Whether you love Critical Mass or hate it, the folks on the other side of the debate must seem totally baffling, if not downright evil. Its detractors wonder, "how can anyone support an event with no organizers, no pre-determined route, no agenda, and in which everyone has a different reason for participating?" Its advocates wonder, "in a transit first city, how can anyone oppose a method of transportation that's cleaner, safer, less wasteful, and spurs better urban planning?"
We can't answer the first set of questions, because frankly they're pretty lame, Mr. Anderson. But allow us to shed some light on the second: all that commuters see -- whether they're pedestrians, bus riders, ambulance drivers, City CarShare members, or car owners -- is that a mob of bicycles is preventing them from moving.
Okay, maybe Critical Mass doesn't really bother pedestrians. (Unless you're a blind pedestrian, in which case it's no fun at all.) But imagine if you're on a bus that's blocked by bikes -- or worse, on a bus that's a few blocks away, so there's cars between you and the mass. Maybe if you're lucky, the mob will let your bus through if it's close to them. Maybe. And there's not even a chance of that if your bus is a couple blocks back in traffic.
And if you're in a car -- which doesn't necessarily mean you're a jerk, as there's plenty of nice folks who get into cars now and then -- all you can do is sit and stew and fume and hate. And the lesson everyone learns: bikes and cars can't possibly share the road. And as lessons go, that one sucks, because every other day of the month it's obviously, utterly, observably untrue.