Tuesday, November 03, 2009

"Cycling cretins of Critical Mass"

Enough of self-serving ride
(Letter to the editor, SF Examiner, 11-3-09)

Last Friday evening we were once again victims of the cycling cretins of Critical Mass, exercising their "right to the road."

People with real jobs making their way home at the end of the working day had to leave their stalled buses and walk for blocks. Theatergoers missed opening curtains. We saw visitors trying to catch a cab for the airport hopelessly stranded. And all because these self-indulgent scofflaws believe that they can do as they wish, regardless of the distress they cause.

I watched them pour down onto Market Street, each one with a self-satisfied grin indicating how much they were enjoying the chaos. What small lives they must lead if this kind of behavior gives them joy.

A city that expends millions on making the streets bicycle-friendly deserves better than this. Maybe our new police chief can do something about enforcing the laws that are so openly broken on the last Friday of every month.

Norman Patrick Doyle
San Francisco

Ticket the bad bicyclists
(Letter to the editor, SF Chronicle, 11-3-09)

Critical Mass riders again broke traffic laws with impunity Friday night and displayed their utter disrespect for anyone in a car who was trying to abide by the rules of the road. This presents an opportunity for the city to address two problems at once.

Since San Francisco is facing a severe budget crisis, the city should start issuing traffic citations for cyclists who run red lights. Each citation could bring in more than $100. Given the way cyclists in this city routinely run red lights, dozens of citations could be issued on a daily basis. And during Critical Mass events, thousands of citations could (and should) be issued.

The city would be safer for all involved, and the added revenue would bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars every month.

TONY PERISIN
San Francisco

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20 Comments:

At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I desperately hope that our new police chief will start treating the spoiled children of critical mass like the lawbreakers they are, and start enforcing the traffic laws and punishing the violators. This has gone on long enough.

Perhaps it's time for mandatory licensing of cyclists who ride on city streets. At least then they could be forced to demonstrate knowledge of the traffic laws, though I hold out little hope that the scofflaws would obey them.

I'm a frequent cyclist and occasional driver who believes in stopping at stop signs and red lights and yielding the right-of-way, when appropriate – regardless of what sort of vehicle, motorized or not, I happen to be controlling at the time.

It's all about having a modicum of respect for those around you; clearly something the Critical Mass idiots lack.

 
At 12:50 PM, Anonymous Philip said...

"I watched them pour down onto Market Street".


It's just extraordinary how many cyclists there are in San Francisco.

 
At 1:05 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"People with real jobs making their way home at the end of the working day had to leave their stalled buses and walk for blocks."

How the hell does someone so stupid to have not figured out after 15 years that Critical Mass is at 6 PM on the last Friday of every month hold down a job? Do these same people try to go have a quiet beer at Moma's on a Giant's game night? Go for a peaceful stroll on Chrissy Field during the Blue Angels? Walk their dog down the Embarcadero during the Fireworks?

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Right: everyone else is supposed to know when you assholes are screwing up traffic for people trying to get home from work, because it's all about you and your bike.

 
At 2:58 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Perhaps it's time for mandatory licensing of cyclists who ride on city streets. At least then they could be forced to demonstrate knowledge of the traffic laws, though I hold out little hope that the scofflaws would obey them."

If the licensing of motorists is any guide, you are probably right.

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger missiondweller said...

Rob, as you've pointed out in previous posts, these people get taxpayer funding. Can't we threaten to cut off this money along with support to bicycle orgs if this continues?

Of course we'd never get Mirk on board since he seems to be owned by them.

 
At 4:59 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, the Bicycle Coalition---which supports Critical Mass by listing it on its online calendar---gets contracts/money from the city. But with a solid prog majority on the BOS, it's unlikely anything can be done about it. And then there's the $15,000 a month it costs city taxpayers to pay for the police escort for Critical Mass.

The Murk actually endorses Critical Mass. He has indeed been essentially an errand boy for the Bicycle Coalition, pushing its agenda whenever possible. On the whole, a disgraceful performance, which is why he will have a hard time getting elected to higher office in SF. Not to mention his support for cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal and his support for Josh Wolf and his anarchist pals, who fractured the skull of a city cop.

 
At 5:24 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"Elections have consequences"

I really don't care much about the Jamal case, maybe I should but if everyone got all angst ridden about every anecdotal case, we'd be paralyzed. But you're not paying attention if you don't think Mirkarimi has the capability to win higher office. There's a reason the "moderates" are in the minority, and note that both Pier and Chu entered their seats via appointment.

You may hate the guy, but the populace likes him, quirky bag bans and all.

 
At 9:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

did you just really paste a letter talking about the millions the city spends on cycling infrastructure.

But CM does suck and does nothing but annoy people so when i commute on Monday they are still angry at bikes

 
At 10:35 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

One of the letter-writers referred to millions being spent on bicycle projects, but actually the city hasn't been able to implement any "improvements" for cyclists since 2006, when the injunction against the Bicycle Plan went into effect. Still there are 11 people working on the bicycle project in MTA, and it does cost the city $15,000 a month for city cops to babysit Critical Mass every month.

"I really don't care much about the Jamal case, maybe I should but if everyone got all angst ridden about every anecdotal case, we'd be paralyzed."

Of course you don't care; it's all about bikes with you. The Mumia Abu Jamal case is a lot more than "anecdotal," since he has been convicted of killing a cop in Philadephia. Knee-jerk progs like the Murk assume there's been some great miscarriage of justice on the case, but the evidence against Mumia is overwhelming.

"But you're not paying attention if you don't think Mirkarimi has the capability to win higher office. There's a reason the 'moderates' are in the minority, and note that both Pier and Chu entered their seats via appointment.You may hate the guy, but the populace likes him, quirky bag bans and all."

Another stupid comment, Murph. Don't you ever get embarrassed by this kind of bullshit? Ever hear of district elections? The Murk has been elected in the ultra-prog District 5, but a citywide election is what we're talking about here. Endorsing cop-killers and Josh Wolf won't exactly endear you to the POA and all those who think cops are valuable public servants doing an important and dangerous job. And then there's the Murk's oft-repeated speeches invoking the desirability of "revolution." Not to mention his slavish devotion to the SF Bicycle Coalition's agenda and his endorsement of Critical Mass. None of that will make it easy for him to be elected to anything but supervisor from this very "progressive" district.

 
At 12:34 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

You're not too good at math. If most of the districts are progressive, then most of the people are willing to elect a progressive mayor.

District 6 and 10 would be expected to have lower totals, but D5 had the highest totals of any district. D1 was substantially lower than D8.

Regardless - he'll look better on a campaign poster than any likely competitors. If you don't think that's worth a lot of votes, I refer you to the 2002 Mayoral election.

 
At 12:42 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

More stupidity from Mr. Know-it-all. There was no 2002 mayoral election; it was in 2003. Not all voters in prog districts are progs, obviously, so the kind of tally you suggest is meaningless. How is it that Newsom was elected twice, with the last being an easier victory than the first? Where was the great citywide prog consensus on the issues?

 
At 2:29 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

"How is it that Newsom was elected twice, with the last being an easier victory than the first?"

For the exact same reason that Mirkarimi won in District 5. He's good looking and charismatic, his opponents were not.

 
At 3:42 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Now you're not rewriting history but simply forgetting it. You've evidently forgotten how SF progressives agonized over who to run against Newsom; how Chris Daly called a special convention/meeting to supposedly choose/anoint a candidate; how neither Daly nor Mirkarimi stepped forward to shoulder the mantle; and finally how no progressive candidate with a citywide reputation was found to run against Newsom. Not to mention the fact that city progs were, as usual, completely bereft of any plausible issues to use against Newsom. Mirkarimi is a good looking man, but when he starts to talk all is lost.

 
At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Watch this: http://bayarea.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/the-backlash-against-cyclists/

I only watched about 60% of it, but in that time I didn't see a single cyclist stop at the stop sign. Every car stopped (though a few were guilty of the "California stop" which isn't technically a full stop.) But the bikes all blew through the stop sign, most without slowing down a bit.

Of course, this isn't surprising, we see this behavior every single day.

 
At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some cyclists are just contrarians:

From Letter to Chron Editor (11/3/09):

> "Since San Francisco is facing a severe budget crisis, the city should start issuing traffic citations for cyclists who run red lights."

+1

"Each citation could bring in more than $100."

+/-1

Fairness dictates same ticket as any other road user with "failure to follow traffic control signal".

Is that a hundred bucks?

(This from advocate of "CA stop" equating yield and stop sign for cyclists, along with "stop light" and "stop sign".)

> The city would be safer for all involved

+ 1

> "start treating the spoiled children of critical mass like the lawbreakers they are"

+1

> "Perhaps it's time for mandatory licensing of cyclists who ride on city streets."

-1

Training (by SFBC!) and skills testing would be more valuable.

> I'm a frequent cyclist and occasional driver

This frequent cyclist AND frequent driver sees no reason to expect papal "indulgences" when cycling.

> "It's all about having a modicum of respect for those around you; clearly something the Critical Mass idiots lack."

+1

I expect no more respect than I offer.

>" How the hell does someone so stupid to have not figured out after 15 years that Critical Mass is at 6 PM on the last Friday of every month hold down a job?"

It's absurd to expect non-participants in mass lawbreaking to re-arrange their lives to suit the whims of scofflaws.

It's also utterly unfair.

> "Do these same people try to go have a quiet beer at Moma's on a Giant's game night?"
> "Go for a peaceful stroll on Chrissy Field during the Blue Angels?"
> Walk their dog down the Embarcadero during the Fireworks?"

-1

I believe it's absurd to equate those activities to an illegal monthly march (or parade?), carried on in flagrant violation the permitting and payment requirements applied to other organizations.

> RA replies, "Right: everyone else is supposed to know when you [persons] are [disrupting] traffic for people trying to get home from work,"

+1, except for the snideness and sarcasm (neither of which work well in text, especially without proper smileys.)

> MissionDweller says, "Rob, as you've pointed out in previous posts, these people get taxpayer funding. Can't we threaten to cut off this money along with support to bicycle orgs if this continues?"

Threats are undignified and unnecesary.

Directly charge police (good pun!) and cleanup costs against the budget allocations.


> RA says, "Yes, the Bicycle Coalition---which supports Critical Mass by listing it on its online calendar-"

+1

Does Ms. Shanum still issue, "Non-denial denials"?

> Anne E. Mouse Says, "But CM does suck and does nothing but annoy people so when i commute on Monday they are still angry at bikes"

Some view CM as a case of "DUHHH, on Parade."

When SFBC applies for parade permits, notifies the public on the route, and pays for the costs incurred, they'll earn a great deal more public respect than the ongoing "In-Your-Face" attitude of "non-plausible deniability."

 
At 11:56 AM, Blogger Lex said...

More info on the video that was posted earlier - http://bayarea.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/the-backlash-against-cyclists/

As an experiment, a NY Times reporter in San Francisco set up a video camera and taped an intersection with a stop sign for 40 minutes. The results -

* 7 cyclists come to a complete stop

* 15 cyclists pause at a stop sign before continuing

* 91 cyclists blow through the intersection

Surprise surprise. Oh yeah, one more thing. Whenever bike zealots are confronted with numbers like this they immediately whine that “cars run stop signs all the time.”

Well, that’s not what happened during the 40 minutes the camera was running. There were a couple of rolling stops but not a single car blew through the stop sign.

 
At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Lex, it's impossible to tell from that video how many cars were coming to a full stop because—as one commenter, a traffic engineer by trade, observes—it doesn't show us what's happening behind the limit lines of three of the four crosswalks. But I can tell you without a doubt that the majority of motorists I observe as a pedestrian and cyclist do no such thing. Drivers (including those of public transit, as evidenced by the numerous accidents this year) continuously exhibit antisocial behavior on the streets that puts everyone on city streets at risk: pedestrians, cyclists, other motorists, and their passengers.

Obviously the relatively low potential for a bicycle to harm so many other people obviously doesn't excuse the bad behavior of some cyclists, or the childishness of Critical Mass. But what you identify (in the video and, I think, generally) as self-righteous lawlessness is actually an illustration of how safe it is for cyclists not to stop completely at every stop sign. 91 "blow through" the intersection, but do you see anyone getting hurt? No. Despite the perceived recklessness of everyone passing through that intersection, they all do so quickly and unscathed. It's impossible to say how serious the issue is without knowing what portion of bike-related accidents (car-on-bike, bike-on-ped, etc.) are the result of a cyclists' failure to stop or yield, but it's stupid to roundly condemn cycling—let alone an entire generation of people—because of it.

There's a hierarchy of responsibility that you anti-bike nuts refuse to acknowledge in these discussions, of which motor vehicles are at the top. And depending on whether you drive or not, you're guilty of either hypocrisy or idiocy if you feel the need to patronizingly chide cyclists for running stop signs. Bicycles pose little danger to anyone but themselves, and the fervor with which some people condemn their "scofflaw" ways is totally out of proportion with the threat they pose relative to the hundreds of thousands of cars in SF that break the very same traffic laws every day. It really speaks to how bigoted your view of cyclists is, and how hopelessly detached you people are from reality.

And still, very few cyclists who I know (myself included) would dare paint every motorist with the broad brush of disdain that people like you reserve for anyone who rides a bike in this city. To everyone who doesn't harbor such deep-seated, naïve resentment toward cyclists your silly tirades are simply the modern-day, urban equivalent of an old man yelling at kids to "get off his lawn." Except they aren't kids at all, but responsible adults and contributing members of society. And it's not even your lawn to begin with.

 
At 7:15 AM, Blogger Lex said...

@Shawn - The figures I cited in my post came from the author of the article who also made the video. He has no previous history of anti-cycling articles so I think we should take him at his word.

It's interesting that the bike zealots prefer to quibble with the numbers rather than acknowledge what everyone else knows - most cyclists run stop signs and red lights. They're reduced to making blanket assertions - "Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?"

 
At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Shawn Allen said...

Lex, did you even read my comment? I didn't quibble with any of your bike-related numbers. What I objected to was your assertion that there were "a couple of rolling stops but not a single car blew through the stop sign." First of all, that's absolutely false because you can clearly see several cars turning onto Duboce westbound from the north end without stopping. And second of all, it's impossible to tell what most of the cars are doing because the video doesn't capture what's happening behind the limit lines of 3 of the 4 crosswalks.

I can understand that people are upset about the collective running of stop signs and red lights. What I don't understand is the disproportionate amount of scorn heaped on cyclists for doing something that—in case you haven't noticed—drivers do all the time.

This is not to say that cyclists should do it just because cars do—in fact, I would say the opposite is true. Drivers in San Francisco are consistently disrespectful and/or inattentive, though the situation has improved markedly over the last five years because bikes are much more common. In the name of personal safety, though, it still makes sense to me to just assume that they're going to consistently cut me off and/or block my right of way; pass dangerously close at full speed then come to an abrupt stop; park in bike lanes; open their doors without looking; or honk and yell when I'm taking the entire lane for my own safety.

I'm not interested in a pissing contest over whether cyclists or motorists are ruder on the whole. I just want you to be cognizant of the fact that everyone on city streets acts like an asshole from time to time, and that it's ridiculous to scorn an entire class of road user based on the observed behavior of some bad apples. Even if the video you're talking about showed drivers consistently failing to stop I wouldn't be as angry or incredulous as you are about cyclists. We live in a big city, and that's how our use of the streets has adapted over the last 80 or so year. I'm inclined to just accept it and deal with it in my own way, which consists of riding as safely as necessary and being courteous toward others in the hopes that they'll pay it forward.

I know lots of other cyclists who think the same way, and that's why I take such offense at your wholesale condemnation of cyclists as scofflaws or assholes. It's flat-out bigotry, and it needs to stop if you want to be able to participate constructively in the conversation about ways in which ours streets are going to have to change to better accommodate cyclists. Try to imagine not what city streets would be like without bikes or if they were punished for their infractions, but what it would be like if cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians all just behaved courteously. We're all experiencing the growing pains of a city whose citizens' attitudes toward transportation are changing. I think everyone's interests would be better served if we focused on figuring out how to adapt to (and take advantage of) those changes, rather than resisting them on the basis of silly political or generational misconceptions.

 

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