Critical Mass San Francisco Turns 30 Years Old!

Rolling along the Embarcadero, after filling both sides of the boulevard almost to the Giants stadium, early during the 30th anniversary ride Sept. 30, 2022.

Hard to believe, but it’s been 30 long years since we first “rode home together” up Market Street and straight to Zeitgeist. The ride September 30 was spectacular, joyous, euphoric, memorable, inspiring, and a surprising throwback to the best of the experiences of the past. Surprising because I had no expectations of a large ride, nor that there would be a groundswell of excitement in the days leading up to it. But in fact, it happened.

I wrote an op-ed that the SF Examiner managed to screw up. Not only did the editor insert a false claim (that there is an official organization called Critical Mass) but she put it where I was clearly referring to the SF Bike Coalition with a critical comment. And I didn’t even want to name them, feeling that anyone who cares already knows, and for the rest it wasn’t important. And then to top it off, when they printed the article and one of my photos in the print version last Wednesday, they deliberately miscaptioned my photo. Man! Last time I do anything for them!

In better coverage during and after the event last Friday, LisaRuth and Hugh did a great job on the Roll Over Easy podcast (starts about an hour in). KQED did a fair job of covering it, and Steve Jones gave a good account on 48hills. And big kudos to Jim Swanson for writing down his own memories of the earliest beginnings of Critical Mass—a vital account we’ve needed for a long time!

Overall I loved the energy. Dozens and dozens of oldtimers and a huge number of people who said it was there first ever too. And so many people did such a good job of corking at all the intersections, if only the front of the ride had kept it slower and more compacted, it would’ve been nearly perfect. As it was, it was very very good for the first hour or so. Eventually it fell apart going back and forth through Broadway Tunnel, though it recovered a dense mass a while later at Union Square. Once the ride got to City Hall, it turned into a Bike Party for a lengthy dance stop. That’s when I took off to Dolores Park to meet up with the OGs who had planned to rendezvous there, just like it was 25 years ago… I took a ton of photos of friends, so I’m going to post a huge gallery of images here.

On my way to the Embarcadero I ran into Joel! And when we rolled in around 5:20 who did we see first but Beth and Jon! And then Larry showed up a few minutes later! It set the night off on the right foot, a reunion and a celebration!

I’ve written a lot about the death of bike culture in San Francisco, and the long expiration of Critical Mass hereabouts. I stand by all that, but for one night, it was as magical and inspiring as it has ever been. It’s hard to say how many of us felt restored, a kind of deep sigh of “oh, well, we’re still here! It’s STILL San Francisco after all!” Congrats everyone, and thank you to all of you. I’m not captioning any of the many photos to follow. You know who you are!


And if you made it this far, just a note to say that I’ll be blogging again soon enough. Still hard at it on the novel (200,000 words and counting!); there will be an essay on a couple of new anarchist theoretical books that came out recently, to be published later in October at The Fabulist, like those other recent essays.

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