A viral video showing cyclists bashing a car with a bike lock and bicycles is being denounced in San Francisco and beyond.
The cyclists, who the San Francisco police called a “splinter group” of the monthly bike ride known as Critical Mass, are now drawing criticism from an unlikely quarter.
Chris Carlsson, oft-credited as the co-founder of Critical Mass in San Francisco, told the San Francisco Examiner the cyclists in the video do not represent the philosophy of the group he helped start.
“It was a very small fragment of people doing this bad behavior,” he said. “It’s indefensible.”
Since the incident, cycling groups like the SF Bike Party and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have denounced the violence seen in the video, which has since spread to national news media.
In the video, a woman in a Zipcar can be seen nudging her vehicle through the crowd of cyclists. The cyclists react angrily and begin bashing her car. Carlsson said he could empathise with her confusion.
“I’d freak out if people were yelling at me like that,” he said.
Carlsson also bristles at being called a co-founder of Critical Mass, and prefers the term “founding participant.” He was among those who launched the first ride, handing out fliers and keeping the peace when 48 cyclists first toured San Francisco 23 years ago in 1992.
Since then, Critical Mass in San Francisco draws thousands of riders per month.
Carlsson, a historian, has since edited books and written often on the movement he helped start. Monthly Critical Mass rides now take place in hundreds of cities across the world. And today in San Francisco, bike lanes criss-cross The City, and bicycles comprise more commuters on Market Street than cars.
But two decades ago, cyclists were second class citizens, Carlsson said, “We were treated like assholes and children.”
The ride, “came out of that bad treatment. Let’s assert ourselves, travel as a group, and have solidarity,” he said.
It was also a radical movement where cyclists could share an ethos, he said.
“Critical Mass from the very beginning created a philosophical space, where ideas could be
discussed among strangers,” he said, “in motion, through the streets of
He said through the years there were always those like the violent cyclists in the video, people he called a “testosterone brigade.” Fellow cyclists would try to stop them from being violent.
“If you’re going to pick fights with cars, thats dumb,” he said, because American society is car dependent, a problem all people share.
“Look at the person in the car as your potential ally,” he said. “You need them to join you.”
Carlsson emphasized positive protest. “You want to be subversive?”
he said. “Look like you’re having a great time. That’s the most subversive thing to do.”