The 20th anniversary of Critical Mass in San Francisco was a huge success. A rather small “welcome committee” started thinking and talking about it almost a year ago, and somehow, it all came together beautifully. We published three gorgeous posters and thousands of handbills, stickers, xerocratic schedules and appeals, and most prominently, a new book of essays from all over the world, Shift Happens! Critical Mass at 20.
In addition to all that publishing work, we also coordinated a week of festivities to surround the big “Interstellar Critical Mass” as we dubbed it. Different people organized daily rides around the region and in the city including the Art/Freak Bike Ride on Sunday, the San Mateo ride on Monday, Transit History ride on Tuesday, Eastshore ride to Rose the Riveter monument as well as the NOIZ ride on Wednesday, the Mosquito Abatement Crew ride on Thursday. Each evening something different was happening, starting with Monday’s Artshow opening at the Welcome Center at 518 Valencia (which was open every afternoon from 1-5 pm all week), a Critical Mass video night at ATA, our book release party at the Main Library, two concerts including our big birthday bash at Cell on Thursday, a modest International Symposium on Critical Mass on Saturday, and for the grand finale, real summer weather on Sunday and dozens of us riding to the beach for a long warm afternoon.
And in the midst of all that, the amazing 10,000-strong Critical Mass Birthday ride on Friday September 28, one of the best rides we ever had here, proving that even after 20 years we can still pull it off! Swirling around all these activities and publications we enjoyed the company of several dozen international Critical Mass riders who came in on tallbikes, some riding all the way from Mexico City, others riding across the US, but all getting here in time to enjoy the wild week. The presence of smart, skilled, politicized cyclists from Italy, France, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Japan, Costa Rica, Canada, the UK, and across the US, added a whole different dimension to the experience. In fact, locals are so busy with their everyday lives that there wasn’t a huge attendance to most of our events from people who live here. It’s not even clear that San Franciscans are that interested anymore in the culture surrounding Critical Mass and radical bicycling. But situated in an international milieu as we were during these days, we could feel the vibrancy and ongoing excitement that Critical Mass still generates even after two decades.
We were bombarded with requests for media interviews and decided on this anniversary to accommodate as many as we could. An hour-long appearance on KQED Forum on Monday anchored the week, as did a series of interviews with Ben Trefny on KALW. The corporate media stampeded towards us on Thursday and Friday, clamoring for interviews and prognostications of how big the ride would be on Friday night, a question that could not be answered until the actual ride started to roll. Carolyn Tyler of KGO Channel 7 gets special negative mention for having interviewed several of us on Thursday and then going back to her studio to produce yet another rehash of the lies of 1997, repeating again the false claim that 250 people were arrested (it was 112, none were ever charged with any crimes, most of them rounded up in an illegal mass arrest that San Francisco later had to pay damages for), and featuring then-Mayor Willie Brown casually advocating that a bunch of cyclists should spend time in jail (for which crimes exactly Mr. Brown?). Ms. Tyler seems incapable of doing the basic research that one would hope any responsible journalist would do, and instead did exactly what I told her she and her cohort had done repeatedly over the years: fanned the flames of minor incidents to try to produce “hot” conflict for their news cameras. More »