Archive for September, 2012

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.


Your Week Begins: Sun-Tue Schedule

September 23rd, 2012 by Russel

Welcome to the Critical Mass 20th Anniversary Week. Hope you can make some or all of these great activities!

Welcome Center
Opens: Monday, Sept. 24 at 1pm
Closes: Friday Sept. 28 at 5pm
Hours: 1pm-5pm every day
Location: 518 Valencia St. at 16th St. (Map)
Public Transportation: BART: 16th St. Mission :: MUNI: 14, 22, 33, 49 (also J, 12, and 27)

Here are some of the upcoming events early in the week:

Sunday, Sept. 23
2 pm
Art/Freak Bike Ride. Normal bikes welcome. Waterfront to the Mission. Slow pace. Meet at Hi-Dive, Pier 28, 1:30PM. Ride leaves at 2PM 3-4 hours. Post ride BBQ to follow.

Monday, Sept. 24 
Welcome Center Opening Night with Art Exhibition Opening, 518 Valencia (at 16th), FREE

Tuesday, Sept. 25 
Critical Mass @ 20 Screening at ATA, 992 Valencia (nr. 21st), $6


Mon., Sept. 24
11am: San Francisco to San Mateo and back again… join an expert trail rider who will take you on a scenic tour down the bayshore and through some hills (depending on riders’ preferences), finding the nooks and crannies south of San Francisco that even most locals don’t know about! Meet at Welcome Center, 518 Valencia… bring lunch and water!

Tues., Sept. 25
1:30-3:30pm: Chris Carlsson leads a 2-hour “Transit History” tour: Discover lost freeways, ghosts of train routes, and a vivid account of how San Franciscans moved around this peninsula through time. Hear about the violent strikes that shaped public transit, the graft and corruption that conquered the Outside Lands. It’s a social, historical and critical tour through the city’s transportation past and present. Meet at Hayes and Octavia (“Patricia’s Green”), we will leave promptly!

Wed., Sept. 26
12 noon: Susanne Zago (fluent in English and Italian) will lead a ride along theeast shore of the SF Bay, from West Oakland BART to the Rosie-the-Riveter monument in Richmond, California. It’s a fantastically scenic, beautiful bayshore ride, with easy return by BART. Meet at West Oakland BART at 11:45 a.m.

12 noon: NOIZ Ride: meet at the  McKinley statue across Baker street from the Dept. of Motor Vehicles on the Panhandle Park.  Bring eatables, drinkables, extra layers to wear,  and your ears.  There will be Three Bands!!! – we will ride around town exploring and stopping very often for some tunes and merriment.  Ride will last several hours and will not be strenuous with probably no hills.  We will probably intersect with the book opening.

A Bay Bridge for Everyone

September 23rd, 2012 by Russel

A Bay Bridge for Everyone

Next year the new east span of the Bay Bridge will open. Thanks to the diligent and dogged efforts of cyclists and sustainable transport advocates in the 1990s, Caltrans was required to build a bike-and-pedestrian path as part of the new structure.

Caltrans (known as the California Department of Highways for most of its existence) has always been biased in favor of automobiles and freeways, and has never shown any interest in providing bicycling infrastructure. It’s obvious that Caltrans bureaucrats were angered by the requirement to include a bike path. How could it be that in 2012 the primary statewide agency in charge of transportation infrastructure neglects its responsibility to provide fair and equal resources to California’s cycling citizens? Are they trying to prove that nobody wants to cycle across the bay by making it unpleasant? So it seems.

Instead of being put on the north side of the new span, with great views of Marin and the North Bay—and the steady rush of clean fresh air that generally comes with the prevailing northwesterly winds, the new bike lane:

  • • has been placed on the south side of the new bridge,subjecting everyone to car exhaust
  • • faces the old bridge until it is demolished
  • • will face the hazy view south toward the Port of Oakland

Worse still, the new lane arrives in mid-Bay at Yerba Buena Island with NO current prospect of continuing to San Francisco.


Transformations: Bicicletada in São Paulo (Shift Happens! excerpted)

September 19th, 2012 by LisaRuth

Shift Happens!: Critical Mass at 20 takes a ride through 31 cities.  We’re profiling them all here! For some macro- and micro-views of the effects of Critical Mass in São Paulo, Thiago Benicchio and Tatiana Achcar take us through that car-congested city.

Thiago Benicchio’s “Critical Mass is Dead. Long Live Critical Mass!” gives a great account of the rise and fall of Critical Mass in São Paulo:

Critical Mass, called Bicicletada in Brazil, has been going for a decade, but was never that big in São Paulo, except for on annual World Carfree Days. In São Paulo, Critical Mass was the “Big Bang” for all the public and private initiatives concerning urban cycling, and also a significant inspiration to many other cities in Brazil. From the idea that regular people do use bicycles to move around, to the recent public spaces opened by the city, it’s undeniable that this small and creative crowd was responsible for starting real changes in a car-centric city with 12 million inhabitants. On the other hand, São Paulo’s Bicicletada wasted a lot of its power as a social movement, and in recent years suffered from the boredom of becoming just another bicycle ride without any deeper political, cultural, or artistic expression (even those related strictly to bicycles).

The Internet was a very important tool for the growth of Bicicletada in a huge city that’s also short of public spaces. Articles, photos, and videos published first on the Indymedia website, and later on corporate social media sites … helped to spread the idea. …When I joined Bicicletada, I started a blog called Apocalipse Motorizado, with a monthly report advertising the ride, and following up with multimedia coverage of the rides.

The Internet, of course, is just a medium used to spread ideas; the noted websites were in fact supported by dozens of citizens taking pictures, shooting videos, or writing articles about the monthly rides on social networks and in email groups. The street actions and the strong group of people willing to participate and promote Bicicletada every month were the main reasons for its growth and importance.

Whether in New York City or San Francisco, the moment when Critical Mass lost its early aura perhaps was due to police repression. In São Paulo the moment in which the Bicicletada substantially lost its transformative potential perhaps took place in 2007, and has very different roots. As traffic congestion continuously worsened, especially in the expanded center of the city, the little ant-like work done by some dozens of individuals during Critical Mass and on our blogs and social networks caused the number of bicycle riders to grow substantially, at least among middle-class people…

For the reasons behind the “death” of Critical Mass in São Paulo, pick up a copy!

And Tatiana Achcar recounts her personal journey of “Inventing an Autonomina,” or how she created an autonomous life through getting on a bike and participating in São Paulo’s Bicicletada—to start…

On the first bike trip I took through the center of Brazil, a truck driver, from way up on his enormous truck, shouted rather loudly as he passed our group: “Buy a car!” That phrase somewhere between a joke and an expression of disgust, made me think that the man simply couldn’t imagine how we were enjoying ourselves tremendously in the process of transporting ourselves with our own bodies.

I was caught up in the sense of freedom on two wheels and my bicycle took over larger and larger parts of my life. But I have to admit that the daily struggles of being a cyclist in São Paulo were depressing. I felt very insecure, like an alien, and I didn’t know how to behave in traffic or how to ride safely. A bike activist friend, Eduardo Green, took me along and I discovered the Bicicletada and joined the group, rather small at the time. I didn’t understand exactly what it was: A ride? A protest? With what purpose and what destination? There was a spirit of resistance there and the slogan menos carro, mais bicicleta (“less cars, more bikes”), shouted along the huge avenues, was proof of that. Through this crowd I also discovered some anarchist collectives that I found interesting… São Paulo had become too small for me. I needed to carve out a sense of autonomy and see the world. By undertaking a journey, I recalibrated my life forever. I packed my bags, gave up my apartment, and left. Thus began an intense and unforgettable series of firsts.

Find out where Tatiana traveled to and the discoveries she made along the way when you order your copy of Shift Happens!