Clearing the air on San Francisco Critical Mass

There’s a lot of misinformation going around about the “attack” of a family in a minivan during San Francisco Critical Mass last Friday night. It started when San Francisco Chronicle columnists Matier & Ross (who are anti-cycling) wrote this very skewed editorial, claiming that a mob of crazed cyclists attacked an innocent family of vacationers in San Francisco. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin picked up this story because apparently all cyclists are evil liberal hippies or something, and the conservative blogosphere is having a field day with how evil cyclists are, with many publishing death threats against us.

According to people who were there (unlike Matier and Ross), Susan Ferrando swerved her van into the cyclists (which, by 9 p.m., dwindles down to about a dozen riders), knocking one of cyclists off of his bike. Instead of the benign tap “reported” by Matier & Ross, the bike ended up smashed underneath the van. While the cyclists called 911 to report the criminal assault, Ms. Ferrando attempted to flee the scene of her crime. That’s when the cyclists surround the van to stop her until police arrive. While they waited, one idiot broke out her window. The police declined to arrest Ms. Ferrando.

It’s unacceptable that the one guy smashed out the van’s window with children inside. It’s also unacceptable that a Mother would commit assault with her own children watching from behind. And it’s horrible that the Mother would then attempt and hit-and-run to flee her crime, again with her children watching.

Here’s an update in the Chronicle that gives a little bit of information from the cyclists.

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0 thoughts on “Clearing the air on San Francisco Critical Mass”

  1. Apertome says:

    Not having been there, we’ll never know the truth, but it’s astounding how one-sided the reporting is on this story. The person who broke that window made a mistake, but it’s nothing compared to hitting a cyclist and attempting to flee the scene.

    One article even made a point of saying that the cyclist who was hit wasn’t hurt, but that’s completely beside the point. Are you allowed to do a hit a car and run if the driver of the other car isn’t hurt? I think not.

  2. jason says:

    Is there any way to respond to Matier & Ross ‘s article? Someone should tell them to get there facts strait. Other than breaking the window, I would say the response was justified to the attempted murder by the van driver

  3. Russ says:

    I have asked this question before, and I will ask again… What is the point of Critical Mass? If bicycling is to be respected, is this the proper means to the hopeful end. Someone please explain critical mass, and what is going to be achieved from it. All I have ever heard is that it is a public nuissance.

  4. Jerome says:

    All media is slanted. One way or another. This post, these comments are slanted. If I tell you something I saw or did, you are getting my world view and opinions which are a culmination of every experience I’ve ever had in my life. What actually happened? What is truth?

    It’s just sad to see that this is the way that humans behave. I know that we will not all “just get along” but how do you think the world view of those children was shaped during this incident? What has the mother driving the van done to her children? I see a very deep rooted problem here that reflects on society in general. This is just another manifestation of that problem.

    What made the driver of the mini van so angry? It was not the cyclist ultimately. It was probably burdens, problems and stresses she’s carrying around with her everywhere. It certainly doesn’t justify her actions. I seem to come across people like this on my commute now and then. People, who you can tell, by their actions, are stressed to the hilt. Challenge them a little tiny bit and they snap.

    This is world we live in. This is the way it is. Things could change, but the answer is one that no one wants to hear.

    Do everything in your power to counter this behavior. Do your part in being gracious to others.

  5. Dwightskin says:

    If a bike was hit and lodged underneath the van, let’s see pictures of the bike and an interview with the owner. Honestly, the “bike” side of this story doesn’t add up.

    Dwight (commutes 3500 miles per year on bike)

  6. John says:

    It’s well known among CM participants that cyclists will pull in front of cars and ride as slowly and erratically as possible on purpose so as to encourage an “accident”. Then the cyclist(s) feign outrage over the “crazy” motorist. I’ve seen this written as a suggestion in comments sections on several CM websites. If the mini van raced recklessly into the cyclists, where is the photo of the damaged bicycle? How about a photo or medical report of the injured cyclist?

  7. wolfy says:

    Around here the pre CM meeting is a group beerswilling party. At least that what it’s been in the past. I might try to hit it Friday, but I don’t see the point of CM really either. I don’t think half drunk hipsters on brakeless fixies really add any credibility to our cause.


  8. bikesound says:

    My account of this incident: This was towards the end of the ride (after splitting off and dissipating). We had about 30 people by the time we were leaving Japantown when I heard a noise, which I could even hear over the music, and I turned my head to see a minivan on my left just having run over a bike and saw the rider on the ground. Riders nearby yelled at the driver to stop and the minivan just sped away. Many people in the ride chased after the van and surrounded it after catching up with it at the red light. The driver had her hand pressed on the horn the entire time. The cops got there pretty much right away as they were following right behind us. I rode away with the rest of the ride but some people stayed behind to deal with the cops. I didn’t see the rear window get smashed but I can say that I only saw the couple sitting in the front of the minivan as the rest of the windows were heavily tinted and we could not see that there was anyone else in the vehicle.

    If anyone cares, you can see that the windows were tinted in this video of the awful KRON4 news report:

    Upcoming rides for those interested:
    April 6th – Oakland Critical Mass (every first friday)
    6pm @ Frank Ogawa Plaza (12th St. BART entrance on Broadway & 14th St)

    April 13th – Berkeley Critical Mass (every second friday)
    6pm @ Downtown Berkley BART on Shattuck Ave

    April 20th – Walnut Creek Critical Mass (every third friday)
    6pm @ Walnut Creek BART

    April 27th – San Francisco Critical Mass (every last friday)
    6pm @ Justin Herman Plaza (near Embarcadero BART on Market St.)

  9. Justice Advocate says:

    It looks like allegations of the minivan “striking” the bicyclist are bullshit. Notice how there is no mangled bike or injured cyclist.

    For vandalizing the minivan, as well as other incidents of vandalism, and for blocking people in cars from peaceably going where they will, it sounds to me like these “Critical Mass” maggots need to be run down with SUVs and killed for their crimes.

  10. Slomo says:

    Hello? Maybe she thought she was being attacked? I am a cyclist, but I am a parent too. If I was the driver and we were outnumbered by people pounding on our car, i would try to get the hell out of there too! Critical Mass is stupid. You reap what you sew. Anger begets anger. Change the system from within, because CM is not going to advance the cause of increase bicycling.

  11. Jay says:

    I won’t comment on this incident without better info, but as a person who enjoys using a bike for transportation I must say that I’m SO GLAD there are NO critical mass groups in my area. The last thing I need is a bunch of people working hard to make motorists around here hate me!

  12. Michael O. says:

    Where’s the mangled bicycle? He was hit, the bike was under the front of her car, and she kept going? How is it that he rode it away from the scene if she ran it over? The riders of Critical Mass have no credibility, and are a menace to the rest of us cyclists without an anarchist political agenda, and will set our cause for safe roads and respect for bicycles back decades.

  13. Bryan C says:

    This incident is an example of my concerns with CM.
    When I was living, riding and commuting daily to work in Austin, there were a bunch of idiots who did not normally ride their bikes on the roads and decided that CM was a good idea for them, as well as an excellent excuse to cause trouble. All it resulted in was a lot more animosity towards actual cyclists and their lawful use of the roads for bike transit, recreation and exercise.
    If you look up what a critical mass is, the definition comes from physics. It is the amount of matter needed for a sustained reaction. We apply it to a situation when there is enough support for something that it must happen and will not stop of its own accord. Uranium does not need a bunch of pot smoking anarchists to tell it when to react, and when there is adequate support for cycling we will not need them either. Until that day, we should work within legal channels to accomplish legislative changes that accommodate cycling and work every day as ambassadors of cycling to show that roads can serve dual purposes. I think that the unchecked rise of gas prices will do more for the acceptance of the bike commuter than any number of reckless and anti-social demonstrations.
    I now live, ride and commute daily in FW Texas, a city which one would not expect to be particularly bike friendly, but people around here have not been exposed to CM’s kind of militant extremism yet. Most of them view a cyclist as a singular oddity, which poses no real threat.
    The greatest exception is the aged, usually in large Cadillacs who frequently honk and gesture from their righteous posts. “Can you believe an adult riding a bicycle? Well I never!”
    You may have never, but it is a part of the future, so get used to it, if you plan to be around for long.
    Bikes are a good idea. A real critical mass will come. Acting like a bunch of adolescent punks in the meantime will not hurry that day. but will only make the waiting more painful for those of use working towards real and positive change.
    Why not have a critical mass that rides to a polling place and votes. If you want real attention, show some political muscle, not by blocking roads like hoodlums but by changing laws.

  14. barb says:

    As a 4-time marathoner (15 halfs, + 40 5k-10ks) I have admiration for cyclists who have safely ‘hazed’ for us during events. At China Lake in Marin, I have shared trails with cyclists who have shown great courtesy.

    Good cyclists are like good horsemen; they can handle their charges well. They can also train neophytes, who handle their cycles poorly and probably shouldn’t be exposed to the public until proven.

    As for that van-driver: kindly get out your fat car-covering ass, buy a car you can fit into: translated, lose that lard and you’ll be less hostile. You may even fit into a bicycle seat someday. Or running shorts. Whatta shock.

    From a 67 year old- yes-67; female marathoner.

  15. Elissa says:

    I just want to say that regardless of whether or not the minivan hit the biker first or ran over the biker or whatever, why do people think that the appropriate response to that is violence? Just because one person does something wrong doesn’t mean that you should also. Plus, if she really hit the guy and fled the scene I think the appropriate response would have been to get her license plate number and file a report with the police… why would people think that instead of doing that they should try to damage the minivan?

  16. MaoSayTongue says:

    My mom was delayed last month by the bicyclers and was late for work; she lost her job because of it. I’ll be at the SF Critical Mass this Friday, for payback. I’m looking forward to fukking up some of them bicycle-riding punkazzes; I have a plan.

    Be afraid bicycle pukes; be VERY afraid. Critical Mass will soon turn into Critical Condition for some of you; hope you got medical insurance. I can’t wait for the 27th!

  17. Bryan C says:

    I certainly hope that MaoSayTongue is kidding to make a point, but it goes to my argument either way. People who needlessly create tension between cyclists and cars are rarely the ones to pay the price, but pay it someone will.
    Just for those of you keeping score the average car weighs in at roughly ten times the weight of the average cyclist. It is encased in rigid steel and pointy bits of plastic and glass, where the cyclist is clad in lycra and soft fleshy bits with perhaps a tiny foam head protector. The car can travel in excess of 100 miles per hour under even adverse conditions, easily outmatching the world’s best cyclists. Even a large group of cyclists can’t overpower a determined and homicidal motorist.
    If you have never been hit by a car, then you have no idea how helpless you feel as you are about to collide with the leviathan of steel and glass. Then the pain as your soft body is crushed and distorted. Then finally the sickening thud as you come to rest on the ground, hopefully not under the wheels.
    Car versus bike is not a fair fight. Don’t try to start it.

  18. Righteous Anger says:

    Critical Mass is rediculous, lets pick the last Friday of the month a time when motorists are at their worst, and pick that time to harass them an dmnak etheir life less tolerable by holding a big bike rally that is designed to clog the streets in a show of superiority. the purpose of which is to show people how much better it is to ride a bike. Look we all are smart enough to pass a driving test, so we are smart enough to understand the various benefits of bicycling. We get it. Now if you all want to have the fun of mass cycling fine, please do it on a date and time that is not directly designed to cause we motorists the most frustration possible. We don’t care that you want to ride en masse, but the fact that you do it deliberatly at a time designed to “teach us a lesson” is a bunch of adoloescent bullshit. We are a free society and we choose to drive in cars. you are free to ride bicycles as long as you obey the law. Riding in packs and ignoring traffic laws in a deliberate attempt to make we motorists feel like idiots, does nothing to help your cause or show us how much better cyclists have it. You just end up looking like a bunch of cry babaies who feel so put out by we drivers, that you feel you have to act out. So many of you look like rebelious fucking children. little bike punks who are trying to teach us a lesson, well guess what we’re tired, we want to go home and we don’t really appreciate you trying to manipulate us with your outrageous behaivior. Fuck off!

  19. wahhh says:

    MaoSayTongue – aka DR – go back to Toronto

  20. d man says:

    Hey Mao-

    Sorry to hear about your mom losing her job. that’s awful that her employer is not more realistic about bay area travel times.

    anyway, i’ll be at the mass today. can’t wait to see your plan unfold. have you thought it all the way through, or is just kind of cobbled together? like most plans, there are usually a lot of unanticipated contingencies. think it through.

    i’ll be on the orange cinelli road bike handing out candy and smiles to motorists that get stuck at lights.


  21. GreenCitizen says:

    I think that it is pretty comical that the majority of anti-cycling anger ridden bloggers on this site have not only presented horrible comments and complaints about critical mass, but they are also full of horrible spelling errors…I enjoy the fact that people raging about this can’t even spell ridiculous (Righteous Anger), or bicyclers (Mao)…That is my first comment…second…directed at Mao…how did was your mother late to work on a friday night in between the hours of 6 and 9…unless she works at a bar or restaurant, i don’t see that being a posibility…and from working in restaurants myself…even shifts usually start at 4 or 5pm. Also…Elissa, how could someone with such a coherent argument and train of that fail to realize that one(1), yes one person, was responsible for breaking that window. Now i disagree wholeheartedly with this and don’t promote it at all, but i hope that you would say the same thing to the person who hit me in an SUV and conveniently drove away one day on my way to work…causing four fingers on my left hand to be crushed…
    Anyhow…i’m glad this is bringing critical mass to light..maybe all of you complaining will: 1. not drive anywhere between the times of 6 and 9 on one day out of the month…2. two, not drive just because it’s a more sustainable lifestyle, or 3. get a bike and join the fun…

    LOVE, a happy cyclist….

    PS critical mass was great today!
    PSS Preach on Barb!!!

  22. Bryan C says:

    Before you start pointing out spelling and grammar errors, I suggest you learn to use the English language correctly.
    Your comment is a valid one, but your own spelling and grammar errors make you look like a more self-involved version of those you seek to condemn.
    I am glad nobody was hurt at the ride, but I still think critical mass is the live version of a poorly typed blog in all caps. It makes us all look bad, and those of us who really do ride on a regular basis are the ones who end up suffering, when we are not in a huge mass.

  23. GreenCitizen says:

    I ride my bicycle every day, it is my way of getting around…And unfortunately yes, it does make us look bad when some dipshit breaks a car window, but i don’t go around calling every motorist an asshole because of the fact that i got hit by a single car…

  24. chile says:

    When I first heard of CM I thought it would be cool to ride around the city with a whole bunch of other bicyclists. Then I saw those CM riders on the street, and they scared me. I don’t know what’s up with that crowd.

  25. OutOfCali says:

    It’s interesting to see the responses to these incidents.
    You have the die hard health lovers working against the evils of the car, you have the pro “Leave us the hell alone when we’re driving” people, and a couple of knee jerk reactions to the very idea of the peaceful protest.
    Mao – Way to troll, dude. Live the dream.
    Barb – You had me right up until your last few sentences, where you went from explaining a logical and compelling point of view to vulger insults.
    Not having been there, or seen unbiased reposrts, can’t say who to blame for escalating things except for the CM
    person(s) who decided that breaking out the window was a good idea.
    If that was my mother, and she was suddenly surrounded by a large gang of strange people intent on “making” her slow down by deliberately interfering with traffic to prove apopint that is unkown by the drivers being interferred with, I’d say “Good for you, mom! Did you call the cops after you left the area and explain that you were afraid for your safety and that of the kids in the car?”
    Of course, on the other hand, if the CM group was being as peaceful as they claim (and I’m sorry here, but I’m seeing more and more reports that reported CM protest ride tactics are anything but, and in some cases downright dangerous), then something went majorly wrong. Why was the cyclist riding that close to the van in the first place? Why were the other CM riders more intent on exacting “justice” than taking the plate numbers and vehicle descriptions?
    Peaceful protests are one thing, and I’m all for flying your colors and making your statement, but for any group to be taken seriously, they must act in a serious fashion, even while having fun, and forcing incidents only works against their cause.
    Me, I live in a large city, but commute to work in a 15 minute drive on the highway from my apartment, which is the only one that I could afford. How would you suggest that I bike to work when mass transit does not go near the workplace, and I would be looking at a 2 hour commute – each way – to go mass transit and bike/walk.

  26. Bill says:

    Critical Mass = Mob Mentality. Back when I was commuting to SF in the late 90’s, I saw with my own eyes cyclists striking cars with fists, screaming at them and surrounding them when the ‘offending’ car or truck would dare to try to inch into an occluded intersection to get on their way. I know for a fact that for every family with a busted window on their van, there’s been dozens – probably hundreds – of incidents that went unreported or unpublicized since the aggressors in question were so easily able to

    You people, and by ‘you’ I mean the asshole massers who disregard the laws of the road and then are the first to become enraged when a car accidentally hits a cyclist… The ones who purposely block intersections (what if someone is trying to get to a hospital or some other urgent need?)… The ones who blow through intersections at breakneck speeds when the light is red, narrowly dodging through traffic and flipping off shocked auto drivers who have no chance to react… YOU need to get your asses thrown in jail. The fact that the city fails to take action against your rampage and that the media kisses your ass for your thin facade of ‘environmental activism’ makes me sick. In this case, if someone was RUN OVER as some of you claim, WHERE is the person involved, WHERE is their bike? Would YOU just sit there when a raging lynch mob came screaming after you and your kids?

    Try developing a fit MIND to go along with that body. Treat others as you would want to be treated. Stop attacking people when it’s your OWN damn fault they tapped your bicycle. Stop running red lights and stop signs or cutting across a busy street without looking. Stop acting like you have some legal and moral highground by stopping and vandalizing a minivan with kids in it when most of you couldn’t give half a shit about traffic laws to begin with.

    Hypocritical assholes who hold drivers in contempt, prone to dangerous and illegal driving and outbursts of violent rage. You folks should be working on THAT image, because that’s how most people view you, today.

  27. db says:

    The bicyclists attacked the family. I recommend that you condemn anyone who does this. Suggesting that these incidents do not occur frequently is denial of reality. I was attacked in a nearly identical manner a few months ago. We were surrounded, they pounded on all of the windows until the front window was broken. We tried to get them to stop and were mugged. The people who attacked me were hysterical. Unbridled hatred for something. It was weird.

    This is where you blame me. We started it, we tried to run them over, we yelled something. Yes go on, do your best. Fortunately fewer and fewer people believe. When the subject comes up I tell them what happened.

  28. Slackbastard says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. Two incidents of a few criminals in 2 years? Ban all bikes. This crime wave must stop.

  29. StraightDs says:

    Critical Mass is slowly being seen for what it truly is.
    A farce.
    No goal besides mob rule anarchy.
    No reason for existing besides the enjoyment of the few through illegal action at the expense of the whole.

    I ride a bike too, and like most honest bikers I find Critical Mass appalling.

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