Did Critical Mass really go crazy?


By Steven T. Jones
The Chronicle's Matier & Ross would have us believe that Critical Mass riders went nuts on Friday and started attacking a poor innocent family. I was on the ride and know how ridiculous that story was so I wrote Andy Ross (a colleague of mine on the City Desk NewsHour cable television program) the following e-mail. I'll let you know how he responds.

C'mon, man, you can't tell me that you actually believe the scenario that you spelled out in your column today. All the bicyclists simply went crazy and started attacking this poor woman and her family?!?! If you aren't going to bother to seek out the other side (I was on the ride and you could have called me), at least you've got to smell-test this stuff to see whether it makes sense. That's the first thing I teach the reporters I work with.
Try this version and see if it makes a little more sense. A driver gets angry and impatient after getting stuck in Critical Mass and tries to drive through the crowd (which is stupid, illegal, and dangerous). To prevent injuries, the standard practice in such cases is for riders to place themselves and their bikes in front of the car. She hits said bicyclist (sure, maybe not hard enough to produce an injury, as you pointed out, but contact is contact) and then keeps driving forward. The rest of the bicyclists urge her to just stop driving, please, which she refuses to do because at this point she's agitated and indignant. They pound on her windows, pleading with her to stop driving into a crowd of hundreds of bicyclists with her deadly object. Pretty soon, a bicyclist loses it and smashes her window.
Now, none of this excuses the act of smashing her window, which understandably shook up her kids. But to simply report this woman's version of events is irresponsible and simply bad journalism. Or worse, it is a calculated effort by a writer with a clear bias against bicycling (as I've heard you express on several occasions) to spur a crackdown on Critical Mass. Whatever the case, it was a very disappointing article that I intend to counter on our website. Please let me know if you have any comments about my criticisms and the far more realistic scenario I've presented.