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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Report from a Critical Mass Eyewitness

posted by on July 26 at 18:56 PM

Jonah just got off the phone with Abigail Wharton, a 25-year-old who was on last night’s Critical Mass ride, along with her husband, her mother, and her stepfather.

From her position about 50 yards away, Wharton says she saw about four or five cyclists around a white Subaru that was being driven by a white, well-dressed man in his mid- to late-20s. She heard him yell at the cyclists, “Get the fuck out of my way! We’ve got reservations!” When the cyclists continued to block his car, “he just got really irrational,” driving his car into the crowd, knocking over two cyclists and backing his car over several bikes left in the road as cyclists jumped out of his way. Wharton says the driver then pulled forward again, forcing one cyclist onto his windshield (and possibly breaking the cyclist’s ankle).

Wharton says the initial report from King 5 news, which characterized the cyclists as aggressors and the driver as an innocent victim, was “totally inaccurate. They painted it as this mob of angry cyclists attacking the car,” which couldn’t be further from the truth, Wharton says. She describes public reaction to news reports as “they got what was coming to them.”

After the man attempted to flee the scene, Wharton says, a cyclist or cyclists slashed his tires to stop him. One cyclist reached into the driver-side window and punched the driver, then opened the door and pulled him out. Later, as he was sitting on the sidewalk covered in blood, Wharton says, the driver asked one of the cyclists if it was his.

Wharton says the fact that two cyclists were arrested and jailed, but the driver wasn’t, is “fucking insane.”

Wharton, who owns a car and who was riding on her second-ever Critical Mass ride, says she doubts she’ll participate in next month’s ride.

Seattle Police Department spokesman Mark Jamieson told Jonah: “The driver at this point is being treated as the victim. He pulled out onto the street and was surrounded by cyclists. … Why didn’t they let him out into the street? The onus is on the people in the group.” SPD has two cyclists in custody, and are searching for a third believed to be involved in damaging the driver’s car. Despite numerous eyewitness statements that he ran over several cyclists with his Subaru, the driver has not been charged; Jamieson says that decision will ultimately rest with the King County prosecutor’s office.

RSS icon Comments


If Jonah just got off the phone with Abigail, why isn't he writing this?

Posted by TheMisanthrope | July 26, 2008 7:28 PM

Jonah isn't near a computer. So I wrote it.

Posted by ECB | July 26, 2008 7:53 PM

So, if I'm in my car, and I'm surrounded by a group of buttholes on bikes who are intent on deliberately blocking my path, I'm supposed to just sort of sit there and let them do it?

I think his reaction was over-the-top but completely understandable, and every single member of Critical Mass is in the wrong. These are not "cyclists", they're a mob bent on imposing their will on the law-abiding. Fuck them. Fuck them hard.

Posted by Fnarf | July 26, 2008 7:55 PM

They're still assholes and thugs, and I'm still not sympathizing.

Posted by demo kid | July 26, 2008 7:58 PM

Critical Mass is in itself a mob, and what they did to the driver is false imprisonment, possibly even kidnapping.

The driver had a privilege of getting out of a dangerous situation, with a gang of cyclists surrounding him. If it was a gang of rough-looking guys not on bikes, would you be justified in peeling away, fearing for your safety?

Posted by Aaron | July 26, 2008 8:01 PM

hey erica, why haven't you interviewed the driver? why is the stranger only talking with the cyclists? kinda slanted i'd say

Posted by Eric Barnett | July 26, 2008 8:57 PM


Oh fuck off, Fnarf. Yes, you sit there and fucking take it. Just like if another car is blocking you in, you honk your horn and fume, but still fucking sit there and take it. Or would you plow your car into the other one? In that instance, the cops would not arrest the other driver. They'd arrest you.

Posted by keshmeshi | July 26, 2008 9:45 PM

Keshmeshi, what you are describing is normal traffic. Normal cyclists. Critical Mass are not cyclists, they are provocateurs. They assault motorists on purpose, hoping that something like this happens.

Posted by Fnarf | July 26, 2008 10:38 PM
They're still assholes and thugs, and I'm still not sympathizing. - Posted by demo kid | July 26, 2008 7:58 PM

Mmmmmm asshole thugs. Maybe I should be riding with demo kid instead...

Posted by Sam Hill | July 26, 2008 11:46 PM
Keshmeshi, what you are describing is normal traffic. Normal cyclists. Critical Mass are not cyclists, they are provocateurs. They assault motorists on purpose, hoping that something like this happens.

Posted by Fnarf | July 26, 2008 10:38 PM

a) Fnarf knows his shit. b) Or, he doesn't. Which is it?


Posted by Sam Hill | July 26, 2008 11:48 PM

So what if they're "fucking provocateurs", Fnarf, if you are behind the wheel of a car attempting to enter traffic and your pathway is blocked - by other cars, by asshole CM'ers, by an off-the-leash dog, or by a mother pushing a baby carriage - YOU FUCKING YIELD!

Being late for your dinner reservation doesn't absolve you of responsibility; hating fucking asshat CM cyclists doesn't either. If your pathway is blocked so as to prevent safe transit - you DON'T fucking plow into the thing blocking your path, period.

Posted by COMTE | July 27, 2008 12:16 AM

Watching this man in a Subrau plow through a crowd of cyclists was one of the most horrific things I've seen in a long time. Just to be clear, this man didn't just slowly drive into a crowd of people. He throttled his car quite hard. A cyclist that ended up on the hood of his car hung on for dear life as the driver sped off trying to get away. He probably hit speeds near 35 mph. Letting the driver off-the-hook for this does not make sense. Seriously.

Posted by eyewitness | July 27, 2008 12:41 AM

"- you DON'T fucking plow into the thing blocking your path, period."

Unless another dozen of his belligerent asshole pals are coming over to help surround you in your car.

I hope the peiece of shit that clocked the driver with a bike lock does hard time andf I hope the driver walks.

Posted by Chris Bingham | July 27, 2008 12:41 AM

I have a question for Mark Jamieson or whoever is the PD's spokesman on the case: Every report I have read that describes the traffic situation notes that (a) cyclists were traveling east, (b) the car was attempting to travel west, (c) the car was attempting to move into the oncoming (eastbound) side of the road, in the path of the bicyclists, to get around a a parked car.

I'm no lawyer, but I can read the state traffic code, and RCW 46.61.120 makes it pretty clear that you can't move into the oncoming lane in the face of traffic unless oncoming traffic has cleared, RCW 46.61.100 (1) (b) makes it even more clear that you still have to wait, even if you have to get around a stationary obstruction, and RCW 46.61.125 clarifies that you especially can't drive left of center in the path on oncoming bicycle traffic. And as far as I can tell oncoming traffic, bicycle or otherwise, has no obligation to yield in any of these situations.

I fail to see how traffic that is moving along under no obligation to yield can be construed as "blocking."

Posted by celeriac | July 27, 2008 12:44 AM

I'd say that I can't believe what bicycle apologists the Stranger staff are (and what shoddy journalism they're perpetrating, with all of these obviously biased "eyewitness reports"), but I'm not really surprised at all.

Imagine if this incident DIDN'T involve a bunch of entitled hipsters on bikes (the Stranger's key demographic) and that, instead, it involved a right-wing Christian fundamentalist anti-choice group.

That group decides to stage an un-permitted march and rally through busy city streets during rush hour. They march through our neighborhoods with utter disregard for the people who live there and the people just trying to make their way through there. They block off entire streets for lengthy periods of time and ignore all of the rules of the road-- crossing when they feel like crossing, where they feel like crossing. And they are aggressive-- REALLY aggressive. Yelling at passers by, berating people, some even getting violent.

Some in the crowd are drunk. Some have knives on them, antagonizing people, as they pass, obviously looking for trouble.

A man is attempting to pull out of his driveway and into the street, the street he lives on and uses every day. He might have a "reservation" to get to, he might have an emergency, he might just want to go to the fucking grocery store-- that's pretty irrelevant. What matters is that HE isn't doing anything wrong, he's just trying to go about his day.

As he pulls out of his driveway, he is surrounded by the anti-choice protesters. Aggressively, they tell him that he's just going to have to wait, that it's THEIR turn now-- despite the fact that they have zero legal authority to tell him to wait or to be blocking the road. In fact, they are breaking the law by obstructing traffic (not to mention countless other infractions).

The man is infuriated-- he tells them to move the fuck out of the way, he needs to go. (Wouldn't you do the same if you found a bunch of asshole anti-choicers blocking your driveway?) As he impatiently waits, some of the marchers pound on his car. He gets frustrated and tries to back up, only to find that there are people surrounding the back of his car, too. He accidentally hits one of them, not hard, and he stops.

He's blocked in. Trapped. After he accidentally hit one of them, the mob becomes more violent-- screaming obscenities. Hitting his car. Trying to open the car doors.

His pregnant wife is in the front seat, panicked. Panic sweeps over the man as well. What are they going to do? The mob is getting angrier. His window gets bashed in. The glass goes flying everywhere. Another window goes. Someone pulls out a knife. The tires get slashed. People are screaming, everything is a blur. Someone reaches in the driver's side window and punches the man.

In a blind panic, in self-preservation fight-or-flight mode, the man knows he needs to get out of there, get out of there now-- they have knives, they are angry, they are violent. He needs to keep his wife safe, he needs to keep the baby safe, he needs to keep himself safe. They have punched him, they have broken the windows, they have flattened his tires. He needs to go. NOW.

So he goes. Not far. Half a block. Maybe one block. The crowd is enraged-- HOW DARE HE!!! They pull him from his car and beat him, severely enough that he requires staples to the back of his head.

He was trapped, cornered, and put into a situation that was going to end poorly no matter what. While running into a crowd of people with your car isn't exactly a sane thing to do, no one is claiming that the man was in his right mind when it happened. His windows had been bashed in. He had been hit. People had knives. He wasn't operating on sanity, he was operating on self-preservation and adrenaline.

The anti-choicers are, as any one can see, entirely to blame in this scenario. The Stranger would be outraged-- taking to the streets! Throw the book at them! Lock them up! The bastards had it coming!

But, wait, no. These weren't anti-choicers. They were bicyclists. So somehow, in the eyes of the Stranger, that makes them above the law.

Traffic laws are there for a reason-- for EVERYONE'S safety. There is no reason that Critical Mass can't get permits, can't set a route, can't get a police escort-- other than the fact that they don't WANT to. They believe that they're above the law-- red lights, two way streets, right-of-way: none of that applies to them and their almighty "CAUSE." (Which is what again?... Anarchy?... Douchebaggery?...)

I am pro-bike. I am pro-mass transit. But I am anti-assholes and pricks who think that they can do whatever the fuck they want, to hell with everyone else.

Obviously these asswipes weren't hurt too badly-- the bike has a bent fucking tire and somehow Superman claims that a car "LITERALLY DROVE OVER HIS LEG," yet he ended up without a single broken bone. (Someone call Ripley's 'cause that's a-fucking-mazing.)

When you break the law, and then face repercussions because of it (like getting run over when you're blocking the flow of traffic), that's no one's fault but your own. Don't want to get run over? Don't stand behind a car.

Marches, parades, rallies, funeral processions-- there are policies in place to ensure that groups can congregate SAFELY and without completely disturbing the public. What makes Critical Mass above following the law?

This isn't the first time it's happened-- they have a history of violent aggression. Check out some of the videos that the martyred CMers themselves have placed on YouTube. A highlight is the one where they nearly beat up an elderly couple-- classy. Real classy.

Fuck Critical Mass and their "cause." Fuck 'em all.

Posted by Samantha | July 27, 2008 2:14 AM
I am pro-bike. I am pro-mass transit. But I am anti-assholes and pricks who think that they can do whatever the fuck they want, to hell with everyone else.
Does that include assholes and pricks wielding a deadly weapon, aka, a car?
Posted by Silverstar98121 | July 27, 2008 2:54 AM

Once upon a time, I was trying to make a left turn, and a cyclist decided to pass me on the left. He ended up inside my car, breaking the back window. I ended up paying his medical bills on my insurance, because I was told by the police that under the Washington statutes, bicyclists and pedestrians can do no wrong, and the driver always pays. Even if the cyclist/pedestrian is "at fault." So when in the hell did this change? Or do Seattle police just enforce their own version of "justice" instead of what is written in the law?

Posted by Silverstar98121 | July 27, 2008 2:58 AM

I am sure that this event will get Seattle voters ( a majority ) to seriously take up the demands of anyone who cycles in Seattle to make the city actually put in functional bike lanes on the ground instead of on paper.

I also have to ask what the fuck has Critical Mass been doing for over a decade anyway? I don't see any improvement for cyclists in Seattle that they have spear headed at all.

Even if King 5 and the rest of MSM tried to change or correct there story it is too late: they already released it as "cyclist's gone insane" and "That biker next to you on Eastlake will assult you with their Trek". The damage was started by the driver of the Subaru but it was completed when the cyclists slashed his tires and attacked him.

Don't expect the Mayor of the Council to take up seriously the need for bike lanes in Seattle for several more years.

Thank you Subaru Driver and thank you Critical Mass.

Posted by Andrew | July 27, 2008 6:19 AM

Don't believe anything that defends the "Bike Nazis of Seattle" Critical Mass is nothing but a bunch of terrorist militia thugs trying to impose their radical lifestyles on the public.

They often threaten people and then lie about it when caught. It's their MO.

Posted by Jim | July 27, 2008 8:14 AM
The driver at this point is being treated as the victim. He pulled out onto the street and was surrounded by cyclists. Ö Why didnít they let him out into the street? The onus is on the people in the group.

That can't be an accurate quote. Something must have been lost in the Mark -> Jonah -> ECB chain.

Posted by Westlake, son! | July 27, 2008 8:15 PM

i just ate a giant soft taco, several mexi fries, and a crisp bean burrito. washed it down with a couple coca colas.

Posted by derrickito | July 27, 2008 8:29 PM

Critical Mass is a bullshit cause that gets its rocks off on breaking traffic laws. I can not wait for a fatal traffic collision to thin out their ranks a little.

Posted by Dan | July 29, 2008 4:09 AM

fuck most of you people. i didnt know vehicular manslaughter was an ok thing. ever. running someone over with you car is imposing your will on people. thats saying "fuck you and you bike, cars are bigger and better, and if you dont have one im gonna fuck you up!"this is an ok thing to you people? how do you sleep at night? you know who else like vehicular manslaughter? Hitler. and who the fuck wishes death upon people for defending themselves and standing up for what they believe in? oh i know, Mussolini. you people have fucked up role models. where did your parents go wrong?

Posted by grime | July 29, 2008 7:55 AM


Your knowledge of history seems to be on par with your knowledge of grammar. Put the bong down hippie.

Posted by Dan | July 29, 2008 8:56 AM

This country is a mess.

When cyclists are portrayed as dangerous anarchic thugs and driving over someone in your car is characterized as the rational choice.

What is wrong with this place?

And Samantha's tale of horror as the helpless motorist and his pregnant wife are being terrorized by a gang of Forbidden Zone Mad Max cycle mutants is hilariously inept and textbook what-if propaganda trash.

A joke.

The Hannity and O'Reilly contingent is well represented in the comments, that's for damn sure.

Posted by A Cyclist | July 29, 2008 5:56 PM

@A Cyclist

Do you honestly think that everyone who disagrees with you are Hannity/O'Reilly fans? Are you that brainwashed?

There are three sides to every story, and I wouldn't be so quick to assume that the driver pointed Babe Ruth-style at the nearest cyclist before ramming them with his vehicle, cackling and frothing at the mouth the whole time.

Nor would I assume that the driver was reasoned and calm in his decision-making process, and that every one of the cyclists were antagonistic. I've had far too many bad incidents with dickhead drivers to immediately absolve them of wrong-doing.

Maybe CM isn't perfectly innocent here. Maybe the cops should be arresting the driver. I dunno. But what I do know is that dismissing any criticism of CM as right-wing facism (or whatever your point was) is idiotic and insulting to the fellow cyclists here who are (a) intelligent adults deserving of some measure of respect and (b) not jumping to conclusions about right and wrong.

Posted by Another Cyclist | July 29, 2008 9:24 PM

>> Maybe the cops should be arresting the driver. I dunno.

You dunno?

Your inability to successfully navigate the moral labyrinth of car-running-over-and-through-cyclists causes me to seriously question the value of your opinions on other matters.

Person runs into cyclists with car.

That's a tough one, huh?

I wouldn't trust you to flip a burger.

And you're a cyclist?


Posted by A Cyclist | July 30, 2008 7:36 AM

Critical Mass has an agenda - theirs is to take control of the roadway and cause vehicular havoc by impeding traffic both vehicular and pediestrian. By doing this people are placed at risk. The leaders of these "rides" should be arrested for unlawful assembly and inciting to riot.

as far as the NYPD incident, it's funn that you only see one side of the incident on teh video, the the angle of the officer but just of the photographer.

This officer will be indeminified and will be returned to work. Thankfully!

Posted by CB | July 30, 2008 7:39 AM

In virtually every report I have seen, even from blatantly dishonest sources like the thoroughly discredited "news" station King 5, the individuals who "incite mayhem" are always the tiniest minority. Often no more than one or two.

The children on this comment thread (most of you) are clearly ill-equipped to consider alternatives.


Couldn't be THAT.

That's crazy talk.

Posted by Citizen B | July 30, 2008 11:10 AM

He was not falsely imprisoned or kidnapped.
He did have his civil liberties taken away from him. CM's kept him from traveling freely about in his car. Possibly also creating a threatening environment.CMer's beware. If you provoke or otherwise cause these situations YOU will be held liable for them.

Posted by peter | July 30, 2008 2:38 PM

The cyclists are assholes.
The driver is an asshole.

That clears up those two particular irrelevant points.

The key issue is this - Instead of waiting for 5 minutes to move his vehicle, the driver ran it into unprotected flesh.

Those particular cyclists might be the biggest cunts in the world - that still doesn't excuse or justify plowing into them with a car.

Cyclists, Neo-con agitators, Hare Krishna Urban Commando Hit Squad - Whoever is holding you up - does being 5 minutes late for a show warrant piling into them?

Posted by VCA | July 31, 2008 6:02 AM

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