Thousands of cyclists rode through the Mission Friday night, celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the monthly Critical Mass ride. The ride started at Justin Herman Plaza around 6:30 p.m., with large groups of riders still in the Mission after 9:30 p.m.
Critical Mass, which aims to draw attention to cycling as a viable mode of city transport, caused frustration for motorists stuck at intersections. Traffic lights went from red to green as cars backed up for blocks, barely moving.
According to AC Transit employee Sean Thomas, who was on his radio updating drivers from the sidewalk outside the temporary San Francisco Transbay Terminal, as many as 20 Muni and AC Transit bus routes between San Francisco and the East Bay were thrown off schedule.
“That one was supposed to be gone 20 minutes ago,” Thomas said, pointing to an idling bus.
A rider who gave his name as David said he’s been riding with Critical Mass for almost 20 years.
“The thing about Critical Mass that’s really great is it’s one of the few times you can feel really safe on your bike,” he said. “For me, the political aspect is less interesting than the ability to see your friends, have fun, have a beer and kind of just ride around town.”
Jo Valderama wore an SF winter hat topped with an orange and black mohawk made of yarn. His shirt read, “Dear Chevron, sorry I have a bicycle.”
Valderama said the ride was important to him because he rides his bike to work.
“I want people to see me riding my bike,” he said. “It’s healthy living. It’s my passion. I want to convince young people to ride their bike. It’s fun.”
Many cyclists used their bikes and bodies to block cars from entering intersections while riders passed through. One such rider, Ashley “Lorae” Fernandis, 23, said she was intentionally bumped by a car as she blocked the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Market Street.
Rennee Orsi, who allegedly bumped Fernandis with her Toyota 4-Runner, said she had just picked up her daughter from ballet and could hear the ride approaching, so was trying to get through before the riders came.
“She [Orsi] was tapping my bike,” Fernandis said. “My bike was tilting. I could have easily fallen and been run over.”
Orsi’s 8-year-old daughter, Mya, was crying in the back seat of the car as Fernandis and other cyclists refused to move until SFPD officers arrived.
“It’s like they don’t even care,” Mya said through tears. “They only care about themselves.”
Orsi was visibly angry, shouting and honking her horn at the cyclists who blocked her path. Another cyclist, who identified himself only as Spencer, said he reached into Orsi’s car, removed the keys and threw them.
“I was panicked that she [Fernandis] was going to get run over, so I chucked them,” he said.
About eight police officers on bikes and motorcycles showed up to deal with the incident.
Officer Asserto, who was present after the altercation, said it was one of only a few that evening.
“It’s been pretty mellow, which is good,” he said. “We have a lot of police working.”
Officer Simpson, who was trying to calm Orsi enough to talk to her, told her she was playing into the hands of what Critical Mass cyclists aim to do.
“They want you to get upset,” he told her. “They live for this sort of thing.”
Shortly after, an incident between a cyclist and motorist at Valencia and Market streets caused police officers to get involved.
Jenny Hatfield, 38, said she stopped riding to take a picture of a blue BMW when the driver of the car got out and began pushing her. The driver of the car, identified only as Brenda, apologized after Officer D. Flannery tried to bring the two women together to reconcile.
“It’s my fault I took it out on you when it was your fault,” Brenda said.
Hatfield said she still wished to press charges.
As the night went on, hundreds of riders could be found making their way toward Dolores Park, the unofficial end point of the ride. At 8:40 p.m., a police van and motorcycles escorted upwards of a thousand riders west on 18th Street, closing Valencia Street for more than five minutes.