Saturday, April 28, 2007

Critical Mass rolls smoothly through S.F.

Image of man in wheelchair participating in San Francisco's Critical Mass in April 2007Having blogged extensively on the topic already, I didn't plan to post any further on San Francisco's Critical Mass. (It's a "bike commute tips" blog, not a "Critical Mass" blog, afterall.) But I was inspired by this image in today's Chronicle; "one less car" indeed.

After its absentee columnists had inflammed the initial situation, the Chronicle sent a team of reporters to April's Critical Mass. They discovered that, gee whiz, Critical Mass is actually a fun and positive event:

The event seemed less like an angry protest and more like a rolling festival. The ride included all sorts of two- and three-wheeled pedal-powered vehicles. Some were decorated with crepe paper, signs and even large papier-mache sculptures. Several riders pulled rolling boom boxes to provide music, and one rider had a machine spewing a steady stream of soap bubbles.

"I'm not stuck, I'm watching," said Carollena Figueiredo, 44, of San Francisco, sitting in her Toyota Matrix at Francisco and Mason streets. "It's like a parade. I think it's great."

Riley Gangh, 13, was riding with his dad, Pete, and wearing an Al Gore mask and a hockey goalie mask. "I've never seen anything like it," he said. "We're just getting together to have fun and to show cars that they need to share the road." (Read more.)
Unfortunately, the television stations demonstrated--in the words of one writer to the SFBike listserve--the "blind men describing an elephant" approach to their coverage. In their view, the 20 extra cops, not cyclist restraint, kept the ride "peaceful." According to the TV news, Critical Mass was all about driver rage and police state tactics, not joyful celebration.

Let's hope this is the end of media targeting of bicyclists in San Francisco. Sadly, many bike bloggers elsewhere--not favorably disposed to Critical Mass and accepting every mainstream media account as accurate--were overly quick to bark against the event.

I've said it before: Critical Mass can energize a local cycling community, contribute positively to raising public awareness, and fuel the growth of cycling advocacy organizations.

Image: Mickey Kay pushed his way through San Francisco's downtown area to keep up with his friends on bikes. Lance Iverson/San Francisco Chronicle.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

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