Critical Mass, Potrero Hill

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition ride participants bike up one Vermont Street in Potrero Hill in August 1999.

As I’ve been doing for the past 40 years, I shopped for my groceries today by bicycle, going first to the farmers market in UN Plaza and then to Rainbow Grocery on Division. Eventually, I was riding home with about 55 pounds of groceries, a typical Wednesday. I took the painted bike lane both ways on Folsom, as well as the separated green cycle path on Market between 11th and Seventh streets.

Even though the infrastructure of bicycling has been significantly improved in the past 25 years, my safety as a cyclist is still entirely up to me — I must pay attention to every moment of vulnerability on the road. So far, at age 65, I’ve never been hit by a moving vehicle, largely thanks to my own alertness and ability to evade dangers barreling down on me. After decades of riding on city streets, I have a sixth sense about where danger might be lurking.

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Chris Carlsson is an author, historian, daily cyclist, grandfather, photographer, blogger, co-director of Shaping San Francisco and primary curator of its digital archive at, where you can find most of the xerocracy published during the first years of San Francisco’s Critical Mass.