Fawking Hippies


A strong 7
It was supposed to be a birthday night out for the kids in San Francisco, but instead turned into a Critical Mass horror show -- complete with a pummeled car, a smashed rear window and little children screaming in terror.

The spontaneous Critical Mass bike rides, in which thousands of free-spirited cyclists roam the city, have been a fixture on the last Friday night of the month since the early 1990s. But even bike-weary cops, who have seen their share of traffic disturbances and minor skirmishes, weren't prepared for what happened during the latest exercise of pedal power.

Here's the story:

Susan Ferrando, her husband, their two children and three preteens had come to San Francisco from Redwood City 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.

Things took a turn for the worse at about 9 p.m., when the family was leaving 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.

All the while, Ferrando was screaming, "There are children in this car! There are children in this car!"

She had the presence of mind to dial 911 on her cell phone -- and within minutes, the squad of motorcycle cops who were assigned to keep an eye on the ride descended on the scene.

The cyclists were loudly demanding that Ferrando be arrested for hit and run.

According to police, Ferrando had allegedly tapped one of the cyclists' tires.

When the alleged bicycle victim was approached, however, he said he wasn't hurt. He also refused to give his name or any other information.

Then, after a few swear words, the alleged victim took off on his bike while the rest of the crowd continued to yell at both the cops and the van.

Sgt. Ed Callejas -- the lead cop on the scene and a veteran of Critical Mass rides since their inception -- said he'd never seen anything like it before.

"I've seen the bikes swarm cars, and scratch them as they go by. I've seen guys get out of their cars and start fighting with the bikers, but if you had seen the faces on those little girls in tears,'' Callejas said. "All I could do was apologize for what they had been through."

The sergeant suggested that Ferrando write a letter to the mayor.

Estimated damage to the car: $5,300.

For Callejas and other cops assigned to the bike ride, Critical Mass has long been a study in contradictions.

For starters, San Francisco is a "green" city, and bike riding is about as green as you can get -- yet residents and commuters complain endlessly about getting trapped in the rides.

The city tries to ignore the unplanned rides, but there are always cops on hand to monitor the gatherings, even though any kind of traffic planning is impossible because no route is announced.

And even though the rides are held every month, Critical Mass has no organized leadership -- so no one can be held accountable for the group's actions.

In 1997, then-Mayor Willie Brown tried to control the rides. The result was anarchy and mass arrests.

Since then, the rides have shrunk in size. The city's generally hands-off attitude leaves cops as little more than bystanders.

"We sit there and they just go right through the red lights,'' Sgt. Callejas said. "What else can we do? Arrest one rider while 500 keep going?

"The only way to control this is through a massive effort by police and the Sheriff's Department,'' he said.

As for reaction from City Hall, Mayor Gavin Newsom said such acts of violence -- if true -- "only serve to undermine the worthwhile message of Critical Mass, which is to raise the awareness of bike transportation issues."

The mayor also said that -- if the charges are grounded -- he expected the attackers to be "punished to the greatest extent of the law."


Ma on the move: Rookie San Francisco state Assemblywoman Fiona Ma isn't wasting any time making tracks.

Ma is one of six state lawmakers in France this week for a fun fact-finding tour of that nation's high-speed rail system. It was her third trip in the last year -- she also traveled to China on the dime of a nonprofit and to Morocco as a guest of that government. This time, she's using campaign funds -- and what a journey it's been.

Ma was tagged to ride the French commuter train Tuesday when it broke the speed record, calling it "an exhilarating experience.''

But nothing compares to the trifecta Ma put together to cap off the trip: A visit to Bordeaux to participate in a conference on the effects of global warming on the wine industry.

A perfect blend of political correctness, public relations and party, to boot.

it's kind of cool the status cmass has attained in sf, but it really at it's core is just a mixture of 'empowerment' for commuters and a big party for filthy hippies. i attended a few when i was messengering in philly. in nyc messengers got flack for showing up to cmasses, which made no sense because the group had no intention of following traffic laws anyway. in nyc cmass can still be really anti-cyclist violent and involve mass arrests. bloomberg recently put a law through(i think it went through... jbogner?) that bans even spontanaeous gatherings. or something to that effect, without a permit.

what happened in the above article is absurd and those cyclists responsible should be kneecapped.
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