Apr 6, 2007

Shout Out to SF Cyclists

SF cyclists have had a rough week, following the publication of a one-sided account of an altercation at last week's Critical Mass. I was at CM and it was a wonderful ride that wound into the Excelsior, onto Alemany and Bayshore, down 3rd St to the Giants game. I bailed after we hit the Giants game.
Many of us exchanged compliments and exultations via email about the route and the vibe afterward. Wow, was I shocked to read the SFChronicle articles this week, slamming the ride and cyclists in general because of an alteration between an auto driver and a handful of cyclists. I was stunned by Mayor Newsom's words for the SF Bike Coalition.
There was another lopsided article today from the guys who wrote the original piece, which was entirely from the perspective of the auto driver and some SFPD officers.
This column is about limo driver. I saw this limo driver by city hall, I even contacted these journalists on Friday and offered my account b/c I got wind of this article, but they did not respond. The limo guy was driving among the throng of cyclists. From his position (on the right side at the beginning of the block), it seemed as though he headed into the mass purposefully, though he may have very well just gotten stuck. I tried to engage him because he was driving among the mass. I was waving a sucker, which I was giving out to drivers and pedestrians. They had little pieces of paper attached that said, "Thank you for your patience".
He would not stop so I stopped in front of his car, because I was concerned that he was going to hit someone. I fully support helping drivers exit to the right at Critical Mass, but he was at the beginning of a block and his aggressive approach seemed dangerous at the time. As soon as I corked him, he got out of his car. I was smiling and offering him a sucker. He grabbed me and my bike and started shaking me. Perhaps he was trying to drag me, I was holding my brakes down, trying to stay up right. The man was about twice my size, a good 6 inches taller than me. He was commenting about how, "there [were] no cops here". I was telling him to get back in his car and pull over the the right and relax (though in retrospect he was all the way to the curb so he didn't need to actually pull anywhere, he just needed to relax).
This exchange lasted about 15 seconds. Several riders saw what was happening and slowed to help me. They stopped w/ good intentions, but most of them were guys and the driver immediately released me and started arguing with them. I saw a friend who was watching, rolled up to him and actually left rather quickly.
Perhaps I should have stayed. I felt like I had no control over what would occur between the driver and the other cyclists. I don't like altercations at CM or when I cycle daily. My instinct at CM is to encourage folks to keep moving when something like this happens.
I don't try to piss off drivers. I didn't cork this guy out of arrogance, but b/c I thought someone might get hurt. Some CM riders have called me the PR lady b/c I constantly ride up to auto drivers, especially the ones who look angry, and thank them for their patience. During the Katrina memorial ride, I handed out Mardi Gras beads to drivers and peds, trying to engage them w/ the message.
I realize that a lot of folks hate Critical Mass, but a lot of folks also treat us like shit everyday that we ride. Yep, every day cyclists are harassed, doored, and hit by cars in this town. Keep all of this Critical Mass hype in perspective: A couple of cyclists got out of control AFTER a couple of drivers got out of control. Property damage occurred because some cyclists tried to prevent people from getting hurt. And it's silly to play this whole chicken or the egg thing. Bikes were invented long before cars!
peace, co-existence, nonviolence

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