The seven key points of the local media's disinformation campaign

What was reported and what really happened
on the July 25th Critical Mass ride

How the story the local media reported is falling apart.

Lie #1. There were "unauthorized" "splinter groups." (I heard this nonsense as it was being coined by a reporter from Channel 4, an Asian woman in her late 20s/early 30s.)

Fact: No special permit is required for people to ride bicycles in California or San Francisco. As long as they obey the traffic laws, people are free to ride where ever cars go. If they choose to travel in groups of twos, tens, or hundreds that is their right 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If motorists object to the "traffic jam" created, that's unfortunate, but large numbers of people using a public roadway in a lawful manner often create traffic jams. Why single out bicyclists for abuse?

Lie #2. The alternate route riders advocated lawlessness.

Fact: On the back of every flyer suggesting an alternate route, there were clear statements acknowledging and advocating the following of traffic laws. (Note: additional commentary and captioning will be added as time allows.)

  • Flyer 1: Excerpt from the "Get-A-Grip" Ride
  • Flyer 2: Excerpt from the "Mass Against the Machine" Ride
  • Flyer 3: Excerpt from the "Free Willie" Ride

    They reported these flyers, but didn't report what was on them.

    Lie #3. San Franciscans were overwhelmingly hostile to the bicycle riders.

    Fact: Encouraged to vent their spleens by various talk radio kooks, the mayor, and other professional demagogues, some people in cars were visibly upset at the traffic delays. However, at least as many honked and waved in support and Market Street was lined with well wishers.

    Lie #4. The bicyclists were a lawless mob and committed numerous atrocities like spitting and pounding on cars.

    Fact: In spite of a small army of media cameramen in the field, few images recording these reported "atrocities" have been produced. This is not to say that these things did not happen, but given the large number of reporters covering the event, these events are highly unlikely to have been as common as they have been presented to have been.

    Eye witness accounts

    Lie #5. Policemen were injured by bicycle riders.

    Fact: Television news video and numerous eye witness accounts report San Francisco police officers tackling bicyclists and tearing them off their bicycles. As some who tried this learned the hard way, attempting to tackle an oncoming bicycle is a dangerous, not to mention stupid, thing to do.

    Very early in the evening, an out of control group of police officers on Market near Powell assaulted cyclists and pedestrians alike without any visible provocation.

    Lie #6. Hundreds were arrested for deliberately violating traffic laws and other anti-social acts

    Fact:The vast majority of those arrested were detained as the result of random police sweeps which closed down certain streets trapping all bicyclists on them. These bicyclists were charged not with committing traffic or other violations because they had not done so. They were charged with unlawful assembly.

    Lie #7. The events of July 25th,1997 caught the mayor and the police completely by surprise.

    Fact: Without explanation, the police, at the last minute, reneged on their promise to provide a safe escort for those following the mayor's approved route, something they have done for every previous Critical Mass ride in memory.

    Flyers announcing that the event was illegal without a "sporting event" permit had been printed two weeks prior to the event and police started circulating them the Monday after the event.

    Additionally, there were reports of police equiped with helmets and long clubs stationed along Market Street and on side streets well in advance of the scheduled leave time. In fact, long before the Market Street ride, there were reports of police on Market Street threatening bicycling commuters on their way home from work with bicycle impoundment. These riders were not part of Critical Mass, were traveling individually, and were following all normal traffic laws.

    Eye witness accounts

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