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critical mess between bikes and drivers

By enelson
Monday, April 9th, 2007 at 6:14 pm in Bicycling, driving, Safety, Security.


I’m both fascinated and disturbed by the Critical Mass fiasco last month, in which enraged cyclists descended upon a woman and children in a minivan in the City Across the Bay. Were it on the streets of Sadr City, we could have shrugged it off, but here in the Bay Area, we had to cringe and a parade of letter writers and pundits stood up and announced, “I’m a cyclist, and I condemn such behavior.” Yes, that’s a direct quote, because I am and I do.

But don’t take my word for it, hear it from our feature writer, Candace Murphy, someone who’s pedaled her way around both sides of the Bay for way longer than I’ve been around these parts:

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9 Responses to “critical mess between bikes and drivers”

  1. happybiker Says:

    Surprised to hear the widely varying eyewitness accounts; from lightly
    tapping the tire of a bike to knocking a critical masser over and running
    over his bike.

  2. Capricious Commuter Says:

    I’m not at all surprised. These kinds of events often lend themselves to conflicting accounts. Ar you seeing these accounts on blog postings, and if so, can you provide links? Regardless of the gravity of the contact, there’s no excuse for attacking the vehicle. Maybe it’s ok in Mogadishu, but here in America, we have cops, courts and attorneys do do our bashing for us.

  3. Liz Says:

    I was up in SF during the CM and many of those cyclists are very nasty and a couple yelled at me. I wish they would ban Critical Mass and arrest any cyclist that causes distress on others.

  4. kelly feany Says:

    The car driver should go to jail for assault with a deadly weapon
    and child endangerment. Th bicyclists were also wrong to break the window.
    Breaking glass and running over a human being with a many ton
    vehicle are both wrong. Candace Murphy just incited more violence and
    road rage against bicycles by not being fair about the facts when she wrote.
    Murphy needs to check herself, and start thinking more clearly about
    who she harms when she writes. There are limits. And there are facts.
    Murphy seems unable to grasp either concept.

  5. Oldtime cyclist Says:

    Years ago (okay decades ago) cyclists learned the rules of the road – how to share the road with our much larger and more dangerous counter-parts. Over the ensuing years, cyclists began riding on the left side of the road – facing traffic, weaving in and out of traffic lanes, operating their bikes at night with little or no lights,making turns from either side and demanding space and respect all at the same time.

    Before anyone gets their cycling shorts in a bind, I used to cycle between home and school and work in San Leandro and So. Hayward and beyond everyday. I took the bus only when the rain was too heavy for safety. This is all before dedicated bikes lanes (which cyclist seldom use). And yes, I have had my fair share of being hit by motorists and ending up in the emergency room.

    What many have failed to notice in the imperfect eye witness accounts, a lot of the allegations against the motorist are unfounded. How could the driver have hit a cyclist and run over the bike without leaving the damage bike behind? SFPD found no damaged bike. Did the rider pick up his bike and carry it out of the mob? I’ve seen Critical Mass’ers in action – in recent years, they provoke lawlessness. As a motorist, we need to arm ourselves with cameras so that we can capture the rotten apples committing the crimes. Yes, it is doubtful that the police will act upon the pictures, but it should make the group a little more weary that if they do commit a crime, it will be recorded.

    If Critical Mass wishes to get a message across about sharing the road – with the mass that they can attract – DEMONSTRATE BY EXAMPLE. Show the casual motorist how efficient cyclying can be. Show the die-hard motorist that it is easy to share the road with the cyclist, but of all, teach and police fellow cyclist who weave between lanes and cars, run red lights, and/or ride on the wrong side of the road.

    Besides, one day too, you cyclists may also be behind the wheel of an automobile.

  6. Capricious Commuter Says:

    Kelly, do you really believe that Candace “incited more violence” with her column?

    If anything, I think she helped drivers understand that not all cyclists are felons, and some are quite respectful of the rules of the road and other vehicles. I can see where the “Mass” people are coming from, being a cyclist myself, but I don’t think terrorizing motorists does anything but engender ill will among some motorists.

    What Candace wrote is a good-faith effort to repair some of that damage.

  7. murphstahoe Says:

    oldtime cyclist –

    if you look at the KRON expose on “Bicyclists behaving Badly” (mostly about cyclists using the sidewalk) most of the cyclists shown in the film are transients or immigrants. Somehow this has translated to “THOSE CYCLISTS DON’T RESPECT THE RULES OF THE ROAD” and I pay the price in lowered respect from motorists. The highest incidents I see of wrong way cycling is in the Mission in SF, and Redwood City, and is almost 100% Mexican Immigrants who culturally are “trained” to ride on the wrong side because this allows them to “see the traffic”. I get annoyed at taking guff over this.

  8. Oldtime cyclist Says:

    murphstahoe —

    The issue here is not exclusive to any one nationality and/or social/economic standing – but an overall lapse in common sense and courtesy. I stand by my comments that decades ago we were allowed to ride our bicycles on the streets, we first had to demonstrate our ability to know and follow the rules of the road. Today, while there are some very dedicated cyclists, it is seldom seen.

    A while back, I was a with a group of young children walking through the Presidio and near Chrissy Fields. Several cyclists – non-Hispanic – barrelled through the kids from behind and even yelled and cussed at the kids for being ran over and causing one of their fellow riders to crash into another cyclist. (they injured one of the kids they hit) Please explain why the kids walking where they were supposed to should have known that a bunch of rogue riders were going to hit them from behind? What example did these cyclists provide these young children?

    While that incident does not compare with cyclists versus motorist, there common courtesy must be extended to both parties. Cyclist must follow the rules of the road – and motorist must give cyclists room to pass through. If biking lanes are provided, cyclist use it – motorist stay out and don’t crowd them. They are not mere decorations on the road.

    But if anything, cyclists must begin to police themselves and teach those who wish to abandon common sense, common courtesy, and the rules of the road that they are not doing anyone a favor by irrating the motoring community.

    Cycling, like driving, is not a right. It is a privilege that you must earn each and every time you get on the bike, or for the motorist to get behind the wheel.

  9. Jym Dyer Says:

    =v= All eyewitness accounts are imperfect, that hardly needs saying, but in fact there is corroboration amongst eyewitnesses that the minivan driver was speeding and swerving and knocked a bicyclist down and ran over his bike. He did stick around when the SFPD arrived, but the SFPD threatened him (and other bicyclists on the scene) and refused to take his report at all unless he paid for an ambulance. In fact the police refused to take testimony from any bicyclists.

    It was the initial gossip column by Matier & Ross that makes absolutely no sense. It relied on uncorroborated and very biased testimony from the driver, then glossed over the holes in that testimony. For example, the driver claimed not to have hit anybody, so the gossip columnists spun a tale about a minivan “inching” into bicyclists, leaving out that she did so for four blocks.

    When other facts about the incident came to light in other media, the Chronicle immediately tried to cover their ass (sorry, there’s no nicer way to put that). They rushed a story to their website later the same day, then spent the next two days trying, and failing, to reconcile this other testimony with their gossip column.

    After that hubbub had died down, Candace Murphy penned her piece, but she based it entirely on the gossip column! And then she used its inaccuracies to make inaccurate sweeping statements about Critical Mass riders in Oakland(!), and everywhere else.

    Murphy owes her readers an apology and a correction.

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