LAPD Tackle Cyclists at Friday’s Critical Mass

11_30_09_lacm.jpgPhoto from of cyclists going through Second Street Tunnel via LACM’s twitter feed.

Bike discussion sites have been abuzz since last Friday with news that things got ugly when Los Angeles Critical Mass breezed onto Los Angeles Street and ran into an LAPD Squad Car facing against traffic with its lights flashing.  According to eye witnesses, the two officers tackled cyclists off their bikes at the front of the mass and were still trying to drag massers off their bikes at the tail of the mass.  Witnesses claim that there was no announcement that riders should dismount nor any attempt to signal out riders that were lawbreakers, just an attempt to randomly grab cyclists and detain them.  From at one poster at Midnight Ridazz:

I got grabbed by the female officer after trying to ride around all the
kids they had already brought down since I was at the back of the pack.
She didn’t ask me to stop, I was obeying all traffic laws, she just
fucking grabbed my upper arm while I was riding by at about 15 mph
trying to catch up to the pack. Thankfully I was able to shake her off
and not go down. We were on Los Angeles St., no traffic, no peds,
totally quiet, and I guess this pair of cops got pissed that some
people were riding on the wrong side of the road.

There are a couple of issues here.  Assuming that the witnesses aren’t all suffering from a form of mass delusion or a massive attempt at a group cover up, we have cops granting themselves extra powers to deal with what they deem are an illegal assemblage of cyclists.  The only problem is that without verbal instructions, cyclists passing the car with the flashing lights to its left weren’t actually breaking any laws. In fact, without any sort of audible warning, it very well could be the officers that were acting outside of the law.   Given the LAPD’s recently professed desire to reach out to cyclists, some are wondering if this means that "cyclists" doesn’t refer to group rides and only refers to commuters.  Even if this were the action of a couple of rogue police officers, and at this point we don’t have strong information on whether the LAPD is planning on a group ride crackdown, it knocks the luster off last week’s announcement of a Bike Working Group.

Secondly, some riders are comparing this incident to the New York Critical Mass rider who was slammed to the road by a member of the NYPD last year.  The officer actually had the nerve to charge the rider with resisting arrest, but because the hole violent incident was caught on camera the charges were dropped and the officer is the one being investigated.  If there’s video, or even pictures, from Friday’s LAPD v LACM incident, they haven’t yet been circulated.

We’ll be staying on top of this issue this week.  Be sure to check back for more.

61 thoughts on LAPD Tackle Cyclists at Friday’s Critical Mass

  1. …for a couple of weeks. I missed the lt., but talked to staff in the commish’s office. He has agreed to a sitdown with Streetsblog so we’ll have to talk about this later.

  2. There’s plenty of blame to go around for both bicyclists and motorists. We’ve all seen bicyclists run stop signs and red lights. We’ve all seen cars do “rolling stops” at stop signs red lights. Probably many of us have seen cars run red lights.

    Frankly, these people are the exception. Most motorists are good. Most bicyclists are good.

    One interesting difference between bicyclists are motorists and bicyclists, though, is what happens when they do something wrong.

    From what I’ve seen, most motorists who get busted going through a stop sign will recognize that they did something wrong. They may rail about how the police have better things to do with their time than hassle them or complain that the stop sign wasn’t visible or something like that. But they recognize that they did something wrong.

    Bicyclists who are pulled over for the same offense will complain that they shouldn’t have to stop at the stop sign. They’ll claim they have better visibility than cars and can see that there is no traffic oncoming. They’ll talk about how it’s problem for them to stop because they have to unclip or how it breaks their pace. They’ll talk about how they’re smaller and lighter and can stop faster and won’t do as much damage as a car. They’ll say, “Cars do it, too! Why can’t I?” They’ll talk about how they’re saving the environment and how these laws shouldn’t apply to them because they’re doing such good.

    I thought the story about the gentleman who got a ticket for not having a light on his bike was a particularly demonstrative. He complained that he’d just paid a ticket for having this problem. You would think that he would actually consider getting a light for his bike, but no–that would mean that “The Man” wins. By God, he’s going to show The Man and not get a light for his bike and bellyache over every ticket because The Man can’t tell him what to do.

    In regards to the whole “group ride” argument, bicyclists must follow the same rules as motorists. If I get together some 300 of my closest friends and have them all go driving down the street in order to promote driving, should I be allowed to block traffic at intersections because I want to keep the group together? Should we all be able to run stop signs so that we can keep up a good speed?

    There used to be a group of Lamborghini enthusiasts who would do a “Cannonball Run” from San Diego. I’m not sure where their final destination was. But I encountered them a for a couple of years on the 405. They’d have a police escort along the left lane and carpool lane. They didn’t somehow believe that, just because they drove Lamborghinis, they were excused from the traffic laws. The police kept them all grouped together along with their support vehicles (at one point I pulled in with them and was immediately yanked out by a cop. Later, when they passed, I pulled in behind them but–unfortunately–in front of their support vehicles and, again, got yanked out by the cops).

    If you want to keep your group together, get a police escort. It’s a pretty simple concept. Even Lamborghini owners can understand it, and they’re stupid enough to pay $250,000 for a car!

    (By the way, the same rules apply for funeral procession. Everybody can’t just form a caravan.)

    In regards to the LAPD actions, I’d point out that the people who are saying that the police should have told people to stop that you’re riding by at 15 MPH. That’s pretty fast, believe it or not. By the time the cop says “STO–” you’re past them. Then the excuse is, “I didn’t know they were talking to me!” And once you are past, how is a foot cop supposed to catch you?

  3. Peter, the cops were in front of us and could have very well put out a hand and said stop. Just because they don’t “think” telling us to stop will make us stop does not mean they do not have to follow protocol. I wish they had pulled me down so I could sue. I was rolling by at 8mph, as was everyone else, because we all had to slow down to not run into the obstacle, the cops on foot, and the cyclists around us.

  4. “I was rolling by at 8mph, as was everyone else […]”

    Well, not according to “everyone else.”

    From the top of the article: “I was obeying all traffic laws, she just fucking grabbed my upper arm while I was riding by at about 15 mph” And from Greg Thomas, above, “[…] the female officer grabbed my arm without warning as I passed by at about 12-15mph […]”

    Perhaps that’s why you weren’t grabbed–you were bicycling slowly by the police.

  5. I got this email back from Dawson:

    “When I returned to work today, Commander Greer, his staff and I discussed the incident. There will be an investigation into the matter. Today will be my last working day until the new year…

    Andre Dawson
    Office of the Chief of Police
    Community Relations Section”

  6. “The fact that most don’t have helmets or lights show how irresponsible they are).”

    Wow. Last time I checked, wearing a helmet was optional – unless you are under 18.

  7. I have been one of the unlucky motorists that have been held up through three or four signal intervals for a LACM ride. Not fun however if this was not the topic at hand, something that I would not write about.

    While waiting in the car for the Critical Mass cyclists to pass, I pondered how the situation could escalate horribly wrong exponentially fast. EMTs or LEOs speeding to an incident with lights and sirens still would not have been able to safely proceed. Or on the other end of the spectrum a disgruntled thug in a car with a gun opens fire for being held up. Either case, or somewhere in between, is bound to happen.

  8. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
    And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :)

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