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Best Organized Anarchy 

Critical Mass

There's no denying it. Despite all the transit-first doublespeak peppering official conversation and letters to the editor, the jig is up: Nothing holds a firmer grip on the character of San Francisco than the four-wheeled terror. Which makes this fun hour-or-two-long ride across the city during rush hour a political statement -- and a spontaneous one at that, since the ride's never planned until the last moment. Of course, it was much more political a few summers back when cyclists went to jail and Willie vowed to preserve drivers' rights to clog the streets even as he denied the same right to bicyclists. Nowadays, Mass has returned to what it should be: an imaginative exercise in the power of S.F.'s (and other cities') cyclists, showing drivers (and each other) that bicycles are traffic, and are just as entitled to the road as any fuel-burning steel behemoth. On nice days when lots of people turn out, it's an absolutely breathtaking spectacle to behold: a solid line of bicyclists filling the street as far as the eye can see. Just like automobile traffic, Critical Mass has its fender benders -- though fortunately without insurance companies involved -- and traffic jams, but for the most part it's good-hearted and inclusive. People smile. And, with low-slung pants-wearing cyclists in a hunched-over pedal for power, a number of riders have been known to crack a backdoor smile as well, making this a demonstration that's not short on critical ass either.


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