Van Man vs. Critical Mass

Illustration for article titled Van Man vs. Critical Mass

A number of us around here are cycling enthusiasts and a majority of the regular Jalops have spent time living in the Bay Area, where cyclists — especially in Berkeley and San Francsico — have decided that yes, they do in fact hold the lease on the area's byways. So much so, in fact that there's a very real tendency for them get extremely aggressive when one nearly plows a two-wheeled denizen, despite the fact that the cyclist in question was making an illegal maneuver. So the story of 70-year-old Harlan Head, who ended up in a serious altercation with Berkeley Critical Mass riders yesterday simply doesn't surprise us. Head's claiming he was assaulted. The riders claimed Head yelled, "I'm sick of you people," and drove into them. Both parties deny the allegations. Based on our experience with Bay Area bikes-not-bombs enthusiasts, we wouldn't be surprised if both accusations are true.

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DISCUSSION

CM can be great if the folks leading it aren't idiots, but speaking from lots of CM experience the rides definitely can devolve into mayhem. I think it's a natural side effect of the liberation a lot of cyclists feel when all of a sudden they don't have to worry about a car plowing into them. Plus, being in a gang is fun.

I spent a couple years doing alternative transportation planning, and I used to ride a lot, and it's really frustrating. The sort of pure rage that american drivers (and this is a mostly american problem) go into when they have to slow down for a cyclist is scary. If you ride a lot, you definitely have your weekly 'incident' whether it's an insult, near collision or flying projectile (anyone else have a glass beer bottle shatter on their helmet?). Critical mass doesn't help. The only thing that helps is for more people to ride and for motorists to see normal people riding in the road, wearing normal clothes. Not to rant against my super comfortable bike shorts, but your average weekend warrior wannabee racer looks like a frickin' clown out there and people are never going to take him seriously.

The great irony, of course, is that cyclists were the first people pushing for paved roads and now we're not welcome on them. :(