Car ‘Flash Mobs’ Causing Problems for Bay Area Cities

Police say they’re a danger to pedestrians, bicyclists, and the drivers themselves

Cars block a bike lane on Franklin Street in Uptown Oakland

BERKELEY – On Monday afternoon, the natural tranquility of the city’s streets was disrupted by the sudden appearance of a large number of drivers gathering with their automobile in multiple, simultaneous locations across the city. The cars numbered so many that they were unable to move more than a few feet at a time, creating a jam of traffic that caused citizens to avoid the streets altogether before clearing out hours later.

Such scenes are not unique to Berkeley. Across the Bay Area, swarms of drivers are popping up twice a day or more. Police say these “flash mobs” are dangerous to everyone and prevent virtually any other uses of the public right of way.

“Many of these vehicles weigh up to 2 tons and take up nearly 100 square feet,” said Sgt. Flibert Blerberzip of the Berkeley Police Department. “At that size, it only takes a few of them to really cause some problems and disrupt things.”

Cars emerge from the Oakland side of the Posey Tube

Police report that the mobs can happen at any time but seem to be prevalent between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and then again between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., particularly on weekdays. The Alameda Police Department suspects that some drivers take part in these rituals on a daily basis, said Sgt. Yadda Soandso, and many come from outside the city limits just to drive on Alameda streets.

“Luckily, for the most part during these flash mobs, the drivers aren’t able to travel fast at all because they’re all stuck in a long line waiting to get out of the situations they’ve created for themselves,” said Capt. Generic Surname of the San Leandro Police Department. “The problem comes when a driver gets impatient and does something foolish that puts themselves and everyone around them at risk. And if two cars collide, oh boy, you’re talking hours to get things cleared up.”

In San Leandro alone last year, there were 235 crashes in which a driver was found to be at fault, resulting in four deaths and more than 300 injuries.*

“It’s just staggering,” Capt. Surname said.

Cars on a road in front of some storefronts

The drivers show little regard for traffic laws, running stop signs and ignoring posted speed limits. Police, however, are reluctant to issue citations in all but the most egregious violations.

“There’s simply too many of them,” said Lt. Beepboop McNoodle of the Albany Police Department. “At this time we think it’s better for citizens to either get their own motor vehicle to protect themselves or simply stay inside.

“It is paramount that we maintain an environment where all deference is given to drivers,” he said. “We really don’t want to upset them further or inconvenience them in a way that might set them off.”

* This is true, per https://tims.berkeley.edu.

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