Small children get lesson in "conspicuous virtue"

In the latest horror story from San Francisco (HT Justin), a family with small children whose crime was to attempt to drive home from a Japantown restaurant was set upon and their vehicle vandalized by a deranged cult of bicycle activists known as "Critical Mass":

It was supposed to be a birthday night out for the kids in San Francisco, but instead turned into a Critical Mass horror show -- complete with a pummeled car, a smashed rear window and little children screaming in terror.
That "Critical Mass" would be the culprit does not surprise me. These moralistic poseurs are the shock troops of sanctimonious environmentalism, and I don't doubt that they consider themselves in the vanguard of what Glenn Reynolds and others have called "conspicuous virtue."

The Critical Mass people piss me off and make me sick. But rather than merely get sick, I have written a number of posts criticizing them.

Anyway, here's how they inflicted their moral lesson on the hapless family which randomly crossed their path:

Susan Ferrando, her husband, their two children and three preteens had come to San Francisco from Redwood City to celebrate the birthday of Ferrando's 11-year-old daughter. They went to Japantown, where they enjoyed shopping and taking in the blooming cherry blossoms.

Things took a turn for the worse at about 9 p.m., when the family was leaving Japantown -- just as the party of about 3,000 bikers was winding down its monthly red-lights-be-damned ride through the city.

Suddenly, Ferrando said, her car was surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.

Not being from San Francisco, Ferrando thought she might have inadvertently crossed paths with a bicycle race and couldn't figure out why the police, who she had just passed, hadn't warned her.

Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.

Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.

A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

"It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons,'' Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.

All the while, Ferrando was screaming, "There are children in this car! There are children in this car!"

She had the presence of mind to dial 911 on her cell phone -- and within minutes, the squad of motorcycle cops who were assigned to keep an eye on the ride descended on the scene.

The cyclists were loudly demanding that Ferrando be arrested for hit and run.

According to police, Ferrando had allegedly tapped one of the cyclists' tires.

When the alleged bicycle victim was approached, however, he said he wasn't hurt. He also refused to give his name or any other information.

Then, after a few swear words, the alleged victim took off on his bike while the rest of the crowd continued to yell at both the cops and the van.

Sgt. Ed Callejas -- the lead cop on the scene and a veteran of Critical Mass rides since their inception -- said he'd never seen anything like it before.

"I've seen the bikes swarm cars, and scratch them as they go by. I've seen guys get out of their cars and start fighting with the bikers, but if you had seen the faces on those little girls in tears,'' Callejas said. "All I could do was apologize for what they had been through."

The sergeant suggested that Ferrando write a letter to the mayor.

Estimated damage to the car: $5,300.

Using their bikes as weapons? To assault a carload of children?

But, but, but -- something will be done, right?

The Chronicle writers (Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross) don't paint a very optimistic picture:

As for reaction from City Hall, Mayor Gavin Newsom said such acts of violence -- if true -- "only serve to undermine the worthwhile message of Critical Mass, which is to raise the awareness of bike transportation issues."
Sorry to interrupt, there, Gavin, but didn't you really mean to say "underline"? (There's been some confusion lately over these two words, so I'll try to forgive Gavin's latest gaffelet.)

But as the writers make clear, Gavin has a dark sense of San Francisco humor:

The mayor also said that -- if the charges are grounded -- he expected the attackers to be "punished to the greatest extent of the law."


I think it's unlikely that anything will be done about Critical Mass.

I don't have any kids, but I'd hate to think what Coco would do if Critical Mass did the same thing to my car. The whole thing reminds me of a very charming (and very ballsy) San Francisco lesbian who used to cut my hair and her encounter with the same group. Her crime was riding the bus to work. (You know, eco-friendly public transportation?) When her perfectly green bus was nonetheless blockaded by the self-righteous mob, this was too much for her, and she just lost it. As she related the story to me, she got out of the bus, grabbed one of their bikes, and smashed it on the ground. (Little wonder that Gavin Newsom wants to take pit bulls away from lesbians.)

But I guess I shouldn't make light of serious matters.....

UPDATE: Noting the police are not allowed to arrest these thugs, Hot Air offers some suggestions:

....given the group's violent history there are probably legal steps that could be taken against them. If the city had any backbone against leftist agitators, that is. If the Klan did what Critical Mass does, you betcha that city hall would be all over them. But Critical Mass directs its unreasoned hate in a politically correct direction, so Critical Mass gets a pass.

It doesn't help that the current mayor has his own history of flouting the law when it suits his political agenda.

Weakness in the face of aggression begs for more aggression. Critical Mass is obviously aggressive, and its unchallenged unruly behavior is evidence that anarchy has been loosed in San Francisco.

Do I need to mention that San Fran is the city that keeps electing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi?

posted by Eric on 04.04.07 at 11:53 AM


Very bad behavior on the part of some cyclists. So, arrest them and charge them. OTOH, it remains true that about the safest way to commit homocide w/out consequences is to run down a cyclist (or pedestrian) and then to claim, "I just didn't see him." If drivers drove and behaved with civility, cyclists would as well.
I write as a law-abiding cyclist who rides on NYC streets and who is lucky enough to have been hit by a car only once. Good news: the driver, who was clearly performing an illegal maneuver, dragged me about 15 feet *right in front of a cop.* Bad news: the cop made sure I was OK, checked the driver's license, and then sent her on her way. It's moments like those that give me great sympathy for the Critical Mass people (but no, I'm not one of them).

italtrav   ·  April 4, 2007 1:40 PM

italtrav, agree with everything you said.

Cyclists are regularly killed by careless drivers who receive little or no punishment. This story by Eric is obviously along those lines. Susan Ferrando was more interested in cutting 10 seconds off her travel time than in recognizing the basic right to life of the people around her. Behavior totally common among drivers. She hit somebody and kept going--and she's the victim!

"One of the bikers then threw his bike -- shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside."

The reporter obvously hasn't a clue how much a bicycle costs or gave a moments thought to how that bicyclist was getting home that night. Didn't happen. No way.

tim maguire   ·  April 4, 2007 4:05 PM

Where do these thugs come from? Iíve never heard of them but I live in NYC. Good story, Eric, I wouldnít have know about Critical Mass.

Here in NYC, bicyclists are a great hazard to pedestrians. Our streets just donít accommodate this mode of transportation. Many people I know, including my wife, believe they should be banned.

Jason Pappas   ·  April 4, 2007 4:41 PM

They're in New York,

and all over the country:

Forunately, the City of New York took out an injunction against them trying to limit their numbers. They are not commuters, as their stated goal is simply to protest and disrupt traffic.

Tim, you're asserting that it didn't happen, so I guess I'll look into it. But the story has a picture of the smashed rear window. Are you saying the reporters made up the damage too?

Remember, they're seasoned reporters in San Francisco writing for the Chronicle. Their butts would definitely be on the line if they did what you say.

Are you sure?

Eric Scheie   ·  April 4, 2007 5:09 PM

Good heavens. You know, it's not very Christian of me, but there are days I really want to hate lefties like this. What astounding self-righteousness and plain old bad-attitudeness. I feel so badly for those poor girls, and the parents who must have felt so helpless and unable to protect their kids.

As a Motor City native, I much prefer cars (it's hard to ride a bike 16 miles to the office in two feet of snow anyhow). While I've no problem with (law-abiding, non-all-black-wearing at night) cyclists and enjoy a spin myself when the weather's nice, there is NO excuse for this kind of behaviour. Ugh.

Miss O'Hara   ·  April 4, 2007 5:15 PM

Oh, damn, they're here, too! Thanks for the warning.

Jason Pappas   ·  April 4, 2007 9:00 PM

You're a former lawyer aren't you Eric? What would the driver's legal standing be if he simply ran over the idiot blocking his car? Surely this is a clear cut case of self defense?

Mick   ·  April 4, 2007 10:04 PM

I live in Berkeley, and every Friday night at 5:00PM, East Bay Critical Mass bicycles past my house. There are dozens of them. I know they are going by because they carry boom boxes on their bikes set at maximum volume. They go by at this time every week to block passage on the main street out of town at the height of rush hour. This has been going on for years. I can't imagine what they are trying to prove except that they can get away with it.

Chocolatier   ·  April 4, 2007 10:22 PM

Spike strips.

Timothy   ·  April 4, 2007 10:33 PM

There's always two sides to the story. "Many witnesses state that Ferrando recklessly accelerated into a crowd and hit the bicyclist so hard the bike was lodged under her vehicle." Don't think your soccer mom was an innocent bystander.

John Hags   ·  April 5, 2007 1:00 AM

Uhh, are you arguing that if the driver hit a bike it wouldn't be insane for the bikers to beat on the car with their bikes?

And, in fact, no, there aren't always two sides to every story.

Jon Thompson   ·  April 5, 2007 2:08 AM

Note that the story says that when the police tried to ask the alleged bicyclist "victim" of the alleged collision a few questions, he refused to answer (other than to say he wasn't hurt), swore at everyone, and ran away.

If two vehicles come in contact but no one is hurt and there is no damage, that's not a collision. Or a crime.

It would be interesting to know if the alleged collision happened before or after the vehicle was surrounded by the horde of bicyclists.

Moon6   ·  April 5, 2007 11:39 AM

read a more balanced account here:

The "soccer mom" ran over a bicyclist and then tried to get away which is why she got swarmed.

This is just a case of bad reporting.

Soccer moms and their ilk should stay in their suburbs where they can safely travel in their station wagon bubbles. I'm sure if someone ran over her kid on his bike, we would have heard a completely different story.

veronica   ·  April 6, 2007 12:50 AM

Sorry, gonna have to call shenanigans on the biker's perspective here that this started because the minivan hit a bicyclist, pulling the bike under and dragging it.

Given the serious of such an accident, I *VERY* much doubt that the victim would have refused to give an account, his name, or anything, and then ride his bike away. A bike that has been hit and dragged under a car for 15 feet is not just going to be able to be ridden away.

Maybe the minivan driver could have handled the situation better, but as a fellow biker, Critical Mass embarrases the hell out of me.

Kevin   ·  April 8, 2007 8:27 PM

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