It started with a bike ride in San Francisco on Sept. 25, 1992. About 50 people cycled in a pack along Market Street, hoping to earn some respect from drivers who sometimes ignored them or edged them off the road. They called it the “Commute Clot.” Today it’s known as Critical Mass, a movement that’s spread worldwide. Supporters say it promotes cycling and the rights of bicyclists. But critics say it is illegal, clogs traffic and antagonizes drivers. We talk about Critical Mass’ 20th anniversary, and its effects on the city.

Chris Carlsson, co-founder of Critical Mass who was part of the first ride on Sept. 25, 1992, and has since participated in Critical Mass rides in Milan, Vancouver and Porto Alegre, Brazil
Hugh D'Andrade, founder of
Rob Anderson, blogger on transportation issues and author of the blog District 5 Diary

  • Village

    I disagree that the movement started in San Francisco. It did in Comubia, then spread to Amsterdam, Chicago, later it came to San Francisco but with a little achievement. We have horrible and dangerous bike lanes and we are incessantly harassed by drivers. The only place where we can bike in peace is one day a week in the Golden Gate Park. Have you visited some cities in Europe? Bogota? Bike lanes are protected physically.

  • Rene Agredano

    I’ve always been proud to say that I rode in San Francisco’s second Critical Mass ride, in October 1992. The ride was nothing more than a small rag-tag group of bike messengers, friends and those in the immediate community. It was relatively small and uneventful, and although we didn’t make headlines, it was great to know that for the first time in the city’s history, cyclist’s needs were finally in the spotlight. Riding in the city has come a long way since then thanks to everyone who has participated in Critical Mass!

  • Amanda

    I am an avid bike rider, but I find the self-righteous and aggressive behavior of many Critical Mass members – privileged, rude, and overwhelmingly white – which includes giving motorists the finger as they race through stop signs on their $3,000 bicycles, utterly off-putting. I call Critical Mass “Critical Ass.”

  • Mark from Napa

    Been on critical mass, think it has an important role. However, as a frequent cyclist, I resent other cyclists who are rude and confrontational with car users. It only increases antagonism towards cyclists even to the point of being dangerous. I don’t want to been run over on some lonely country road because of some idiot yahoos creating so much animus against us.

    • Chrisco

      Hmm. So a driver is upset at some bicyclists in the city and then he sees you and intentionally runs you over on a lonely country road and who is at fault again? Not the sociopathic criminal who ran you over but cyclists who inconvenienced him at another time and another place!?!?!?

      • JP

        Exactly. Pushing the blame onto a cyclist seems like a desperate search to give blame. I get what your saying but seems like a stretch. Be responsible for yourself on your bike…it’s the best we can do.

        • Rob

          Tell that to critical mASS!

  • Dave

    We need dedicated, cycle-only roads more than we need High Speed Rail…a mere fraction of the funds allocated for the California HSR project could transform our cities into bike-friendly environments. We should attach riders to fund bike paths to any future funding for the HSR.

    • divvy em up

      If cycles are to be an adult form of transport, the roadways will have to be divvied up between cycles and cars.

      It does not work to mingle cycles and cars, including using bike paths on roads. The speeds involved are too disparate. Things can’t collide if they are going the same direction at the same speed–fact on which all roadway safety is based.

  • Rhet

    In Paris, the police give an escort on Friday night to a mass roller-skating tour, which protects skaters from cars. It’s an example of smart city planning that doesn’t harm tourism one bit and keeps small-minded people at bay.

  • Eamonn

    If you want to see the law being broken on the same scale as Critical Mass, all you have to do is spend about two minutes looking at any stretch of Bay Area freeway where you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people obeying speed limits or any number of rules about texting or operating phones when driving. If only motorists confined their law-breaking to a few hours of the month.

  • Molly Willenbring

    I am a regular biker (also a regular driver) in SF and am frustrated with critical mass. I’ve been on my bike and have been unable to reach my destination because of critical mass. I appreciate that, at the beginning, it helped to get a better biking structure in the city but, today, it is simply a big party. Most of my friends ride in critical mass and they admit the same thing – it’s just a fun party. We have a great bike coalition in the city, which I think does MUCH more for bikers than critical mass.

  • Adriana Camarena

    Mr. Anderson mentions that CM is an imposition on San Franciscans, missing the point that San Franciscans are Critical Mass! This is an invitation to all San Franciscans to celebrate the re-shaping of urban life together! San Franciscans should stand proud that a cultural movement was born here that helped express a form of exodus from a car centric culture. Moreover, this is a prototype social movement – leaderless and principled – which is a precursor to other movements seeking change in the world, such as the Occupy movements. I’ll be there this Friday! Let’s bike together, again and again.

  • Rhet

    Can your guests please let listeners know what the status is of the bankster who ran over and injured some 20-30 riders in Brazil a year ago during a Critical Mass ride?

  • Sarah

    Cyclists are much more likely than motorists in terms of not following the rules of the road! I have almost been hit on multiple occasions when cyclists run red lights.

    • asophia

      I agree. As an car commuter in Berkeley I’m frequently in near-miss situations caused by cyclists running stop signs/lights and biking in the wrong direction. I’m far more nervous about the bikers on my route than autos.

    • Rob

      Same here! (See my post)

    • Brad

      Patently false.

      • chriskox

        I have been hit by a bicycle driving against one way traffic, but never by a car. I guess it was my fault, I did not look to my left when traffic was coming from the right. I was very much patently concussed.

  • Phoebe

    Why does your guest keep changing the topic in response to legitimate criticisms of Critical Mass? It just reinforces my view of Critical Mass as a privileged, self-righteous organization.

    • Rob

      You are so right!

    • $11165038

      I have to agree. The responses to criticisms often sounded more childish than a reasoned, rational response to an opposing point of view. I was expecting more from the pro-critical mass side.

  • Bob Shanteau

    Critical Mass based on fundamental misunderstanding of the status of
    bicyclists as vehicle drivers. The problem is that most people think
    that bicyclists must ride at the edge of the street and that bicyclists
    should not act like drivers of vehicles. By law, bicyclists have the
    rights and duties of drivers of bicyclists. Thinking of roads as being
    for cars only is a mistake. Except on freeways, there is no such thing
    as “car lanes”. Bicyclists have the same right to use most travel lanes
    as motorists.

  • barbjbf

    Whoa! Cyclists are called bullies when automobiles kill tens of thousands each year?

    • Rob Anderson

      Critical Mass has bullied the city of SF with the threat of violence if it tries to stop it, like Mayor Brown did in 1997.

  • Mister Thomas

    It would be nice to have a national conversation about our long term transportation needs. We face giant challenges with peak oil, climate change, obesity, etc. Cycling is one great way to solve these problems. They’re not the only solution, but a elegant one. We need a Unified National Transit Party much like the Green Party. Our transit problems are so linked to everything else.

  • barbjbf

    Cylists on sidewalks indicate the they do not feel safe on the road right next to cars. An indication of insufficient bike infrastructure.

  • Nyetaryan

    I hate what critical mass does, since it inconveniences me when I am caught up in their ride. However, I totally support what they DO. The larger point is that San Francisco will be an infinitely better place if it manages to orient its movement of people and goods with far less use of individual drivers in single cars. It will stimulate more commerce and more tourism if we had a genuinely 21st century city that relied not only more on bikes, but also more on walking and people movers. The compactness of San Francisco produces great possibilities that would get us away from enslavement to the inefficient and destructive auto. As for bad behavior of bikers, that’s a totally separate issue. Bad biking should be punished and fined.

    • bareback rider

      SF is “compact” but it also includes some of the steepest hills of any major American city. No one with a chronic illness or over 50 is going to be able to commute on most routes in SF by bike, no matter how many lanes they build. And who has the time? We are not Neanderthals whiling away the winter in caves–we are busy urban people. Bicycling is a great way to end up with brain damage or a shattered pelvis. It is dangerous and regressive and, as soon as they can afford it, bicyclists in Europe and Africa buy cars. Our society should green up the cars and make mass transit comfortable and flexible (let us eat our lunch, work on our laptops, stop “barting while black,” and tell us when the next train is coming BEFORE we pay the fee) . Forget bikes. They are the past. Or, if greenness is the criterion, let us ride horses on the streets again. Scooper bag, anyone?

  • marley

    I support critical mass! There are far more drivers behaving badly in cars than on bikes. Critical mass gives people support and courage to ride bikes in a car-centric culture. People in cars need to wake up and realize that the roads belong to everyone, not just cars, and back off from bicyclists.

    Your guest who keeps referring to “bike people” has a personal grudge and needs to get over it.

  • Lisa Feldstein

    I am a driver, a cyclist, a transit user and a pedestrian. As a driver, I appreciate the reminder that we all need to share the road; bikes have as much a right to the road as motorized vehicles. My favorite memory, though, was when, as a pedestrian, all of Critical Mass stopped to let me cross. Drivers don’t do that.

    • nonsense

      Total nonsense. All over SF, at any given moment, cars are stopped in mid-intersection, dangerously exposed to cross-traffic, because a pedestrian, or even a runner, suddenly decided to enter the crosswalk.

      • Village

        Don’t complain about pedestrians who let you to drive without an excessively congested streets. Police, if we had enough money to pay for them, should ticket those cars who block intersections.

      • Reina

        Seriously, I hear you. Nothing like driving through the tendernob or union square/ market and you get these people who share the same mentality…I own this street, I’m crossing this street, I’m going to walk and not break stride and go right into oncoming traffic and when you come close to hitting me I’m going to look at you like you’re the one with the problem. You add the bikers to this mix and its more stress and road rage waiting to happen when the cars on the road don’t even have enough room to go anywhere, delivery trucks stopping right in the middle of the street unexpectantly and cars as well, just sit there hog up traffic and turn on their hazard lights just to get a parking spot. Then you got a bicyclist driving in front of you or beside you in a lane designated for cars. It’s like dude get out of the way. You can be both stopped at a red light and your just looking at the biker or pedestrian and saying DONT DO IT, DON’T DO IT!

  • Rob

    It is international acknowledged law that when you participate in traffic you are subject to abide to the rules and regulations of traffic law. If bicyclist can run notoriously red lights, stop signs and violate other rules then the car driver can do so to. If not, which it is mostly the case, it becomes clear that a bias of applying law is exercised.

    In the 7 years I have driven in San Francisco i had uncountable close calls with bicyclist, the latter in active violation of traffic law and rules. Most ending in shouting/yelling at me “for not letting them have their rule-less way and in some cases getting a kick and permanent ding in my car.

    Lastly but not least, the new bicycles lane and rules are anti business blaming practically all and holding liable the automobile driver.

  • Reina

    Its especially annoying when driving in SF as a commuter into and out of the city. What is wrong with the critical mass or bikers is that they do not respect the rules of traffic, they cause congestion and do not follow the flow and rules of traffic by acting as if they are cars. They drive in the streets and in car lanes instead of using a bike lane and its makes for very uncomfortable driving conditions because they think that we(car)need to watch out for them. THEY need to respect the road and commuters. I agree with the other caller about the cyclists attitude…typle self-important SF attitude that they are a rebellious, look at me, Im cool I can drive in the street and do whatever I want. Its just typical of SF. Just yesterday they had something going on and a bunch of naked old men were walking the streets….my husband was just trying to get home from work and eat the dinner I prepared but, you know SF, they always have to stop the traffic for some reason or another.

  • Randall

    Although I don’t like the aggression that is a small but visible element of Critical Mass – and it is a small element – I think the ride is an important event to keep cycling in the public eye. Many motorists assume that bikes don’t belong on streets because our society has always catered to private car owners, and Critical Mass will keep people aware that bicycles won’t go away. I hope Critical Mass continues and that participants will try hard to avoid outward hostility.

  • Brett

    I personally think that Critical Mass is extremely dangerous to public safety and will inevitably create a deadly situation before people get the danger. I once was stuck in traffic and saw a lady next to me who had a severely injured young child in her car who was bleeding severely and who needed to get to the hospital ASAP. The mother was frantic and panicked and ended up stuck in traffic for 45 minutes while the scumbags proudly blocked traffic, and one of them slammed their bicycle on the hood of a car who honked at them to help the lady get through. What will it take for people to open their eyes to the danger that they pose?

  • JP

    As a SF resident for 9 years and a cyclist that is also involved deeply in the culture here in the city I get both sides. Riding in Critical Mass is a great experience for anyone who loves the idea of being free on a bike. The cyclists are saying we need rights, we need a voice, we want motorists to share the roadways. It’s clear and simple what we are for. When someone in a car has a real emergency to get clear of the friendly protest there should be some sort of instance where there should be help for that motorist. The city should actually be more apart of the movement to help with the negative aspects of the temporary gridlock created by the ride.

  • Susan

    As a bicyclist, the biggest danger I face is drivers who don’t pay attention.
    Rob is right that there isn’t a specific law that Critical Mass is trying to change. It would be much easier if there were. Instead we have to get lots of drivers to be more careful.
    Civil disobedience does this well. It has helped makes drivers more aware of cyclists, and has helped make cities more aware of the need to provide bike routes that allow cyclists to be separate from cars. CM has its flaws, but it has helped put bike safety on our radar.

  • Stella

    As someone who rides bikes, rides a scooter and drives I car, I see a full spectrum of traffic. Critical mass and the city won’t full address the issue.
    KQED had a SFPD bike officer on a few months ago, and he also made excuses for car drivers. I agree with your guess, when people are critical of critical mass, the blame game goes to the drivers.
    The city and critical mass stress education. What the emphasis needs to be enforcement!! Enforce the laws regarding bicyclist stop at traffic signals, enforce riding in the biking lanes and not on the sidewalks. See how quickly behaviors change and cyclist do the right thing. In Marin, Sausalito cracked down on cyclist running traffic signals by giving out tickets, and now, cyclist stop at all signals.
    Vehicles, motorbikes, and cyclists all have responsibility.

  • $11165038

    I’m both a pedestrian and a driver it seems everyone is so caught up in their own little world, and seems to have the perspective that you have to beat the other person in order to get to where you have to go. I’ve seen pedestrians cross against the green lights. I saw one woman so focused on her phone call she walked right into the street and almost got her self killed. I’ve seen bike riders run red lights, do crazy lane changes causing near misses for the cars nearby and ride on a street that is barely wide enough for traffic and parked cars much less people on bikes. Car drivers seem to do everything but drive seeming oblivious to the fact they are operating a two ton motorized vehicle . The fact of the matter is, in order for all this to work everyone has to be willing to quit being so self absorbed and wanting to be right. The current transportation infrastructure is not going to radically change over night and we all have to realize that everyone has somewhere they are trying to get to and it benefits us all to obey the traffic rules so everyone can get there safely.

    • TiffanyS

      This comment should be voted to the top. As a driver, pedestrian, and bicycle commuter, I agree! This comment nails the root of the problem and its solution.

  • David Morgenstern

    Critical Mass seeks to earn respect from drivers. However, they have always shown a distain for pedestrians. I worked downtown during the early years of the ride and they showed they didn’t care about people heading to mass transit — that other car alternative. But they don’t care. Worse, the macho culture of their cycling has caused deaths here in San Francisco from bicyclists who don’t care about signals or pedestrian rights.

  • Jon

    More people can ride bikes more often for those shorter trips around town…if anything comes out of c.m. my hope is more people get off their seats and pedal to the store etc.

  • If the guests are going to put forth that bicycling is a better form of transportation, then falling back on the excuse that drivers are behaving badly defeats the purpose of what they state they’re trying to achieve. If you want to convince that your cause is better, then they MUST be better.

  • Christopher

    I am a bike rider and member of the SF Bike coalition. However, I do NOT support critical mass. They re-enforce the bad perceptions people have of bikers in this city. Furthermore, they are a menace on the road. I was trying to cross market on foot to make a necessary meeting during a critical mass ride. Since they never stop, there was no crossing point. I waited for 7+ minutes. I finally saw a break and started crossing. I was swiped by one bike, and almost hit by another. I DID have the cross walk light. I should have kicked some spokes. Scary, annoying, and totally uncalled for. The guy who violated the light and swiped me yelled at me for trying to cross. Get a life – learn how to play nicely, or don’t play at all.

  • barbjbf

    Cars are the choice because the whole infrastructure is set up for cars.

  • Kimberly

    The backlash isn’t just to critical mass. The backlash is against all cyclists. Many do run red lights, but the real problem is that bikes get in the way. As there are more and more bicyclists commuting, there are more and more conflicts between modes of transportation. there will be more and more anger. When you drive a car, it is inconvenient to share the road. People don’t like to share. We need transportation planning along the lines of Amsterdam.

  • Nikki

    My main criticism of bike riders on the street is that they generally don’t obey the rules of the road, like running stop signs & cutting in front of drivers. Personally, I’m terrified that I’ll hit a rider who’s flying through an intersection & riding according to his own rules.

  • Bonnie

    I feel increasing frustration as I listen to this program-the first negative comment by the guest was that it is “an act of stupidity to buy a car.” This sets the tone for all future interactions with Critical Mass. My husband is a member of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, and I think what really needs to happen is a dialogue that is RESPECTFUL between bicyclists and motorists. Riding the wrong way down the street and blocking people’s commute is not the way. If you don’t want violence to be what people think of when they think of CM, then please send a message of nonviolence. You can’t have it both ways.

  • Ron

    Your guests exhibit the narcissistic sense of entitlement that is all too common in this City. If one wants to parade, get a permit like parades organized around marchers, motorcades, or horses. The urban design should accommodate cyclists, but they also need to obey traffic laws including staying off the sidewalk and stopping at red lights. But the pattern of cyclists traveling darting in and out of traffic lanes, going on to sidewalks, making left turns by crossing the street through pedestrian crosswalks is legion. It’s no answer to scofflaw behavior that some motorists don’t obey traffic laws. Stop deflecting and start accepting responsibility for obeying the law. If you want all San Franciscans to pay millions for bike lanes, dedicted bike highways, etc., organize a political movement rather than conduct traffic terrorism.

  • barbjbf

    No mention of the air pollution caused by cars or the greenhouse gas emissions? Climate change is very inconvenient.

  • metai

    The “practical” reasons for not breaking up the group does not justify not stopping for traffic lights. Traffic laws apply to everyone regardless whether you are in a group. If you get broken up, then the people at the front must wait for the restof the group.

    Sign me: a bicyclist who does not ride on critical mass day.

  • Randall

    Two points: Rob Anderson always tries to conflate Critical Mass with the SF Bicycle Coalition, but the SFBC doesn’t endorse Critical Mass. Also, Rob Anderson has a lot of criticisms, but no solutions to improve our transportation networks.

    • Rob Anderson

      Until recently the Bicycle Coalition listed Critical Mass on its online calendar, and Leah Shahum and Andy Thornley had their life-changing epiphanies at Critical Mass. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing. The streets of SF work pretty well right now. Taking away traffic lanes and street parking to make bike lanes will only make traffic worse for the overwhelming majority that doesn’t ride bicycles.

  • Katie

    As pedestrians walking to work/school, I or my daughter almost gets hit EVERY SINGLE DAY by bicyclists who do not stop at red lights and stop signs. Once in a while we will hear a “sorry.” That is about the best I can expect at this point.

    • nikki

      helloooo! nothing about motorists endangering your safety EVERY SINGLE DAY? please!

  • Dean

    FACT: Oil based motorized vehicles are going to become extinct. Would Rob Anderson agree that the expansion of car-centric city planning and the future of oil resources and gas production is completely unsustainable? American car culture is globally toxic. Ultimately, I see Critical Mass as a political movement that serves to radically change the mass consciousness for good.

    • Rob Anderson

      No, cars will never be obsolete. The auto companies are already well along in creating vehicles that don’t rely on petroleum-based fuel. There’s plenty of that left to make the transition.

  • Brad

    Critical Mass is a once-a-month event in a city that regularly hosts public displays of all kinds. If people are bothered by this type of event, then they should probably steer clear of big cities.

  • Barney

    Critical Mass does not disrupt traffic. Critical Mass IS traffic.

  • Mary

    We might make more progress between car drivers and bike riders (I’m both, by the way!) if we can first start acting older than Kindergartners saying “well, car drivers are rude so I can be too..” “bike riders are rude first!” etc. Let’s start with being civilized.

  • this situation is busted

    Most bicyclists in San Francisco routinely disobey the bicycle traffic laws.

    They routinely blow through stop signs and red lights. I can share my videos….They are incompetent and aggressive–passing and cutting off cars at intersections, wobbling in and out of the bike lanes, varying their speed excessively, riding through crosswalks, exceeding the bike lane speed, cutting off cars that have signaled a right on red, and coming way too close to pedestrians,,,.
    Safe operation of a car depends on all vehicles and pedestrians obeying rules to create predictable conditions. SF police must crack down on scofflaw bicyclists until they learn they aren’t outside the law. It isn’t safe to drive normally in SF. Twice the gas is burned to get anywhere because of chaos at intersections. This is not green and it is caused by poor traffic regulation and scofflaw behavior toward what laws exist.

    • Bonnie

      Yes,in Oakland, too,and then you hear him say that they should be able to run stop signs and red lights because it’s safer?? WTH? I think if they want to earn our respect they should be held to the same standards and receive tickets just as we do. They are just perpetuating their view that they are above car drivers, but like one caller said, some people actually NEED cars like families with children. Not everyone CAN ride a bike. We need to do a better job of coexisting.

  • sarah

    it’s great what the critical has done to raise awareness and get more ppl to ride bikes. but the more productive thing to do next is not keep having these bike parties and talk like teenagers fighting against strict parents..

    it’s more productive to get city plannings to change. have more dedicated bike lanes. never allow major artillaries w/o building in dedicated bike lanes. improve public transportation for those who can’t ride bikes and those who don’t want to ride bikes on rainy days. etc.

    american is a victim of its vast and available lands. in countries where land is scarce and cities are more high density, like in europe and asia. this is not a big issue. public transportation is vibrant used by majority of ppl. and in some cities even the houses along the major public transportation are very sought after.

    you need to work on where problem is . it’s not the inconvenince of critical mass nights. it’s about making more bike lanes available and improving public transportation. ppl need to put efforts where it counts.

  • rebecca

    while i think on the whole critical mass is a positive, i find the critical mass cyclists are often rude and bellicose to others on the road…. having lived in new york city for a decade, i was shocked when i came to san francisco at the lack of civility between the pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist. people on the new york city streets are not this angry…

  • Nancyo

    Comparing SF to Copenhagen or Amsterdam is a joke! Those two cities are as flat as your dining room table. How about me on Twin Peaks? The same?!? I think not!

    • Rhet

      These are similar in that there are open-minded people in all 3 cities.

      • Nancyo

        I am not against critical mass, so I guess I’m “open-minded” by your definition. The point is the stupid statement by a guest about riding a bike in Copenhagen ’til old age. Not the same as here.

        • Rhet

          It’s true. Maybe for the elderly SF could add a gondola-cable car like you see in the Alps to help them go up the hills.

        • Chris

          Why not? If we start making streets safer it can be like Copenhagen. Stop with this status quo bs.

    • Madeline

      There are route such as the wiggle that make riding in SF easier, plus with the addition of a small battery seniors can ride SF. What really limits bike riding is safety. Motorists kill bikers, bikers don’t kill motorist. Riding through stop signs when traffic(peds, cars, public transportation) is clear is then a risk to the biker not anyone else. Granny’s do ride SF!

    • Chris

      The weather in SF is much more conducive to cycling than any of those European cities. You know that there are electric bikes don’t you. 40-50% of SF is pretty flat.

  • I’ve gone from a Critical Mass supporter, to hating the movement with the burning fire of a thousand suns. Why? The rude, obnoxious behavior of many (not a few) participants in the movement. Here’s a hint: I will not support you if you are a jerk.

  • Chris

    We need to have the green path markers on the street for cyclists include a red stop at intersections with stop signed corners!! Maybe that would be obeyed sine the stop sins are ignored!

  • jj

    I’m a 16 year resident of San Francisco, and a daily bike commuter. I rode in CM twice shortly after I moved here. I was on the ride that attempted to take over the Bay Bridge,
    , and have steered clear of them ever since. When I saw others trying to do it, I wasn’t sure if they were actually serious, and couldn’t believe the stupidity. Last year sometime I got to Market and Castro on my ride home and witnessed a group of about 20-25 of them forming a vortex around the perimeter of the intersection, intentionally blocking traffic for no other reason than that they could. I don’t think the event does anything to garner respect from drivers, only animosity. I avoid them like the plague when I see them.

    • Rhet

      In Philadelphia PA, on the weekends, they open up two long roads near a park to bicyclists, joggers and walkers, and they block off cars. It’s truly wonderful.

      What SF needs is better city management to make the city more liveable, like by giving up roads to the People who paid for them.

    • jj

      However, I agree with one of the closing comments of your guest who said he treats red lights at red blinking lights, and stop signs at smaller intersections as yields. This is perfectly safe behavior as a cyclist if done responsibly. I think red lights at multi-lane intersections should treated as full stops for all traffic, period. An intersection like Market and Van Ness isn’t safe to cross on red any time. There is a distinct difference between using these rules, vs. blowing through all intersections at full speed, which is negligent in any book.

  • daniella

    I have a long and complicated relationship with critical mass. I had a 4 month fling with someone i met on the golden gate bridge during a chaotic SF ride in 97. Then in 2002 I broke my shoulder during a Halloween ride in NYC when a fellow biker rammed into me. ..

  • halftroll

    Lets make critical mass work for everyone. People who dont want to ride, should just take friday afternoon off. Sounds like a lot of them could use some time to relax.

  • Rhet

    I think joggers are more dangerous than cyclists. My gosh, they ought to have licenses and insurance, those sneaker maniacs!


      I agree there. They just change lanes without looking. And why does everyone wear black in the pitchdark when they go running or walking??? Do you leave your lights off when you drive your car in the middle of the night, or worse at dusk? What’s wrong with reflectors? I don’t care to be seen during the day, but at night I’m lit up like a christmas tree, so as not to get run over, or run into.

  • theymightbegiants

    he problem is that there is a need for appropriate places to ride bikes, city streets currently being built only with motor vehicles in mind. It needs to be addressed by city planners and appropriate laws applied. CRITICAL MASS needs to be abolished. Your guests have regard for only their agenda. Get responsible for more than yourselves. You are *N-O-T* innocents…and quit justifying your obvious transgressions.

  • metai

    No. not all cyclists treat STOP signs as YIELD signs. It does not say so on the signs. By stopping, you are behaving as expected, thus, creating less chances of an accident, one that is not necessarily involving you.

    • Bonnie

      Yes, yes YES!!!!!

    • jj

      I’ll be treating stops as yields until I’m old and gray and can’t hold my balance on a bike anymore. And save the jokes like “… or until you get hit by a car and die” because this behavior has never once caused a bad situation with either pedestrian or car. If done responsibly it is safe, period.


        So true.

      • John

        it’s basically the rule on bike boulevards like shafter in oakland. whenever i stop at any of the four-ways to let a driver who arrived at the sign first, they wave me through. every time. nobody assumes that bicycles should stop at the stop signs, and nobody has a problem with it.

        i will happily exercise my full right to ride in the center of the lane and stop and put a foot down at every stop sign, and we’ll see how quickly the drivers behind me get furious…

        • john

          I got a ticket 7 years ago here in San Diego for rolling thru a stop sign at about 6 mph at a deserted suburban 4 way at 10 am on a Wednesday morning. So now at every stop sign I do move to the center of the lane, come to a full stop, put my foot down, look every direction, then proceed with caution through the intersection, no matter how many cars are waiting or waving me through.

  • barbjbf

    Please keep in mind that the rules of the road were designed with only cars in mind. Rules should be modified for cyclists as mentioned by the speaker: stop lights should be regarded as stop signs for bikes and stop signs should be thought of as yield signs. I ride at 8-12 mph on the roads on which cars drive at 25, 30 and 40 mph. Does safety really require the same rules for bikes as for cars?

    • Bonnie

      I believe so.

  • norman

    well yes, of course. Also we should prohibit Baseball & Football games at our stadia, as the paralysis of traffic is unconscionable. Whoever allowed a stadium to be built in the center of the city………… Gosh if us cyclists had as much $$ as the insiders there’d be no objection.

  • this situation is busted

    More truthful lies on the part of the Critical Mass speaker… If it is true that bicycles have to yield, not stop, at stop signs, they are still mostly disobeying the law in SF. Yielding means that if you come up second to the stop sign, you give way completely–no ifs ands or buts. Bikes are NOT routinely yielding, they are AT BEST pausing and typically blowing on through if they believe that THEY can get there safely based on their speed. This is not the meaning of YIELD. If I decide whether I can make it through an intersection based on driving a Maserati and being able to blow through the sign, do I get to do that? No. Traffic laws aren’t about one’s individual capacity but about constraining the possibilities so that the overall situation becomes predictable.
    And absolutely, bicyclists should be licensed and tagged.

    • Bonnie


  • David

    California law requires all vehicles to stop at stop signs. Bicycles included! I support cycling but the laws should be respected and enforced. Too many times since I’ve moved to Berkeley I’ve had cyclists run through stop signs just when I’m about to start driving. I’ve also seen quite a few close calls between bicycles and pedestrians. Rude cyclists are big problem here.

    • asophia

      As a Berkeley driver and pedestrian, I SO agree!


      Most of the time cars actually let me go through the stop signs. There are many drivers who will wait til I’ve gone past, and I always say thank you. Other times I’m in the middle of the intersection and the car just keeps coming, how can they not see me?? Whether I’m on a bike, or pushing a stroller, I’m in the middle of a crosswalk, and cars just do not see me. Why is that?A lot of times I’m waiting for the driver to finish his texting or looking at his phone, before I just go cause I’m sick of waiting around. Same rules for everyone?? When I have the whole lane to myself and nobody will beep the horn at me or try to run me off the road, because I’m taking up too much space then I will stick to the rules. The same as everyone else. What about lights on when you use your wipers ??? 9 out of 10 drivers do not do that. On any foggy day I can guarantee you that hardly anyone has their lights on. What about that law? What about using your indicator and looking out the window,to make sure it’s safe to pull out of a parking spot? What about looking out the window or mirror before opening your car door??Ever run into one? That’s something you will only do once in your life, I can tell you that for nothing.

  • Christine Holmes

    Critical Mass is, for most participants, a celebration and demonstration of the joys and challenges of urban biking. There are still many, like Mr. Anderson, who see bikers as an inconvenience to drivers rather than a viable option to driving a car. Once a month, a group ride on a well-known date and time to very visibly enjoy and illustrate the beauty of urban biking does not seem like too much of an inconvenience. And it is emblematic of a certain spirit embodied by San Francisco, at it’s best.

    • Rob Anderson

      I haven’t owned a car in more than 20 years. The city knows when Critical Mass is going to happen but not what route they take. Why it’s okay to make it difficult for working people to get home after working all month has never been adequately explained.

  • mtowers

    What critical mass zealots seem to forget is that most bicylists drive cars and that many car drivers, like me are avid bikers. You want the same respect as drivers – follow the same laws. I was trying to back out of a parking spot, not trying to cause any problem and was surrounded, spit on, and threatened. Prior to that I was pro critical mass.

    Maybe CM had a point to make, but not is it just a bunch of juvenile, angry jerks who mistakingly think annoying drivers will help their cause.

    Critical mass has not done anything to make biking in the city more popular. They are just promoting that myth on the coattails or public policy and a general trend across the US in urban cycling.

    • Bonnie

      I think it is their misguided view of cars as evil and that their bike riding gives them the right to spit on someone and surround them that makes them lose credibility with so many, They say that when people are in groups, some behave badly, but it doesn’t give them the right to ignore such behavior from those they don’t agree with and since they aren’t doing anything about it, that must mean they agree. They CAN help it-look at the splinter groups of Occupy Oakland, who do not agree with the behavior of many in the OO movement, but who do agree with the reason it started. They make sure everyone understands their position, why can’t CM? Because CM really DOES like the idea of surrounding and harassing car drivers in an effort to establish their own “power.” I’m sorry you had to go through that.

      • $11165038

        Yes, the tone of their view was summed up in the one of the first comments by one of the pro-CM guys when he said that he thought buying a car was stupid but then tries to say he isn’t against cars. Their whole argument seemed to be based on, well cars drivers are rude and break the rules so we can too. Like that really solves anything?!

    • RA

      Yeah, i don’t get how they’re improving anything w/ this either. When i first encountered CM about 10 yrs ago i thought it was neat. I thought it was just a group ride with a random name. I also wondered why they didn’t stop at lights tough, especially at big downtown intersections. Didn’t they know that that’s annoying ?

      Then i started to become aware that it’s a “movement” and their purpose is to intimidate people… and that put their behavior in perspective… though i still don’t understand how it achieves anything. AFAIK nobody actually RESPECTS CM… they’re either tolerated as one of those hippie SF things… or they’re looked at w/ disdain.

  • asophia

    Next time please interview the SF Bicycle Coalition, a group that is legitimately working to promote cycling as a safe and convenient form of transportation in SF. None of the interviewees’ answers to the issues and questions raised were satisfactory or productive. They only reinforced every (untrue) stereotype about cycling activists as smug and aggressive individuals.

  • RA

    My gosh… the Critical Ma–holes really lived up to their name during this hour. Just totally deflecting and denying all responsibility… they’re a caricature of the selfish self-entitled leftist.

    As to the bike lanes… They got rid of a lane of traffic about a year ago on Sagamore St in Oceanview. I live 2 blocks away so i drive or walk on this street at various times. There is NO bike traffic here.

    A similar thing on Sloat blvd. I’m not there that often, but rarely have i seen a bike when i am there, and that’s a long flat straight area so you can see for for many blocks.

    • chriskox

      Do not forget the waste of lanes on Ocean, by CCSF, and on Alemany, East at the 280/101 curves. A complete waste of shovel ready tax dollars. I still believe in bicycling, but I have become sensitive to the many immigrants who did not come to America aspiring to ride them.

  • catherine L

    1. CM happens at the same time every month for 20 years, and people can’t adapt their drive to accommodate this may mean the MTA could do a more realistic job of alerts…20 years! And it seems more predictable than other traffic-causing events. I never know when Candlestick has events, so I have to check traffic on the days I drive.

    2. When cars get all stuck together and stop in the middle of the road and make everyone wait behind them, we call it traffic. We deal with it, we report on it, we’re late because of it and it happens every single day with mind-blowing amounts of toxic emissions. When car drivers get stuck behind a bunch of bikes, they lose their minds with anger.

    And then folks have to call the bike mass, (whether they follow the rules or not [see the related Bike Party]) defamatory names and always focus on the few mass-holes we have to ride with. What an odd, split brain we have. Next time you see a bike mass and you’re not part of it but you are inconvenienced by it, just call it “traffic.” Maybe that will make you less angry.


    I’ve been riding a bike for the last 35 years, all over the world, the last 10 years here in SF, and I have to say, San Francisco drivers are the worst! Cars rule the road here and they will not share, no way! I ride my bike to work every day, leaving my house at 6.30 am, so I can avoid those cars that are in a hurry to get somewhere. Not only do they not have their lights on,never mind that it’s dark and foggy, they NEVER use their blinkers or indicators to let the rest of us on the road know where they’re going.People here don’t know what a Blinker is, it’s that little handle that’s on the left side of your steering wheel,it’s for indicating a left or right turn.
    When they make a right turn, they go right over the white lines, all the while looking left.
    They beep their horn at me, or yell at me to get out of their way, if I’m in any way taking up more space than they think I should have. Same rules as cars? I don’t think so. Cars don’t have 2 seconds to wait for me, as a pedestrian or cyclist. Even when I’m in the middle of a crosswalk, they cannot wait until I’m across, they come right at me, barely giving me time to get across.
    They will drive past me like I am not there.
    Nobody here knows that you should give cyclists a wide birth, that they’re unpredictable.On my bike I have to look out for potholes the size of craters, that people will open their car doors without looking, pedestrians step out in front of me, other cyclists will come out of nowhere, skateboarders zoom past me, jumping into my lane, while I’m doing 25 miles an hour, cars pulling out in front of me, when I come speeding down a hill, or making a left turn while I’m crossing the street, and by the way the light is green for me.
    And God forbid I take their right of way, they will try and run me over, with no mercy.
    Like this woman who was driving a big SUV, on Clement and 32nd, she was not at the stopsign yet, so I just went and zoomed down the hill, and she came after me and nearly ran over a pedestrian, she had to slam on the brakes so hard. Then she nearly ran over a woman with her dogs, just to get ahead of me.
    If she’d hit me, there wouldn’t even be a scratch on her SUV, she would have taken it to the bodyshop and it would be fixed.
    For me, there is no bodyshop. I can’t go to the shop and get another leg, arm or brain. There is no armor protecting me, cars hit me, it’s the morgue.
    When I ride my bike, I disregard all the rules. Nobody else sticks to them anyway. I go through all the stopsigns, I want to get home as fast as possible, in one piece, with all my limbs attached.
    And I only do that if nobody’s crossing, I have no intention of killing anybody or doing harm to anyone.
    The only time I get nearly killed is when I stick to the rules.
    When I cross on a green light, and this BMW is coming right at me, two inches from me, slamming on the brakes, looking up from his cellphone, looking at the trafficlight, to see what the hell I’m doing in his way.
    When I’m waiting at the stop sign for the cars to go, they will just sit there, and I’m wondering why they’re not going, but of course, they’re texting.
    They’re doing everything else, but drive.
    I don’t wear earphones, never have , never will, all my attention is on the road.
    When I drive my car, I just drive my car. No distractions, no nothing.
    I stick to all the rules. All my friends have stories about bad drivers, I could go on about it all day.
    If everybody would stick to the rules, this world would be a perfect place.
    Having said that, there are loads of drivers who will let me pass, even wait before going through the stop sign.

    • SandyBeache

      You already just did.

    • Village

      I totally agree. San Francisco is far from being bike friendly. That’s reality which you beautifully observed.

  • amireally

    Mr. Anderson is not only out of touch, but his arguments about bikers costing society and drivers paying are straight up wrong. There isn’t enough room for everyone to have a car. Not enough road space, not enough parking space, and definitely not enough air space for all the pollution. Driving has social, economic, health (asthma & heart attacks!) and environmental costs that non drivers subsidize at enormous rates. A recent study showed 10 miles by bicycle = $4.10 net economic gain to society. & 10 miles by car = $2.00 loss (see ). This isn’t about self-righteousness, this is about cities planning what makes sense for all of their residents. And about the people that can bike, biking, and those who can’t, being able to take good public transit or drive.

    And yes, of course not everyone can because of work being far or some kinds of disabilities. But not everyone can drive either! Come on. Also, many people with disabilities can and do ride bikes, depending in your disability. And many senior citizens ride too!

    • Rob Anderson

      What I said was that it costs taxpayers $10,000 a month to have the SFPD babysit Critical Mass every month.

  • amireally

    Also, there are cyclists that are inconsiderate jerks. There are drivers that are inconsiderate jerks. There are lots of both (though inconsiderate jerk drivers are significantly more likely to hurt or kill someone since their vehicle is 20 times heavier). I find it incredible that so many people can separate the dangerous drivers from the others, but feel completely justified in saying that well there are cyclists that are dangerous so therefore let’s make this assumption about ALL of them.


      I totally agree. Just because some are idiots, doesn’t mean everyone else is too. There are plenty of pedestrians and skateboarders that run out in front of cyclists and cars. The bottom line is, cars own the road. Anyone and everyone can get a drivers- license here, even if they don’t know how to drive, speak the language, know the roadsigns. Most of them drive around with their eyes glued to their phone.I run stop signs and red lights to get home in one piece.

  • DC Wood

    I am all for biking, walking and public transit. I’m the one in my circle who uses trains and buses and teaches others too. But until bikers, whether commuter or recreational, learn to follow the rules of the road, they will be not receive respect from me! When they do moves, like riding thru intersections w/out stopping and riding on sidewalks, they become a RISK to BOTH drivers and walkers as well as themselves. The comments by the co-founder of Critical Mass was a eye-opener. His arrogance is stunning!! We all need to FOLLOW the RULES!! Unlawful bikers make the chaos on the road MORE Dangerous for ALL of US. Get off your high horse, grow up and participate as adults.


      What rules???? When all cars and everyone else follows the rules so will I. That’s when they hit me. Always on a green light for me!!!! They’re on their phones, eating, looking in the mirror, putting on make-up, in a hurry, etc. Pedestrians, Joggers, Skateboarders none of them will look around to make sure it’s safe to cross, whether on a multi-used path or on the road. They just walk out, change lanes.What happened to looking left and right? Weren’t you taught that when you were two years old?

  • Otelia

    As I was listening to this program, a steady charge of cyclist formed a leading edge group in front of a line of cars at a traffic light on Market and Gough, where a right turn is permitted. All of the cyclist were going to be going straight on Market. But their action of forming a line in front of the cars prevented all of us from turning until the light changed. Which is not sharing the road. Likewise, cyclist who run stop signs and traffic lights are emphasizing their disregard for what it means to share the road. While I believe in the requirement that all have to share the road. The movement should consider respectful representation of what this means.

    As a person walking, would you walk past those in a group walking towards a door, only to stop in front of the door and not let others through? When you are walking down a hallway and come across an intersection and encounter another person – do you walk in front of the other person or do you stop to ensure you won’t run into them?

    Yes, Critical Mass should continue as we have a large amount of drivers in our city, mostly tourist and those new to the area, that do not understand or appreciate our cycling community. But this movement would be recieved better with a little evolution. Perhaps a greater campaign to post share the road signs and what that entails. At the same time a similar campaign to educate cyclist as to why they should consider being more courteous would be far more beneficial than a mass group of cyclist jamming our streets for an idea which already has postitive momentum.

  • Steve

    I’m laughing at all the blatantly hypocritical car drivers who get angry at bicycles not coming to a complete stop at stop signs.

    Car traffic always travels 5-10 MPH over the speed limit, without exception…usually more on freeways. You’re breaking the law even more often than I am!

    Let’s make a deal. You promise to NEVER EXCEED THE SPEED LIMIT ANYWHERE, EVEN FOR ONE SECOND, and I’ll promise to never roll a stop sign. Deal?


    Then stop complaining.

    • John

      There’s a difference. Being 5mph over on a freeway has a very minor risk. Just look at the surveys done for the speed limit on the road. Running a stop light/sign carries much higher risk.

      Let’s make a different deal: You run a red and when you get hit it’s your fault and you deal with it. Deal?

  • SlySy

    I am all in favor of bicycling, but the riders in the Bay Area are appalling, and I am regularly enraged by bikers. Bikers riding at 5mph smack center in the middle of the road, riders zipping through red lights, riders almost demolishing pedestrians. If the purpose of Critical Mass is to raise sympathy and awareness for bikes, they have the opposite effect, when I see this kind of savagery I lose all possible sympathy I may have had. Bikes are subjected to the same road laws as cars, and it’s also appalling that law enforcement does nothing to remind riders of this.

  • Chris

    That Mr. Anderson man is so out of touch that he seems like Mitt Romney. SF is 7×7 and it is growing. It can never be sustainable with everyone driving. If he have never traveled to Copenhagen or any city of Netherlands, no one should pay attention to this dinosaur.

    • Rob Anderson

      I don’t know about any city but San Francisco. The present street system actually works pretty well, though obviously Muni is underfunded and the Central Subway is a costly boondoggle.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    As guests noted SF is a tourist town. Imagine what it is like for a visitor to your beautiful city, being there on the wrong day when as they try and drive around the city are met with angry Critical Mass ‘protestors’.

  • The Voice

    As a bike rider, I don’t support critical mass as long as they violate traffic laws and block intersection. The organizers of critical mass are too dumb to realize that this does more harm to their cause than good.

  • dornbiker

    Rob Anderson’s big gripe about Critical Mass is that it costs San Francisco $10K per month. Meanwhile, motorists cost the city millions each year for crashes, property damage, emergency services, traffic and parking enforcement, pollution, much more. Anderson is lost among the forest, dwelling on a particular thriving tree. Viva Critical Mass!

    • Rob Anderson

      No, the money is just insult to injury. Still waiting to hear why it’s okay to make it hard for working people to get home from work. SF now raises $180 million a year from its parking lots, parking tickets, and parking meters, all from those wicked motor vehicles!

  • Here in Bellingham, Washington, voters approved a transportation improvement district that was largely weighted for bicycle and pedestrian facilities. I was pleasantly surprised that voters approved it in spite of that being the 2010 election year which tended to go conservative, nationwide. Voters do go for alternative transportation, but I don’t know about in San Francisco necessarily. This proposition also included bringing back Sunday bus service which had been cut, here in Bellingham earlier. I have mixed feelings about Critical Mass since I tend to be non confrontational. Bicycling is my means of transportation and I don’t drive. I find bicycling more peaceful and most drivers are courteous if I give them the benefit of the doubt. Bellingham bicycling is okay and getting better, but the best bicycle city I have experience, so far, is Eugene, Oregon.

  • Jill

    Rob Anderson argues that CM costs SF $10,000/month. How much did his bogus environmental study lawsuit cost?

    • Rob Anderson

      Judge Busch didn’t agree that it was “bogus,” since it was clear the city was violating the most important environmental law in California. It would have been a lot cheaper for the city if it had just obeyed that law in the first place. We tried to warn the city way back in 2005 but were dismissed contemptuously.

      • Jill

        Was an environmental study really necessary to figure out that bikes don’t hurt the environment? It was just another way for Rob Anderson to exercise his bigotry against cyclists.

      • Jill

        And when exactly was the environmental study done on the impact of cars? Oh, that’s right, that law didn’t exist when the automobile was first invented. Maybe we should do one today and see if cars would legally pass the current environmental impact regulations? I’ll give you a sample of the cancerous soot covering my windows to get you started.

  • Jill

    Thank you CM, Chris and Hugh for everything you’ve done for SF. Personally, you’ve given me the confidence to bike in SF, the knowledge of how to get around SF and the friendships of other cyclists, all of which I give credit and thanks to you and CM. I thought this discussion was incredibly insightful and would also like to thank KQED for providing the platform for this discussion.

  • john

    Rob Anderson sounds like a spoiled child on Mothers’ Day, whining, “When is Childrens’ Day?” Every day is Car Day, Rob.

    • Rob Anderson

      What about Muni? That’s the real alternative to driving for most people, not riding a bike.

  • Adrienne Johnson

    I wonder if Mr. Anderson, or many of the people who criticize the bike plan of SF or CM or anything like these things realize that the vast majority of people who ride in CM also own cars? There is this underlying assumption that those who ride do nothing else, have no other interests or have never been caught in traffic. The worst traffic jam on every single Friday in San Francisco is trying to get on the freeway to the East Bay! It usually takes 20 minutes to get through two lights, no bicycles involved and yet no one is screaming about that. A cyclist yelling at you is not equal to a car driver edging a car into a moving sea of people on bicycles – one can be ignored and the other can not. Why is it that drivers can wait through the half hour to get 2 blocks “normal” commute on Friday’s but can’t wait for a 10 minute pass through by people using the streets without expressing anger and aggression? Something to think about.

  • utera

    20 years later its filled with entitled yuppies. what family can live in sf within bicycle distance from both work and school? yes those who are extremely luck(inherited property) or simply those who have enough money that they can get whatever they want. The fact is that sf is only a place these critical mass people want to live because the majority get to work and help run the city in their cars. These entitled few who are either lucky or without responsibility are just real life trolls.. yea good on you, trolling the city for 20 years, and even getting a radio interview over it.

    Why don’t drivers like cyclists? How about you imagine if we let children walk on the freeway for a moment. “just be responsible” is not a reasonable direction to the drivers on such a freeway, its just an imposition, and frankly an incompatible situation.

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