On the way back from my meeting with Dr. Hurrell, I found myself in the middle of a Critical Mass bike ride: a social gathering where a group of cyclists assemble and ride together through an urban area. A recent dinosaur comic discussed it. There is much about the movement to recommend it: it fosters a sense of community and it raises the visibility of a healthy and sustainable form of transport. It also allowed me the opportunity to try bicycle polo, a somewhat precarious game that was played in Gloucester Green, following the conclusion of the ride.
As an advocacy act, critical mass rides involve some of the same questions as other attempts at altering the behaviour of others. Examples would also include those who tout the merits of a religion or lifestyle choice. While nobody appreciates an overzealous approach to acquiring converts, you can hardly feel strongly about the moral superiority of something and not at least gently prod others towards thinking as you do. Excessive deference to pre-existing beliefs – whether political, ethical, or religious – risks fostering a bland and unthinking society.