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Making Space Public

Critical Mass made it to see the sunset at Ocean Beach on May 28.

It’s a bit strange to start writing about the bucolic uses of public space in San Francisco (Critical Mass and Carnaval) while the worst environmental disaster in history is ongoing. Who has not already had days of obsessing about the oil pouring into the Gulf, followed by numbness, distancing, and then another round of intense rage and grief?  The sheer hubris of BP and the venal complicity of the Obama Administration is breathtaking. A person commented on my last entry Technology and Impotence over at Streetsblog, defending Obama and his minions. They are in denial about the overwhelming evidence that has been reported everywhere from Newsweek to local papers that BP and Obama’s general-in-charge have been working in lockstep to deny journalists and photographers access to areas of great damage, to prevent ecologists from getting in to count wildlife casualties, and generally have been running the whole thing like they run the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, putting more time and money into controlling the way the news appears in the media than actually addressing the problems their policies are creating. The Israeli attack on the Gaza Relief Flotilla is another example of bald-faced manipulation in the face of overwhelming evidence (the soldiers who were attacking ships in international waters were “attacked”? Do they think the whole world is crazy?) Increasingly we live in a world of manufactured news and images, in which our ideas and “knowledge” are almost completely dominated by state and corporate propaganda. That’s not new, to be sure, but it’s getting worse all the time. The attempt to black out news and images of the oil spill is being handled exactly like government efforts to hide the casualties of war.

Now we find out that since it’s not working as well as they’d like, BP  has hired Dick Cheney’s former press secretary–a woman who was once the spokesperson for the U.S. Dept. of Energy under the Bush Oil Cabal and apparently knows how to spin and hide the most blatant incompetence and corruption. I just learned about this website “If It Was My Home” where you can see how huge the spill is by placing it in any part of the world you want to (hat-tip to Mona for the link). It’s a handy one-stop website where you can also see the live webcam of the ongoing oil torrent and a running counter of the number of gallons that have poured out (22.5 million and counting as I write this).

Bicyclists are reeling a bit this weekend because a couple of days ago a guy deliberately drove his SUV into 4 different cyclists before crashing and running away. He got caught today when he went to the police to claim that he had been carjacked, but he’d left his wallet, keys, and cellphone in the car when he ran away. Remarkably, they are booking him on murder charges, something that almost never happens when a motorist assaults bicyclists, but this was so aggressive and random, plus he went after four different cyclists on different streets, so maybe they’ll follow this through.

There’s an ongoing low-level roar online from the 101st Fighting Keyboardists against bicycling, most notably on SFGate and a few other local sites, but in real life the supposed overwhelming hostility to cyclists is hard to find. We had a fantastic Critical Mass last week, as usual characterized by hundreds of bystanders, motorists, and pedestrians cheering us as we rolled by. It was the first time in a year or more that a published route was shared ahead of the ride. It was supposed to go to the 7 beaches of San Francisco, but in the end we only made it to about 4.

Critical Massers enjoy sunset at the beach, May 28 2010.

Instead of following the proposed route and looping to South Beach (and joining the protesters who were outside the Giants-Arizona game) the riders in front went straight up Market, then west on Geary in a beeline, north on Van Ness until the irresistable vortex of the Broadway Tunnel got ’em again. What is it about that damn tunnel these days? Why does Critical Mass have to go back and forth through it EVERY TIME?? Joel P. worked hard in the front, and got some help from a guy he picks apples with (who seemed to have some influence with the testosterone-laden young men who led the ride into the tunnel) who brought the riders back west whereupon we went north on Van Ness, then took the waterfront to Crissy Field.

An inexplicably "militant" moment in the Presidio, May 28, 2010.

I saw at least six different tandems in this Critical Mass... quite unusual!

From there we took a magical ride up through the Presidio during the golden light before sunset, passing Baker Beach, China Beach, and finally going the last leg on Geary to the Cliff House and down to the beach. Wheeeee! What a lovely ride!

A rare trip to the western edge of the City during Critical Mass.

This was before the big Memorial Day weekend, which in San Francisco’s Mission District is also the big Carnaval. And lo and behold, this year, for the first time in a decade, we had fantastic, sunny, warm weather! I enjoyed Carnaval more this year than I have in a long time, probably because I had the great pleasure of hosting Willy Lizarraga’s charming “Birth of Carnaval on the Streets of San Francisco” at our May 19 Shaping San Francisco Talk. I didn’t get out that early, but by 11:30 or so it had been going for an hour and a half and was only about 2/3 done. So I caught a bunch, but at the start my friends were picnicking in the middle of Folsom Street, taking full advantage of the rare closed street.

Mona, Adri, and Carin

Can we start depaving now?

So the rest of this post is a gallery of images from Carnaval, including a number of crowd shots which I found at least as charming as the participants in the parade.

Adriana found us a fresh coconut full of cold juice! yum! and the meat was good too!

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