One year ago, the LAPD sent a small army to “escort” Los Angeles Critical Mass after an ugly incident where an LAPD officer was caught on tape kicking at a cyclists’ tires and then assaulting the man operating the camera at the May 2010 Critical Mass. The escort has stayed with the ride, changing the nature of Critical Mass for both the good (there are less crashes reported despite the ride swelling from 400 riders to well over 1,000 monthly) and bad (many long-time riders claim the LAPD are taking too large a roll controlling what is supposed to be a ride that highlights the specific challenges cyclists face.)
That new relationship could be challenged tonight because of the initial report filed by the LAPD in the “Christine Dahab v Koreatown Riders” crash in Culver City last week. However, many riders believe the relationships formed between the LAPD bike police who ride the mass and the Ridazz is strong enough to withstand one poorly written crash report, and the LAPD officers that accompany the ride also expect relatively peaceful evening.
“To my knowledge nothing special is planned,” said Sgt. David Krumer of the LAPD, “There was talk of possibly riding by the crash site and UCLA from ride organizers, but nothing is certain.”
Cyclists don’t see tonight’s Critical Mass to be any different than the other 12 they’ve already ridden with the Ridazz.
“One of the reasons Critical Mass even exists is to show that cyclists have a place on the road; that we are traffic. That message is even more important now in light of last week’s events in Culver City. Tonight’s Critical Mass ride should not be seen as a protest, but rather, a celebration of cycling and an affirmation of our right to ride in peace and to return home safety,” writes Alexis Lantz of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.
In fact, Midnight Ridazz “Roadblock” sees an opportunity in tonight’s ride and people’s reactions to last week’s crash, “My hope is that in some way we can direct a lot of the anger and emotion resulting from the incident towards changing the political climate in a city that gives drinkers little choice other than to drive to and from the bar.”
Mark Didia, who is leading an effort for cyclists to respond to the Dahab Crash took a different tact, and didn’t even mention the police presence when I asked him about what he expects tonight from Critical Mass. “The questions I ask myself after the recent collision are: can the new generation take this badass bike culture to the next level? Will more kids rise up? Will their direct connection to an environment that is hostile against them, trigger the will to stand up? If thousands attend, as I imagine will, I see it as a testament to this generations unwillingness to give into fear nor the inaction of our leaders who have direct power to initiate systemic change. LACM is call to: RIDE ON!”
If you want to ride with Critical Mass, it leaves from the Wilshire/Western Subway stop at 7:00 P.M. tonight.