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Critical Mass

Group Rides and the LAPD, Still Working It Out

One benefit of having the LAPD along for the ride, hit and run drivers have their nights ruined awfully quickly.  Photo: Mikey Wiley/Flickr
One benefit of having the LAPD along for the ride, hit and run drivers have their nights ruined awfully quickly. Photo: Mikey Wiley/Flickr

While the relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department and large group bike rides, such as Critical Mass or CRANK Mob, have improved by leaps and bounds over the summer; reactions to last Saturday's CRANK Mob ride, aka CRANKMAS III, shows there is still some work to do.

Readers may remember that after an ugly confrontation between the LAPD and Critical Mass riders in May, the police decided to escort Critical Mass instead of react to it.  The result was a June Critical Mass that left ride organizers smiling and new relationships being formed.  But that's not the end of the story.  As any complicated relationship between large groups, especially when there's an imbalance of power, the relationship can get complicated.  Last Saturday, the third anniversary party of the popular CRANK Mob ride, was dispersed by the LAPD after community complaints about noise and other disruptions.  While police in riot gear were called to the scene, the event dispersed without any major confrontation.

But that hasn't stopped some group riders from being outraged by the kind of interference that would have been a surprise just a year ago. A quick read through this comment thread on Midnight Ridazz shows how divided the community is about whether or not the LAPD should be on these rides or not.  In addition to an argument between regular Ridazz, you can see a discussion of what biking LAPD Seargent David Krumer meant when he discusses some of the restraint being shown by officers on these rides.  By the end of the thread, at least at the time of publication, Krumer writes:

I in no way implied that restraint referred to going in "guns blazing and batons swinging" or engaging in a use of force.

But that doesn't mean that all cyclists view the relationship with the LAPD as a poisoned one.  Before Friday's Critical Mass, leaders from Bikeside, the Eastside Bike Club and other community leaders will be working with Critical Mass riders to "POLICE OURSELVES" and make the ride more about promoting cycling and claiming their rights to the street rather than being confrontational or law-breaking.  A Facebook page encouraging riders to arrive early for training and an overview so that the rolling escort doesn't have to step in and create conflict.  For those that don't have access to Facebook, the principles that will be preached on Friday can be found after the jump.

DO

• talk to stranger, bystanders, bus riders, motorists – welcome people to join us next time

• help cars stuck in mass to exit to the right

• stop regularly if you’re in front (no matter how slowly you think you’re going, gaps are opening up behind you)

• stop at red lights when in front to allow the rest of the ride to “mass up” behind.

• keep going in dense packs through red lights to stick together and keep it safe for everyone.

• fill gaps; Critical Mass depends on bicycle density to displace cars.

• remember that pleasure and friendliness are more subversive than anger and blaming.

DON’T

• race ahead to block cross traffic before the Mass has arrived

• ride into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the road

• pick fights with motorists, even (especially) if they’re itching for one

• fail to turn and twist through the city to make the ride more interesting

• forget to smile and wave and talk to strangers!

• imagine that you are morally superior just cuz you’re on a bicycle (you’ll be in a car again soon enough)

• hesitate to tell other Massers what you think of their behavior, whether good or bad. Talk to each other!

• forget – we are all responsible to make Critical Mass what we want it to be.

If you're of the same mind on these issues and wish to help spread the word to people new to Critical Mass, please meet at 630pm sharp at the start of the ride. We'll hand out flyers and maybe even a ROUTE if we are able to organize one in time! PEACE, LOVE AND HARMONY!

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