Biking event a massive hassle for Houston motorists
I was making my way outside of Rockefeller Hall when I noticed a couple of beautifully decorated bicycles making their way down Washington Avenue. They were neon colors, all lit up with Christmas lights.
I stared at them as they zoomed past, and quickly tapped my friend’s shoulder, telling him “Look! Aren’t those bicycles so cool?”
A police officer standing a few feet away from me audibly sighed. I looked over at him, and he rolled his eyes, chuckled and let out a string of expletives.
“I hate those guys,” he told me. “They make a huge mess.”
At the time, I thought this police officer might’ve been simply been referring to those specific bicyclists, who perhaps routinely cycled around this part of town. But upon further inspection, I realized he was referring to the much larger group that those bicyclists were a part of: Critical Mass.
The Twitter account for Critical Mass states their purpose simply enough: it’s just a group of bike riders who participate in “a bicycling event held on the last Friday of every month.”
About 1,500 Houstonians are part of Critical Mass, which congregates around Market Square Park once every month. They then ride through a route — which is different each month and is always kept a tight secret — throughout Houston’s inner city.
Though this sounds like a wonderful way to keep Houston an interesting and lively city, Critical Mass hardly attracts positive attention from anyone that witnesses their bike rides.
Jackson Myers from Houstonia Magazine reports that complaints about these riders can range from a variety of things; from their rude attitudes towards motorists to even petty law breaking, Critical Mass is often a pain to everyone who happens to cross their paths.
With hundreds of bicyclists trying to make their way around town through impromptu routes, they inevitably cause every Houstonian’s worst nightmare: traffic.
Critical Mass’s use of a technique called “corking” is often to blame for the traffic jams that can occur throughout any given route that they go through. Myers explains that corking is simply when a technique wherein a few lead cyclists hop off their bikes and halt oncoming cars at traffic lights.”
Corking can often cause traffic jams that last from ten minutes to half an hour — which is probably why many Houstonians have renamed Critical Mass’s group “Massholes.”
As of late, Critical Mass has begun to get the help of HPD to ease their routes and create a safer, more controlled environment.
“Four officers in two police cars help riders through intersections, with officers driving ahead and behind to clear the path,” reports the Houston Chronicle’s Heather Alexander.
However, it should be noted that the officers helping direct the traffic for Critical Mass are often taken away from their regular police duties.
To top it all off, the total bill for escorting these bicyclists can often add up to be several hundred dollars, of which Critical Mass is paying zero.
HPD has begun to question whether Critical Mass should be held liable for these costs.
Critical Mass spokesman Hector Garcia voiced his disapproval of this possibility in the Houston Chronicle.
“We do pay our taxes also,” he said. “Is it too much to ask that the city continue to do this?”
Of course, what Garcia and several other Critical Massers fail to understand is that their event is often more of a hassle than a pleasure to the entire population of Houston. It’s selfish that they believe that their impromptu bike ride doesn’t come at a price, when it most certainly does.
I’m not against Critical Mass, and I’m certainly not against Houstonians having fun. I’ve always loved events that defined a city — from Cars and Coffee to Lights in the Heights, there are a variety of events in Houston that can be fun for many as long as they are closely regulated.
I also love the idea behind Critical Mass. Their desire to bring light to the problems that many bike riders face around Houston, from street harassment to bad road conditions, is very much underrated. More than 23 cyclists have died in Houston in the past five years due to the lack of safe trails available for bicyclists.
But this is not the way to go about asking for change. If you’re going to annoy the heck out of an entire town, do you really think they will ever do something in your favor? Critical Massers need to understand that nothing good ever comes from annoying every single person they cross paths with.
So help us help you, Critical Mass. Stop it with the childish behavior.
Opinion columnist Carolina Treviño is an advertising freshman and may be reached at [email protected]