Saturday, September 1, 2012

Critical Mass and Mob Rule - San Diego

The news that a police officer was struck in the head by a screw driver yesterday, likely thrown by a bicyclist participating in Critical Mass, isn't really surprising to me nor to many others. While the goals of the Critical Mass bike movement appear laudable, raising awareness of the unfriendly nature of the urban street environment to bicycles, the mob nature of the event and flaunting the rule of law inevitably lead to instances of violence. I am sympathetic to the goals of the movement. When I lived in Vallejo, I biked to work every day, but suffered a severe shoulder injury because of the way railroad tracks were placed at the entrance to Mare Island. Another officer I worked with at the time was struck by a car on his bike ride home.

However, the lawlessness of the event and the holier-than-thou attitude of the participants is going to continue to lead to violence. Another incident occurred on June 29:
A stroll on the Mission Beach boardwalk turned ugly for a couple in their 50s Friday night when they got roughed up in a scuffle with some of the 500 bicyclists who once a month celebrate their right to ride by participating in what’s called a “Critical Mass.”

The couple were heading north on Ocean Front Walk after dinner and drinks when the cyclists came speeding up from behind. As one rider narrowly brushed past the wife, she shouted an obscenity and told him to slow down, her husband said Tuesday. The rider returned an obscenity of his own.

Then, the husband said, a second cyclist shoved his wife to the ground face-first, splitting open her chin.
It may be true that the pedestrians could have behaved better, but the violence initiated by the cyclists is irresponsible in the crowded situation. In response to this news article, Joe Cunha writes in a letter to the editor of the UT:
I have watched as many of these bicycle riders harass pedestrians, tourists, taxi drivers and anyone else who happens to be in their way.

I have watched these riders circle and terrorize the drivers and occupants of cars that have tried to get through an intersection while having the right-of-way, and especially if the driver has the audacity to honk their vehicle horn.

I am ashamed of what tourists to our city must think of think of this unlawful and disgraceful display of bicycle gang activity; I am ashamed of our vaunted police department for tolerating this anarchy; and I am especially ashamed of the bicyclists taking part in the ride that think this activity is within their rights.
It appears that the rule of law and its cousin, repsect for the rights of others, are being routinely violated by this movement. It matters to society, because the combination of lawlessness and mob mentality inevitably leads a minority of the participants to engage in threats and violence. If Critical Mass wants to claim they are a protest and be afforded police protection and have streets cordoned off, they should use the normal procedures for such requests. Instead, they violate the rights of others on the cheap. Further, the police are doing nothing about it.

A website critical of CM summarized it well:
Their mantra is that drivers need to “learn to share the road.” To anyone with half a brain this is laughable coming from a mob of people totally unwilling to share the road with anyone – even with pedestrians — who, by the way, are much more eco-friendly than a bike. If you are a cyclist, you are not even in the same league as a pedestrian when it comes to eco-friendly. However, as you will see, hypocrisy and CM go hand in hand.
Cyclists involved believe that it is their right to ‘take over’ the roads to show all the other simple-folk the true light about how evil they are for happening to be in their car the day these guys decide to put on their event. Of course, many of these people will be in cars themselves the next day, or even the day of the event, but once again the hypocrisy is lost on them. It is not uncommon for participants to actually bring their bikes to the event trapped onto their cars or in the backs of trucks!


  1. Wow. Thanks for sharing this. Talk about pack mentality.

  2. Self righteous justification for being a total jerk, and occasionally violent assaults? Shocking. (/sarc)

    I'm the jerk who reminds bicyclists that get up on their high horse that I've seen maybe three different cyclists who were actually following all the laws as required. (And I'm not counting things like failing to walk your bike across the crosswalk when you're riding as a pedestrian, I mean running stops, cutting people off, failing to signal, etc.-- the DANGEROUS stuff.)

    After a decade or so of really paying attention to what motorcyclists often do when they're on the road, I also growl at those "SEE motorcycles, share the road!" stickers.

    (I really need a bumpersticker that says something like "If I'm not moving, there's a reason.")