Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Critical Mass, Osaka

Because there's no critical mass in Osaka, my friend Maisie and I are trying to start one. Apparently, they used to have one here and there's still an old website for it, but it died out some years ago.

Maisie made up some fliers and we've been handing them out and trying to generate some interest for this Friday's ride. Somehow, independently, we both got into contact with a guy named Takuya, who used to organize the rides in Kyoto and Osaka. Takuya told me on the phone that doing a critical mass in Japan is way different than anywhere else and then he sent me a long email full of advice. There's some great stuff in it, so I'll quote some excerpts:
Here's some advice from a bitter old man...

Make a strong outline. Once somebody said, "We should ride on the sidewalk." We took a majority vote and she won....

Someone else said, "We should make a single line. Let's not ride side by side." We took a vote and he won...

"Let's not take over a whole lane... Let's not play music while we ride... let's be courteous to drivers..." Things like that appeal to many people here.

"Let's ride in a park so we don't bother driver's" didn't win, but many people thought it was a good idea.

Help them understand what C.M. is and what it's not.

Recruit beginners. They are not committed but they have good vibration. Most newbies have good ideas about bikes, and they use commonsense. But they will follow like ducklings... teach them how to ride safe before you go into the street... You ride through a yellow light and they will ride through a red light without looking.

Watch out for bike geeks. Some bike geeks will put people off by trying to pick up girls by talking about the newest bike parts... Or by trying to make everyone ride the same kind of bikes as them... Bike geeks are welcome at C.M. but don't let them overrun it.

Watch out for bike shops. They will bring people to C.M. but really they're there for selling bikes. They will make C.M. into something that it is not.

(Well actually, I'm a bike geek and a bike shop owner and I like picking up girls, but for C.M. forget all that.)

There's a lot more detailed advice and then at the end he says, "Sounds hopeless? That's exactly why we need a Critical Mass."

We decided that we're gonna have to do things differently here, at least at the beginning, and so we planned a route. There are two reasons for this, one cultural and one logistical. Japan is not a place were people get together to do random unplanned events, so having some structure will reassure everyone that we know what we're doing, and Osaka is not a city where you can just ride on any street you want. Some streets are major auto thoroughfares and others are mobbed with pedestrians. In order to navigate a group of bikers through the city, you kind of have to think ahead so that you don't end up stuck on a street that wont work. The simplest way to do this is just to plan the route.

Tomorrow me and Maisie are going to do a test run of the route.

In other bike news, since Jackie sent me the Campy seat post off her Veloche, I finished building the Nagasawa. I want a different seat, but for now I had a yellow one sitting around that will do.

Here it is leaning up against one of the outer walls of Osaka Castle on it's debut ride.


Anonymous said...

Jesus, your bike is ridiculous. The seatpost looks very buffed up.


Mark said...

sweeet! that is 100% ridiculous.

love those nitto reversible stems. how much?

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Bridget said...

So I know this is a long shot but this is all I could find on the is there now a critical mass in Osaka? A few of us are holidaying in Japan and are keen to do one - 28th october. Possible? Or we could do one with you leading! (On a smaller scale of course) :)