A bicyclist and Zipcar driver clashed Friday night in San Francisco's Marina District toward the end of Critical Mass.
A YouTube video shows at least a dozen boisterous bicyclists riding westbound on Marina Boulevard. Suddenly, they decide to cross into oncoming traffic. One bicyclist heads directly for a blue Zipcar station wagon, forcing the driver to stop. It appears that the driver then nudges the bicyclist, who erupts in rage and eventually attacks the vehicle with his U-Lock.
"Hey, stop that," the bicyclist roars. "No, no, no, no, no, no, no."
And then there's a shout that makes the driver's situation very clear: "You ain't going nowhere!"
Cyclists surround the driver. "You f------ pushed my bike!" The driver, predictably, doesn't see it that way but is outnumbered. "Your f------ bumper is up against my bike!" the first cyclist screams.
The driver backs up and then tries to move forward, veering to the right, but cyclists block the car and one of them raises his bicycle wheel to impede the vehicle. Another smashes the car a few times with his U-Lock before the motorist escapes.
Initially, the San Francisco Police Department did not plan to investigate because no police report was filed, Officer Albie Esparza, SFPD spokesman, told KQED. However, early Monday evening he said the department had decided to pursue the case after all.
"It will be assigned to an investigator and we will reach out to Zipcar to attempt to locate a party involved," Esparza wrote in an email. "With that being said, we are hoping to speak with both parties involved to obtain a full picture of what happened."
He said San Francisco police facilitate the rides of Critical Mass, which began in the city in 1992 and has spread around the world. It takes place on the last Friday night of every month. Over the years, many skirmishes have occurred between drivers and cyclists.
Esparza said officers typically show up at the beginning of the ride, in downtown San Francisco and South of Market, and don't stay with it until the very end. It was "unusual," he said, for bicyclists to end up in the Marina and that it looked like a splinter group.
As for his reaction to the video, Esparza said, "Two wrongs don't make a right."
The incident violated some of the "Do's and Don'ts" of Critical Mass, such as not riding "into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road" and picking "fights with motorists, even (especially) if they're itching for one."
San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell, whose district includes the Marina, issued a statement. “The actions by the cyclists caught on video this past Friday evening participating in Critical Mass are disturbing and should never be tolerated in our City -- especially the one cyclist seen attacking the vehicle with a bicycle lock repeated times," he said. "… I have already been in contact with our police department to evaluate how best to prevent similar future incidents from happening."
Chris Cassidy, communications director for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, had no comment on the incident and said the organization is not affiliated with Critical Mass.
"Over 5,000 people took one of our safety education classes last year," Cassidy said. "We always encourage folks to follow the rules of the road and bike politely."
Hundreds of other people, however, had a lot to say.
The Facebook page of San Francisco Bike Ride Crew is a good place to start. Judging by many of the comments, Critical Mass sounded more like Criticized Mass.
For example: "As long as CM operates this way (the way I have always seen it to be), then we will always face an incredibly hard uphill battle to get anything done like yield laws etc."
Comments on YouTube were equally unsympathetic to Critical Mass: "Only one person hit the car, but all of you supported him in doing so. You're just as guilty as the rest of them." … "I hope you get run over by a truck." … "As a San Francisco cyclist, i'd like to say that Critical Mass do not represent many cyclists in SF. It's very clear the cyclists were in the wrong. In fact, this looks like a very deliberate provocation by the cyclists."
Facebook's Critical Mass page emphasized that it's not an organization and has no leaders.
One comment on that page said: "Entirely avoidable if the cyclists had been courteous and respectful, and if the motorist had agreed to wait while these bozos acted out their fantasies of traffic dominance."
And another: "Wow, you asses are out of control. It's time for SFPD to crack down on the stupidity and I will certainly be encouraging that. Riding into oncoming traffic and obviously picking a fight?!?!?"