Monday, June 06, 2005

When is an endorsement not an endorsement?

Leah Shahum and the SF Bicycle Coalition want to have it both ways on Critical Mass. They in effect endorse Critical Mass when they list the disruptive monthly demonstration on their online calendar, while tagging the listing of the event with this hypocritical 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." (

It's understandable that Shahum and the Bicycle Coalition hate to give up Critical Mass; it's apparently been a good organizing and recruiting tool for the group. Shahum herself was thrilled with her first Critical Mass demo:

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.

The problem with Critical Mass is obvious: It encourages a disruptive form of civil disobedience when it screws up rush hour traffic downtown on the last Friday of every month. But the problem with the bike movement in SF is not that it advocates bicycle safety awareness for both cyclists and motorists; that's obviously a Good Thing, though riding a bike in the city is inherently dangerous, no matter how many bike lanes are painted on the streets. 

The problem is that in a city that has 447,585 registered motorized vehicles---and adding more than 2600 every year---the bike people are also anti-car, taking already busy traffic lanes away from motor vehicles, undermining the city law that requires a parking space for every new housing unit built, making parking fees and traffic fines as punitive as possible, and opposing sensible projects like the underground garage in Golden Gate Park, which will take a lot of auto traffic off the surface roads of the park.

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