So, I’ve been watching the CONS meeting (aka, the Muni crime meeting Supe Bevan Dufty made sure all online writers were all over), and it was pretty much what you’d expect. People told their stories of Muni terror and tragedy, and the cops did a powerpoint y’all nerds can view here.

But one thing did stand out for me: after a woman in a fairly rad horse sweatshirt asked “Bicycle riders. Where do they fit into this whole scheme? How we regulate them, protect them, criticize them, whatever?”

SFPD Deputy Chief John Murphy reclaimed the mic to respond, saying that “that’s been brought to my attention, so I’ve been working on that also…specifically. it’s the Critical Mass event that’s the most troubling of all events, when the group goes out en masse. But I’m hoping to meet with the group leaders and basically convey to the group leaders the concerns of the people that get stuck in traffic.”

We reached out to our sources in the cycling community, who confirmed what we thought was common knowledge — that is, that Critical Mass has no leaders. One of our sources went as far as to express surprise at Murphy’s remarks, saying “its clearly an anarchic, leaderless movement.”

So, does SFPD know something neither we nor our more bikey friends don’t, or is Deputy Chief Murphy in for a surprise? We suppose time will tell.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

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  • John Murphy
  • John Murphy
  • zenvelo

    Deputy Chief Murphy obviously thinks he can just go down to Justin Herman on Friday and talk to the leaders. Another case of telling people what they think they want to hear.

  • zenvelo

    Deputy Chief Murphy obviously thinks he can just go down to Justin Herman on Friday and talk to the leaders. Another case of telling people what they think they want to hear.

  • Greg Dewar

    be that as it may, it is a fact that critical mass is an impediment to effective mass transit and costs the city money. just because critical mass is made of “free spirits” doesn’t mean the rest of us pay.

    plus, why does critical mass get special treatment while other people get busted for doing far less.

  • Greg Dewar

    be that as it may, it is a fact that critical mass is an impediment to effective mass transit and costs the city money. just because critical mass is made of “free spirits” doesn’t mean the rest of us pay.

    plus, why does critical mass get special treatment while other people get busted for doing far less.

  • Eve Batey

    In that case, Greg, do you think that the person responsible for leading this charge to support transit/traffic in CM’s wake should be more familiar with what he’s up against that Murphy seems to be?

  • Eve Batey

    In that case, Greg, do you think that the person responsible for leading this charge to support transit/traffic in CM’s wake should be more familiar with what he’s up against that Murphy seems to be?

  • friscolex

    One Critical Mass costs the City far, far less than the daily havoc wreaked by cars, their infrastructure, their accidents/other health risks, including maddening traffic, cause by –you guessed it– cars. “Taking care” of Critical Mass would not provide any traffic relief.

    It ain’t rocket surgery, people: More bikes = less cars = less traffic for ALL!

    Happy and safe transporting!

    @John Murphy: “Shh…” is right! Why not just give the SFPD the keys to the CM headquarters while you’re at it! 😛

  • friscolex

    One Critical Mass costs the City far, far less than the daily havoc wreaked by cars, their infrastructure, their accidents/other health risks, including maddening traffic, cause by –you guessed it– cars. “Taking care” of Critical Mass would not provide any traffic relief.

    It ain’t rocket surgery, people: More bikes = less cars = less traffic for ALL!

    Happy and safe transporting!

    @John Murphy: “Shh…” is right! Why not just give the SFPD the keys to the CM headquarters while you’re at it! 😛

  • lookeveryone

    Impediments to effective mass transit, (in exponentially diminishing order of magnitude):

    1. Automobile congestion
    2. Poor planning (prioritizing automobile flow)
    3. Inadequate funding (prioritizing automobile infrastructure)
    4. Fare collection inefficiencies
    5. Fear of touching untouchables
    6. Fear of contracting swine flu
    7. Snakes
    8. Critical Mass

  • lookeveryone

    Impediments to effective mass transit, (in exponentially diminishing order of magnitude):

    1. Automobile congestion
    2. Poor planning (prioritizing automobile flow)
    3. Inadequate funding (prioritizing automobile infrastructure)
    4. Fare collection inefficiencies
    5. Fear of touching untouchables
    6. Fear of contracting swine flu
    7. Snakes
    8. Critical Mass

  • Matt Baume

    If you believe that Critical Mass is not an impediment to mass transit, I would like you to watch this video in its entirety.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjR9inodg6A

  • Matt Baume

    If you believe that Critical Mass is not an impediment to mass transit, I would like you to watch this video in its entirety.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjR9inodg6A

  • lookeveryone

    nice video, but did you really post this on the comments to your video:

    “Commenters,? please try harder. Going forward, comments with grammatical or spelling errors will be deleted, as will comments that are neither funny nor polite.”

    grammatical or spelling errors? So this is all about CM offending your sense of order and adherence to authority. That flagrant violation of the _rules_ is viscerally difficult to watch for you. You’ve flipped my chart upside down. DAILY, CITY_WIDE traffic jams are not an issue because that is the norm. They are the dominant group and we are the minority group and we should behave accordingly, hmmm?

    Yes, CM is challenging the established order and prIorities not just in transit policy, but also in the assumptions of the rights and uses of _public_ space and beyond. Big changes are usually messy. Think about it as cleaning out the cupboards and putting it all back in a more logical order.

  • lookeveryone

    nice video, but did you really post this on the comments to your video:

    “Commenters,? please try harder. Going forward, comments with grammatical or spelling errors will be deleted, as will comments that are neither funny nor polite.”

    grammatical or spelling errors? So this is all about CM offending your sense of order and adherence to authority. That flagrant violation of the _rules_ is viscerally difficult to watch for you. You’ve flipped my chart upside down. DAILY, CITY_WIDE traffic jams are not an issue because that is the norm. They are the dominant group and we are the minority group and we should behave accordingly, hmmm?

    Yes, CM is challenging the established order and prIorities not just in transit policy, but also in the assumptions of the rights and uses of _public_ space and beyond. Big changes are usually messy. Think about it as cleaning out the cupboards and putting it all back in a more logical order.

  • John Murphy

    One retard in a car ran a stop sign and took out the J-Church for 2 hours last week. How about the annual “Car drives into the N-Judah Tunnel” trick?

    But forget stupidity and forget general congestion. Double parkers add more annually, bit by bit, to MUNI delays, than critical mass does. Do I have the evidence? No. But I believe it.

    Certainly the delay due to critical mass is centralized into one time period – but that time period is also predictable – just like Bay to Breakers, LovEvolution, Outside Lands, Barack Obama coming to town, etc…

  • John Murphy

    One retard in a car ran a stop sign and took out the J-Church for 2 hours last week. How about the annual “Car drives into the N-Judah Tunnel” trick?

    But forget stupidity and forget general congestion. Double parkers add more annually, bit by bit, to MUNI delays, than critical mass does. Do I have the evidence? No. But I believe it.

    Certainly the delay due to critical mass is centralized into one time period – but that time period is also predictable – just like Bay to Breakers, LovEvolution, Outside Lands, Barack Obama coming to town, etc…

  • Greg Dewar

    ” Do I have the evidence? No. But I believe it.”

    So we’re going to faith-based traffic management now? Wow.

    I just don’t understand why CM has to get special treatment. We had an incident a few years ago when a hand ful of art students wanted to ride the N (lawfully) and make the space in to a temporary “party car.”

    For their efforts ,they had a major show of force by SFPD and the fare inspectors at 4th and King. Meanwhile, CM got a free police ESCORT for their monthly “give me my cookie” party.

    CM also has NO courage. You can play “Anarchist” in SF because you know you’ll get away with it. I’d have way more respect for CM if

    A) they didn’t “plan” their efforts for the same time period every month (that’s not anarchy that’s ritual) and

    B) tried this kind of thing somewhere else.

    Seriously, if you had the same turnout for a CM on El Camino in the Peninsula, where you would raise more “awareness” than in SF, THAT would be revolutionary. Oh , but that might mean getting out of one’s comfort zone. I get it.

    As it stands, this is going the way of civil war re-enactments where we all play our part, and we know what’s going to happen. Revolution FAIL.

  • Greg Dewar

    ” Do I have the evidence? No. But I believe it.”

    So we’re going to faith-based traffic management now? Wow.

    I just don’t understand why CM has to get special treatment. We had an incident a few years ago when a hand ful of art students wanted to ride the N (lawfully) and make the space in to a temporary “party car.”

    For their efforts ,they had a major show of force by SFPD and the fare inspectors at 4th and King. Meanwhile, CM got a free police ESCORT for their monthly “give me my cookie” party.

    CM also has NO courage. You can play “Anarchist” in SF because you know you’ll get away with it. I’d have way more respect for CM if

    A) they didn’t “plan” their efforts for the same time period every month (that’s not anarchy that’s ritual) and

    B) tried this kind of thing somewhere else.

    Seriously, if you had the same turnout for a CM on El Camino in the Peninsula, where you would raise more “awareness” than in SF, THAT would be revolutionary. Oh , but that might mean getting out of one’s comfort zone. I get it.

    As it stands, this is going the way of civil war re-enactments where we all play our part, and we know what’s going to happen. Revolution FAIL.

  • John Murphy

    B) tried this kind of thing somewhere else.

    “Let me Google that for you”

    http://www.sjbikeparty.org/

  • John Murphy

    B) tried this kind of thing somewhere else.

    “Let me Google that for you”

    http://www.sjbikeparty.org/

  • John Murphy

    Seriously, if you had the same turnout for a CM on El Camino in the Peninsula, where you would raise more “awareness” than in SF…

    Aside from this Greg – there is another subtle difference. Belmont put a new bike lane on Alameda De Las Pulgas. There was a shitstorm because there is a school there and a bunch of people from San Carlos use that stretch to ferry their kids, and they didn’t want to be delayed. Belmont told San Carlos to get fixed.

    Mountain View and Sunnyvale have added so many bike lanes it’s insane – and they’ve done it by REMOVING car travel lanes. San Carlos and Belmont are spending a lot of time trying to correct the Holly and Ralston overpasses which are dangerous to bikes, in the meantime they have painted sharrows dead center in the middle of the lane on a 101 overpass – “Ride here – cars wait”. Burlingame went one better and built a ped/bike bridge over 101. Sunnyvale has new bridges over 101 and 280. Palo Alto dedicated all of Bryant from Menlo to MV as a bike boulevard with multiple spots where cars cannot pass.

    San Bruno and SSF have completed a separated bike path on top of the BART tracks from San Bruno BART to SSF BART.

    Remind me what SF has done for cyclists lately?

  • John Murphy

    Seriously, if you had the same turnout for a CM on El Camino in the Peninsula, where you would raise more “awareness” than in SF…

    Aside from this Greg – there is another subtle difference. Belmont put a new bike lane on Alameda De Las Pulgas. There was a shitstorm because there is a school there and a bunch of people from San Carlos use that stretch to ferry their kids, and they didn’t want to be delayed. Belmont told San Carlos to get fixed.

    Mountain View and Sunnyvale have added so many bike lanes it’s insane – and they’ve done it by REMOVING car travel lanes. San Carlos and Belmont are spending a lot of time trying to correct the Holly and Ralston overpasses which are dangerous to bikes, in the meantime they have painted sharrows dead center in the middle of the lane on a 101 overpass – “Ride here – cars wait”. Burlingame went one better and built a ped/bike bridge over 101. Sunnyvale has new bridges over 101 and 280. Palo Alto dedicated all of Bryant from Menlo to MV as a bike boulevard with multiple spots where cars cannot pass.

    San Bruno and SSF have completed a separated bike path on top of the BART tracks from San Bruno BART to SSF BART.

    Remind me what SF has done for cyclists lately?

  • PhilD

    So, the argument is that since Critical mass is just one of several minor contributing factors to traffic congestion, we should just live with it? That’s the big debate-winning argument?

    How about No.

  • PhilD

    So, the argument is that since Critical mass is just one of several minor contributing factors to traffic congestion, we should just live with it? That’s the big debate-winning argument?

    How about No.

  • John Murphy

    Some percentage of the motivation for CM – not all of it – but some of it, is simply “people pissed off about getting pissed on over and over”. Road raging driver points a gun at cyclist, pulls trigger, thankfully only blows up his helmet. FOUR MONTHS. Sleeping while driving deputy kills 2 cyclists. ZERO jailtime. No bike lanes or even racks in SF for 3 years. Endless close calls with inattentive or flat out vitriolic motorists. Yet it’s all the rage to ask the cops to run a stopsign sting to get those scofflaw cyclists, when stopsign running cars took out a pedestrian and the J last week. At some point you simply don’t care if you are “getting your point across”, which is actually a pretty effective way of getting your point across.

    Critical Mass is like Sarah Palin. You either love it or you hate it. You don’t ignore it. Which guarantees the cyclists a spot at the dinner table because they are in the news and they are in the debate. What do the MUNI riders do? Hold a “funeral” for the 26? Yeah like anyone will give a shit. Pedestrians? What are they doing? Spewing comments on SFGate?

    That’s why the cyclists will get some bike lanes (finally) and MUNI is getting cut and pedestrian safety gets so little attention. That’s the debate winning argument.

  • John Murphy

    Some percentage of the motivation for CM – not all of it – but some of it, is simply “people pissed off about getting pissed on over and over”. Road raging driver points a gun at cyclist, pulls trigger, thankfully only blows up his helmet. FOUR MONTHS. Sleeping while driving deputy kills 2 cyclists. ZERO jailtime. No bike lanes or even racks in SF for 3 years. Endless close calls with inattentive or flat out vitriolic motorists. Yet it’s all the rage to ask the cops to run a stopsign sting to get those scofflaw cyclists, when stopsign running cars took out a pedestrian and the J last week. At some point you simply don’t care if you are “getting your point across”, which is actually a pretty effective way of getting your point across.

    Critical Mass is like Sarah Palin. You either love it or you hate it. You don’t ignore it. Which guarantees the cyclists a spot at the dinner table because they are in the news and they are in the debate. What do the MUNI riders do? Hold a “funeral” for the 26? Yeah like anyone will give a shit. Pedestrians? What are they doing? Spewing comments on SFGate?

    That’s why the cyclists will get some bike lanes (finally) and MUNI is getting cut and pedestrian safety gets so little attention. That’s the debate winning argument.

  • PhilD

    @John Murphy

    But most people do ignore Critical Mass, unless they get stuck in it (which is ultimately a tiny percentage of SF residents). I argue in the comments of today’s article (link below) that Critical Mass is a pretty boring, ordinary yet annoying ritual that seems to have lost the motivation to even pretend to be a politically effective strategy. It’s like saying that celebrating Labor Day is going to give us longer weekends.

    Honestly, how much do current and recent pro-bike reforms owe to the leaderless Critical Mass movement, a movement that is simply accepted by most people as an ordinary part of SF life? If I had to bet on which pro-green, pro-bike group could force change, Critical Mass would be dead last on the list. Those traditional groups with “leaders” and “strategy” who actively work with communities and political leaders would top that list.

    http://sfappeal.com/news/2009/11/if-you-like-good-spelling-and-grammar-do-you-hate-critical-mass.php

  • PhilD

    @John Murphy

    But most people do ignore Critical Mass, unless they get stuck in it (which is ultimately a tiny percentage of SF residents). I argue in the comments of today’s article (link below) that Critical Mass is a pretty boring, ordinary yet annoying ritual that seems to have lost the motivation to even pretend to be a politically effective strategy. It’s like saying that celebrating Labor Day is going to give us longer weekends.

    Honestly, how much do current and recent pro-bike reforms owe to the leaderless Critical Mass movement, a movement that is simply accepted by most people as an ordinary part of SF life? If I had to bet on which pro-green, pro-bike group could force change, Critical Mass would be dead last on the list. Those traditional groups with “leaders” and “strategy” who actively work with communities and political leaders would top that list.

    http://sfappeal.com/news/2009/11/if-you-like-good-spelling-and-grammar-do-you-hate-critical-mass.php

  • John Murphy

    But most people do ignore Critical Mass, unless they get stuck in it (which is ultimately a tiny percentage of SF residents).

    Sigh – then why are we even having this discussion? Why all the angst?

    If I had to bet on which pro-green, pro-bike group could force change, Critical Mass would be dead last on the list.

    The SFBC is first on the list, various detractors be damned. I posit that Critical Mass is in large part a “recruiting arm” of the SFBC…

  • John Murphy

    But most people do ignore Critical Mass, unless they get stuck in it (which is ultimately a tiny percentage of SF residents).

    Sigh – then why are we even having this discussion? Why all the angst?

    If I had to bet on which pro-green, pro-bike group could force change, Critical Mass would be dead last on the list.

    The SFBC is first on the list, various detractors be damned. I posit that Critical Mass is in large part a “recruiting arm” of the SFBC…

  • PhilD

    “I posit that Critical Mass is in large part a “recruiting arm” of the SFBC…”

    That may be the best defense I’ve heard for Critical Mass. Though I’d argue that the amount of bystanders turned off by Critical Mass may largely offset the participants who are turned on to pro-bike activism. I try to take a pretty reasonable approach to discussing CM, but a lot of people are just filled with irrational seething anger because CM made them late for an appointment one time. I’m not saying they are right, I’m saying that it is a deeply-flawed strategy for activism if it is generating those feelings in people (and it clearly is).

    “Sigh – then why are we even having this discussion? Why all the angst?”

    “Why the monthly disruption of other people’s lives?” may be a more pertinent question. I’m not making anyone late for work here.

  • PhilD

    “I posit that Critical Mass is in large part a “recruiting arm” of the SFBC…”

    That may be the best defense I’ve heard for Critical Mass. Though I’d argue that the amount of bystanders turned off by Critical Mass may largely offset the participants who are turned on to pro-bike activism. I try to take a pretty reasonable approach to discussing CM, but a lot of people are just filled with irrational seething anger because CM made them late for an appointment one time. I’m not saying they are right, I’m saying that it is a deeply-flawed strategy for activism if it is generating those feelings in people (and it clearly is).

    “Sigh – then why are we even having this discussion? Why all the angst?”

    “Why the monthly disruption of other people’s lives?” may be a more pertinent question. I’m not making anyone late for work here.

  • lookeveryone

    PhilD, Seriously, disruption of other people’s lives?

    Please consider the notion of _banning_cars_in_the_city_center_. This is a valid concept successfully tried in other major cities that would cause a serious reduction of disruptions to other people’s lives. I’m curious why you are focusing on CM rather than something that will actually make a difference.

    Getting rid of critical mass would be on par with getting rid of the Pride Parade. It would save some disruptions, true, but the loss is just not worth it in sum. (and btw, like the pride parade, CM is more than just raising awareness for an issue, much more. It is a party, it is a liberation, it is a right, it is a social experiment, it is an experience, it is important to a lot of people for many reasons. it is legal and a valid use of public space. IOW, not just a disruption)

    My experience is that the ride gets 100 times more cheers than anger as it passes, this includes people stuck in cars. Take a ride with us sometime if you dispute this claim.

    Thanks for discussing these issues, that’s how societies make progress.

  • lookeveryone

    PhilD, Seriously, disruption of other people’s lives?

    Please consider the notion of _banning_cars_in_the_city_center_. This is a valid concept successfully tried in other major cities that would cause a serious reduction of disruptions to other people’s lives. I’m curious why you are focusing on CM rather than something that will actually make a difference.

    Getting rid of critical mass would be on par with getting rid of the Pride Parade. It would save some disruptions, true, but the loss is just not worth it in sum. (and btw, like the pride parade, CM is more than just raising awareness for an issue, much more. It is a party, it is a liberation, it is a right, it is a social experiment, it is an experience, it is important to a lot of people for many reasons. it is legal and a valid use of public space. IOW, not just a disruption)

    My experience is that the ride gets 100 times more cheers than anger as it passes, this includes people stuck in cars. Take a ride with us sometime if you dispute this claim.

    Thanks for discussing these issues, that’s how societies make progress.

  • sfseth

    Critical Mass is the enemy of any kind of constructive bicycle movement, period. It serves to turn people that were otherwise bicycle-friendly, or at least bicycle-neutral, against bicycles. Likening it to Pride Parade is insanity, that actually comes off quite belittling of the LBGT movement.

    This area is *too* friendly to bicycles. It is Critical Mass that has formed this opinion of mine (as with others I’ve spoken with).

    I don’t own a car, am big into walking and public transportation. And I am really sick of the attitude of the bicycling “movement” in this town. It’s arrogant, self-righteous naval-gazing. Critical Mass is the poster child. If you’re on a bicycle and you’re acting like a dumbass, prepare to be injured or killed, not protected. Critical Mass is group dumbassedness.

    Onto the practical question of the “leaders” of Critical Mass. From my vantage point, everyone participating in Critical Mass is a leader, in that they have defined none. My perspective, which I intend to express to the next idle SFPD officer I run across, is that SFPD should arrest *all* participating in Critical Mass, defined by the degree to which they violate any law, no matter how minor. Obstruct no one, be not a dumbass, participate in society? Might actually accomplish something.

    The next obvious step is to lobby for additional laws that explicitly target Critical Mass.

  • sfseth

    Critical Mass is the enemy of any kind of constructive bicycle movement, period. It serves to turn people that were otherwise bicycle-friendly, or at least bicycle-neutral, against bicycles. Likening it to Pride Parade is insanity, that actually comes off quite belittling of the LBGT movement.

    This area is *too* friendly to bicycles. It is Critical Mass that has formed this opinion of mine (as with others I’ve spoken with).

    I don’t own a car, am big into walking and public transportation. And I am really sick of the attitude of the bicycling “movement” in this town. It’s arrogant, self-righteous naval-gazing. Critical Mass is the poster child. If you’re on a bicycle and you’re acting like a dumbass, prepare to be injured or killed, not protected. Critical Mass is group dumbassedness.

    Onto the practical question of the “leaders” of Critical Mass. From my vantage point, everyone participating in Critical Mass is a leader, in that they have defined none. My perspective, which I intend to express to the next idle SFPD officer I run across, is that SFPD should arrest *all* participating in Critical Mass, defined by the degree to which they violate any law, no matter how minor. Obstruct no one, be not a dumbass, participate in society? Might actually accomplish something.

    The next obvious step is to lobby for additional laws that explicitly target Critical Mass.