First Courteous Manners Ride to be held tonight in Balboa Park

Penelope Robles, organizer for the Courteous Mass/Critical Manners ride. Photo by Arturo Viazcán

Although tonight’s Critical Manners/Courteous Manners ride may seem like the first attempt to create an alternative to the seemingly unstoppable Critical Mass ride, the idea of a Critical Manners ride is as old as San Diego’s Critical Mass ride. Various attempts to create an alternative ride that would adhere to all the road rules have failed, in large part due to a failure to capture interest from a large group of local cyclists.

In San Diego, Critical Mass has had its share of problems. In 2007, the San Diego Police arrested riders for running red lights and blocking traffic. In 2010, pedestrians were injured by Critical Mass riders. Earlier this year on April 29, a cyclist was arrested and claims that the arrest was unlawful and that he is innocent of the charges against him. The cyclist’s attorney, Adriane Bracciale, is looking for witnesses to aid in his defense. The cyclist’s attorney, Adriane Bracciale, is looking for witnesses to help exonerate the cyclist.

But the local police, eventually, if a bit uneasily, decided to work with the riders participating in Critical Mass by escorting the mass and by being present to witness and defuse the occasional arguments that arose between motorists and bicyclists.

Over the last few years, various individuals have attempted to create an alternative to what has been perceived as a ride having no rules, boundaries or general road etiquette. These attempts haven’t garnered much interest and the idea for a such a ride fizzled out.

But Penelope Robles may succeed where others have failed. Prior to participating in her first Critical Mass ride, Robles decided to read up on Critical Mass on everyone’s favorite internet resource, wikipedia. It was on wikipedia she learned about an alternative ride called Critical Manners. After learning about the ride’s success and more positive mission, she decided to start her own Critical Manners ride in San Diego.

However, she still wanted to participate in her first Critical Mass ride to witness the ride first hand. Her first experience was a disappointment. She thought the ride was too fast paced, that there weren’t any re-groupings and worst of all, for the self-admitted geographically challenged South Bay resident, she was left behind and had to figure out her own way back home afterward.

Robles now had the motivation to create a Critical Manners ride, but she still didn’t know the specifics of how the ride would pan out. It was while participating in Paseo de Todos that she finally saw her vision for a positive group ride implemented effectively. On Paseo de Todos, Robles saw that it was “possible to stop at lights, [that] it was possible to slow down, and [that] it was possible to not [split the group] up because of one rider’s flat tire.” Now she was enthused. All she needed were at least twenty people willing to commit to ride with her and follow all the road rules, and the ride could be considered a success.

Robles then set up a date, created a facebook event page and then began contacting every single media outlet in the region to promote the ride. The resulting press and coverage has gotten over 200 people committing to ride tonight. Organizers for San Francisco’s Bike Party also contacted Robles to help her create a set of guidelines that the ride participants could follow. She created a set of guidelines based, in part, on the San Francisco’s Bike Party guidelines.

* Do not zig zag through the riders, you could seriously injure someone
* If leaders are communicating, listen, and pass the information back to the rest of the riders.
* If coming up to a stop light, riders up ahead will announce that they are “slowing down”, pass the message to riders behind you by announcing the same
* If you see any road dangers such as potholes, automobiles reversing or automobile doors opening, do announce them to riders around you
* If you see a rider get a flat, announce it so that riders can stay to the left and be aware that we will help the rider fix his flat on the sidewalk. We will then regroup and wait for our fellow bicycle to join us. If you can help fix the flat, please do so.

She is also encouraging the ride’s participants to be safe and recommends that riders come prepared with following:

1. Lights
2. Helmet  (required by law if you are under 18 years of age)
3. Know how to signal using your hands ( we will review this before we ride)
4. Wear bright clothing (anything that is not dark, you can never go wrong with white if all else fails)

All the press and the possibility of a large, successful ride has been extremely encouraging to Robles who wants tonight’s ride to be a success. She hopes it will be a model for spreading a positive message in San Diego. Robles believes that adhering to road rules is a better way for cyclists in the region to assert their rights on the road and hopes that tonight’s Courteous Manners ride will be the change that many have been waiting for.

Critical Manners/Courteous Manners
When: Friday, August 12
Time: 7:30pm – 10:30pm
Starting Location: Balboa Park Fountain