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    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    Horde of Bicycling Ruffians called Critical Mass Assaults Family of Seven

    I had never heard about this group before, but apparently, it takes place in more than one city. The short version of the story is that a horde of ruffians on bicycles, calling themselves "Critical Mass" surrounded and attacked a family of seven. The parents had taken their five children for an outing that, in America, should have been terror free. In San Francisco, thanks to some members of Critical Mass, it wasn't.
    Susan Ferrando, her husband, their two children and three preteens had come to San Francisco . . . to celebrate the birthday of Ferrando's 11-year-old daughter. They went to Japantown, where they enjoyed shopping and taking in the blooming cherry blossoms.

    [T]he family [left] Japantown . . . just as the party of about 3,000 bikers was winding down its monthly red-lights-be-damned ride through the city.

    Suddenly, Ferrando said, her car was surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.

    Not being from San Francisco, Ferrando thought she might have inadvertently crossed paths with a bicycle race and couldn't figure out why the police, who she had just passed, hadn't warned her.

    Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.

    Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.

    A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

    "It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons," Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.(1)

    There were cops on the scene and they declined to arrest Mrs. Ferrando despite the bike hooligans' demands that she be charged with a crime (they claim that she tapped one of the bikes with the her car; which could be considered at least a tort if these ruffians hadn't assumed the risk by surrounding the van and riding in very close quarters)(2)
    Bicycle advocates . . . said . . . that Ferrando did more than tap the bicyclist, and that the incident occurred toward the end of the ride, when there were dozens -- not thousands -- of bicyclists in the area, as Ferrando claims. Bicycle Coalition executive director Leah Shahum said witnesses told her that Ferrando "recklessly accelerated" into a crowd and hit the bicyclist so hard the bike was lodged under her vehicle.(3)

    I would be interested to hear how many bicycling belligerents the police counted. And when they're surrounding your car, dozens can look like scores, or even hundreds.

    Personally, I am skeptical of any claim made by a group of Critical Mass' nature. They are known for blocking traffic, running red lights(4), and other lawless behavior, such as vandalism.(5) I think that New York has the right idea; they've begun arresting outlaw bicyclists who think that the rules of the road do not apply to them.(6)

    San Fransisco Mayor Newsom has said, "[i]t does the bicycle-advocacy community no good to have people that are aggressive and dispirit the entire movement. I would encourage the bicycle coalition to say, 'Look, we don't put up with this, enough is enough.'"(7)

    I think the mayor has some good advice. If Critical Mass isn't careful, they will see a new critical mass of people who are fed up with their lawless conduct and they will demand that their government do something about it. In states where people are actually allowed to defend themselves from attacks, these hooligans might find motorists retaliating, and when that happens, I predict they will scatter like cockroaches do when exposed to light.

    (1) Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross. "Minivan's rude introduction to Critical Smash," San Francisco Chronicle, 2007 April 04, paras. 4-11,
    (2) Ibid. paras. 16-18.
    (3) Cecilia Vega and Marisa Lagos. "Mayor vows 'a good look' at Critical Mass
    Redwood City family's van damaged after being caught up in ride," San Francisco Chronicle, 2007 April 04, para. 4,
    (4) Hannah Sutherland. "Cycling community celebrated Saturday," The Surrey Leader, 2007 March 23, para. 6,
    (5) Matier and Ross. para. 22.
    (6) T.W. Farnam. "Critical Mass ride interrupted," Newsday, 2007 March 30,,0,449624.story?coll=ny-top-headlines.
    (7) Alexandria Rocha. "Newsom to Critical Mass: Police yourself," The Examiner, 2007 April 05, para. 3,

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    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    The real "hooligans" are the family.

    She ran over a bicyclist and then, after they called 911, attempted to drive away. I believe this is called "hit and run"

    If self-righteous suburbanites aren't careful, they will get exactly what they deserve.

    4/06/2007 12:56 AM  

    Blogger BadTux said...

    One thing you do not know, since you do not live in the area, is the context. Over a dozen bicyclists have been struck and killed here in the Bay Area since I moved here three years ago. Nothing ever happens to the motorists who do so. Nothing. Nada. Not a thing. They always claim "I didn't see him." Which probably is true, given the number of self-interested, oblivious yuppy drivers with an unwarranted sense of self-entitlement in this area who believe that being able to afford a BMW and a daily latte' habit means they don't need to care and thus they don't need to watch out for anybody else, like, say, bicyclists.

    When people see their friends killed... when people see nothing happening to the killers of their friends... when justice fails... people become angry. And when people become angry, you see mob justice of this sort. Much like what happened in my home state when we had a big cattle rustling problem back in the 1850's and the U.S. marshalls proved insufficient to the task. A "vigilance committee" formed, found a couple of the rustlers, and strung them up from the nearest tree in a scene that might have been out of Clint Eastwood's movie "Hang'em High". A movie which I highly recommend, BTW, because Eastwood (who also directed the movie if I recall correctly) had a very good grasp of the two alternatives: Justice, or vigilante action that may be directed against the wrong person.

    The answer to this situation is not judgement by people who are not in possession of all the facts. The answer to this situation is justice. Until there is justice, there will be other incidents like this. Until there is justice, there will be no stopping vigilante action. Because without justice, people feel justified in taking whatever action is necessary in order to defend themselves, including actions that those who are not in possession of the facts would consider completely reprehensible.

    4/06/2007 1:09 AM  

    Anonymous theboy said...

    Stay tuned. The woman's story is implausible. She thinks she is in the middle of a bike race so she tries to driver through it? After 15 years, CM turns violent and starts unprovoked attacks on minivans?

    Eventually, someone will get beyond the incendiary pandering of the columnists, and you will need to change your headline to "A New Andrea Yates? How Columnists And A Criminal Made It Okay To Hit Cyclists."

    4/07/2007 9:21 AM  

    Anonymous theboy said...

    By the way, New York's attempts to disrupt Critical Mass have been incredibly counter-productive. The police appear stupid. The city officially abrogates Constitutional rights. And Critical Mass gets generally favorable publicity.

    The reason, of course, is that New York is wildly overreacting to the "threat" posed by Critical Mass.

    San Francisco generally takes the right approach. In SF, Critical Mass is a community asset and a tourist attraction. I suspect, based the Mayor's moderate comments, that SF will probably continue to follow the right course, unless forced to do otherwise by folks who can't tell a slanted column from a news story.

    4/07/2007 9:29 AM  

    Blogger BadTux said...

    Another thing to think about -- Redwood City is very close to Palo Alto, which is called "Shallow Alto" by most folks in the local area because of its self-absorbed, self-interested, oblivious population that drives around everywhere with an unwarranted sense of self-entitlement as in, you're riding your bicycle on MY road? It would not surprise me if the first words out of this woman's mouth were, "Do you know who my husband is?". And the next words were, "How dare you ride your bicycles on MY road!".

    As for the Editor's final closing comment, I know that if this woman had bumped a bicyclist in the 4th Ward of Houston, she would not be making irate complaints to the press and Mayor's office. She would be dead. Because the family and friends of the bicyclist she had bumped would have shot her dead and killed her. The only reason she is still alive is because San Francisco bans handguns. She should thank her lucky stars that this is true, because some local bicyclists have been grumbling that they should start packing since so many motorists are trying to murder them with four-ton murder weapons. Remember, God made Man. Samuel Colt made him equal -- whether driving a 4 ton murder weapon or a 20 pound bicycle. Beware of getting what you wish for...


    4/07/2007 2:17 PM  

    Blogger The Sovereign Editor said...

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    4/08/2007 12:54 PM  

    Blogger The Sovereign Editor said...

    The hypothesis that bicyclists called 911 doesn't wash because, had 911 been called, the police would have responded immediately. They were right there (that's why they responded quickly to Mrs. Ferrando's 911 call).

    * * *

    One thing you do not know, since you do not live in the area, is the context. Over a dozen bicyclists have been struck and killed here in the Bay Area since I moved here three years ago. Nothing ever happens to the motorists who do so. Nothing. Nada. Not a thing. They always claim "I didn't see him." Which probably is true, given the number of self-interested, oblivious yuppy drivers with an unwarranted sense of self-entitlement

    Actually, I might understand the context better than you think. I live in an area populated by bicyclist snobs who believe not only that they should be able to share the road with automobiles, but that their rights are superior to that of automobile drivers and thus they have the right to impede traffic, run red lights, and generally not pay attention to their surroundings. This has caused several fatalities and a lot of hospitalizations in the last ten years. As a bike rider, myself, I pay a lot of attention to my surroundings and try my best to watch out for myself. I have only been in one collision with an automobile and that was because she ran right through a stop sign.

    As an equally conscientious driver, I have narrowly missed on too many occasions, bike riders who were not paying attention to their surroundings and swerved into my lane suddenly (usually right off of a sidewalk) -- one involved a rider taking up an entire lane who then swerved into the passing lane right when I was passing him... that one, I almost ran over. The closest I came to running over a bicyclist was at night when I was turning onto a dark service road and an unilluminated bicyclist shot out of the darkness, coming right for me at full speed, going the wrong direction for that (my) lane as I made my turn. And he didn't change his trajectory; if I hadn't swerved into the wrong lane, he would have hit me head-on. So you'll forgive me if I take a dim view of bicyclists who have a history of violating traffic laws; they have no right to put me in a position in which I have to worry about running them over when all they have to do to prevent it is to obey the traffic laws.

    * * *

    The woman's story is implausible. She thinks she is in the middle of a bike race so she tries to driver through it?

    According to the information I am aware of, she did not try to drive through a crowd of bicyclists--at least not in the way you imply. The crowd of bicyclists came to her, not the other way around. Likewise, Critical Mass is a group that breaks, and advocates the breaking of the law on a regular basis. Such a group is not a "community asset." It is a public nuisance at best and a threat to public safety at worst.

    * * *

    The only reason she is still alive is because San Francisco bans handguns.

    The majority of people who participate in Critical Mass anarchy rides do not believe in guns.

    A bicyclist who surrounds a motor vehicle in close quarters with a group of cyclists has no right to get angry if he is tapped by the vehicle. He assumed the risk. a driver's safety precautions cannot cover situations where reckless bicyclists put themselves in harms way.

    If bicycling is as inherently hazardous on the left coast as they say, the Critical Mass types would do more good organizing a political lobby to have more bike lanes; especially on major thoroughfares with higher speed limits. They don't gain any friends when they impede traffic, ignore traffic signals, and generally create the dangerous situations in which they are injured and then try to blame automobile drivers for the results.

    * * *

    I suppose someone is going to try to make a case that somehow limo driver Dennis Webb is responsible for the Critical Massers' assault on him and the limo he was driving. Because, of course, those spiritually superior bicyclists could never be at fault for attacking and evil petroleum-burning symbol of capitalistic excess.

    4/08/2007 12:58 PM  

    Anonymous theboy said...

    I don't know what "contentious driver" means, but my guess is that it means a self-centered driver who drives aggressively, unaware that what he or she is driving weighs over a ton and can easily kill someone not similarly encased.

    Lots of cyclists are dummies, lots more ride in weird ways because they think (usually incorrectly) that it improves their chances of survival amidst a bunch of steel missiles controlled by distracted, nimrods with persecution complexes who are jacked into their cellphones.

    Though this is true, it doesn't make this woman's story any more believable.

    Moreover, as more witnesses have come forward, it seems very likely (that's probably giving the driver too much credit) that she did something really stupid and dangerous. Everybody makes mistakes and in this case the consequences - at least in terms of physical injury - were minor. She should accept responsibility for her actions.

    4/08/2007 1:12 PM  

    Anonymous theboy said...

    Whoops, I either misread your "conscientious" as "contentious" - perhaps because I can't conceive that you would be calling the driver that hit the rider "conscientious," or because you corrected a typo, as I am wont to do. I apologize if I read it incorrectly.

    4/08/2007 1:16 PM  

    Blogger The Sovereign Editor said...

    I did correct some typos, but "contentious" was not among them.

    Just to avoid any misunderstandings, drivers who don't pay attention are extremely dangerous and I dearly wish the the police, who claim to be concerned with our safety, would ticket reckless drivers more severely than speeders. That goes for bicyclists too--they should be ticketed when they drive recklessly on the roads. For example, and this goes for people not involved in Critical Mass rides, I regularly see bicyclists running red lights. Given that these are cyclists using the roads as opposed to the sidewalks, I am going to assume they are in the group that thinks bicyclists have the same right to use the road as automobile drivers do, but they obviously think that they have none of the responsibility. The traffic lights are there for everyone's safety, not just that of automobile drivers.

    The reason I am accepting the driver's version of the story here is because Critical Mass has a history of vandalism and lawlessness. Also, because of the "safety/anonymity of numbers" principle, mobs of people are more likely (in public forums, where other people are around) to engage in daring and dangerous or even criminal activity when they are in a large group than when they are acting alone. And given Critical Mass's own admission that they break and encourage the breaking of traffic laws, I am more inclined to believe that these riders were at fault until I see some sort of convincing evidence to the contrary.

    4/08/2007 2:00 PM  

    Anonymous theboy said...

    We could have a long discussion about whether it makes sense (or in some circumstances, is even possible) for cyclists to obey traffic laws, but I'm not ready to spend hours on the subject.

    Still, without touching on that subject, let me observe that it is an extremely rare occurrence to meet a driver who obeys traffic laws. Tell people you obey the speed limits, or actually do it some day, and see the reactions of people.

    You can believe the driver if you like. I certainly can't stop you. There were at least a few people who believed O.J. I couldn't stop them either.

    4/08/2007 4:04 PM  

    Blogger BadTux said...

    Critical Mass has a history of violence? Hmm, in what alternative universe is that? Can you provide a reference for that assertation? I have heard many criticisms of Critical Mass for its "lawlessness", but not for violence. There is no court record of any violence at Critical Mass events other than violence by police officers against Critical Mass participants, violence which resulted in a large number of citations dismissed by courts (not a single citation against a Critical Mass participant for "resisting arrest" or "violence against a police officer" has ever been upheld) and numerous lawsuits settled in favor of the Critical Mass participants. As a result of those lawsuits and condemnation of their conduct by (largely Republican-appointed) judges, and due to lack of any other violent behavior, the San Francisco police no longer interfere with Critical Mass events other than to monitor them from the sidelines.

    As for "lawlessness", granted. They refuse to apply for a parade permit, and refuse to pay for event insurance or police coverage of their events, even to the point of formally dissolving their organization in favor of "spontaneous" events posted on on-line bulletin boards by "anonymous" people. How *DARE* they exercise their First Amendment right of assembly without proper permission from the State! How... LIBERTARIAN... of them! Then they block the roads with mass numbers of bicycles rather than obeying state law which requires bicyclists to ride as far to the right in the right lane as practicable, which is a different issue altogether from the permits issue and one for which they should rightly be condemned.

    On the other hand, that does not excuse a woman driving her four ton murder weapon into the middle of a pack of bicyclists and expecting them to get out of her way. That is a violation of California statute, which requires exercising due caution in the presence of bicyclists and pedestrians. There is no way that plunging your four-ton vehicle into the middle of a pack of bicycles will ever be construed as "due caution" by any court of law. I realize common sense ain't so common, but c'mon. This doesn't even pass the SMELL test... the woman reports being in the middle of a pack of bicyclists, how did she get there, did she *TELEPORT* there? Heck no, she *DROVE* there, in clear and blatant violation of California law which prohibits using your vehicle to shove pedestrians and bicyclists out of the way regardless of whether you have "right of way" or not.

    - BT

    4/10/2007 5:26 PM  

    Blogger The Sovereign Editor said...

    Question. When did I say that Critical Mass had a history of violence? Can you provide some evidence for your assertion? But since you bring it up, earlier that night, there is a report of critical mass cyclists assaulting a limo driver (referenced above).

    Also, can you provide some sort of reference for the assertion that she plowed her minivan into a crowd of cyclists? Unless I'm very much mistaken, the only people making that claim are unnamed witnesses who did not feel strongly enough to make an official statement to the police. In answer to your question of how she got into the middle of them, she seems to think that they converged on her, probably right after she turned onto the street.

    No one said they (Critical Mass) shouldn't be able to exercise their First Amendment right to political protest. However, their right to protest on common ways does not include the right to obstruct people from using the common ways. You seem to agree with this, so why bring it up at all?

    4/13/2007 8:16 PM  

    Blogger David Schantz said...

    This was the first I'd heard of Critical Mass. Sounds like they feel no laws apply to them and it is everyone else's fault if something happens to one of them.

    God Bless America, God Save The Republic.

    4/15/2007 2:06 PM  

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