|San Francisco Examiner * April
Stuck? Critical Mass strikes
By Dan Evans
of the Examiner Staff
Enraged over what they are calling the murder of cyclist Chris
Robertson in November, some of the city's occasionally obstreperous
bike riders have planned a double-whammy of protests today.
One, scheduled for noon outside City Hall, is well-organized. An
agenda is set, speakers are planned and news releases have dutifully
been faxed and e-mailed to the media. The other, coinciding with the
Critical Mass ride at 6 p.m., is anything but organized.
Of course, disorganization is the point of Critical Mass, where bike
messengers, cycling commuters and those who just plain don't like cars
briefly take over San Francisco's streets the last Friday of each
month at Justin Herman Plaza.
This makes the San Francisco Police Department nervous. Though there
have been troubles in the past -- scores of bicyclists were jailed,
though never convicted, for blocking traffic in 1997 -- department
spokesman Dewayne Tully says no more police will be on hand than
usual. But if things do get out of hand, Tully said, squads from the
crime prevention and traffic divisions will be on call to sort things
Police are worried less about the orderly daytime protest, put on by
the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, if only because they know what to
expect. Donning black armbands, members of the group are protesting
not only the death of one of their own -- Robertson was run over and
killed by trucker Rueben Espinoza last November -- but also the fact
that Espinoza will be tried on relatively minor charges, not the
felonies with which he was originally charged.
The San Francisco District Attorney's Office charged Espinoza with
three felonies: vehicular manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon
and assault with intent to cause great bodily harm. But last week, San
Francisco Superior Court Judge Herbert Donaldson dismissed the
manslaughter charge, ruling there was no evidence Espinoza was
"grossly negligent." He also reduced the other charges to
Leah Shahum, project director of the Bicycle Coalition, said this was
the same as calling it an accident, when it was anything but. She said
she hopes the injustice will raise awareness among drivers and goad
politicians into making the streets safer for everyone.
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