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.”