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Throwback Thursday: Santa Monica Critical Mass

July 4, 2008. This is one of my favorite bike pictures, and one I use every year on our July 4 post. Photo: ## Thompson##

July 4, 2008. This is one of my favorite bike pictures, and one I use every year on our July 4 post. Photo: Alex Thompson

For those that don’t know, Critical Mass is a monthly bike ride that takes place on the 4th Friday of the month. The purpose of the ride is to gather so many cyclists that drivers can’t ignore them, buzz them or harass them. This both created a safe place for cycling and made a statement that the needs of cyclists is too big to ignore. In Santa Monica, Critical Mass met on the first Monday, so that it didn’t conflict with the larger event that starts in Los Angeles’ Koreatown on the 4th Friday.

In a way, Santa Monica was an odd fit for Critical Mass. Located next to Los Angeles, a sprawling megaopolis which was one of the most bike-unfriendly cities in the world at the time, Santa Monica was in the early steps of becoming a more bike-friendly place.

I know, I know…there are still a group of riders that meet on the last Friday of the month to go for a Critical Mass ride, but let’s face it Critical Mass really had its hay-day in Santa Monica in from 2006-2009.

While the ride was often presented as an "outlaw" event, it wasn't a secret. The ride met at the same place every month and advertisments were widely available on the Internet on Facebook, MySpace, Midnight and elsewhere.

While the ride was often presented as an “outlaw” event, it wasn’t a secret. The ride met at the same place every month and advertisements were widely available on the Internet on Facebook, MySpace, Midnight and elsewhere.

Following a contentious November 2011 ride, television cameras were out the next month. As was Gary Kavanagh, who took this shot. Image via ## Rides Bikes##

Following a contentious November 2011 ride, television cameras were out the next month. As was Gary Kavanagh, who took this shot. Image via Gary Rides Bikes.

But thanks to a police crackdown on the ride urged by the City Council and Mayors Richard Bloom (Dec. 2006-2007) and Herbert Katz (Dec. 2007-2008), the ride swelled as a fun, medium-risk way to make a statement that bicyclists deserve equal treatment on the road. With the foundation of Bikeside and Santa Monica Spoke, the advocacy that fueled Critical Mass was spent in more traditional advocacy.  Read more…

Streetsblog NYC
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Attention Kobe, Pao, “Superman” etal…Your Critical Mass Ride Is Waiting

Via BikeBlogNYC, the Miami Bike Scene recently posted this post-game clip of Dwyane Wade in which the All-Star Heat guard shares his fondness for going on bike rides with thousands of other people. On Friday, it seems, Wade and teammates LeBron James and Mario Chalmers warmed up for the next day’s match against the Brooklyn Nets by going on a 20-mile Critical Mass jaunt through the streets of Miami.

Transit Miami’s Craig Chester snapped a group shot:

That’s 60 percent of a championship starting line-up right there, and the Heat won 102-89 on Saturday. Might a new training regimen for Deron Williams be in the offing?

We knew James likes to ride his bike to the arena on occasion. Turns out D-Wade is getting to be a regular on the last Friday of every month. Here’s a short clip of him from September’s ride:

If these Heat stars ever make the leap from group rides to advocating for safe streets, Miami could sure use the help. And we know a few good bloggers who’d be happy to show them the ropes.

Hat tip to reader Stephen Arthur for sending along the news.


Morales: Young Man Killed During Critical Mass Lesson Learned, or Not?

Riders gather at the end of an Eastside Bike Club/Salesian Boys and Girls Club garden tour. Photo via Carlos Morales

(Following this weekend’ high profile crash and fatality at Critical Mass, there’s bound to be some discussion of fixed gears, “brakeless bikes” and helmet usage. Here at Streetsblog, we don’t want to run away from the controversy or try and tell you how to think so we decided to run a series on the issue(s) raised by the events of the last 96 hours. If you would like to chime in, feel free to do so in the comments section, or if you are interested in publishing your own op/ed, drop me an email at – DN) 

The news of a tragic bike accident during Critical Mass last week traveled at lighting speeds through Facebook, Twitter and text messages.

When I received the news of the crash, minutes after it occurred, my initial feeling was, I hope everyone makes it out ok.  The next thing that rushed to my head was, I bet it was someone on a fixed gear / fixie / or single speed bike, without brakes, and my third thought was, were these cyclist wearing a helmets?

Some may ask, why I would rush to these conclusions or questions so quickly?  In my experience, most bike accidents that are happening involve the types of bikes I mentioned above.  As an avid cyclist and reporter, I hit the streets on my bicycle. I have come across several bike accidents during my travels, and have spoken to several law enforcement officials from many municipalities, other cyclist, bicycle attorneys and even insurance companies.  They all agree that an overwhelming number of bike accidents that are occurring could have been avoided if the cyclist could of stop and control their bikes.

Incident after incident, Auto VS Bike, Bike VS Bike or Bike VS Pedestrian, A good percentage of accidents could have been avoided.

Not being able to stop is as irresponsible as a drunk motorist driving a car!

If you take out a fellow cyclist and he or she is injured or dies because you can’t stop or injure a pedestrian for the same reason, it is just not right. We as cyclist must take responsibility and think of what dangers we put ourselves and fellow bike riders in.  I realize that these are harsh words to say to fellow cyclist who enjoy the freedom of riding a bike as much as I do.   I may not become very popular saying these things, but someone has to step up and tell it like it is.

Not wearing a helmet? Read more…


Cyclist Dies on Critical Mass, NBC Opens Fire

Jerico Culata/Twitter

Last night, a cyclist died on Critical Mass after losing control of his bicycle and crashing into a wall on UCLA’s campus. Jerico Culata was only eighteen years old and friends and family are already mourning his death. Police are investigating the cause of the crash but have already noted that Culata was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash. Other riders were involved in the crash, but the LAPD reports no other serious injuries.

That being said, NBC4, which is usually one of the better news organizations when it comes to covering cycling and healthy transportation options has a wildly irresponsible story which takes shots at fixed gear bicycles, Critical Mass, and group bike rides in general.  A brief response to the NBC 4 piece can be found after the jump.

(Update: I was just informed over Twitter by LAist editor Emma Gallegos that NBC4 just reprinted an article by City News Service. Don’t be surprised if some of the weirdness in the article is repeated by other news organizations, especially on a holiday weekend.)

I’m sure there will be a lot more news on this crash as time goes on. Streetsblog would like to express our sympathy to the friends and family of Jerico Culata. More coverage of the crash can be found at LAist, Patch and the Los Angeles Times. Read more…

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Critical Mass: A Calm Ride Through the Streets of L.A.

It's not exact, but here's a rough copy of the route from Friday's Critical Mass. A cool 36.3 miles.

Critical Mass avoided controversy on Friday night, rolling to the Westside to UCLA Medical Center (where the last hospitalized victim from the Culver City Crash a couple of weeks ago is still recovering) to the traditional stop at Western and Sunset.  Tickets were kept to a minimum, I could count on one hand the number of times I saw officers pulling over cyclists, and I heard more discussion of New York’s decision to allow gay marriage than I did complaints about the LAPD’s handling of the aforementioned crash. The LAPD estimated that at its peak, there were 1,300 riders taking part in the ride.

Which is not to say that the riders, or the crash, or Christine Dahab were forgotten. I was asked seven times to sign a petition I helped write in my first ten minutes at the Wilshire/Western start point before the ride headed out demanding safer streets and better enforcement of traffic laws against aggressive drivers spurred by the Christine Dahab/Koreatown Ridazz crash. Talking with other massers along the route, I was surprised at how many people were familiar with the crash and how almost no rider blamed the big blue escort with the flawed police report that blamed the riders for this month’s horrific crash.

Lost in all the discussion of what was and wasn’t reported on June 15th, is that this was the one year anniversary of the LAPD ride-alongs with Critical Mass.  LAPD bike riders and Midnight Ridazz seem to have found a way to get along.

After the jump are three YouTube videos.  The first video shows the size of the ride about two miles after it started at Wilshire/Western. The second is with LAPD Sargent Helper who has ridden the past thirteen Critical Mass rides representing the LAPD about his experience with Critical Mass.  From a veteran to a pair of rookies, the last video is of two journalists from Santa Cruz that are taking part in a journalism fellowship with me.  Both of them have traveled around Los Angeles before, but never like this. Read more…


Cyclists Expect Peaceful Co-Existance between LAPD and Critical Mass Tonight (Updated: 3:10 P.M., So Does LAPD)

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.”

Read more…


One Crazed Driver Plows Through Critical Mass in Brazil

(There’s a graphic video of the actual attack available here.)

A lot of critics of group bicycle rides, especially Critical Mass, like to claim that they’d like nothing more than to drive through it in their SUV’s.  Apparently one maniac in Brazil decided to give that a try.

At last Friday’s Porto Alegre Critical Mass, the driver of a Black Volkswagon Gulf plowed through a group of 130 masser.  Fifty cyclists were hit.  Two are in critical condition as of Saturday night.  Following the assault, the driver of the Golf ditched the weapon and fled on foot from the unmarked car.  The police identified Ricardo José Neis as the lead suspect.

The above video shows the aftermath of the attack.  The translation of what the narrator says can be found on the You Tube website:

“I am here at the Critical Mass ride. A car just ran over with the entire critical mass ride. At full speed! A black VW Golf. He hit everybody!! Are you seeing this?!

What a horrible thing… oh my GOD. Someone call the police, call the ambulance

Police! Call the Police!! The Ambulance!

Everyone is scared, son.

A car hit the whole, entire Critical Mass ride!! At full speed.

Voice: What’s going on?

This is the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen! I cannot believe”

Say what you want about the LAPD’s role in Critical Mass, but such an attack here on the 4th Friday of the month is unthinkable. There were no major incidents reported at Friday’s ride in Los Angeles.

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Bike Talk Takes on Critical Mass

11_12_09_kill_radio.jpgAn original poster for Bike Talk on Kill Radio

I got a notice in my inbox that the popular Internet Radio show Bike Talk will spend an episode discussing all things “Critical Mass” in Los Angeles. To say that it’s been an interesting year for Critical Mass is an understatement. To make things even more interesting, last month’s ride had some cyclists take the lead in acquiescing to the LAPD’s demand for a route before they would cork intersections. The ride went smoothly. The intersections were corked.

Meanwhile, a group of seasoned Ridazz led an alternate ride with about sixty riders taking a trip back to LACM’s roots.  For more on Streetsblog’s coverage of Critical Mass, click here.

As for the show this weekend, it will run this Saturday from 10:00 A.M. until noon at The show will also be archived at You can join the conversation by calling 213.252.0998 or you can post questions or comments to be read on the air at the Midnight Ridazz Forum.

Incidentally, regular listeners and fans of Bike Talk might want to mark their calendar for January 15, 2011 for the show’s first fundraiser.  Details to come.


Critical Mass Rides West, More Problems with “Escort”

(editor’s note: Nope, I wasn’t there this month.  This is all second-hand reporting.  Alex de Cordoba did attend the mass and offers a report on the ride and thoughts on how it can move forward at The Engaged Observer. – DN)

Last Friday saw the fifth installment of the Los Angeles Critical Mass/ LAPD rides.  Back in May, after a violent clash between a group of officers and Mass riders in Hollywood, the police decided that if you can’t beat them, join them.  Ever since, the police have provided a rolling escort for the ride.

For many riders, that escort is becoming less welcome every month.

You would expect that a collaboration between riders representing a protest ride and the police would be bumpy; and perhaps expectations were raised too high after the amazing first LACM/LAPD ride in June; but reports from Friday’s ride aren’t encouraging that the relationship between cyclists and the LAPD are moving in the right direction. Read more…


Previewing Friday’s (Rainy?) Critical Mass

This Friday at 7:30 P.M. riders and their police escort will pedal out of the Wilshire/Western starting point for the next chapter in the “new” Critical Mass.  Ever since the LAPD was caught on tape violently “policing” Critical Mass in May, police bicycle riders (and some using motorized vehicles) have joined the Mass to help make the protest ride as safe and smooth flowing as possible.  As word has gotten out that Critical Mass is now the safest bike ride in North America, the number of riders has swelled from a couple of hundred to an estimated 2,000 last month.

Last month's Critical Mass.  Photo: ##

Last month's Critical Mass. Photo: Waltarr/Flickr

Of course, as the ride grows it also becomes harder to police.  Last month, as police tried to maintain order, the Mass was broken up into several smaller groups criss-crossing Downtown.  Also, because the police sometimes blocked automobile traffic at intersections, a practice known as corking, and then sometimes ticketed riders for continuing through red signals; there were cries that the uneven enforcement was causing more problems than it was fixing.

Sgt. David Krumer has been the Department’s liaison between the Critical Massers and the LAPD.  I asked Krumer if there were any plans to change the way the event will be policed this month.  The answer: sort of.  LAPD officers are only allowed to cork intersections if there is a safety concern or if they are escorting a parade along a set route.  For that reason, the LAPD has tried to get ride leaders to file a permit request with a route, but the leaderless culture of Critical Mass has made it impossible to do so. Read more…