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Critical Mass ambiguity

2007-04-05 18:47:36.202496+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

Yesterday the Chronicle had a report of a family in a minivan attacked by Critical Mass riders:

It was supposed to be a birthday night out for the kids in San Francisco, but instead turned into a Critical Mass horror show -- complete with a pummeled car, a smashed rear window and little children screaming in terror.

I'm no fan of "Critical Mass", but the reality is apparently a little more complex than that. According to a witness in a KTVU news report), she was trying to force her way through a traffic jam and knocked a cyclist off his bicycle and ran over his bike:

"His bicycle went under the wheels of her car, on the front side, it was ejected through the right side, and his body landed in the center of the lane."

I don't know which witnesses are credible, but I hope that if she did destroy another vehicle as she pushed through traffic that the DA brings her up on charges, or she at least gets whatever tickets and citations she'd get if she deliberately rammed, say, a motorcyclist, in a traffic jam composed of motor vehicles.

[ related topics: Interactive Drama Bay Area Journalism and Media Automobiles Pedal Power Bicycling ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-05 21:26:07.077539+00 by: ebradway

Critical Mass seems to be much more of a "political movement" than the Boulder Cruzers. While the Cruzers tend to use mob-size to redefine traffic patterns, they do it at a predicable time and in good humor.

It'll be interesting to see what comes of the Critical Mass event.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-06 01:39:07.769852+00 by: Diane Reese

I liked the announcement for the "Critical Manners" event upcoming. THAT one I might be tempted to take part in.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-06 12:47:58.514042+00 by: DaveP

Having attended CM rides (though never ridden in one) here in Minneapolis and the big 10th anniversary event in SF, both sides of the story sound plausible to me. She probably did hit a bike that pulled in front of her. It's nearly impossible not to when you're in a ride in a car unless you stop put the vehicle in park.

And the folks on bikes probably reacted violently to that. There are plenty of reasonable folks, but it doesn't take many assholes to escalate things, and the rides are big enough that they attract their fair share.

Reasonableness isn't what CM is about. Or any large group of humans. If only 1% of the population are assholes (a number I would say is low), a group of a 200 is going to have two assholes, which are enough to turn it into a violent mob, at least when seen from the outside. That's one of the reasons I don't like large groups.

One other thing that amazes me is the number of people working in downtown SF or even Minneapolis who don't know that the last friday of the month, evening rush hour is going to be snarled by bikes. It happens every month, and it's just something to stay away from.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-16 13:49:38.716718+00 by: ziffle

I've noticed that bike riders tend to ignore the rules of the road, yet demand that vehicles make way for them.

They should stop at red lights, stay in the right lane except to pass, and travel no more than two abreast like motorcycles.

Or, be arrested - maybe they should stay on the sidewalks unless there are bike paths.

Sounds more like they are trying to make a political statement instead of just riding the bikes.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-16 16:06:44.587338+00 by: Dan Lyke

As I've been hit because I've followed the rules of the road (from behind at a stop sign), I have some sympathy for the rule-breakers. However, if the rules were uniformly enforced (and around here cops do ticket cyclists who ride through stop signs, and we have a lot of cyclists), then automobile drivers wouldn't expect that cyclists will roll through, and wouldn't try to roll through stop signs behind them.

I also have a big issue with "bike paths" that are really multi-use paths, unless pedestrians are banned from them they're not bike paths, and it's dangerous to mix 20+MPH bicycle traffic and pedestrian traffic. And except for young kids, I'm strongly against bikes on sidewalks.

California state law says bicycles must stay "as far right as practicable (sic)", and while they're allowed the full use of the lane they're supposed to stay right to allow passing. And as much as I like riding socially beside folks, it's rarely ever appropriate, and almost all cyclists could stand to be more aware of cars behind.

On the other hand, given all of the evils that cars weigh upon us, it's hard for me not to think that a little inconvenience for drivers isn't well deserved.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-17 00:03:32.602506+00 by: ziffle

A really good solution is the one I saw in China - I think its called the 'French' road design in that there is a main road and then a ten foot divider and then a side road where the bicycles ride and the local vehicles use only for coming out to the main road. This way there is a division - but alas at the intersections its a mess. Of course the Chinese drive cars like they learned to drive bikes, which means any thing goes....

#Comment Re: made: 2007-04-17 13:03:51.859771+00 by: meuon [edit history]

I went for a short ride last night, started on the riverwalk.. and quickly got up on side streets because it's just faster and easier when you have lots of people out walking. But on streets, I am definately following the traffic rules, and have found that when I do.. and do it right, cars/trucks realize I am and give me space. Downtown, I'm as fast (or faster) as most cars from stoplight to stoplight.

As for riding across... and being sociable, I love that about cycling, and enjoy some rides with the Chattanooga Bike Club where they pick low traffic routes and times that make that possible.