San Francisco: The minivan vs critical mass

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007
By Yokota Fritz

"Critical Mass San Francisco" by Aaron P.

Jerry has already commented on this, but the San Francisco Critical Mass made the news this morning. According to the Chronicle a family from the Peninsula spent the day in The City. They encountered the tail end of Critical Mass. They apparently tried to drive through it. The hooligans on bikes proceeded do $5,300 worth of damage to the minivan. By Wednesday morning, the San Francisco Critical Mass gets some bad press, blog mentions, and rants on Craigslit.

According to several witnesses at the scene, however, the minivan driver "revved and swerved into the bicyclists, and tried to flee after hitting one. Bicyclists surrounded the vehicle while calling 911 to prevent a hit-and-run. One [hooligan] bicyclist smashed the rear window." And unlike the description given in the Chronicle editorial, by 9 p.m. the "Critical Mass" dwindles down to only a couple dozen riders -- hardly enough to create huge traffic jams, and certainly much less of an obstruction than that created by the regular automotive traffic.

It's horrible that this cyclist smashed the van's window with children inside. It's also horrible that this Mother committed assault and attempted hit-and-run with her own children in the van. From tonight's update of the story, the driver "recklessly accelerated into a crowd and hit the bicyclist so hard the bike was lodged under her vehicle." When somebody tries to kill you, then tries flees the scene, it's understandable why the cyclists got a little hot.

In the meantime, Bay Area motorists killed and maimed a half dozen or so people in the Bay Area and inflicted close to a million dollars in property damage. Motorists exchanged words with each other, people flipped the finger and called one another names, sometimes even in the presence of children. There were incidents of road rage, two of which resulted in deaths. Some of these incidents even made the news.

Regarding the actions of the one cyclist who broke the window: I know motorists can sometimes get you mad, but take it easy. You're on the bike to have fun; there's no need to get militant, negative, violent and angry. It's probably a good thing that some of us with rage issues aren't driving a car, because that only gives us the tool to inflict even more damage. Remember that the only behavior you can control is your own. Attempting to change somebody else's actions will only result in frustration.


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I heard that when the police arrived and asked how it all started, the cyclist who supposedly was "hit" by the driver told the police that he was only tapped by the van and that he was fine and didn't know why other cyclists did what they did to the minivan.
Having only heard about Critical Mass, my feeling is that is does no good for the bicycle culture. To me I feel like it is likened to the Hells Angels bike rally. If bicycling is to be respected, is Critical Mass the proper action to be taken??? Can anyone correct me or comment on this???
The anecdotes that I've heard from SF locals make me favor the minivan driver here. Critical Mass is less a protest and more an invitation to bicycle hooliganism.
Thanks for the other side of the story fritz. In response to "anonymous", if I were deliberately "tapped" by a car when I was riding my bike, I would be furious, and I would hope that fellow cyclists came to my defense. That said, I would agree that CM was devolved into something more malicious than was originally intended.
A. Hells Angels conduct themselves better in public than CM does.

B. Attacking a Motor Vehicle with a GMVW of about 30 time yours, with a bicycle is a really, really good way to get hurt very badly. The only real choice is to call 911 and report a Hit and Run. Since no 911 call was placed (except by the van driver). I suspect there was not a hit and run at all.

C. Good thing there were not Hells Angels in the van huh. :)
My account of this incident: This was towards the end of the ride (after splitting off and dissipating). We had about 30 people by the time we were leaving Japantown when I heard a noise, which I could even hear over the music, and I turned my head to see a minivan on my left just having run over a bike and saw the rider on the ground. Riders nearby yelled at the driver to stop and the minivan just sped away. Many people in the ride chased after the van and surrounded it after catching up with it at the red light. The driver had her hand pressed on the horn the entire time. The cops got there pretty much right away as they were following right behind us. I rode away with the rest of the ride but some people stayed behind to deal with the cops. I didn't see the rear window get smashed but I can say that I only saw the couple sitting in the front of the minivan as the rest of the windows were heavily tinted and we could not see that there was anyone else in the vehicle.

If anyone cares, you can see that the windows were tinted in this video of the awful KRON4 news report:

Upcoming rides for those interested:

April 6th - Oakland Critical Mass (every first friday)
6pm @ Frank Ogawa Plaza (12th St. BART entrance on Broadway & 14th St)

April 13th - Berkeley Critical Mass (every second friday)
6pm @ Downtown Berkley BART on Shattuck Ave

April 20th - Walnut Creek Critical Mass (every third friday)
6pm @ Walnut Creek BART

April 27th - San Francisco Critical Mass (every last friday)
6pm @ Justin Herman Plaza (near Embarcadero BART on Market St.)
Let's hope the San Francisco news media strives for fair and balanced reporting to put this issue in perspective, instead of relying on the one-source hysterics of the Chronicle columnists.
It looks like allegations of the minivan "striking" the bicyclist are bullshit. Notice how there is no mangled bike or injured cyclist.

For vandalizing the minivan, as well as other incidents of vandalism, and for blocking people in cars from peaceably going where they will, it sounds to me like these "Critical Mass" maggots need to be run down with SUVs and killed for their crimes.
Bike said: "If anyone cares, you can see that the windows were tinted in this video of the awful KRON4 news report:"

GOSH YES! If only the cyclists could see whether children were in the car, this wouldn't have happened! Bullshit. The cyclists are just lucky the van wasn't full of gang members from South Central LA.

You morons are NOT helping the sport of cycling!
Critical Mass, intially had lofty and laudable goals, has been taken over by a bunch of anarchists whose purpose is to propagate chaos.

Resorting to terrorism hardly seems in line with their goals.
Critical mass in san francsico is not a protest but a celebration of riding, and it raises awareness in others. It mostly frustrates drivers because they feel powerless to go where they want when they want. For all the folks that feel it is giving bike riding a bad rap - I suggest you try it first, and for all the drivers that get angry waiting for it to pass, I suggest you depersonalize it and take it as a chance to slow down - if you get angry everytime something gets in your way then you're going to spend your whole life angry.
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