Dear Bike Coalition, from Quintin Mecke

September 27th, 2012 by Russel

Dear Bike Coalition:

Sadly, I can’t say I was surprised when I read this week’s SFBC Newsletter and found absolutely zero mention of the 20th Anniversary of Critical Mass.  According to your own newsletter, apparently the only thing happening in the San Francisco bike world that is worthy of your 12,000 members knowing about on Friday, Sept. 28 is SFBC’s Valet Bike Parking at the DeYoung Museum.  Seriously?

This is the San Francisco Bike Coalition and you couldn’t even bring yourselves to stick a small mention of Critical Mass in your newsletter or on your website (or god forbid you actually celebrate/acknowledge CM and show some pride), a cycling event created here in San Francisco which has spread across the globe to multiple continents since its inception & inspired thousands of cyclists to take to the street?  It’s truly amazing that Critical Mass was on the cover of the Guardian this week and even SF Funcheap listed the event but SFBC wouldn’t even put a mention at the bottom in the “Upcoming Events” section, hidden away amongst all the SFBC sponsored events? Not even a listing of the critical mass website or the community events going on all week long?  Your website lists the celebration of the 15th anniversary of TransForm but not Critical Mass?

Wow.  I’m truly speechless.  How embarrassing but more to the point, how sad. Are you afraid of offending Chuck Nevius or Mayor Lee? I don’t know how, why or what SFBC has become as an organization at this point but it’s disappointing as a long time cyclist to see the city’s only (?) organized bike advocacy organization which continually touts how many members you have to not even show the smallest amount of solidarity to your fellow cyclists and to the city’s own cycling history.  That being the case, history will march on without you.

Contrary to our “biking” Supervisor David Chiu’s comments in today’s Chronicle (I always enjoy politicians running from anything deemed controversial), it’s actually SFBC that is simply one tiny part of a much larger movement made up of a variety of cyclists from all walks of life whose decision twenty years ago to ride freely in the street once a month for just a few short hours has laid the groundwork for cycling reforms, political action and transformative experiences across the country and the world.

What a shame that instead of celebrating all parts of the cycling community, SFBC has decided to distance itself from the historic roots of its own community in the name of moderation, families on bikes and political expediency.

Enjoy Bike Valet night at the DeYoung Museum, it sounds like an awesome event.


28 Responses to “Dear Bike Coalition, from Quintin Mecke”

  1. admin says:

    Here’s a link to an older post on this blog that interviews early SFBC activists about the impact of Critical Mass on their organization and bike activism generally:

    Former SFBC director Dave Snyder credits the crackdown on Critical Mass with increasing their membership by 50%.

    Also interesting is this quote which the annoying Rob Anderson found from another SFBC director, Leah Shahum:

    “My first Critical Mass was really an eye-opener…I had never thought of bycycling as a political thing, as a part of a social movement. Riding with a thousand people just felt so empowering. It felt different. I felt safer. I felt more confident. These were good feelings.”

  2. Great letter… please post and replies you get, although I doubt any are forthcoming.

  3. calitexican says:

    interesting! i went to double check and you are totally right about it not being there. thanks for pointing this out in an open letter format. — CTX

  4. neabo says:

    SF bike coalition is a political organization, they can’t support ‘rogue agents’ like critical mass and expect to be taken seriously. Also not all cyclists support critical mass so you can’t expect everyone to be wetting themselves over this event.

  5. Anonymous says:

    As a longtime member of SFBC I’m really glad that their staff has the good sense to distance the organization from CM.

  6. jry says:

    SFBC has just become a cheerleader for the SFMTA if and when they get around to doing something vaguely and insincerely bike-friendly. Bikeways on JFK and Cargo Way, ooh, great job guys, our commutes just got so much safer!! Keep praising those useless bike lanes all over the city that are full of double parkers and within inches of parked car doors.

  7. markb says:

    History needs to march on without Critical Mass. It served its purpose, and it started a movement. We owe it a lot. But now it is time to grow up.

  8. geocentrist says:

    Wait, so a leaderless anarchist bicycle event is upset that they didn’t get mentioned by a membership-based bicycle advocacy group?

    Worst anarchists ever!

  9. MPetrelis says:

    Mecke writes:
    (I always enjoy politicians running from anything deemed controversial)

    Is this the same Mecke who used to, or maybe still does, work for Tom Ammiano? If it is, he should ask Tom to take a stand on the controversy to reclaim the rainbow flag on public property at Milk Plaza. I’ve tried to get Tom to be a leader on reclaiming this important piece of municipal grounds, and guess what? Tom is silent about this controversy, even though he played a key role in erecting the flag when he was a Supe.

    There’s also the matter of the nudists in the Castro. Anyone heard Tom take a stand supporting our naked friends?

    On a related matter, how about we finally get our elected to hold regular town halls? If anyone knows the date of Tom’s last open forum, lemme know it. I can’t recall him holding town halls as Supe and certainly not as an Assemblymember.

    Finally, once the hoopla of the Critical Mass anniversary ride is over tomorrow, I’d love to hear what Quinten suggests be done to get bikers off city sidewalks.

  10. ElDedo says:

    Hi Daily SF Rider since 1989 here and I’d like to let you know that CM is played kid. Seriously played.

    CM does NOTHING to help our cause. If you want to help, please stop.

  11. steven says:

    In related news, bike lanes are being striped on 17th Street. That is appropriate, since it has been 17 years since the first bike plan included those lanes. The SFBC is no longer a visionary organization, and SF is falling behind other cities on visionary planning.

    Not mentioning CM in the SFBC publications is just stupid.

  12. Craig Reubens says:

    Hello Fellow Bicyclists! I’m a founding member of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, and I’m still riding the Tour Easy Recumbent bike I bought used at the Pedaler bike shop in El Sobrante for $600 over 35 years ago. My favourite place to ride is the SF Bay Trail. Second favourite? JFK Drive in GG Park, on Sundays. Can you tell why these two are my faves? That’s right — NO CARS ALLOWED! Dripping with healthy sarcasm as it was, I actually LIKED Quintin’s critique of the SFBC. At the very LEAST SFBC might have presented the details of the Critical Mass event tomorrow, along with a disclaimer stating just WHY they don’t support it. Is the SFBC “rolling over” for the powers that be, God forbid? Also, Leah Shahum, I LIKED, and AGREE WITH your comment, and I respectfully suggest you learn to spell the word “bicycling” correctly! Lastly, “geocentrist,” your anarchist comment put a sly grin upon my face! Keep on bicycling, everyone! {Today, SF, Davis, Colombia, and NYC — tomorrow, THE WORLD!!}

  13. “Wait, so a leaderless anarchist bicycle event is upset that they didn’t get mentioned by a membership-based bicycle advocacy group?”.

    No. Bicyclists are upset that their local bicycle coalition is ignoring a very significant bike event in the heart of the city. SFBC doesn’t have to approve it, but they certainly owe it to their members to put it out there.

  14. josh says:

    Both groups are a bunch of entitled transplant assholes.

  15. Josh Wilson says:

    I appreciate SFBC’s role as a political organization, but I do not appreciate their anti-speech, anti-transparency policies. Bike lanes can be a good thing and many of the bike lanes in town are valuable. But there are other aspects of making the streets safer, and the SFBC doesn’t support discourse around those. For this reason, I have not made my annual donation to the SFBC in a number of years. If they would simply open up the discourse — just the discourse, mind you, not actual advocacy — I would change my tune.

  16. Larry-bob says:

    Congratulations on choosing to be born in San Francisco, josh.

  17. Steve says:

    I ride a bike , I drive a car , I drive a truck , I skateboard , I walk , I take public transport , I take taxis……..This is just living in San Francisco .Mutual respect is all that is required to get around town……………unfortunately this is harder to find when everyone thinks they’re right.

  18. Dunfyre says:

    Hear, hear Steve! Mutual respect, erring on the side of courtesy, and a smidge of forebearance and our streets would be much happier and safer places.

  19. Wilderide says:

    Kudos to the SF Bike Coalition for rejecting an outfit that has undermined bike ridership in the city for 20 years now. Maybe this is a sign that honey works better than vinegar? Is it too late for Critical Mass to turn itself from a vent for certain people’s spleens into a force for good? Time will tell. I sure hope so. We need to encourage bike ridership in this city, and portraying riders as anarchistic a-holes who block mass transit every month and think traffic laws don’t pertain to them isn’t the way to do that.

  20. Jym says:

    • SFBC stopped listing Critical Mass right around the time that Matt Smith at the _SF_Weekly_ criticized them for listing it.

  21. R says:

    Riding your bikes in a really annoying way once a month isn’t really my definition of effective activism. You guys are just a little full of yourselves. Biking has taken off not because of critical mass, but because of the work of the SFBC and organizations like them around the world. Biking is growing as a movement in spite of critical mass, not because of it. I like the improvements that have been made, and even if you had 100x the amount of riders, I really doubt that Critical Mass could have ever achieved anything remotely close to what the SFBC has achieved.

    You’re just one side of this, they don’t have to help you. You don’t have to help them. But writing petty posts like this doesn’t help anyone.

  22. Larry Foster says:

    Interesting that you state ” If it’s not outright hateful/racist/inflammatory/threatening, we are happy to publish it.” In other words, if I believe that critical mass is a collection of law breaking, rude sociopaths, then my sentiments remain silent. Typical of the mentality that promotes entitlement where none is warranted. How is it that critical mass misses the simple fact that rules of the road are, except for a few obvious exceptions, the same as for cars? Do you really think that by ignoring this simple fact and pissing off just about everyone in a car unlucky enough to be caught up in your antisocial BS behavior will bring understanding and respect for the rest of us riders? What’s the mystery? CMs collective behavior serves only to promote hatred of everyone riding a bike and does nothing to promote respect between drivers and riders. Too bad the press continues to ‘happy talk’ your activities. And too bad the police don’t make a mass arrest of your whole group.

  23. Shocking that critical mass prevented a pregnant woman in a Blue Saab from driving home at 8pm tonight. It was one thing to stand for a cause, but it is another to be inconsiderate to other people.

  24. spinny spin spin says:

    The actions of CM are at odds with the goals of regular cyclists in the city. SMBC is trying to improve cycling in the city by working with the residents, most of whom aren’t cyclists and are impacted by the removal of parking and traffic lanes. Blocking traffic on a Friday night does nothing to win the hearts and minds of the locals and certainly doesn’t encourage them to vote in our favor.

  25. Craig Reubens says:

    Hi Again, Fellow Bike Lovers! Here’s a “follow-up” to my Sept. 27th, 6:48pm post, above. Well, I DID make it to the CM start, at the foot of Market, and in fact I got there from the East Bay where I live, early — via BART. And with my Sony boombox mounted on my recumbent’s luggage rack blaring out great 1970s rock and roll music, I melded with the assembled multitude. The scene reminded me of Times Square on New Year’s Eve, but ’twas much less crowded in SF. Anyway, I hadn’t been pedaling for more than FIVE MINUTES when disaster struck! The large diameter, but narrow width tire on my rear wheel slipped into a trolley car track groove. The bike came to an ABRUPT stop, and I and the bike fell over sideways, to the pavement. I wasn’t hurt at all, the Sony continued to play “Tommy” (by the Who), and I was ready to remount and continue on. But my bike wasn’t. The rear wheel had been bent into a metal pretzel, making the bike not on unRIDEable, but also unROLLable. In other words, I had to DRAG the darn thing (with all the weight of my AYH saddlebags, my sound system, etc.) all the way back to Embarcadero BART. “Oh well,” right? “Into each life a little rain must fall,” as they say… The next morning I took it the El Sobrante Cyclery (where I had just recently paid them $100 to reBUILD that above-mentioned wheel –nah, I’m not faulting them, jus’ sayin’) and they quickly provided me with a brand new wheel, tire, and tube — for $150 (including parts and labor, and “express service”).
    So, the good news is that I was back riding again in just a couple of days, undaunted, and HEY, look for me at future SF Critical Masses!

  26. Magick says:

    Thanks, Quintin, for telling it like it is! You put them on notice! I was at the music night at Cell Space and it was awesome! Roll on! Magick

  27. James says:


    Thanks. But quick question?

    How on earth can you possibly justify leading the campaign on Prop G ( which will raise SF rents if passed) and still have GOOGLE as your largest client?

    I smell a rat.

    Who are you really working for man?