Another Seattle Critical Mass Clash

I was just talking about Critical Mass on the phone yesterday to a large event organizer and explained that the intent was never violent. In some cities Critical Mass is calm and in others it can and has gotten violent. Today there’s a Seattle PI story about a violent clash last night with a motorist:

The driver tried to back up, he said, and struck a bike. Bicyclists began attacking the vehicle.

I wasn’t there. Readers? WTF?

Straight up one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen was Critical Mass Seattle riding on Highway 99. Even stupider was when they rode on the Viaduct and then a cyclist got into an altercation with undercover cops. That eventually led to Critical Manners in Seattle and other cities.

Checksum Arcanius blogs about the incident – it just happened to be his first Critical Mass ride.


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More coverage


More details here.

Here’s the important part:

There was an incident on 7/25/08 during Critical Mass ride at 15th and Aloha.

3-4 bikers were blocking off a car so the rest of the riders can continue, they were telling the driver that he needs to wait couple of minutes. Driver was inpatient, and kept telling things like “I have a reservation, I have to go” There was more bikes blocking him off because of the argument, at some point the driver got very mad, and turned around going on the side walk, almost hitting some bikes. Then the bikers started getting closer to the car so he wouldnt drive in the middle of the riders, and the argument got heated. Bikers were telling him to wait, and all of a sudden the driver said something like “Fuck this” and drove into the bikers. He intentionally hit people, injuring 2 bikers, and smashing couple of bikes, and back packs. He started driving away while everyone was running away from him so they wouldnt get hit as well.

Some bikers ran after the car, while others call 911. By the time police showed up, 2 of the car windows were broken and his tires were slashed. When the driver saw the police, he started crying and saying he was just scared, but none of the bikers even touched him before he ran over people.

I heard someone saying “The tires were slashed so he couldnt drive off”

2 of the bikers got arrested for property damage, and they are booked to jail.

Byron’s post has the best link:

I was there when this happened, and I think I’m a reason the guy stopped at the stop sign—I put myself and my bike in the middle of the road as the driver was coming down the street w/ the cyclist on the roof, and I tried to make things calmer after the car stopped (I’m not sure I helped much). 

There was a lot of badness that all came together at one time to make this all happen.
* Badness that the car driver was so freaked out that he thought he had to move.
* Badness that the driver actually did move his car and apparently ran over a cyclist and injured several others, including managing to get one on the roof of his car and driving down the street with him on it.
* Badness that the media’s gotten it so wrong so far
* The Worst Kind of Badness that the car was damaged and the driver pulled out of the car.

I think I get why the car and driver were attacked—according to Ryan the guy had already decided to use his car as a weapon, so the idea that you could simply contain him again with bikes alone is questionable. Sad but true fact is that almost always Hit and Run attacks on cyclists go unsolved and unpunished, even with good evidence and plates.

On the other hand, there’s absolutely no excuse for the kind of behaviour I saw after the car was stopped.

Frankly, it would have taken a huge amount of courage and maturity to deal with this situation as it really should have been dealt with. I’ve seen situations like this handeled very well on CM rides, I sure wish this one had been.


This happened here in SF last year.  The SFGate article.

I’ve been a dedicated commuter for many years, but I have a negative attitude towards critical mass.  There’s too much of a mob mentality about it.  When it was first started, it brought a lot of much needed attention to cyclists.  Now, the only time anybody hears about it is when they get violent.  It’s starting to give cyclists a bad wrap.


Reading the various reports, I thought, “cooler heads did not prevail.”

I think there are common threads between two of the recent traffic related flash-points, the critical mass fiasco and the traffic-circle-gardener-death:

*In both instances someone was intentionally (and illegally) impeding traffic, but not in an overtly malicious way (gardening, bicycle “protest”).

*In both cases a driver took exception to the inconvenience (didn’t want to drive around traffic circle, didn’t want to wait for herd to pass).

*In both cases verbal arguments turned to physical confrontation.

*In one case someone ended up dead, in the other multiple assaults were evidently committed by both parties.

What scares me is that there seems to be a precedent that it is worth starting altercations over relatively minor inconveniences, but also that we are so willing to quickly escalate our aggression.

And why I thought riding on 99 was the most stupidest thing I’ve seen was something very bad like this could’ve happened. Cyclists carrying knives, confronting cars, the expected response in the forums, bad all around. Cascade supports Critical Mass and makes this even worse.

Appreciate the frank response from Dave. Again, I wasn’t there, but outside of the cycling community hard to see this play out any other way than “asshole” cyclists. The cops that made the call on the scene, let the driver go.




I like the idea of critical mass and I’ve ridden in a few myself. But, I’m wondering if it’s outgrown its intentions? Now more than ever cycling is beginning to be looked at as a positive thing. And yet here’s an incident were a driver got whacked in the back of the head, windows blown out, tires slashed, etc. After reading three very different eyewitness reports, I’m going to go ahead and assume that the driver was at fault from the beginning. But still, the end result does very little to shed a positive light on cycling. Revolution is never a pretty thing but I’m curious to know what we could/should do differently to make cycling both visible and positive? Critical Manners seems too innocuous, Critical Mass is becoming too abrasive. Where’s the middle ground?

I don’t carry knives when I ride . . .

3-4 bikers were blocking off a car so the rest of the riders can continue, they were telling the driver that he needs to wait couple of minutes. Driver was inpatient, and kept telling things like “I have a reservation, I have to go”

So, in other words, three or four people have this guy surrounded in his car, blocking him from merging into traffic. He’s anxious about getting to where he has to go - and more bikers come up and surround him.

Do the words “I was in reasonable fear for my life” ring any bells there? If he’d shot someone out of fear from being surrounded, it would have been justifiable. I haven’t decided whether I think the world would be a better place if he HAD shot one of them, but I’m leaning that direction.

I drive and cycle - I’ve encountered CM and have neither sympathy or respect for their tactics. Merely annoying people is not going to get us any closer to bike friendly infratsructure - it’s going to set us back.

I haven’t decided whether I think the world would be a better place if he HAD shot one of them, but I’m leaning that direction.

Come on.

As the hateful comments grow on the PI forums, there’s lots of ad-hoc justifications, false logic and excuses. Street justice isn’t taken into account with prosecutors and if they decide that it’s road rage, those arrested cyclists are in a world of hurt with felony charges. Like domestic violence, you can’t just beat someone up, cause they hit you. Or even detain them cause you want your cycling brohams to ride by.

Cooler heads would’ve just got the license plates or followed the car, calling 911. By it’s nature, Critical Mass has no leadership, so you’re not going to see a press conference from them or hear their messaging on this.

There’s a pretty interesting response from the driver himself over at The Stranger. He seems pretty level-headed and apologetic. I like this quote in particular:

While some cyclists I’ve spoken with have written Mark off as another indignant road-hog, Mark says he actually used to be a bike commuter when he lived in Seattle a few years ago. “I sympathize with [cyclists’] cause. I ride bikes too. I’m a liberal hippie democrat,” he says, adding “I’m gay, the person with me was a lesbian and we were a attacked by eco-terrorists. It’s the most Seattle thing that could have happened.

It’s sounding more like everybody involved was at fault.



The only people at fault are the cyclists. I’m quite certain it’s illegal to detain someone.

They’re at fault for hurting themselves, the cycling community, the driver, and even his car. The media, readers, commenters all defaulted to stereotypes here. I’ve got my own, but because Critical mass has no leadership or spokesperson per se, the biggest damage here is to cycling in Seattle. It’s a disaster. Cyclists with weapons attacking motorists is the story the public will remember.

Well that settles it.  The driver is gay.  He couldn’t possibly have been the kind of person the critical mass ride intended to irritate.

If only he had a way to communicate this to the CM enforcers.  The would have surely let him turn around.

I find it somewhat curious these critical mass events take place in northern or western cities. I am certain that if the critical mass riders were attempting this in the deep south there would already have been bloodshed.  Everyone in the south carries at least one handgun and there are strongly held feelings about “carjacking”...

One of these days the critical mess jerks are going to play their intimidation games on someone with a gun, and then we’ll see some useful evolution in action. Justifiable homicide if there ever was one.

Maybe the Seattle PD will finally take some action and surround the next Critical Mass mob that violates the law and arrest them all.

“I haven’t decided whether I think the world would be a better place if he HAD shot one of them, but I’m leaning that direction.

Come on.”

After reading statments from several of the people involved in the incident, I think yeah, it would have been better if he’d shot the bikers that were corking him, right about the time someone said “Let’s tip the car.”

That is just simple gang violence against someone who was simply trying merge into traffic. Critical Mass caused the problem, looking for a fight. If he’d shot them it would be a clear case of self defense.

I hope the bikers who blocked him as well as the POS who clocked him with a bike lock go to jail for a long time. I hope the lawyer he ran over gets disbarred.

in LA critical mass is guilty of more of the same, sadly. i went on one ride with the LA chapter, and decided that wasn’t for me. Tried the Santa Monica ride hoping for a mellower crowd, it was a touch more relaxed, but there were riders giving “posers” crap for lookin’ like fixie riders but riding freewheel single speeds, are we back in high school?
it’s been mentioned already and the question posed, i second it, without a distinct structure or leader critical mass is little more than a loosley grouped mob, other than being a considerate cyclist myself, what can we do?

Critical Mass is a group of selfish assholes with no manners.  They have no respect they just want to get their own way.  Do you really think that blocking traffic and causing scenes like this is going to get you more rights?  No it’s going to prove that the more cyclist there are on the roads, the more dangerous it gets, keep it up! im sick of seeing your spandex laden ass in my way!

This is the best thing to happen to seattle in a while!!!

Maybe this incident will teach these bicycle terrorists the lesson that motorists have rights too.


1) These comments regarding justifiable homicide of Critical Mass riders are insane. By the same line of reasoning, the bikers should have killed the driver as soon as he started gunning his engine or accelerating, as he was threatening harm. Keep in mind this whole hullabaloo is over delaying traffic, not life and death matters (Yes I understand that at some point the driver felt threatened, but it didn’t have to get to that point).

2) Cascade Bike Club has issued an official statement (kind of a wishy-washy response):
... hmm, the link formatting keeps messing up so just go to [url=“” rel=“nofollow”]Cascade Bicycle Club Issues Statement
in Response to Critical Mass Incident [/url] and look for the box on the left titled “Critical Mass”

(Hugga note: linked added)

Thanks Nate—I’ve let the community talk here. The opinions, feelings, and thoughts are there and I think it’s better to share them, discuss, and take them on instead of issuing a press release or waiting for the next news cycle for the issue to go away. I’ve not published the more outrageous comments. It’s my call to not allow our blog to turn into the PI car/bike hate forums.

Bike Hugger isn’t here to pick fights with anyone or be controversial, but I’ll make this very clear: we absolutely do not support CM Seattle (presuming there’s an organization to support or not) in this matter. I’ve been on peaceful, fun CM rides and also seen them do really stupid things that hurt the cycling community and cause. Now this is the second violent incident to get widespread media coverage. That does not help Jane Commuter get to work on her bike today or me on my training rides or delivering product with Bettie.

What I’ve seen at CM is *we’re gonna get drunk in the street, ride where we want, and fuck you*. That’s what CM Seattle is about in my opinion. Maybe it wasn’t like that before, it’s just a handful of hooligans, or whatever. It is what it is and if no other media is publicly gonna say what we’re all talking about with each other, then the bloggers gotta step up and do so.

The call to action maybe for the more civil riders to take back CM, as they have no org themselves, it’s really us, .83, Dead Babies, and others. The Seattle bike community is to blame, including myself, for not speaking out about CM previously. 

To my point above about Cascade, I’ve ridden with Cascade staffers in a CM ride and know that they attend the rides. No that’s not an official sanction, but their support is implied on the rides and they’re part of the Seattle bike community. It’s up to Cascade to talk about their role, deal with it, and address. Bike Hugger will own its role and do our part to not let violence like this incident happen again in our community. If Cascade is calling a town hall meeting, we’re there.

Also, I want to make it clear that I was not on the ride—Dave, a bike hugger blogger was and comments above—and I understand that the facts are difficult to parse from the various stories. However anyone wants to apply street justice is up to them, but I do not think that beating the shit out a car and a driver is justified.

Criminal Mass are just idealists that never grew up, even the ones who are long out of college and should have left meaningless protest behind. Bottom line is that they can certainly ride alone, or en masse, whenever they want; but when they deliberately act to impede the progress of other road users they are breaking laws, and should be held accountable. I have ridden bikes in traffic here and in other large cities; I accept that it is dangerous and can be frustrating when other vehicle users are not considerate, or even aware, of cyclists - BUT THAT IS LIFE, YOU DON’T ALWAYS GET YOUR WAY! Seems to me they want it both ways - don’t let motorized traffic inconvenience cyclists, but ignore the rules of the road when it suits.

I drive a vehicle here in Seattle and I am also a pedestrian.  I guess I’m called a “cager”.  It seems to me that this critical mass protest where bicyclists think that they can intentionally block roadways, provoking people by holding them hostage while a mass of bicyclists role down the road, breaking all laws that us “cagers” must abide by, including riding on sidewalks and in parking lots, is outrageous.  When walking, I am dodging these folks on the sidewalk, in parking lots they come out of nowhere that a motorist would be looking for, clearly marked lines and paths are ignored.  If you want us “cagers” to take your seriously and respect you on the roads then act responsibly as a vehicle on the road.  Holding random roads hostage once a month, provoking people and blocking traffic is not helping your cause.  There is enough road congestion without 100 bikes headed for no where blocking and provoking people that have legitimate places to go.

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