Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Critical Mass and the SFBC: An exchange

Fog City Journal publishes letters to the editor just like any newspaper, as does BeyondChron. (The San Francisco Sentinel, on the other hand, doesn't do letters to the editor.) 

Fog City has a letters policy that cuts off debate/exchanges between correspondents, because, well, it's not clear why. Because these exchanges can go on indefinitely, thus annoying readers? Or because it clutters up the letters section? The latter is an unlikely explanation, since, judging from the dates on its published correspondence, Fog City Journal regularly goes for days---sometimes even weeks---with no letters even being submitted for publication.

Fog City's policy on letters to the editor: 

Letters are selected representative of a viewpoint. Fog City Journal will publish no more than two point-counter points on the same issue from the same writers. Letters may be edited for clarity and brevity. Please include the city and state where you live. Email letters to: editor@fogcityjournal.com

Okay, fair enough. That means that the recent exchange (below) on Fog City about the SF Bicycle Coalition's relationship to Critical Mass is now officially over as far as Fog City is concerned

But the great thing about having your own blog is that you always get the last word.

Below is my response to Matt Gramly's "last word" on Fog City.


My point is this: The essential nature of Critical Mass is a flouting of the city's traffic laws, which is something a political interest group like the Bicycle Coaliton shouldn't condone, since they get taxpayers' money to do outreach on the Bicycle Plan.

I don't think the SF Bicycle Coalition can necessarily stop Critical Mass single-handedly; but it should, at the very least, stop listing it on its calendar, since it's an unauthorized demonstration/parade with no permit that has no legally responsible organization in charge. The monthly demonstration cannot be justified and will lead to more dangerous incidents. It's also expensive, since the city sends 15-20 city cops to "escort" the cyclists every month.

The SFBC should be concerned about what's going to happen at the next Critical Mass later this month, since it may now attract more people looking for trouble, whether on bikes or in cars. After the next inevitable incident/incidents, we're going to have another round of rationalizations and recriminations about who did what to whom. But the question is, Is this trip necessary? Does the function Critical Mass performs---whatever that might be---justify this danger and the inconvenience to the people of the city? It's an imposition on the public, and it should stop before someone gets hurt.

Rob Anderson
San Francisco
April 15, 2007

Re: Endorsing Critical mass?

Dear Editor:

Assuming for the sake of argument that one accepts Rob Anderson's position of "The SF Bicycle Coalition Endorses Critical Mass," what's his point? What would be the end result if that were actually true? Does he believe (in practical, realistic terms) that the SFBC could single-handedly halt Critical Mass? Does he believe that the SFBC actually endorses the behavior of the 3 or 4% of Critical Mass riders that cause trouble?

That's like saying Tony Hawk endorses a skateboarder who attacks a security guard and Tony Hawk should stop all skateboarders from attacking security guards. Or that MUNI supports and endorses the behavior of every rogue bus driver.

Does Anderson believe that the participants in Critical Mass take their marching orders from the SFBC in zombie-like fashion? Or does he want to do away with the SF Bicycle Coalition altogether? Are we going to have Leah Shaum in the Supes chambers being ordered to name names? Being ordered to turn over the SFBC membership lists? Silly, in typical San Francisco I'm-being-worked-into-a-frenzy fashion.

As the Chronicle learned two weeks ago (again) there are two sides to every story. Some drivers are jerks, some bicyclists are jerks, some people are jerks. That doesn't mean everyone is a jerk or that just because I ride a bicycle that I believe every single participant of Critical Mass speaks for me.

Matt Gramly
San Francisco
April 15, 2007

Endorsing Critical Mass?

Dear Editor:

Your readers can decide for themselves whether the SF Bicycle Coalition does or does not endorse Critical Mass by going to
this link and scrolling down to the listing of Critical Mass on their calendar, where they will find this cutesy notation: "Critical Mass,Fri., Apr. 27 6pm, Justin 'Pee Wee' Herman Plaza, Market @ Embarcadero The world famous coincidence organized by you!"

True, they also include a mealy-mouthed disclaimer on the same page, but that's pure hypocrisy. Leah Shahum herself had something like a religious experience on her first Critical Mass ride. The reality seems to be that the SFBC wants to have it both ways: They want to endorse Critical Mass and use the disclaimer to disavow responsibility for any violence that occurs.

Rob Anderson
San Francisco
April 14, 2007

The SF Bicycle Coalition does not endorse Critical Mass

Dear Editor:

Mr. Anderson can repeat his erroneous claim as often as he likes. The fact remains that the San Francisco Bike Coalition (SFBC) does not endorse Critical Mass. He has discussed this himself as long ago as July of 2005 when he included this quote from the Executive Director on his blog, "Critical Mass is completely separate from the Bicycle Coalition."

Perhaps it needs repeated more slowly for Mr. Anderson to comprehend, "The S F B C does not endorse Critical Mass." Well, even if Mr. Anderson is slow to get a point, I'm sure FCJ readers will get it.

Adam Aufdencamp
San Francisco
April 14, 2007

Critical Mass and the SF Bicycle Coalition

Dear Editor:

Kati Jackson claims that "Critical Mass does not represent the bike community, and the Bike Coalition does not organize Critical Mass." But the Bicycle Coalition does in effect endorse Critical Mass by listing the monthly event on its online calendar, albeit with a hypocritical disclaimer appended. The city's "bike community"---and the SF Bicycle Coalition---should repudiate Critical Mass unequivocally if they want to stop the erosion of their political support in the city caused by Critical Mass.

Rob Anderson
San Francisco
April 13, 2007

Let's make biking and driving safe for everyone

Dear Editor:

I moved to SF from Ohio, leaving behind my car and bringing my bike. I came here knowing that SF is a bike-friendly city. I even brag about it to my friends back home, telling them about the great bike network, the advocacy of the bike coalition, and numerous other benefits to riding here. I've been 100% bike and no car for a year and a half now, and I have yet to participate in
Critical Mass.

When people ask me if I go to Critical Mass I simply say it's not my thing. Critical Mass unfortunately has some bad people doing bad things. It's very important to remember that the majority of bikers are not like that. Sure we get angry
when we get cut off or almost run down by cars, and it's scary and tough to get through a commute without a taxi, bus or UCSF shuttle driver trying to take your life.

We bike because we have something bigger to prove. We are doing what we can to make the world a better more sustainable place, and I think that alone deserves some respect. As far as Critical Mass goes, it's not and should not be a representative of the bike community. It certainly does not represent me.

I volunteer with the bike coalition because they are promoting the bike for everyday life, and for me. They make sure I can ride safe everyday, and they do everything in their power to work with the community, drivers and pedestrians alike.

So please remember although it was a tense situation gone violently wrong, Critical Mass does not represent the bike community, and the Bike Coalition does not organize Critical Mass. Bikers and drivers need to share the road, and respect begets respect. I want to continue being able to boast about how great this city is, so lets just work together to make biking and driving safe for everyone.

Kati Jackson
San Francisco
April 6, 2007

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At 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Critical mass is not a parade or demonstration-- it's a tradition.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

It's really all three, but it's only a "tradition" because of the negligence and acquiescence of the city's political leadership. That acquiescence may be more and more difficult to justify as Critical Mass plays out over the coming months. We'll see, won't we?

At 5:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I, for one, hope there is another crack-down. I'd love to see the bike coalition's numbers double again.

At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shit, even Guliani and the NYPD couldn't stop critical mass.

At 11:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

re: Anonymous-2's comment...
I thought the SFBC didn't endorse/organise critical mass???!?!?


At 12:20 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Go to the SFBC's website calendar of events, scroll down to the Critical Mass listing and decide for yourself if they endorse it. Of course they do, but they also want to be able to disavow the inevitable violence that happens during the event, which is a recipe for trouble.


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