October Halloween Ride Photos and thoughts

November 1st, 2009 by ccarlsson
Ghosts speed past Union Square...

Ghosts speed past Union Square...

I had a great time at Critical Mass, like I almost always do… afterwards I heard a half dozen stories of mayhem and major stress on the streets. Not too surprising, given how many cyclists were out there, and how incapable we are, as an inchoate mass, of making intelligent stops when we’ve lost mass, helping stranded vehicles get out, and treating pedestrians with respect and encouragement.  It’s a reinvention process, and a lot of us old timers aren’t rising to the occasion to help that reinvention each month. It’s a burnout! As Gerry pointed out, the ride has been “taken over” by yahoos… but not really. There’s always been yahoos, they’ve always been a tiny minority, and they get a lot of attention because we live in a subculture that puts the onus of meaning on the behavioral perfection of the participants… 1% of assholes gets way more attention than 95% cool people acting with courtesy and kindness…

Before beginning, hundreds of riders were already clogging lower Market Street.

Before beginning, hundreds of riders were already clogging lower Market Street.

The light was gorgeous as we departed...

The light was gorgeous as we departed...

Starting out...

Starting out...

The fact that people have to sort out the craziness in the streets is a good thing. The frustrating part is how many don’t engage with the moment, discourage anti-social behavior and promote a convivial, inviting, celebratory experience… the Fuck Shit Up minority needs to hear from the rest of us what jerks we think they are… and that they are cowards to use Critical Mass as a shield for their macho, pointless posturing…

Westerly view on Market Street near Powell. How many cyclists? 3000? 5000? Nobody knows...

Westerly view on Market Street near Powell. How many cyclists? 3000? 5000? Nobody knows...

Easterly view on Market near 4th and Stockton.

Easterly view on Market near 4th and Stockton.

A Ghoulish Kiss for Halloween, Van Ness and Sutter.

A Ghoulish Kiss for Halloween, Van Ness and Sutter.

Southerly view on Van Ness from Sutter.

Southerly view on Van Ness from Sutter.

After coming through the Broadway tunnel we ripped down Columbus to Montgomery...

After coming through the Broadway tunnel we ripped down Columbus to Montgomery...

More ghostly bikes at Union Square.

More ghostly bikes at Union Square.

The moon and Pyramid frame Critical Mass as it re-enters Montgomery Street from Columbus.

The moon and Pyramid frame Critical Mass as it re-enters Montgomery Street from Columbus.

The vast majority of interactions on Critical Mass, in San Francisco like in hundreds of other cities, are friendly, warm, curious, enthusiastic, and inviting… Don’t let a few frustrating, overheated encounters, or the discomfort some people experience (forgetting that they experience such discomfort quite regularly in “normal” traffic) obscure the vibrancy of this ongoing occupation and repurposing of public space…

12 Responses to “October Halloween Ride Photos and thoughts”

  1. Andrea says:

    If you guys want to be respected by motorists and pedestrians, you really need to obey traffic laws. It’s not 1% of you who are riding through 4 red light cycles in a row, it’s all of you.

    Take a page from San Jose Bike Party. It is also a huge group, but everyone manages to stop at red lights and stay in the correct lane for the most part. It’s safer and it’s going to make motorists a lot less angry with you.

  2. I haven’t been on the San Jose Bike Party, but I imagine it is a much smaller ride than the 1000-2000 people we have in San Francisco. With that many cyclists, it makes sense to stick together. If Critical Mass were to “ride to rule” and stop for lights, we would break into hundreds of smaller rides, creating more waits for more motorists.

    A friend was in a car last Friday night and was delayed by the Mass. He told me his wait was 5 minutes. That doesn’t seem so bad to me. Certainly its a much shorter wait than if all 2000 of us drove a car downtown!

    H.

  3. Steve says:

    I was in a Muni bus (21) stuck on Market for about 45 minutes last Friday. The bus moved about 2 blocks every 10 minutes. I’m a cyclist too, but that was ridiculous.

  4. Belgand says:

    I’m sorry, but no, absolutely nothing gives you the right to break the existing traffic laws. If you want the ride to be about a show of solidarity and the number of people who want to push cycling then that’s great and I doubt anyone but the craziest anti-bike people would oppose you. The problem is the insistence that the Mass is somehow above the law and has the right to break any and all traffic laws, intentionally clog the streets, block off intersections, and take over all traffic for themselves. It’s a fundamentally entitled, self-centered view and it turns a lot of people against not only against Critical Mass, but contributes to the view that many cyclists are sanctimonious jerks who feel that they have the right to follow traffic laws as they please.

    I’m not even some sort of crazy cars-only nut. I only drive a few times a month and never downtown or for commuting. It’s fundamentally an issue of respect, not “well, it’s better than if we were driving” or “but… we’re better for the Earth so we can do whatever we want to spread our message of how bikes are superior to all other transit!” You need to take the high ground here, even if you complain about how drivers treat cyclists it’s your responsibility to be better than them.

  5. Belgand says:

    Oh, checking up on what’s available, but SJ Bike Party is apparently around 2,000 or so members and seems more in line with Critical Manners, i.e. a bike ride intended to highlight how cars and bikes can responsibly share the road and obey traffic laws.

  6. Matthew says:

    Friday was the first time that I actually encountered Critical Mass. I was leaving work and I tried unsuccessfully many time to simply cross the street ( I was walking ). I finally just went for it, when I was knocked by a cyclist. I yelled “excuse me, pedestrians, have the right away!” Four cyclists stopped and proceeded to yell “F%$K YOU.” over and over again. One got off his bike and said “what are you going to do?” He got back on his bike and called me a “F%$king Pu$$y”. I managed to cross the street and see several of the cyclists kicking cars that were trying to cross the street with the light. These people should not be allowed to break traffic laws and disrupt traffic the way the do. I was assaulted physically and verbally. Something needs to be done.

  7. Matthew, I’m sorry to hear this. That’s terrible behavior that no one should have to put up with. I’d like to apologize to you on behalf of the ride.

    I know that on every single Critical Mass ride I have been on, I have seen pedestrians cross the ride without problem. It is sort of awkward, and bikes need to slow, stop or go around a pedestrian, but I have always seen people handle this with humor and pro-pedestrian sentiment. I personally have never witnessed a pedestrian being abused (which is not to say that you aren’t telling the truth, only that I don’t believe it is the norm).

  8. Big Leroy says:

    I was in this last ride. Hey people its the last friday of every month. So there should not be any surprises. Traffic is traffic. We all live here together and maybe we should all be a little bit more accommodating about the delay.

    I don’t watch or for the most part like football but how come me being stuck in 580 or 101 traffic for a 49ers\raiders game is not causing an uproar in complaints. How come this kind of traffic is okay but people out on bikes is not okay?

  9. SilverSurfer says:

    As a San Francisco Bike Coalition member and regular bicycle commuter, I was appalled by the behavior I witnessed this past friday night. Bicyclists riding north on Van Ness Avenue were blocking intersections and taunting drivers. As a passenger in a car trying to cross Van Ness on California street I was very disappointed to witness such aggressive actions by these cyclists.

    At one point I got out of the car (we were stuck in the middle of the intersection)–as did a handful of others– to try to peacefully stem the tide of cyclists in order that a few cars could go through. The cyclists that I spoke with were openly hostile and threatening. I suggested creating a break in the flow of bikes because many of the drivers stuck in the intersection were rapidly becoming angry and were using their cars in threatening ways–one car actually attempted to hit a cyclist as I stood there trying to reason with the handful of riders actively blocking the intersection.

    I can understand that, several years ago, critical mass provided an effective statement about our urban streets and how cars are heavily favored in city planning and in transportation in general. I am not sure this monthly ride still makes a cogent statement in our favor. I also understand that, in these protest actions, there is unfortunately no way to mandate or control the behavior of the few that simply use the event to create mayhem.

    In all honesty and as a person who loves to ride, I can not see this event as creating any sort of understanding from motorists for our urban cycling needs. From what I witnessed on friday night, I was saddened to see cyclists acting in a much more selfish and destructive manner than I’ve seen from car drivers.

  10. Adam says:

    Not surprisingly, the participants in the bike ride who are commenting here cannot truly see the effect this ride causes nor do they care to take any blame. I ride my bike all the time and when I do, I certainly don’t pull myself into the middle of an intersection, lodge myself up against the front bumper of a car that has a green light and daring it to run me over while I hold the traffic for hundreds of others to break the law. I live on Van Ness and I witnessed the chaos at Van Ness and California for more than 30 minutes, not 5. No cars attempting to cross Van Ness that entire time were permitted to even make an attempt to get through the intersection when they had the green light. There was a coordinated effort by riders every time the light changed to create a row of blockers so that hundreds could continue to ride through red lights. To claim that no one is inconvenienced is moronic, and to compare it to football traffic is equally stupid, because that extra car traffic doesn’t break laws willingly and repeatedly. It just becomes more congested. Undoubtedly, if you’re on your bike, you can always navigate across a street congested with idling cars. Those idling cars don’t move back and forth trying to stop you from getting anywhere and accosting you, cursing at you, and threatening violence against you if you attempted to simply get past them. The theme of the ride is clearly “we’re going to be assholes to everyone not on a bike because there’s a lot of us and no one can do anything about it”. Stopping for red lights would break the ride up into lots of smaller rides? That’s an idiotic statement considering it takes all of 30 seconds for the light to change and the speed of the group is roughly 7 mph. You’re not chasing down a breakaway in the Tour de France. One day, one of you riders is going to be in a car trying to get somewhere in a possible emergency, and you are going to understand how incredibly infuriating this giant “Fuck you, society” really is.

  11. Larry-bob says:

    I can never figure out how people, after all these years, are surprised that Critical Mass is happening. Car drivers, how about putting it as a recurring event in your computer calendar?

  12. SilverSurfer says:

    And I can never figure out after all these years (as a cyclist and having participated in a few Critical Mass rides) that some cyclists continue to think it’s fine to break traffic laws and be rude to pedestrians and motorists. I am not one who is surprised by the Ride happening–I am very surprised by the selfish attitude of some of these cyclists I witnessed on this particular ride. To think that by having others “saving the date” on their calendars so that they’ll have a pass for that day to exhibit some really immature behavior is beyond the beyonds.

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