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Mind your manners, say cycling advocates today

Cycling advocates are asking cyclists to join them in minding their manners today in hopes to begin repairing the damaged relationship between motorists and cyclists in Vancouver.

Critical Manners, as organizers are calling the ride, was developed in response to the negative attention the monthly Critical Mass ride--where thousands of bikers stick it to the man behind the wheel by taking over the streets of the city, often slowing traffic to a halt--has garnered recently in Vancouver.

“I don’t think we’re going to convince more people to bike by shoving biking down their throat and painting cyclists as a group of militants who enjoy disturbing the peace and disrupting people’s lives,” said Critical Manners organizer Jen Watkiss.

“It’s the old cliche ‘you’re going to catch more flies with honey than vinegar’, and if we can show that cycling is safe, and cyclists are responsible people...and just want to get where they’re going as much as anyone else, it’ll work more to further the cause of cycling in the city.”

Watkiss said the current, “antagonistic” relationship between drivers and cyclists is based off of a very small minority from both sides: cyclists paint motorists as planet-ruining, gas-guzzling road hogs, and motorists paint cyclists as a crazy, entitled group of kamikazes who just want to cause trouble.

“I don’t see either side as correct in that,” she said, noting that the better the relationship is between motorists and cyclists, the better the chance that more bike infrastructure in the city will be supported by drivers-- and tax-payers.

The concept of a more polite, orderly mass bike ride originated under similar circumstances in San Francisco in 2007. Similar rides have happened in many American cities under names such as Ride Civil, and Courteous Mass.

The Vancouver ride, set to begin at David Lam park in Yaletown at 5:45 today, will follow in bike lanes or remain on the far right side of the road. Cyclists will obey traffic signals and walk their bikes across crosswalks if they are not comfortable with proper left hand turns. They will do their best to effectively share the road with cars and pedestrians, and keep traffic flowing for everyone, according to Watkiss.

Organizers are expecting around 100 people, compared to Critical Mass, which has recently numbered in the thousands.

Yet despite excitement about the ride, Watkiss hopes it only has to happen once.

“It would be nice if this ride worked itself out of necessity, if there wasn’t a need for people to take a stand for riding well.”

Next week Critical Mass organizers and participants are gathering to discuss the ride’s current situation and inviting others to join them.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee

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