keeps me very busy, 24/7.
    It is my job to care as it is every human beings.
    Keep up the positive attitude, it’s the only way forward.
    Love from your Sister!

  • StatsCanada

    “All cyclists will obey the traffic laws around the same time that all drivers do.”
    ^^.. I am a driver, a cyclist and an follower(mostly) of traffic laws. I can tell you for a fact that cyclist run more red lights and stop signs than drivers !!
    I know because when I’m out biking, and I get to a stop sign, all the cars wait for me even though they were there first and I’m motioning for them to go !
    This means A LOT of you bikers don’t bother to stop, thus it’s considered the norm.
    Also, I see bikers putting their lives at risk everyday by ruunning red lights without helmets on.
    Of course drivers are horrible too, though they don’t run reds nearly as much BUT that BIG HUNK OF METAL y’all seem to hate goes a long way in protecting one’s life in an accident.
    That being said, I’m gonna have to join this MASS EXODUS next time and see what you’re all about.
    -Greg

  • shamez amlani

    i guess some of you must really hate this one then…
    “M41 Motorway, London, 8th June 1996
    The meet-up point was Liverpool Street station, and when we got there at midday there was already a good humoured crowd gathered in the sunshine, buzzing with anticipation, as a handful of baffled policemen did their best to look like they were in control of the situation.
    A local newsagent did a roaring trade in ice creams and drinks in the blazing heat as we awaited instructions. A few moments later, a diminutive girl in a pixie dress came up to us and pushed a flyer in our hands containing the cryptic message telling us to ‘follow the people with the pink ribbons’.
    Seconds later a huge roar went up as the first of the ribbon holders was spotted heading into Liverpool Street tube station, quickly followed by the surging crowd.
    The sound and spectacle of a multitude of drummers echoing down the tiled corridors and a kaleidoscopic range of hair and face colours proved a little too much for a party of Japanese tourists who stood by the escalators, jaws wide open in stunned amazement. This wasn’t in the tourist book!
    We caught the train to Shepherd’s Bush and came out to see the entire roundabout completely gridlocked and the exit surrounded by police vans.
    Some guy felt inspired to jump up and down on a traffic box stark naked, gesticulating wildly at the unamused massed ranks of officers. Unfortunately, further down the road some potential road ragers were frothing madly at the hold-up. I argued with some guy who was effin’ and blindin’ loudly from his huge shiny car.
    After some debate he came up with the conclusion that he didn’t mind if he was held up because of traffic, but being held up by *people* was an absolute outrage! Tosser.
    The crowds continued to build to a soundtrack of drums and car horns (not all sympathetic) until we embarked on what could only be described as a military-esque pincer movement.
    The mass split into two, one heading directly to the roundabout, the other slipping round the backstreets to meet up at the opposite entrance to the roundabout behind the police blockade.
    Minutes earlier two cars had sealed off the slip road on to the M41 and the occupants had leapt out to build tripods on the road.
    Thus the road was cut off from the North at the same time as the two crowds rejoined to seal off the South exit. Success! Instantly, the motorway was a car free zone, and workers set about transforming the landscape.
    There was some considerable argy bargy as the police stopped a sound system being brought in over a ramp onto the motorway, but minutes later another sound system burst into life as huge banners were unfurled from lamp posts.
    Within ten minutes the whole road was completely jammed with a ‘large number of persons pursuing a common purpose’, enjoying the space and freedom to dance to some of those darn ‘repetitive beats’ and take in the glorious sunshine.
    Musicians, stalls, bands, street performers and sound systems were adding to the festival spirit, while kids played contentedly in the ton of sand that had been deposited in the road.
    By the entrance some people had recreated a front room in the fast lane, relaxing on a selection of sofas, playing guitars and reading newspapers, while their dog slumbered contentedly on the rug. The turnout of 7,000 plus was amazing – as far as the eye could see there were people dancing on the road and crash barriers with DJs and sound systems doing it for love not lucre.
    This was rave music as it should be heard – defiant, proud, full-on and communal – without a bomber jacketed doorman in sight!
    Further down the road two twenty-five feet Marie Antoinettes were pushing up tight against the police lines whilst underneath their billowing skirts – unbeknown to officers standing inches away – power drills were busily breaking up the tarmac and devious types were getting ready to plant trees on the motorway. Wonderful.
    Despite the vibe being very friendly and totally peaceful, a few of the police (as ever) did their best to get themselves a ‘situation’ or two, using the old tactics of intimidation and confrontation.
    I went up with a small posse of 15 to help out the guys sat on the tripods, and we found ourselves in the ludicrous situation of being surrounded by over 90 (yes ninety!) officers – including several officers from an armed response unit with a helicopter hovering above!
    Surely, they must have something better to do?!
    Still, once again the Reclaim The Streets posse had outwitted and outfoxed the police and the huge turn out reflected the fast-growing concern for the city environment. The politicians may still be busy kow-towing to the motor industry and churning out excuses, but there’s a lot of people out there who know something must be done – now!
    Respect to all those that came out. See ya’ at the next one”
    i’m guessing nothing like this could EVER happen here…

  • Val Dodge

    that BIG HUNK OF METAL y’all seem to hate goes a long way in protecting one’s life in an accident.

    It also goes a long way in creating the hazard that one’s life needs protection from.

  • Amanda Buckiewicz
  • bippers

    I’m not even sure what Critical Mass events like this are supposed to accomplish other than act as a back-slapping event for bike enthusiasts.
    Aside from vague notions of a less “car-centric” world, these protests have no real message, no goal, and just seem to alienate the majority of people who happen to need to drive to work from the suburbs or what not.
    For every person that has to support a family and has been late to work thanks to this half-assed culture jamming, Critical Mass has lost a pair of sympathetic ears when it comes to issues of pedestrianization and support for legislation. The utter lack of consideration for others undercuts the message.
    As someone who runs home from work, it’s still a toss up between who’s more obnoxious and unpredictable: motorists or cyclists.
    Plus, either way you slice it, it’s idiotic to ride a bike up an express way ramp.

  • shamez amlani

    you’re usually late for work not because of half-assed culture jamming but because everyone is hauling around a couple of couches in their concrete backpack (ie. a car), or because people who aren’t qualified to be operating heavy machinery have spilled innocent blood while text messaging, talking on the phone or eating mcCrap…
    people walking and cycling are also supporting families…many who care about the built environment and the periled world their children are growing in…
    car culture is all about the “utter lack of consideration for others”…and i think it undercuts your message too
    you can’t let critical mass make you unsympathetic to issues of “pedestrianization and support for legislation” when as you pointed out, CM has no real message or goal that you perceive.
    these are the conversation we need to start, not name-calling and knee-jerk judgements.
    i’d love to know what it would be like to run home from work
    do you use a combination of sidewalk, bikepath and the roadway too? you know, when traffics moving real slow? i bet you see the city in a different way
    let’s start there and see what we need to do to make a better city

  • bippers

    you’re usually late for work not because of half-assed culture jamming but because everyone is hauling around a couple of couches in their concrete backpack (ie. a car), or because people who aren’t qualified to be operating heavy machinery have spilled innocent blood while text messaging, talking on the phone or eating mcCrap…
    Um, this really makes no sense. Innocent blood? As opposed to the car-driving guilty blooded people?
    car culture is all about the “utter lack of consideration for others”.
    This is the lame, binary, cars vs cyclists, “us vs them” thinking that fails to find any middle ground that the majority of the population actually lives in.
    As someone who doesn’t drive at all, I don’t think it’s knee-jerk to call Critical Mass pointless and disruptive.

  • farialima

    Just a dumb question: where they (you) slowing down the traffic, or was it jammed already, so that you were in the average speed ?
    If anyone knows the answer, I’d love to know…
    When people did it in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, they chose a time where the freeway was chocked, just to prove that bicycling can be faster than car, even on Freeways :).

  • shamez amlani

    dear bippers,
    good comment about “innocent blood”, any loss of life on the road is a tragedy, i didn’t mean to imply otherwise.
    i appreciate that the population through years of advertising and societal conditioning fails to see that car culture is about the utter lack of consideration to others…it is not meant to be divisive or us vs. them…it begs you to be objective and look outside of the norms of what is acceptable behaviour in our society.
    think of how we have changed our perceptions on smoking. within a few years, what was perfectly acceptable in doctor’s offices and building lobbies, coffee shops, restaurants, hell EVERYWHERE, is now unacceptable public behaviour. this came about because of a shift in thinking that we as a society made.
    its not about an overnight flip, but we as a society need to slowly make that shift in perception about driving and its ill effects. on our personal health, the health of our city and the health of the biosphere. then we can figure out how to make public transport and inter-city train travel better, de-congest the arteries in the hearts of our cities and create a civil society that doesn’t divert public resources to sustain dying industries.
    i’m not calling all drivers murderers or a-holes, most of my friends, customers, family all drive…i’m trying to get them to see car ownership as a filthy habit that they can eventually cut down on the use of and even wean themselves off althogether.
    sometimes it’s not enough just to find the middle ground that everyone lives in…that pragmatic approach allows the status quo to choke progressive thought. sometimes bigger conversations need to start to find a new ground that we can all live in together. you know, get out of the realities of the present and dream about the future.
    thanks
    ps. still would love to know where you run when you run home from work…do you have an off-road route? are you zig-zagging on the sidewalk? maybe the bike lane is nice and straight and let’s you go 10km/h. c’mon, tell me you haven’t ever just wanted to run out in the road when traffic is moving slow and the sidewalk’s too crowded. c’mon, don’t your tax dollars pave that space and maintain it snow-free and clear of debris?

  • elliot

    This was reckless but necessary. Our environment will not be saved by politicians or the free market but by people who care and who are not afraid. Revolutions are never safe.

  • http://undefined Svend

    There’s a Critical Mass coming up again this Friday, people meet at Bloor & Spadina at 6pm.
    Who knows where this one will lead but I’ll never forget the whimsy of going up that on-ramp and how thrilling it was to ride that smooth road a year ago.