The January Critical Mass was an intimate affair, with only 100-150 riders.
That’s pretty tiny, but luckily a crew from KPIX was there to make us feel important.
Turns out, KPIX joined us to report on the news (brought to you by Honda!) (they repeat their absurd claims first reported last summer) that SFPD Chief George Gascon is reviewing department policy on Critical Mass, as part of his commitment to cut crime by 20%. Here’s the video:
Of course the police view our monthly ride as a nuisance and an expense — that comes as no surprise. But this report raises the question: if Chief Gascon were somehow able to stop the ride, what percentage would he claim he had reduced crime? I can hear him now… “Red light running by cyclists is down by exactly 4%!”
If the cops think they have better things to do with their time, we agree! (Let’s not begin to discuss their spending priorities, and how using phalanxes of cops on overtime to stop a 2-3 hour, once-a-month bike ride is a remarkably dumb use of public resources!) We’d love to see the police escort disappear (though we acknowledge that they have been helpful in calming dangerous motorists). But the idea that our monthly ride should be anywhere near the top of the list of law enforcement priorities for a city with real violent crime issues is laughable!
As Justin points out in the video clip, the police tried and failed to stop Critical Mass once before. In 1997, Mayor Willie Brown sent the cops out to ticket, harass and arrest dozens of cyclists each month, with absolutely no effect. In fact, the rides just got larger and larger, ballooning into rides of 5000 or more each month. In the end, the mayor backpedaled, the cops backed off, and we’ve had a sort of truce ever since.
If the police try again to prevent our popular movement, the same thing is guaranteed to happen. More people will show up, and we’ll just invent new tactics — a welcome opportunity, since our ride has been entirely predictable for years now. Hey, maybe we could try skipping Pee Wee Herman Plaza in favor of meeting in 4 or 5 separate locations. With ubiquitous cellphones and twitter messaging, organizing that sort of decentralized response ought to be even easier than it was 13 years ago!
We’ll stop short of asking Gascon to “bring it on,” but only because we’re not macho idiots, and we know he has more important work to do. Gotta get a jump on that 20%!