Remembering Chris Robertson (1970-2000) by Nicole McMorrow

On a crisp November evening, the day after Thanksgiving, a group of cyclists gathered at Justin Herman Plaza for the monthly Critical Mass ride. Present were some new faces along with the usual suspects, minus one: Chris Robertson. Exactly one week earlier, Chris was hit and killed by a driver operating a big rig truck.

Chris loved Critical Mass. To him, the monthly ride was about reclaiming public space. For one night each month, cyclists were able to assert their state-granted rights to the road. Chris was simply exercising that right when, according to witnesses, the driver allegedly swerved and ran him over in an apparent fit of road rage.

Chris lived life to the fullest. Yes, that is a hackneyed phrase, but it is also an accurate description of Chris. He had an appetite for life, which was contagious. He was a voracious reader and the breadth of his knowledge was astounding. He was an excellent cook and loved good wine. One of his ambitions was to become a wine connoisseur, specializing in organic, French wines.

I had known Chris for a number of years, but we got to be good friends last June on the California AIDS Ride when we were teammates on Team Critical Mass and shared a tent for six nights. He was a generous team member and tentmate. He was a fast rider, so he would get into camp before the rest of us, haul all our gear from the trucks to the tent site, and have the tents ready and waiting for us slower riders. He celebrated his 30th birthday on the ride, and on that day rode up a particularly nasty hill three times. "Once for each decade," he declared.

I am not the only one who will miss Chris' sensitive and thoughtful nature. The outpouring of grief and concern over this incident has really shown how many people's lives Chris touched when he was alive. At the December rally in front of the Hall of Justice, there were so many people there from so many walks of life: bike messengers and commuters, fellow-employees from Rainbow Grocery, and folks who just knew Chris and were outraged by this incident. An elderly man who was a customer at Real Food, where Chris once worked, remembered how genuinely kind and helpful Chris was when he would visit the store, and he described how saddened he was to have heard about his death.

I was not with Chris on November 17, 2000 when he was taken from this world. I didn't see what happened, but I've listened to the witnesses. And Chris was one of the best cyclists I know; he was not confrontational, nor was he foolish enough to throw his body in front of an 18-wheeler. I am sickened that one human being can do this to another.

I think the best way I can remember Chris is to enjoy life as he did. As he once stated when asked whether the glass was half-empty or half-full: "You must be quite a pessimist, because the glass is not only completely full, but overflowing."