What to Expect at Friday’s Critical Mass

6_23_10_CM.JPGBelieve it or not, this was done with the officer’s consent. Photo: Digable Soul/Flickr

Critical Mass has gone mainstream.  Following last month’s "Critical Mass Attack," where an officer was caught on tape kicking at cyclists’ bikes before the cameraman was tackled to the ground, it seems you can’t go anywhere without reading or discussing Critical Mass.  There have been press conference’s, lawsuits, and even a promise that the LAPD will ride with Critical Mass in the future.

So with the LAPD joining what has been a raucous protest ride, one that hasn’t had a smooth relationship with the police, what should be expected?  A violent clash?  Mas arrests?  An orderly protest?  Only time will tell, but the history of Critical Mass, both in L.A. and beyond, suggest that it is possible that two can exist.

First off, word is going out within the community that riders should work with the police and should try to avoid some of Critical Mass’ more confrontational tactics, such as the rampant running of red lights.  An open letter to the biking community posted in the Streetsblog comments section, LAist, Midnight Ridazz and other forums states:

At the ride start of the Critical Mass on June 25th, there will be a
faction of people, including myself, who will be encouraging something
we are currently calling, "Project Civil Obedience", in which all
cyclists will demonstrate what it means for 1000+ riders to obey all
road rules. That includes stopping at every red light. We will also be
encouraging mass riders to cooperate in choosing a destination to ride
to so that they can reunite if they get separated by red lights from
the main group. The plan will be to get to the destination within 45
minutes (a reasonable riding time frame).

In the same article at LAist,  Sgt. David Krumer worries that Critical Mass breaking off into smaller groups could inhibit the ability of the LAPD to police the ride.  But that puts the onus on them, they can either facilitate the ride being able to stay together in one group or figure out a way to deal with riders going in different directions to reach the same pit stops.  It’s not like there’s not precedence for having city officials cork an intersection.

Whether or not the community, as a whole, can play nice with the police has been a matter of debate.  It’s not uncommon to see t-shirts proclaiming "LAPD hates bikes" or even read "fuck the police" on forums; but the call to work together to improve Critical Mass sees to be resonating.  At Midnight Ridazz, the bulk of the comments on a thread previewing Friday’s ride are supportive of collaborating.

Of course, to collaborate you need partners.  The LAPD has three choices on their tactics for the ride, what we’ll call "San Francisco," "Santa Monica" and a third way.

In recent years, San Francisco Critical Mass has enjoyed a decent relationship with the SFPD.  The ride is accompanied by police who work to make certain that the ride is safe and police it for anyone creating a dangerous situation.  This tactic has led to a relatively incident-free ride.  Meanwhile, in the last two years LACM has seen at least two outrages: the random tackling of cyclists off their bikes in 2009 and the random detainment and physical search of one ride leader in 2008.

In Santa Monica, the bored SMPD over-polices Critical Mass to the point of ridiculousness.  You could say that the SMPD is also "joining the ride," but their actions of ticketing riders for both real and imagined infractions creates a hostile relationship.  In the Santa Monica example, the police actually create a more dangerous situation by buzzing riders on their bikes and breaking up the ride by ticketing teenage minorities seemingly at random.

A third way would be just that, a new way of trying to join and police the ride.  I can’t imagine that the LAPD, with its olive branches and newfound appreciation of bike issues, is interested in earning the reputation for cracking down on the 1st Amendment rights of bike riders such as the Santa Monica police did.  Plus the actions and word of Seargent Krumer, the Mayor Villaraigosa and other officials seems to be calling for a lighter touch.

That being said, the LAPD isn’t going to get caught in a media game where riders control the message.  in addition to bike cops, the LAPD is also sending its video unit.  Krumer is already pushing the talking point that the LAPD is responding to requests that they help remove trouble-makers from the ride that create a negative atmosphere for everyone, which could be a valuable rhetorical tool if things on Friday don’t work out for everyone involved.

So the stage is set for Friday.  Leaders from the bike community that don’t often make Critical Mass are readying for the ride.  Route suggestions are bouncing around the Internet.  The LAPD is also readying for the ride.  Whatever happens, its certainly going to be a turning point for Critical Mass and Los Angeles.  What direction it heads relies on a lot of people riding smart.

  • rev.DAK

    The first stop should be a donut shop.

  • I think the ride should definitely stop at red lights – breaking into a massive traffic chokehold on the area that will also destroy the ability of LAPD to “police” a damned thing.

    They are going to ride along with Critical Mass in order to pick off stragglers and ensure that car drivers are not inconvenienced (as much as possible).

    If a destination is announced and the people are allowed to get there when they get there, while following the rules of the road, it will be a splendid display of power and civility. Critical Mass is not civil disobedience, it is a well justified exercise in protecting the rights to the road that cyclists have.

  • Harmon Winkleshtetdlern

    I’m excited to see project “civil obedience” rear it’s beautiful ugly head once again. I hope 1000 people show up, obey all the traffic laws and confound the LAPD. In fact, I hope the ride dips into other cities like beverly hills and west Hollywood for an even more interesting run. LAPD escorting a ride through sherrif and BHPD territory… How would that work?

  • joe

    either way, if riders are stopping at the lights, there needs to be a destination announced. The light naturally will break up the ride creating several groups for the LAPD to handle.

    Sgt. David Krumer worries are going to happen just simply by all the cyclists stopping the group at lights.

  • fadmcrank

    I’m not going to be ridding this upcoming CM, so I’ve held the urge to speak for something I’m not planning on attenting; But to have the way of doing things, the very control to which our rides are accostomed to, be changes in order to “look good…” We ride through red lights for a reason. Not to leave a rider behind! We stop at reds only when the ride has to come togheter. Any good of a reason to continue as we’ve always had!

  • Ross

    I hope *5000* people show up. If not not this Friday, then perhaps the next.

    Fear not, a destination will be announced (in some form). It just won’t be decided upon until that night by a consensus (again, in some form). Agreed–this will be crucial to instilling in people a sense of calm that it’s ok to stop at lights and let one bunch of riders ride on ahead.

  • Kevin

    I’ve seen police escort funeral processions, stopping traffic at intersections, allowing those in the procession to proceed through red lights. Perhaps at some intersections, the LAPD will be able to do the same for the bicycle riders on Friday.

  • Frankly, I don’t care one way or the other if the LAPD is “confounded”, so long as they don’t give unjustified citations to harass cyclists or use excessive force.

    One problem I do foresee is if the LAPD decide to cork some busy intersections to get cyclists out of the way of auto traffic as quickly as possible, and then begin citing individual cyclists for corking or running reds later on.

  • Um, if we plan to stop at a donut shop, don’t you think it would be a good idea to maybe give that shop a heads up, so they can have plenty of donuts, etc., and make a good dollar? 5000 cyclists descending on a donut shop might be cause for some panic by donut shop employees unless forewarned…

  • ti

    Hi I am in san gabriel where do you guys start?( friday ride )

  • Ross Hirsch


    The ride starts at the Wilshire/Western Metro stop (which is at the intersection of those two cross streets). If you’re anywhere near Metrolink in SGV, perhaps you could ride that in to Union Station then take Metro right to the start. That would work out perfectly–but consider timing for your trip back (check the last trains out for Metrolink).

    Alternatively, if you have to drive, you might consider parking where LACM wraps up–at the the start of the People’s Ride (Sunset/Western) and then just ride down to the start of LACM. (Parking ain’t so hot at Wilshire/Western anyway.)

    Here’s some more info:


    It’s going to be a great night for a ride.

  • LAguy

    Dear City Bicycle Advisory Committee members and other interested persons:

    Yesterday I participated in the LAPD Bicycle Community Outreach meeting. A primary issue was the appropriate role of LAPD with tonight’s Critical Mass ride, the first since the May 28, 2010 Hollywood incidents which the BAC focused on at our June 1 meeting.

    It is LAPD’s stated role, in their own words, to “be a participant in the ride with the cyclist. Only if necessary, due to public safety issues that arise, we will assist in facilitating the ride. The goal is for the cyclist is for them to self-support and self-police themselves during the law-abiding ride.”

    LAPD recognizes and supports cyclists’ right to the road and First Amendment freedom of speech.

    LAPD will have a number of bicycle unit officers present as well as several motorcycle officers. Many of the meeting attendees yesterday urged LAPD to emphasize the use of bicycle officers and have the motorcycle officers at the end of the ride. LAPD stated they will be enforcing important public safety laws such as helmet use by riders under the age of 18, stopping at red lights and stop signs, and proper safety equipment i.e. brakes/ability to stop pursuant to the Vehicle Code.

    LAPD has requested this information be shared with others who may be riding tonight so I am asking for your assistance in forwarding this email on.

    Finally, I am making a personal request of all riders: if you see someone riding against traffic, endangering pedestrians, or otherwise acting inappropriately, please ask them to ride responsibly. Also if you have an extra helmet, consider bringing it along to share with teenage riders without one.

    Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.


    Glenn Bailey, Chair
    Bicycle Advisory Committee
    City of Los Angeles



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