Traditionally, small groups of bike riders from around the city gather together on the fourth Friday of the month and head to the Wilshire/Western Red Line Station to gather for Los Angeles Critical Mass. This month, following what Streetsblog is calling the "Critical Mass Attack," a new group of riders will be joining the mass: the LAPD.
In a flyer being circulated to bike advocates and within the department, the LAPD has announced that it will be joining the June 25th Los Angeles Critical Mass to both show their support for the rights of cyclists to ride peacably in a large group, be the purpose party or protest; and to help weed out the riders responsibile for the vandalism and other mischief that’s given Critical Mass a bad name.
It’s been a common complaint amongst cyclists that some people use group rides as camoflauge for law breaking. For months, the popular Midnight Ridazz forum was filled with complaints about a group of bike thieves from Koreatown that would join rides starting in Mid-Wilshire and use the ride as an cover to vandalize, steal, and tag. In addition to giving the rides a bad name, riders were frustrated that the police would deem a whole ride as troublesome without listening to the riders who tried to point out the culprits. This seems especially true of the March 2009 "Crank Mob" ride where a small group of riders shoplifted from a Ralph’s on La Brea, a few more got drunk, and a massive conflict between the LAPD and the Mob broke out.
This flyer should also put to rest the idea that Critical Mass and other group rides are somehow an illegal assemblage. The LAPD flyer states clearly that it supports cyclists rights to protest and ride together in large groups.
How will the LAPD and Critical Mass coexist together on one ride? There’s precedence for a mutually beneficial relationship, the SFPD and San Francisco Critical Mass have ridden together for years, and the LAPD has sent bike cops to other group rides, albeit much tamer ones, such as the Tour De Ballona rides co-sponsored by L.A. Streetsblog.
However, the devil will be in the details, and Streetsblog will be there to cover the ride as it happens. For the first time since my son was born, I’ll be hopping on Gunpower and riding Critical Mass myself with camera, flip vid, and cell phone all ready to go.