Newsom to Critical Mass: Police yourself 

Mayor Gavin Newsom has asked San Francisco’s bicycling community to crack down on "bad actors" — those who use Critical Mass rides to break the law and taunt drivers and pedestrians — after a Redwood City family was allegedly attacked by cyclists at last week’s event.

On Wednesday, Newsom said he does not want to overreact to the incident or begin policing Critical Mass rides more. He said the incident was "egregious and aggressive," but also rare.

"It does the bicycle-advocacy community no good to have people that are aggressive and dispirit the entire movement," Newsom said. "I would encourage the bicycle coalition to say, ‘Look, we don’t put up with this, enough is enough.’"

Cyclists in San Francisco have been taking to the streets en masse to promote alternative methods of transportation since 1992. The rides, which happen the last Friday of each month, attract thousands of cyclists who bike through city streets, and in many cases, ignore basic traffic laws.

While Critical Mass rides are unofficial events with no organized leadership, there is a police presence. The rides have been mostly tame in recent years, but last week’s incident has attracted Newsom’s and bicycle advocates’ attention.

On March 30, alleges Susan Ferrando of Redwood City, she was leaving Japantown around 9 p.m. in a family van with her husband and their five children, ages 9 to 13, when cyclists chased them down and attacked them, swarming her vehicle at the intersection of Post and Gough streets. One cyclist shattered the van’s rear window with a bike, police reports stated.

Cyclists, however, have a different version of what happened. Critical Mass rider Kate McCarthy claimed Ferrando bolted through a group of cyclists milling about at the end of the ride. Cyclists rode after Ferrando, yelling for her to stop, McCarthy said, when Ferrando allegedly hit a cyclist, who was thrown 3 to 4 feet, and kept driving.

"People were voicing concern that [Ferrando] should be arrested because of this alleged accident. [The bicyclist] said he wasn’t injured and that he wants no police action," San Francisco police Sgt. Steve Mannina said. "With no injuries, we wouldn’t do a traffic-collision investigation anyway."

San Francisco’s Critical Mass was put on the map a decade ago, when a ride across the Golden Gate Bridge blocked rush-hour traffic for hours and former Mayor Willie Brown threatened a crack down.

A month later, about 250 cyclists were arrested for running red lights and blocking traffic on a ride that involved more than 5,000 bicyclists.

Staff Writer Bonnie Eslinger contributed to this report.

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