SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Undermining the SF Bike Advocacy Movement

The SF Bicycle Coalition is the infamous juggernaut of bicycle advocacy in the city of San Francisco. As a resident of SF, I have a love/hate relationship with this organization. While I generally and certainly espouse the use of a bicycle for fun, healthy, green, sustainable, social-positive, whatever everyday transportation and would like to align with SF Bike on that goal, this organization seems to take every opportunity to subtly promote antisocial bicycle behavior that only reinforces negative stereotypes about cyclists and bicycle use.

SFBC's bylaws state
...[to] promote a healthy environment and community including specifically the promotion of the bicycle for everyday transportation.

yet this organization mostly seems to "advocate" anti-establishment cycling activities. Critical Mass is always included in the upcoming-events calendar listing in the Coalition's email newsletter with the tongue-in-cheek admonition
While this ride is not organized nor endorsed by the SFBC, we have a keen interest in happy bicycling every day in San Francisco. To that end, we encourage all participants to ride courteously and respectfully.

Yeah, riiiight. If you've ever watched a Critical Mass ride in SF, it doesn't take long to realize that it's an excuse for a rolling party circus, with marauding packs of "bikers" disrespectfully overwhelming streets, toting beer and mobile soundsystems, and urinating all over public property (yes I've witnessed this on more than one occasion).

And now I'm reading that there's a new fixie-punk film called Mash SF, a screening of which is being held locally next week...in part sponsored by none other than the SF Bike Coalition. The trailer for this movie shows the typical disrespectful, scofflaw behavior associated (especially) with the fixed-gear punk-hipster stereotype: trick riding, skidding, weaving in and out of moving traffic, blowing stop signs and stop lights, stupid daredevil stunts, riding around the city at night without lights, etc. Since they're helping to promote this film and sponsor its screening, it makes me question whether this type of riding is condoned by the SFBC? Is this what "safe commuting" is all about? I think not.

True, the SFBC has done a significant amount to promote urban cycling and get bicycle commuting on the local government's radar, but supporting and advertising these other types of activities does NOT support the "promotion of the bicycle for everyday transportation". Sending these kind of mixed messages simply undermines their goals!


Blogger RonLau said...


Love fixedgear, don't do the CM and hate seeing rude cyclists downtown.

Yes, I ride to work.

6:46 PM  
Blogger RonLau said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:47 PM  
Blogger Gino Zahnd said...

There's a mini-me version of this in Chico, of all places. Undoubtedly Bay Arean kids up here for school, mimicking their SF messenger heroes...

6:33 AM  
Blogger John Marr said...

As another reluctant member of the SFBC, I concur. I don't think the SFBC can claim to be a serious bicycle advocacy organisation with a straight face until they come out against CM.

I have lived and commuted by bicycle in SF for 24 years. And I'm proud to say I have never taken part in a CM ride.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Tarik Saleh said...


I have to say that I consider SFBC the most effective cycling advocacy group in the country. They have done an insane amount of great stuff for SF. I am still a member, despite not living in the Bay area for 8 years now...

I agree that CM is a slippery slope for them, but the amount of good they have done and their ability to influence city politics is pretty much unrivaled. I sincerely wish that more cities have an organization as effective as SFBC.

I am pretty sure all bike advocate groups at least include CM on their monthly calender now. I am a lot more comfortable with bike coalitions supporting CM than supporting alleycats, which happens elsewhere...

It may be difficult to see how good things are in SF, especially compared to pre 1996 CM implosion. For better or worse, I think CM has been instrumental in SFBC gaining uh, critical mass which has allowed them to really make great strides in SF.

8:54 PM  

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