Woman's van battered
Bicyclists say it was hit-and-run
By Brent Begin, Bay City News Service
April 5, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A group of San Francisco bicyclists
disputes a Redwood City woman's claim that her family was the
victim of an unprovoked attack during a Critical Mass bicycle
Susan Ferrando has called on the city to hold someone accountable
for wrecking her minivan during one of the semi-monthly protests,
which are meant to promote bicycling as an alternative to driving
Ferrando said it was a "terrifying incident" in which
her children and their friends were held at the mercy of a swarm
of bike riders. In the end she said their "city adventure"
ended up causing $5,300 in damage to her vehicle.
But bicyclists at the incident dispute claims that Ferrando was
the target of a baseless attack. They said Ferrando sped by a
small group of bicyclists, knocking one man off his bike and running
over his bicycle.
Kate McCarthy had been riding in that group, which she said was
breaking off from the 20 or 30 bicyclists who made up a bulk of
the dissipating mass.
With the way the police had held up traffic at the intersection
of Post and Laguna streets, McCarthy and her group were alone
without any traffic in the road.
Ferrando said she had the same experience after two police officers
waved her through an intersection. She said there wasn't a car
on the road. She had no idea what was happening.
That's when the stories diverge. McCarthy said the minivan zoomed
past her, knocked one of the bicyclists in her group off his bike
and then sped off. Some of the bikers then raced ahead to catch
up with the van and stopped it.
McCarthy said she called 911 right away because of the hit-and-run.
While they waited for the police, however, several more bicyclists
peddled up to the scene, at Post and Buchanan streets, and they
got violent, McCarthy said.
Ferrando said her daughter, who had just celebrated her birthday
at Japantown center was sitting in the back with her friends when
she saw a bike go through the window.
"Bikers were kicking the van, pummeling the outside,"
she said. "We were in such a state of shock that we didn't
even think of calling 911 until finally my husband did."
Ferrando said that she never hit anybody and that when her van
was surrounded, one bicyclist purposely drove into the right panel
of her minivan as if to provoke her.
"A biker to my right made a 90 degree turn into the van.
I didn't hit him," she said. "He so very intentionally
biked into me."
Both parties said the police did a poor job of handling the incident.
Ferrando said she wasn't warned of the danger of Critical Mass
and that she was waved into the heart of it.
"I just want the city to know that this is dangerous for
visitors who don't know what's going on," she said. "Unsuspecting
people need to be warned."
McCarthy said she was intimidated by police when she tried to
file a hit-and-run report. They told her she couldn't file a claim
unless the injured party accepted medical attention. But, she
said, bicyclist who was hit wasn't injured; it was his bike that
suffered the consequences.
Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition,
said this entire story has been one-sided and it overshadows the
everyday dangers of biking in the city.
"We've got a totally unacceptable rate of bicycle and pedestrian
deaths and injuries in this city and that should be the real story,"
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum
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