Wednesday, April 4, 2007

With Friends Like These...

UPDATE on April 6...

Commenters (including eyewitnesses) have shed much light - see the comments. (In particular, commenter "Bike" provided this link to what seems a well-balanced video report.) At this point, I'd say the Matier/Ross article definitely blew the incident way out of proportion. Nevertheless, there was an unpleasant confrontation, and damage was inflicted by several parties. ($5300 in damage to the van? I'm not seeing it... a couple scratches and a broken back window. And it would seem that the van driver was not the totally-innocent victim that she's playing.)

Hopefully this was an isolated incident. As a somewhat partial outside observer, I like the Critical Mass "in concept." But the participants must realize that it's a public-relations opportunity. If non-cyclists are routinely victimized, the tide of public opinion could easily turn against cyclists.

THANKS for all the thoughtful opinions.


I ran across this distressing article today.

Have you heard of "Critical Mass" rides? They take place mostly in larger cities, supposedly to assert cyclists' rights to the roadways, and to raise bicycle awareness.

San Francisco is home to one of the more prominent Critical Mass rides; it takes place once a month.

At the March Critical Mass, a surburban family was victimized. They came into town to celebrate their 11-year-old's birthday. (Mom and Dad and their five kids in the family truckster.) They unknowingly crossed paths with hundreds of rambunctious cyclists, who proceeded to terrorize them. (There's no other word for it.) The kids were terrified; their vehicle sustained $5300 in damage, including a bicycle thrown through the back window, spraying the interior with shards of glass.

The cops were summoned. They suggested that Dad write an indignant letter to the mayor. The SFPD spokesman said, "We sit there and they just go right through the red lights ... What else can we do? Arrest one rider while 500 keep going?"

That would be a start. How about driving a squad car through the intersection when the cross-light is green? It might take a few times, but even (surviving) lawless anarchists would catch on eventually. (Tough talk from Bike Nazi, huh??)

I very much resent cyclists who ignore traffic laws. They are part of the problem, NOT part of the solution. They stir up animosity and resentment on the part of other roadway users, and who needs that?

SAME ROAD - SAME RULES - SAME RIGHTS - that's my motto.

(By the way, I once participated in a Boise "Critical Mass" ride. We started at the Co-Op on Fort Street with maybe 30 riders. Our destination was an ACHD Commissioners' meeting... in Kuna! Commissioner Sherry Huber, who's never been very bike-friendly, decided to hold the meeting out on her turf. I believe about half of the starters made it all the way to Kuna, including one guy on his vintage single-speed "cruiser" bike. I was impressed! Far as I know, my friend Woody and I were the only ones who rode back home afterwards, on our bikes.)


Anonymous said...

I read that via the craigslist bike forum. It seams ridiculous that a group of grown individuals would resort to that type of behaivor.

The driver was probably confused and in hindsight should of stopped while the mass moves by. Whether or not you fault somebody for being a "cager" your actions should never reflect it.

Here is the best point made during the online discussion was by a wonder_woman "
most of the good, loyal riders around here also "own a cage" but are wise enough to use it sparingly.

Cities, Cops, and Critical Massers should all be working to share the roads, not banish people to in and out groups because of their mode of transport. When bikes take over and act like jerks en masse it's not much better or more pleasant than when cars do it. "

Yokota Fritz said...

We report, you decide. The SF CM Ride is pretty benign, not at all like the skewed representations posted by people who've never been to one.

Unlike the writers of the editorial you cite, witnesses at the scene report the driver swerved into the cyclists with a bike ending up under the van -- it wasn't the light little tap claimed in the editorial. It was the cyclists (all two dozen of them at the very very most, not the "thousands" that's implied in the editorial) who first called police on 911 to report the assault and attempted hit-and-run. The cyclists surround the van to prevent the driver from fleeing the scene of the collision. Then some idiot smashed out her rear window.

To summarize:

* Mom (with kids in the van) commits assault.
* Mom (with kids in the van) then attempts to flee the scene of her crime.
* Cyclists call 911.
* Cyclists surround van to prevent hit-and-run.
* One idiot smashed out the window and scares the kids.
* Police arrive, can't sort anything out as cyclists insist on the driver's arrest, let everybody go. If this were the law-and-order society that we all want, the driver would have been arrested for her crime.
* Driver takes this to the media with her spin.
* Somebody at the Chronicle decides to do a fact check much later in the day. Mayor calls for "a good look." Blogs all across the USA spout uninformed nonsense.

Bikeboy said...

Fritz, I appreciate the alternative viewpoint. Based on a quick review of comments on your blog and other linked resources, the authors of the piece I saw definitely seem to have had a "dog in the fight."

However, I'll always stand by my statement: Cyclists who ignore traffic laws are part of the problem, NOT part of the solution. They stir up animosity and resentment on the part of other roadway users, and who needs that?

I'm blessed to live in a place like Boise, Idaho, where our traffic, while deteriorating, is NOTHING like the gridlock in the Bay Area, or Los Angeles.

Thanks for your comments! Cycleicious, indeed!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
db said...

Interesting how many angles there are to the story.

Fritz, I'd love to see a news account that actually documents "a bike ending up under a van". Can't find that anywhere.

For those who haven't seen the reports, here's a part of the Chronicle's Matier and Ross column that started the reporting:

According to police, Ferrando had allegedly tapped one of the cyclists' tires.

When the alleged bicycle victim was approached, however, he said he wasn't hurt. He also refused to give his name or any other information.

Then, after a few swear words, the alleged victim took off on his bike while the rest of the crowd continued to yell at both the cops and the van.


Maybe it's just me, but if I'm hit by a car, I'm sticking around, especially when the police are RIGHT THERE. If they won't file charges, I can at least get names for a civil suit in the coming months.

What burns me about Critical Mass is that they had a good thing going. I've been following the group online for several years. They were showing people, on a fairly regular basis, that people and bikes belong on the roads with a cars. And then some dink with a seatpost up his @zz decides he hates minivans.

And if you think all bike advocates should support Critical Mass, here's one viewpoint, quoted in today's Chronicle, from an Oakland bike messenger:

Friday's event, however, seemed to generate an unprecedented outburst of anger -- from riders, Chronicle readers and the general public.

"I f -- hate Critical Mass,'' said Mishka Generic, 33, a bike messenger who lives in Oakland. "They give everybody who rides a bike a bad name. It's not that all of them are bad, it's just that when you put that number of people together, you get some -- holes."

Generic, a bicycle messenger for 14 years, said she participated in some of the early Critical Mass rides but got turned off by the hostility and arrogance of some of the bicyclists.

"There are more reasonable ways of going about making your point,'' she said.


Yeah, I don't think smashing a vehicle's window in when it's stopped is the way to solve the car issue. Just an opinion.

Oh, and if this wasn't meant to be ironic, my god: "... I say fuck the cars, and the people inside of them .... THEY are the problem. THEM and their ethics and lack of any type of moral code."

Unlike, say, the moral code of "f--- the cars, and the people inside them." I mean, change that to bikes, and that's the very same moral code we're trying to extinguish.

db said...

Good thing I'm self-correcting: After poking around a bit more at Fritz's blog and, I found an updated story, with the following quote:

Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum said witnesses told her that Ferrando "recklessly accelerated" into a crowd and hit the bicyclist so hard the bike was lodged under her vehicle.


A second-hand account, at best. So in terms of tangible evidence, we're not getting anywhere. It's the motorist versus riders and bike coalition members. As much as I want to believe the bikers, I'm not convinced by either side.

Sorry to post so much this morning. I rode the last leg of my commute behind one of those riders who runs red lights, cuts in front of cars (and school buses!), and rides on the sidewalk on the wrong side of the road to make a left turn.

Bikeboy said...

I am re-posting a comment that was left by iamdeadnow (I edited out a word I deemed unsuitable for all audiences; I hope that sits OK with you.)

well, you also have to understand that critical mass is not just a bike ride. it is a statement against the authoritarian 1. police, 2. government, 3. individual cities.

it is also a statement against the driving and overall carelessness of city motor vehicle operators.

as a city and a suburban bike owner, I say f*** the cars, and the people inside of them -- and you can take that to the bank. THEY are the problem. THEM and their ethics and lack of any type of moral code.

Anonymous said...

The profanity in iamdeadnow's post is fairly typical of the anti-cager post I read online about SFCM/minivan.

Profanity and inciting language usually falls on deaf ears. The message you hope to get heard does not.

Bikeboy said...

I appreciated iamdeadnow's viewpoint. I occasionally (frequently?) feel exactly those sentiments, as I have certain dealings with people in their cars.

Fortunately, my hostile feelings usually quickly pass. 95% (my estimate) of motorists are courteous and respectful, when I'm being courteous and respectful. We CAN all get along!

(My problems with cops are almost non-existent. Maybe because I'm obeying the law, and not causing problems. In 22 years, I've been stopped 1 time, for "jumping the gun" when a light was about to turn green, and the cop was obviously bored.)

The harsh reality is... the cars will NOT be going away, even in this era of $3-going-on-$4 gas, at least any time soon. I desperately want to share the roads with people in cars, and my chances are much better when I'm trying to work with them, than when I'm out there pickin' a fight.

db said...

The harsh reality is... the cars will NOT be going away, even in this era of $3-going-on-$4 gas, at least any time soon. I desperately want to share the roads with people in cars, and my chances are much better when I'm trying to work with them, than when I'm out there pickin' a fight.

Right on, Bikeboy. That's why I keep coming back here.

And I apologize for not editing out all the objectionable words in Iamdeadnow's post when I quoted it. Thought I had changed them all.