August 29, 1997 San Francisco Critical Mass Report

From: Jym Dyer <>
Newsgroups: rec.bicycles.soc,ba.bicycles
Subject: San Francisco Critical Mass Tonight -- Awesome and Inspirational
Date: 30 Aug 1997 02:56:07 -0700
Organization: The Group W Bench

Tonight's ride was awesome and inspirational. I sense a fundamental change in the ride, and new possibilities opening up before our eyes. The last time I felt this way was the very first time I went on a Mass ride.

I'll tell all about the ride my mini-mass(es) went on, but first I've got to mention the most important thing:

We were being cheered everywhere we went, and I do mean *everywhere*! Folks were cheering us from cars and cable cars, from the sidewalk, and from their houses, leaning out of their doors and windows taking pictures!). All told, I saw *hundreds* of well-wishers tonight!

As the Mass grew in size it had turned into something of a herd being led around by the police. We didn't get into contact with a lot of people that way. I remember the cheering from the early days of the Mass; it's really good to have it back.

My ride was great, even though it wasn't the one I was planning to go on. I was planning on the "Family Mass" ride. (I don't have a family started up yet, but since there are always some enterprising folks at the Mass I figured I could adopt a little tyke and get a nice Burley trailer in the deal.)

Fate intervened: my front brake had gotten munged and I wasted time trying to fix it with my broken Cool Tool, so the families and tykes and trailers were already gone when I showed up. I hightailed it towards the Embarcadero, hoping to catch up with a friend who was riding in a mini-mass that started at Pier 7.

As I got near the end of Mission Street I came upon a not-so-mini-mass, and I noticed that they were stopping at red lights and going when the lights turned green again. I hooked up with them and rode for a few blocks.

I broke off to see how things were going at Justin "Pee Wee" Herman Plaza, where the SFPD had recommended we not converge at or embark from. Shame on me.

There were, of course, thousands of people there. Lots of flyers and some high-quality stickers. The fluorescent ones hearkened back to the heyday of ACT UP and Queer Nation, with messages like "One Less Mayor" and "Willie Brown Can Sniff My Bike Seat." Shame on them (and where can I get some?).

I joined the cyclists embarking from Pee Wee Plaza, back down to Mission Street. We stopped at the first intersection because we had a red light. The cross traffic was a mini-mass! We all waited our turns.

We went past some not-entirely-friendly-looking motorcycle cops and went back to Market. Dildo Man was there: a superhero with a big "D" on his cape, festooned with his namesake. He handed his leaflets to some confused-looking tourists ("Dildo Man Says Don't Be A Dick!" -- good advice).

We slowed down to pay our respects to the two cyclists who were killed this week while biking on Market.

After this I had a notion to somehow just bail from Market Street. It's not much fun and a good number of us don't like getting in the way of the streetcars. We made some concerted efforts to make way for the streetcars, though.

An intriguing thought occurred to me on Market Street: No form of transportation gets as many passengers down Market as fast as Critical Mass! This is true even though our journey is now slowed down considerably by stopping at every red light.

This got really tired, so mini-masses started to form, and they broke off down side streets. And that's when things *really* started to get interesting.

I've talked to a number of people and it would seem that there were at least a dozen mini-masses criss-crossing their way around the city. We would split up here and there and other minis would join up when they met. It was particularly fun at intersections where the cross traffic was another mini. Folks would ask where the mini was going and join up if they liked the sound of it.

I was in a mini that split up at Broadway. Half headed up to the Broadway Tunnel (where they met another mini headed throught the Tunnel from the other direction).

I went with the other half. (I've been through the Tunnel plenty of times, on skates.) We were going to Golden Gate Park. Then we changed our minds and climbed Lombard Street. A cable car stopped and everyone waved and cheered and took pictures of us. And then we went down the crooked part.

I was stressing out a bit here, due to the condition of my front brake. I managed to stop at the STOP sign, though, as did everyone else.

Yep, we stopped at STOP signs as well as red lights, and let cross-traffic through in turn. We obeyed the traffic laws! The worst infractions I witnessed were a few folks rolling on the sidewalks.

Sometimes there were delays at green lights, generally with good reason. At one point on Van Ness there was a delay at the green light because we didn't want to run over a pedestrian who'd crossed against the light. An unobservant police officer pulled up a car and blew the loud obnoxious horn at us for this.

After Lombard Street, we made our way through Chinatown and met up with another mini who were heading down from the Broadway Tunnel. They weren't the folks who split off from us earlier, this was an entirely different group! We joined up and headed to the Stockton Tunnel. Another cable car came by with beer- spewing drunken male yahoos on board, really our only major negative encounter aside from the police car. To Hell with them: we tore through the tunnel, yelling our lungs out.

We cruised down Stockton, crossed Market, and met up with *another* mini. We all headed down Mission, eventually meeting up with yet another mini, and made our way up to Dolores Park, where we partied into the night. Then we went home and watched the idiots on the teevee news attempting to explain this thing.

This is it, this is definitely the next level. We don't need an escort and we don't need corking. My mini made things up as it went along, so we don't even really need routes -- though it seems to me that having a number of route ideas is a good way to go. (Perhaps I was on that Liberator Bicycle Excursion for Free Souls mini-mass and didn't even know it. I never did find that Family Mass, though.)

I'll never forget this ride.