Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Critical Mass: "To what end?"

The author of the letter below asks a good question: Why is Critical Mass still going on? Why did it happen in the first place? Some answers to those questions can be found here, where the drawing says it all: Get Out of Our Way!

Bacchanal of Rage (SF Chronicle, June 20, 2006)


I think it is time for a discussion about the Bacchanal of Rage known as Critical Mass. How long has this been going on? Is there still a point to it? It's now as much a part of the Bay Area commute as the Bay Bridge metering lights. To what end?

Based on my experience, the Critical Mass riders are there as an excuse to run wild in the streets. During the most recent "ride," I saw a driver honk at the people blocking the intersection. The response from the crowd was a collective howl that included spitting, shouting, and hopping up and down.

The real problem with Critical Mass is this behavior is not limited to the last Friday of every month. It's the rare driver who hasn't been confronted with a frothing, bird-flipping display by bicyclists. The other day, I was at O'Farrell and Polk streets, when a bicyclist got into the middle of the traffic lane and ostentatiously slowed the cars behind him to 10 mph. His response when I honked? He chased me for three blocks, hitting my car with his bike lock. He finally shattered my rear-view mirror and sped off into the distance.

My basic question is: Why do we have to keep indulging these apes? I know that the faux-virtuous answer is "One more bike is one less car." I'm sure this is true for some riders. Judging by the appearance and career choices of the vast majority of bicyclists, however, it's more likely that the last car they purchased was more Matchbox than Ford.

If bicycle riders want to be a part of the commute, I think it's time that they finally joined the rest of Western civilization and follow some basic rules: Stay in the bike lines and can the screaming fits.

Howard Olsen
San Francisco

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