Saturday, April 14, 2007

16 People Stand Up For Civility...

...and I'm actually surprised the total was that high!

Something happened here in S.F. yesterday. Something magical. Something wonderful.

Somebody actually tried hard - REALLY hard - not to be an asshole. They obeyed the rules, had a great time, ...

Critical Manners takes a stand for sharing, harmony, red lights

A bunch of bike riders pedaled through San Francisco on Friday night, and nobody got mad at anybody.

The cyclists were polite. The motorists were respectful. The pedestrians were happy. The cops were incredulous.

And it all comes, said ride organizer Reama Dagasan, from stopping at red lights, which is not at all a bad thing to do.

"We're making a statement tonight," she said. "We believe in sharing and being nice."

Dagasan is the founder of Critical Manners, which is her response to the controversial Critical Mass ride that features hundreds of cyclists riding as a pack through San Francisco on the last Friday night of the month. At the last Critical Mass, there were several confrontations with motorists, including one that ended with someone smashing the back window of a minivan.

There was none of that for the Critical Manners ride. That's because Dagasan put her foot down. She put her foot down at Grove, McAllister, Turk, Sutter, Bush and California streets, and that was just during the first half mile. A law-abiding bike rider puts her foot down a lot.

The ride departed at 6 p.m. from Civic Center, after a brief refresher course.

"Let's review our signals!" Dagasan hollered to the group. "Right turn, arm up! Left turn, arm straight out! Now put your helmets on! And be polite!"

Sgt. Ed Callejas, one of four cops assigned to escort the chivalrous cyclists, double-checked with Dagasan about the good-manners angle. Like any good cop, he was just a bit skeptical of human nature.

"You're really going to follow all the rules?" he asked.

"Yes sir," she replied. "You've never seen a bigger bunch of nerds in your life."

There were exactly 16 cyclists on the ride, which is a lot less than the 500 or so that Critical Mass usually gets. On the other hand, Dagasan said cheerily, it's a lot more than the four riders she got last time.

The pack rode single file in the Polk Street bike lane, stopping at every light and stop sign. It made for a slow trip, and it took about 20 minutes to get to Fisherman's Wharf. On the other hand, it was faster than a Muni bus, which trailed the procession and never did catch up.

"Nothing wrong with stopping for red lights," Laura Mendoza said. "Not if you like staying alive."

Greg Rodgers said he was riding to "reduce the level of antagonism between bicycles and cars." Geoff Schneider said he was riding because he was "sick of all the yelling" during Critical Mass. And Toni Truong said she was "trying to let motorists know that not all cyclists are belligerent."

At Beach Street, everyone stuck his or her left hand skyward before turning right, to the amazement of one Yellow cabdriver who yelled "Way to go!" out his window.

After cruising through the Wharf and along the Embarcadero, the pack crossed Justin Herman Plaza -- after dismounting and walking among the pedestrians. Callejas was there, too, and he made a command decision.

"I don't think you need us," he said, and he radioed to his lieutenant that he was calling off the escort. Even after the cops went away, the cyclists kept stopping at the red lights. Market Street being Market Street, there was no shortage of red lights to stop at.

"I like red lights," said Gred Anlandtbom. "Gives you a chance to stop and talk and look around. You know, there's nothing really wrong with red lights."

I cannot tell you how nice it is to see something like this happen... even if it was a joke (which it's kind of hard to tell - I'm so jaded I don't even know anymore). I can't ride a bike 'cuz of my back surgery, but I would gladly ride with these guys!

I would go into the whole, sordid backstory behind this whole thing, but, y'know what? Screw it. Let's give some webspace to people who deserve it. Bravo Critical Manners!


Missy Manners said...

Wow, thanks for the positive review. I am glad that we were able to make the news with the ride, and I appreciate your supportive comments.

It's not a joke. I started this ride five months ago, and I take it seriously. But that doesn't mean I don't have fun.



Missy Manners said...

P.S. Not everyone had a good time, in fairness. One rider blogged that he was bored out of his mind on the ride.

But hey, I can't please everyone all the time, can I?

The Realist said...

You can't? Then why am I doing this???

Thanks for writing, Missy! You are an inspiration, and that's not a joke either :)

Missy Manners said...

No, you really can't please everyone. But the positive feedback far outweighed the negative/neutral. I'd say I get about ten to 15 positive emails and blog postings to every 1 neutral or negative opinion I receive.

I'm gonna keep on riding (this is a monthly event, after all) and being nice, and having fun, whether people love it or hate it.

Thank you so much for your kind words. Maybe we should get you on a recumbent so you can ride along?

Anonymous said...

Hi Reama,
You are my hero. I ride in with the same manners and mostly alone in San Diego. I just try to get converts one rider and motorist at a time. Keep it up. Social change comes from consistency. I have rode the same route to and from work for about ten years and many of the motorist honk in a friendly way when they pass. Hope to meet you on the road some day. Cyclefrog from Imperial Beach