Thursday, September 03, 2015

Critical Mass: Bullying SF for more than 20 years

Terrorized by Critical Mass in 1997

Typical that C.W. Nevius gets a lot wrong about Critical Mass in today's Chronicle, beginning with the hed on his column: Critical Mass dying of self-inflicted wounds. Critical Mass has been bullying San Francisco for more than 20 years, and there's no indication that it will stop any time soon.

He's also wrong about the role the Bicycle Coalition has played in promoting Critical Mass:

Which is why this week the Bicycle Coalition nearly fell over its kickstand backing away from both Friday’s incident and Critical Mass. As far as they’re concerned, those were the bad old days. Because about 10 years ago the Bicycle Coalition wised up. Understand, they never sponsored Critical Mass, but in the early days of the event (it began in 1995) they attempted to mediate between the ride and public officials. They knew they had a passionate group of true believers, they just needed to mobilize them to do more than block an intersection. So rather than stage another tired rally on the steps of City Hall, the Coalition went inside, worked with politicos and got things done.

One of the things the Bicycle Coalition "got done," by the way, was help the city rush the 500-page Bicycle Plan illegally through the process without any environmental review. When the court ruled against the city, the coalition's leader was furious.

The Bicycle Coalition has always had it both ways on Critical Mass. Of course it never claimed leadership of the monthly disruption of city traffic, since it didn't want to be liable for any violence or have to pay for the city police that were required.

But the Bicycle Coalition has never made a public statement urging its membership to not participate in the traffic-snarling demo. (Leah Shahum had her life-changing bike epiphany during Critical Mass.)

Instead of an outright endorsement of Critical Mass, the coalition listed it on its online calendar like this:

Critical Mass! Fri., Apr. 29 6pm Justin "Pee-Wee" Herman Plaza, Foot of Market St. Join hundreds or thousands of other cyclists---remember---we are not blocking traffic---we ARE traffic!

With this weasly disclaimer:

Events not officially sponsored or organized by the SFBC are marked with an asterisk. We post events that might be of interest to our SF area members; we do not necessarily endorse any particular group or perspective you may find represented here.

When there's violence during Critical Mass, the coalition tries to justify it, like it did in 2007:

Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition, said this entire story has been one-sided and it overshadows the everyday dangers of biking in the city. "We've got a totally unacceptable rate of bicycle and pedestrian deaths and injuries in this city and that should be the real story," Shahum said.

Shahum in 2002:

"Critical Mass has definitely brought attention to bicycle issues, and we wouldn't have been able to do it without them," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The coalition isn't affiliated with Critical Mass. Rather, in the words of one bicycle advocate, it operates as Sinn Fein, the Irish political party, does to the more shadowy Irish Republican Army.

Nevius gets other things wrong: Critical Mass began in 1992, not 1995. 

Nor has "biking doubled since 2007." Nevius is apparently referring to the city's annual bicycle count when cyclists are counted at specific locations, which is not an overall count of cyclists or cycling in the city (Only 3.4% of all trips in the city are by bike, a percentage that has been more or less static for years).

Nevius refers to the police escort for Critical Mass that now costs city taxpayers $188,000 a year, ordered by Mayor Newsom after the massers terrorized motorists in 2007.

Nevius talks to the police chief, but apparently he didn't ask him where the cops were on Friday night.

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