I’m a big fan of the critical mass organized bike rides in San Francisco. I’ve followed their story for years. I’m a believer that cities (and societies) need to be better designed around not just cars but pedestrians, bicycles and mass transit. As such, I support the cyclists right to bring attention to their cause.
That having been said, I’ve also felt the effect of their virtually shutting down streets in the heart of the city. I can remember one instance in particular where, after having ridden the train all the way to my job and back, I was stuck in traffic because of the bikers blocking off streets. Here I was, being the good citizen taking mass transit, subject to their traffic disruptin on the last mile to my house. I was frustrated for sure.
But I still support the cause and their method of bringing it to the forefront. I’m equally impressed with the way San Francisco has handled the situation, bringing just enough order to the chaos top allow it to go on in its own unique way. Now, instead of bicyclists out there on their own, endangering themselves and others around them, there is an official police escort to make sure that things don’t get out of control (no fights with motorists, no riding onto the Bay Bridge) but also to make sure that the cyclists themselves are respected by the motorists. Yet it’s only a police escort – the bicyclists themselves still define the route and the cops just follow along – they haven’t dictated a route which would spoil the atmosphere of the ride (and probably route them away from downtown congestion).
Working downtown now for the past several years I get to see a lot more of the Critical Mass rides, though to my own astonishment I still haven’t partaken. Each time I see the ride (usually I forget that it’s the last Friday of the month until I see the riders) I think I should be out there and perhaps the next time I will. And each time it doesn’t happen.
This past Friday the weather was fine in SF and the cyclists were out en masse. I walked along Market enjoying the vibe thinking.. next time.