Sep 30, 2022 - News

San Francisco bike protest Critical Mass turns 30

Crowd of bicyclers riding against traffic.

Critical Mass in downtown San Francisco in October of 2000. Photo: Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Critical Mass, the monthly bike protest where cyclists swarm the streets of San Francisco, celebrates the big 3-0 Friday night.

State of play: The group first hit the streets of San Francisco on the final Friday of September 1992 to "call attention to the dangerous marginalization [cyclists] were routinely subjected to," cyclist Chris Carlsson wrote last week in the San Francisco Examiner.

  • It's an entirely leaderless ride.

What's happening: Cyclists will meet at the Embarcadero Plaza at 5:30pm and roll out around 6:30pm, either west up Market Street, or north or south on the Embarcadero, rider Andrew Bader told Axios.

By the numbers: Between Jan. 1, 2017, and the end of this June, there were 2,777 injury-inducing collisions and 10 fatal accidents involving cyclists in SF, per TransBASE.

  • Since 2017, more than 200 cyclists have been injured after getting hit by car doors, Mission Local reports.

What they're saying: Bader, a teacher for the San Francisco Unified School District and daily bicycle commuter, said he participates in Critical Mass about four to six times a year.

  • "We would like people to recognize that we exist," he says. "[Critical Mass] is in response to people, pedestrians, cyclists and skateboarders being killed by car drivers."

The other side: In a statement to Axios, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson Erica Kato said the city's network for cyclists is growing rapidly, saying "our vision for safer, more bike-friendly streets and a more connected bike network has become more of a reality in recent years."

  • Mayor London Breed supports the creation of new bike lanes "as a way to support reliable alternatives to private automobile use, reach the city’s climate goals, promote the health and safety of bicycle riders, and contribute to the city’s economic recovery," the mayor's office said in a statement.
  • The city has 464 miles of bikeways, and 121 of those are protected from car traffic, per the SFMTA.
  • In 2021, the city added 17.7 miles of new or upgraded bike lanes.

Zoom out: These rides also happen in cities like Austin, Texas, Portland, Oregon and Cleveland, Ohio.

What to watch: Cyclists want safe infrastructure and bike lanes protected by concrete and rebar, Bader said.

  • By 2024, the city aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths as part of its "Vision Zero" plan.
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