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September 23rd, 2008
Critical Massive comes to San Marcos

The first Thursday of every month is a day when rush hour here in San Marcos becomes a little more complicated. Some motorists may have already noticed this when last month around 200 bicycles were cruising down Hopkins en masse.This movement, like the much larger versions in big cities, is called Critical Massive. The latest revival of the Massive here in San Marcos was initiated by local bicycle enthusiast Silas Parker, who was willing to express his views on the topic to Newstreamz last week.

“It started in San Francisco,” Parker explained, “and when they do it there they have upwards of 2000 bikes on the streets. The whole massive will take 45 minutes to an hour just to pass through an area, so the streets really do get owned up. It’s a big statement in a city like that during rush hour to eat up that much traffic. We’re not really capable of doing that here, it’s such a small town. We only call it Critical Massive because people know what the name is. At least, some people do. We are a Critical Mass in this town.”

This is not the first instance of this movement in San Marcos, however. “In 2003, Ben Patterson and Ryan Magillicudy started the Critical Massive on the first Thursdays at the Library, but they called it Bike for Your Right. They were afraid of the consequences of calling it Critical Mass. They understood that it wasn’t going to be so critical and there’s not going to be 10,000 people there and they felt it would draw less negative attention. That died off when they graduated in 2004 or 2005,” said Silas.

“I just started it back up. I didn’t really do anything, I just made up the date and reminded everyone that we used to do it. It’s not really me, that’s the whole idea behind it, it’s a Massive. It has nothing to do with me, I’m just a spokesman for it at this point. I’m one of the oldest bikers in this town as far as the scene. Not age-wise, but I’ve been biking this town for seven years pretty intensely. It’s not a very big town, you get to know it pretty well in seven years. There have been alley-cat races and I’m the undisputed champion.”

Some of the motorists here in San Marcos have expressed uneasiness and even anger about the timing and location of the Massive. It starts at 5PM downtown and in the hour that it occurs the cyclists hit all three major thoroughfares here in town. “We’re not trying to upset anyone,” commented Parker. “If there’s one message it’s awareness. We’ve just got to let people know that there are bikes in this town. There are a lot of bikes in this town. There are at least 300 or 400 people in this town who ride their bike every day, who do not drive.”

“Critical Masses in the bigger cities have been very aggressive,” Parker added. “Somewhere along the line someone’s going to break something or someone is going to smash into a car with their bike or do something bad. We’re not out to do that and that’s not encouraged at all. We are actually following every traffic light, we’re obeying every rule of the road that we can, and there just happens to be a lot of us, so it’s going to move differently. People think that we’re trying to drive them crazy and we’re intentionally taking up the space but this is a realistic situation. You may be driving, it may be rush hour, and there may be someone on a bike.”

“The point of the Massive is that 100 bikes isn’t any different from one bike,” he continued. “For some reason it takes 100 for people to notice. People need to notice that we are a type of traffic. We’re not protected by bubbles. We can get hurt very easily. It’s dangerous to ride, I feel very fortunate that I’ve never smeared myself. I’ve been hit by cars twice now I’ve come out pretty good, but not everyone is so lucky.”

Driver awareness of bikes has been an ongoing problem here in San Marcos. With the school year in session, it‘s compounded by the increased amount of pedestrian and street traffic. Parker explained; “It’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk. That’s just a fact. There’s no bikes on sidewalks; this is against the law wherever you go. There’s no bike lanes in this town, and I’m fine with that. I feel that it’s better for bikes to be in a lane. That would be the other statement. There’s nothing wrong with a bike taking up a lane if there’s two lanes in the road. It’s way safer, and if they get on the shoulder and try to pretend like there’s a bike lane two things happen. That’s where all the debris gets kicked off and people will just pretend to pass them. Instead of going in the other lane and passing them as if they were in a whole lane, they’ll just kind of nudge around them. Sometimes you don’t even have to hit them, you can just startle a cyclist by just getting too close, and you can run them off the road and kill somebody.”

“If I had any real goal, I want people driving to know that I’m on the streets. In this town my goal outside of the Massive is to get as many people on bikes (as possible). I’ve been all over this country on my bike and ridden all over some big cities,” claims Silas. “Some are very nice, and very accessible – especially on the west coast – but this town is built for a bike. There are hills, but there are no big hills. They’re all just short enough that when you get to the other side there’s a fun downhill. It’s not like there’s a high side of town that’s really hard and that you would just have to drive to get around near the mountains or something. It’s a wonderful town to bike in and it’s almost inappropriate to drive sometimes.”

One positive aspect of more people riding bikes, aside from the obvious health benefits to the individuals, would be less traffic, and thus less need to keep constructing new roads that take up our lovely hill-country green spaces. “My biggest fear with cars and the rate that people are buying and using them exclusively to get to work and in everything that they do,” says Parker, “is the roads. Every time they build a new road, that road is there forever. They have to pave all that space and they have to destroy the land underneath it because they put in all the pipelines and these other things like electric wires underneath them. These roads will always be there. In the future there will be many places to park, but not so many places to play. Prairies are all turning into roads. Anything that’s easily transformable like flat prairie land, they transform into roads and parking lots, and those will always be there. We will never get those back.”

To find out more about Critical Massive in general visit, and for the one here in San Marcos just come downtown between 5PM and 6PM on the first Thursday of every month with your bicycle.


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0 thoughts on “Critical Massive comes to San Marcos

  1. Why on God’s green earth would we want to do one single thing like the San Franciscans. Their bad examples and lack of reality is what’s wrong with the Austin area to begin with.

  2. Wow.

    Maybe to promote cycling and bicycle awareness and to have an excuse to ride with some people I don’t usually see.

    I’m glad this one is following traffic laws, in contrast to some of the others. There’s enough hostility toward cyclists bubbling under the surface (as Amy seems to illustrate) and we don’t need to give it any reason to boil over.

    As cyclists, anything we can do to generate support in the community is far better than trying to shove our cause down everyone’s throats.

    A once-a-month group ride to create visibility can be a great thing, if done right. This sounds like it is being done right and I look forward to joining in.

  3. Also, it’s not just something they do in San Francisco. They do it in:

    Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska

    Auburn and Tuscaloosa, Alabama

    Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson, Arizona

    Arcata, Berkley, Chico, Costa Mesa, Davis, Fresno, Fullerton, Irvine, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Modesto, Newport Beach, Oakland, Palo Alto, Petaluma, Porterville, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Santa Rosa, Venice and Walnut Creek, California

    Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango and Fort Collins, Colorado

    Hartford, New Haven, Manchester and Willimantic, Connecticut

    Washington DC

    Fort Myers, Gainesville, Miami, Orlando, St Petersburg, Tallahassee and West Palm Beach, Florida

    Athens, Atlanta, Macon and Savannah, Georgia

    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Boise and Moscow, Idaho

    Des Moines, Iowa

    Bloomington, Carbondale, Champaign-Urbana, Chicago, Evanston, Joliet, Macomb, Naperville, Peoria, Rockford and Springfield, Illinois

    Goshen, Indianapolis, Muncie and South Bend, Indiana

    Kansas City, Lawrence and Newton, Kansas

    Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky

    Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana

    Amherst, Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts

    Baltimore, College Park and Frederick, Maryland

    Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing, Michigan

    Mankato, Minneapolis and Winona, Minnesota

    Colombia, Kansas City, Springfield and St Louis, Missouri

    Bozeman, Montana

    Boone, Chapel Hill and Greensboro, North Carolina
    Omaha, Nebraska

    Durham and Portsmouth, New Hampshire

    Morristown, New Brunswick, Newark and Princeton, New Jersey

    Santa Fe, New Mexico

    Albany, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Ithaca, Lockport, Manhattan, Rochester and Syracuse, New York

    Akron, Athens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Kent and Oxford, Ohio

    Bend, Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma

    Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, Portland and Salem, Oregon

    Bethlehem, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    Newport and Providence, Rhode Island

    Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina

    Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee

    Arlington, Austin, Dallas, Denton, Fort Worth, Houston and Lubbock, Texas

    Moab, Provo and Salt Lake City, Utah

    Blacksburg, Charlottesville, Fredericksburg, Harrisburg, Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia

    Burlington, Vermont

    Bellevue, Bellingham, Seattle, Spokane and Vancouver, Washington

    Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee and Reedsburg, Wisconsin

    Morgantown, West Virginia

    Plus about as many cities, if not more, around the world.

  4. Boring! But, at least make sure those on bicycles OBEY the laws—like single file on streets, don’t run stop signs, etc. Everyday I see too many on bicycles who think they are above the traffic laws! Reality check folks: you need to obey the same laws as cars do and be courteous to drivers, don’t ride between two cars on a two lane road for example! And don’t hold up traffic by riding two or three across when you ar supposed to be single file please! Let’s all get along and obey the laws, pretty simple.

  5. This is not a boring topic at all. Most people I know in the community say they want to make San Marcos a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly town. Side note related question, I thought bicycle riders were allowed to ride two abreast in a lane when the road contains two lanes going each way?

  6. See below.

    Hopefully, the formatting will come through ok.

    I try to ride single-file if I’m going to be in traffic, even if there is a second lane and, technically, I would not be impeding traffic.

    I’ve seen riders riding two abreast, even when there is only one lane and a 12-foot shoulder, with traffic backing up behind them and, not surprisingly, people honking and screaming profanity out the window when they are finally able to pass.

    I don’t like being stuck behind anything slow. There was a time when people in cars would pull over to the shoulder to let faster cars pass. I still do and I do on my bike.

    The thing that really bugs me is that I’ve been on many group rides (large groups) and invariably a group of faster riders will come upon some slower riders, who are riding two-abreast and will scream “SLOWER RIDERS NEED TO KEEP TO THE RIGHT!”

    Huh. We’re supposed to move over for other riders, but not for cars.

    My top priority when riding is to stay safe, but any time I can be safe AND courteous, I am, regardless of what the law says I’m allowed to do. That doesn’t mean I’m going to ride in the gutter pan. It just means that to me “share the road” does not mean “give me the road.”

    § 551.103. OPERATION ON ROADWAY. (a) Except as
    provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a
    roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway
    shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the
    roadway, unless:
    (1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in
    the same direction;
    (2) the person is preparing to turn left at an
    intersection or onto a private road or driveway;
    (3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed
    or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or
    surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the
    right curb or edge of the roadway; or
    (4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside
    lane that is:
    (A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a
    designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or
    (B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle
    to safely travel side by side.
    (b) A person operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with
    two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near as practicable to
    the left curb or edge of the roadway.
    (c) Persons operating bicycles on a roadway may ride two
    abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride
    in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the
    normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway. Persons may
    not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a
    roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.

  7. How about all the cyclists ride down to the CONA candidates debate next Thursday at the Activity Center. (1st Thursday in October)

  8. Dan, that’s a great idea. Do you know what time the debate starts? I will try to get as many cyclists as possible there.

    Adam, check the facts before making statements. Cyclists can ride two abreast, as Ted pointed out. Let’s all brush up on our knowledge of bike laws, cyclists as well as drivers.

    As a cyclist in this town, the biggest problem I see are drivers not knowing the cycling laws. I am constantly told to “get on the sidewalk” by drivers, when in fact, that is illegal. Most of the time, it is on a slow moving street anyway, as I try to only take the lane when I am moving reasonably close to the speed of traffic. However, cyclists are allowed to take the lane, and so drivers need to learn how to recognize this and act appropriately. Yelling at someone out a window solves nothing. I constantly hear drivers tell cyclists to learn the rules of the road when I see drivers violate rules of the road every single day. So another response I have to Adam is make sure YOU obey laws while you drive, being courteous, stopping at stop signs, etc. This is not a one side being in the wrong sort of issue. There are bikers that break laws, and there are drivers that break laws. I hope we can all behave civilly toward one another, because there is no reason for animosity.

    Critical Mass San Marcos was a really fun ride last month. I look forward to seeing even more cyclists show up this time!

  9. Kara
    The CONA debate will be Oct 2nd , 7PM at the Activity Center! I think thats a great idea. I hope you guys can pull it off! That would be awesome

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