Fear and Blogging in America’s Most Bike-Friendly City | Hush Magazine

San Francisco
Photography by | Chris Bruntlett
From the beatnik poets of North Beach, to the flower children of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco is a city with a long and storied history of dissent and counterculture. The world of bicycle advocacy is no exception. It is, after all, home of the very first Critical Mass protest ride, which began as a modest gathering, envisioned to temporarily reclaim the streets for pedal-powered transportation. Over the past two decades, it has spread to cities around the world, snowballing into a global movement with a reputation for defiantly provoking police, politicians, and anyone inadvertently caught in its path.
However, during a short stay over Christmas – where I rode its streets and chatted with its citizens – it became clear San Francisco is very much a bike culture in transition. It is gradually dropping the militant image it (rightfully) garnered over the years, and becoming something a little less divisive and little more mainstream. The bicycle is no longer a symbol of radical activism, but rather, is evolving into a fixture of modern urban life.
There are mounting signs that the Critical Massers have outstayed their welcome. Even founderChris Carlsson recently questioned their current relevance and necessity. More diverse, celebratory, and less confrontational gatherings – such as the S.F. Bike PartySunday Streets, and Tour de Fat – have started regularly outdrawing Critical Mass. One cannot deny it once played a role in mobilizing and garnering political support, but even more powerful new engines have emerged, successful in building infrastructure, changing policy, and most importantly, getting butts on saddles.