May. 14th, 2007

This video really upsets me. I think EVERYONE involved, except for possibly the firefighters, looks bad.

One thing that is very clear is that the bikes were in front of the vehicle, although no one threw their bikes under the car. It is not clear whether the man actually could see that the bikes were in front of his van, as the van is taller than the bicycles and the lower right corner is usually the hardest spot for a driver to see. There's one person who is visibly in front of the car when it started moving.

If he were trying to mow down the cyclists, that would obviously be wrong. However, it's possible he was panicked and felt a desperate need to get out of the situation. Obviously he had the bigger "weapon" but less people. Maybe he thought they would get out of the way in time.

Honestly, the thing that bothers me the most about this video is how the CMers cursed at the old man. The people who had their bikes squashed, and particularly the woman who almost had her foot run over, were quite justifiably freaked out. The yellers were understandably freaked out, too. That said, I think there are other ways to express alarm and demand him to stop than screaming "What's your fucking problem?" Notice how he didn't say "fuck" once. I feel like as soon as he heard people cursing, something that's not as acceptable in that generation, he felt hostile and defensive and unwilling to listen.

Particularly once the woman was out of harm's way and the car was stopped, the bikes were already as damaged as they were going to get. There was no reason someone couldn't have calmly explained to the couple that the bikes were stuck and they needed to back up. Surrounding them by a hostile mob was just not helping the situation, nor was the self-righteous confrontation.

Much is being made of the man's mind set, as some people insist he wasn't confused or panicked, that he was hostile and angry or calmly and maliciously trying to run people down. I honestly we can't tell or don't know from the video what he was thinking. I know people who get angry when freaked out, and I would say some of the CMers in this video expressed their panic and confusion through anger, too.

I honestly wonder how much of the CMers hostility toward the man came from the actual incident or the perception of him as "the enemy," the self-indulgent, bourgeoisie gas-guzzling global-warming-causing minivan driver who is hostile or thoughtless to cyclists or the road. I definitely feel like he was approached or confronted as "the enemy" and not as someone you were trying to persuade to join the cause. The truth of the matter is that he and his wife are not as able-bodied as the young cyclists, and would be much more restricted in their ability to get around if they didn't drive or ride in a car. I know that Critical Mass is designed to be a confrontational protest to stop cars from driving and give the roads the cyclists for a short period of time. And the cars should stop and let the cyclists have the road.

That said, if that was my grandmother, who gets confused sometimes, and she unintentionally ran over some bikes or even unintentionally hurt somebody badly - which would be a true tragedy – I would be extremely upset to see people yell at her like that. My grandma doesn't drive anymore, but you see my point. This gives activists, progressive, environmentalists and particularly bicycle activists a bad name, which is too bad because it hurts the cause and what you're trying to achieve.



August 2010

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