Crimanimalz Create Traffic Jams to Protest Santa Monica Police

Responding to the over-policing of Critical Mass in Santa Monica, cyclists took to the streets last Friday night to show the SMPD that sometimes following the letter of the law is the worst thing that can be done for traffic.  In what MetBlogs described as an act of "Civil Obedience" 60 cyclists got off their bikes and walked them across an intersection.  And walked them back across the intersection.  And then, they crossed the intersection.  When they were done, they crossed the intersection again.

The result was while cyclists paraded back and forth across an intersection, blocking traffic, handing out fliers, but apparently breaking no laws, traffic backed up for blocks.  Eventually the SMPD arrived at the scene, but by then the cyclists had scattered to another intersection in another part of town.  Watching the video, I did note that the walkazz did let buses go through and eventually cars just drove around the demonstration.

Alex Thompson has a full recap of the event and the history between SMPD and Critical Mass over at Westside BikeSIDE!.

It occasionally got ugly.  One motorist got out of his car, to argue
with the Crimanimalz, and ended up in a 7 to 1 shouting match.  All
night there were spates of ugliness, shouting matches that likely would
have come to blows had the group of cyclists had a numerical
advantage.  It wasn’t just motorists doing the yelling – at times there
was a healthy dose of angry shouting from cyclists.

What do you expect?  Santa Monica residents have sicked their police force on cyclists like an angry guard dog.  The city has assigned 14 officers, on an overtime basis, to follow the ride each month, for 14 months. 
The SMPD made no effort to contact riders at anytime before or during
their 14 month campaign to eliminate the ride.  Officers stand apart at
the ride, refuse to talk to riders and train spotlights and video
cameras on their faces.


Reaction around the Internet has been mixed thus far.  One commenter at Thompson’s blog exclaimed that the "Revolution will be on feet!" while another lamented that, "Those 50 bikers that blocked traffic make it worse for ME when I bike to work." 


Do events such as this escalate the conflicts between cyclists and drivers, or is it a peaceful way for cyclists to get their message across?

Video by thepeoplesride

  • i think this is effective. good job alex for getting this organized and all those who participated.

  • Just when I thought that Critical Mass couldn’t lose any more credibility. Way to go douchebags, now every last resident of Santa Monica thinks bicyclists are a bunch of spoiled, self-important, petulant children.

    Keep it up, maybe you’ll be successful at getting bikes banned from the streets altogether.

  • Direct this energy at the source of the problem, the auto and sprawl. Join the campaign for free public transit, the achilles heel of the carbon-auto industry.

  • KinofCain – How many CM rides have you been on? How much advocacy and political work have you done? Your withdrawal of support – does it mean anything?

    Instead of trash talking, do you have anything you can say you stood up for in your life? This may be a small thing, but reasonable bicycle to access the public right-of-way is something that a lot of people think is worth fighting for.

    This is a non-partisan issue that touches on some of the fundmentally screwed up things in the U.S. – our energy use, the way we occupy the landscape, our need for an empire to secure the resources we use. Bicycling is a way to preserve growth in our economy without using as much energy as we do now. Plus, it is fun.

    We’ll see how this effort works – I have a feeling that a bunch of bad press is going to make this idea ineffective politically. Riding, en masse, in loops around Santa Monica – while following the letter of the law, would have been a better idea.

  • josef,

    this has already been tried:
    Riding, en masse, in loops around Santa Monica – while following the letter of the law, would have been a better idea.

    recent SMCM’s have been incredibly orderly and riders have gone to great lengths to ensure that they were riding legally. efforts to peacefully ride through SM were thwarted by SMPD giving out made up traffic tickets. its clear that the SMPD act above the law, and love their monthly drubbing of bicyclists. they are hoping that their stringent enforcement of traffic violations will stifle the ride.

    rather than discuss the issue rationally.

    i realize how divisive these tactics are… and it may drive the city council and police even further away from sympathy for the SMCM. maybe they won’t engage as a result of these tactics because it’d be a form of encouraging them, like trying to placate a child throwing a temper tantrum, or bargaining with a terrorist.

    but on the other hand, maybe it will work? i’m sure it’ll get someone’s attention.

  • Our calculation here is essentially “what do we have to lose?”

    The answer is very little. SMCM’s numbers have stabilized around 150 riders each month, about 70% of what it was two years about. In the time since this started a plethora of other rides have sprung up in West LA, so that SMCM is no longer unique or something we can’t afford to lose.

    On the flipside – we’ve tried a ton of different tactics and failed to get anywhere. My personal email exchanges with the Chief of Police do not leave me hopeful that there is a compromise as things are.

    SMPD acts as if it is they who control traffic in Santa Monica. It is they who enforce public safety. Those of us who believe in a complete streets movement intuitively know that this is false. Streets function best as a massively human collaborative effort.

    When the City of Santa Monica chooses to ignore the wants of so many cyclist and focus narrowly on “law and order” they miss the point. These protests remind them that even 10 pedestrians are significant. If Santa Monica wants to have a healthy bike movement, then they should convince their leadership to come to the table. Otherwise they can be the area in the region best known for hassling cyclists.

    I take a look at the larger bike movement and I think “my, we are getting amazing traction with public officials!” However, we are also growing explosively. The question is, will public officials make good and move quickly to improve conditions for cyclists? If not, then a new era in which cyclists pressure local governments using protests may be upon us. This was an experiment with those tactics.

  • the response to this proves that no matter what, we are the enemy. we break the law. we are the enemy. we abide by the law, we are the enemy. i’m sure if we delivered flowers to little old ladies, someone would call us a bunch of assholes.

    and as for you kinofcain, the only way your beloved commie government is going to take my bicycle is from my cold dead hands.

  • I totally understand both sentiments in regards to this.

    I totally understand the damned if you do or damned if you don’t sentiment, hopefully next time people of color (or women) have an issue ALL people will get that what can be done to the least of us can be done to ALL of us.

    The police behavior in regards to cyclist is owing to the fact that most people who are powerful drive cars, so cyclists are the minority. This is how minorities get treated.

    It’s not right in either case and neither groups of people should be told to just shut up and get over it. This must be dealt with. The law can’t just be broken, because people find what you look like, your lack of cash or your choice of vehicle annoying.

    The causes of civil rights can not and should not be compartmentalized.


  • And in regards to breaking the law I mean the SMPD, not the cyclists. If the police dept doesn’t treat you the same way they treat everyone else, they are breaking the law. If they are more aggressive towards cyclist than they are motorists, they are breaking the law. If people get pushed they push back. That’s human nature. I’d almost say you’re a little stupid if someone pushes you and you don’t push back. Of course there are lots of ways to push back, but I don’t know of any civil right movement that didn’t include some people getting bruised figuratively and literally.

  • Bob

    What if someone had a serious injury and was going to the hospital, and died as a result of your traffic jam?

    I’m all for riding on Freeways, running red lights, nobody gets hurt if you do it the right way.. but stopping traffic is wrong. Protest, yes, but not at the expense of innocent people..

  • You seem to have an idyllic notion of protest – nicely aligned with the notion of non-disruptive protest which has been so ineffective in this country for 30 years.

    Nevermind that, we let emergency vehicles and buses through. There were none of the former.

  • Bob

    One person’s form of protest may be to blow up a building (not caring if folks are inside) call me Idyllic, but I disagree with that approach. Where do you draw the line.. that’s the hard part.. I’m not sure disruptive approach will gain you anything either, it may actually set you back another 30 years..

    One disruptive protest that may have interesting effects.. having a bicycle commuter come up to that line of bikers stopping traffic and start cracking heads, you know the folks stuck in the cars hating cyclists 10 seconds ago, would now be on the cyclist’s side, where they go away with the notion that boneheads need a good crack to the skull every now and then.. and cyclists aren’t always that bad.. they’ll be thinking: “maybe if I ride my bike, I can wack a pinhead too”


Throwback Thursday: Santa Monica Critical Mass

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 […]

Review: The Expo Phase II Bike Path Is Going to Be Great…

…if they ever finish it. Advocates for a bicycle path to run parallel to the recently-opened Phase II of the Expo Light Rail Line have long contended that the Exposition Construction Authority viewed the fully-funded separated bike path as an afterthought. Maybe they were right. The bike path, which officially opened with the rail line […]

A reckless rider pleads guilty to assault with a deadly weapon. But does that say more about the city that charged him than the cyclists that ride there?

Yes, bike riders are subject to the same laws drivers are. Maybe Santa Monica police and prosecutors wanted to send that message loud and clear. Maybe they wanted to make an example of one reckless cyclist so other bicyclists would straighten up and ride right. But to do it, they slapped a reckless, red light […]