Critical Mass Rides West, More Problems with “Escort”

Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/20990388@N04/5132068050/in/set-72157625280016794/## Alex de Cordoba/Flickr##
Photo:##http://www.flickr.com/photos/20990388@N04/5132068050/in/set-72157625280016794/## Alex de Cordoba/Flickr##

(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.

Some of the rider complaints are normal ones for any group ride.  Some didn’t like the route, which snaked Northeast from the Wilshire/Western start point until it cut South to Venice before a long ride towards the ocean.  Others complained that the group in the front rode too far ahead of the rest of the 2,000 riders which led to confusion for much of the rest of the pack.  One cyclist who was not on the ride, but watched it from the Bikerowave, said it took over 20 minutes for the ride to pass.

But the majority of the complaints, and the most serious, were with the conduct of the police officers.  Especially those officers riding motorcycles.

At the time of publishing the official tally of tickets from the ride have not been announced, but even the police officers that use bicycling forums are encouraging riders to fight tickets in court.  Reportedly, LAPD officers on bicycles were encouraging riders to enter intersections against yellow lights to try and move as many bikes as possible.  However, once through the intersection, the same riders were being pulled over and ticketed by officers on motorcycle.

But what’s worse than the tickets is how riders were treated by officers.  From Midnight Ridazz,

One that pissed me off the most was two motorcycle cops tackling and smashing a riders face down on the pavement,talking shit to him and giving him a ticket.

Unnecessary force especially when the rider was just a fucking kid.

There are several issues now facing Critical Mass.

The first issue is that the ride has swollen and new tactics need to be employed to keep the ride somewhat together.  The LAPD will not “cork” (or allow riders to cork) an intersection without LACM receiving a parade license.  Because LACM has never had a planned route, getting a permit has been a non-starter for the community.  One suggestion is that the ride have several “meet” points, so if the ride gets split up, then everyone knows where to meet to get back together.

The next question is how does LACM respond to a police presence which seems to be growing more hostile with every passing month.  Unlike the other four LACM/LAPD rides, this one did not have Sgt. David Krumer, the Department’s go-to officer for working on bicycle issues, riding along.  However, Krumer notes that the motorcycle officers who were reportedly causing so many of the problems do not report to him so he might not have been able to help stem the confrontations as they were developing.  While he can discuss the matter with their commanding officers, he can’t just make these issues disappear.

Krumer encourages more riders to bring cameras to the ride to document any police abuses and encourage officers to be on their best behavior.  Back in the Midnight Ridazz thread, one rider claims that when the camera comes out, officers start behaving better while ticketing.  While Krumer argues that proves his point; other point out that it’s strange enough that riders have to police other riders.  Now they have to police the cops, too?

Another potential solution would be for the LAPD to scale back their commitment to the mass to just bicycle officers unless there is an incident which requires special attention.  Ever since the awkward collaboration between the two entities began five months ago, the conflicts between riders and police have rarely, if ever, involved a bicycle officer.

And perhaps that’s the lesson that Critical Mass teaches, that could show the LAPD the best way to support and police a large group ride.  There’s just something different about riding a bike in a large group of people in a city.  When one tries for themselves, they see the world in a new way.

  • graciela.

    The last few times that I rode LACM the cops on bikes have been very fair and awesome to ride with. Maybe they have a different understanding of what is going on because they are right there with us. It’s also easier to follow their directions cos sometimes they cork, sometimes they tell you to stop but since they’re close with you, it’s easier to gauge how to behave at red lights . They’re even more cheery, I think.

    The cops on motorcycles and cars definitely have a different attitude. They’re more aggressive and it’s like they’re just waiting for the opportunity to act like tough guys against kids on bikes. I dunno what it is about them. On my way home on Friday, I was already off the ride but I bumped into other cyclists that were also going home. Not sure why the cops were still following some riders that broke off the mass but they were roaring by and waited at several intersections ahead to keep an eye on us. One cop even made fun of some kid via his speaker when the kid was on foot and trying to help his grandma cross the street. Not sure why they had to be jerks like that.

  • jennix

    These group rides behave like flocks of birds, and everyone knows that the purpose of a flock is to improve the safety of the individuals. The police are also supposed to be protecting our safety, but by breaking up the flocks into smaller groups they are actually increasing our interactions with aggressive and hostile motorists, resulting in a decrease of *everyone’s* safety and convenience.

    This battle of motorist’s convenience vs. parade permits is a red herring; The last two Mass rides have seen the largest police turnout EVER focused on any group ride of the last 10 years, including a full battalion of special officers in riot gear at the Venice/Lincoln Blvd. Ralph’s. The amount of money spent in September and October doubtless outweighed the previous months, and only increased animosity on all three sides of the situation; cyclists, motorists, and the LAPDs.

    A simple, relatively inexpensive injection of bike-cops will do quite nicely, because, left to themselves, the Mass mainly just needs help occasionally, almost always sorting out some kind of interaction between a motorist and some number of cycling public.

    If the police would properly focus on the rider’s safety – as they would with any other type of non-standard TRAFFIC – and expend their energy keeping the mass together, the mass would pass each location in the least disruptive amount of time possible, with the least number of interactions with active motorists possible.

    If we were a funeral or a president or a circus or a family of Quakers, no-one would say we need a permit, and we’d have the police helping us stay together. Further, no-one demands the Lakers get a permit for all the extra traffic they generate every few nights downtown, nor do they charge the Dodgers, the Kings, or Justing Bieber or anybody else.

    Providing police to protect public safety is one of the costs of being a big city.

    We are citizens and tax-payers, we are business-owners and patrons, we are the public you are supposed to protect. Strictly enforcing laws that increase our risks is no way to serve our interests or protect our safety. So:

    Dear LAPD,

    The formula is simple. Don’t cow-tow to the motoring public. Please. We have as much right to travel safely as do they.

    Sincerely,
    Cyclists of LA

  • Sgt. David Krumer

    The simple formula that jennix suggests is not really that simple. If you want to be treated like traffic you must behave as traffic…if you want to be treated special than you need to do some special things (like pre-planning and a route).

    What you can not do is demand equality but insist on a double standard.

    From the very beginning the LAPD has indicated that if a route is provided that a lot of the issues (fragmenting, inconsistancy, citations) can be avoided. It was determined that providing a route is inconsistant with the spirit of Critical Mass. We respect LACM’s decision to be treated as regular traffic rather than a special event.

    I will not defend an officers excessive force or bad attitude…any complaints about either of these is a valid criticism and something the Department will work to address.

    I read in the forums that there are videos of officers engaged in potential misconduct…please share these with the LAPD so that corrective actions can be taken.

    Thanks!

  • jennix

    Thanks, Sgt., and please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the police being out there, and as a “grown up”, I was really proud to see the LAPD out there taking care of its citizens in the June mass. I appreciate that not all the riders are especially well-behaved or even respectful, and that the idea of police helping keep everybody safe didn’t go over so great, but I have to ask; the June ride went so well, why can’t it be done regularly?

    Nobody had a route before that ride. The months since have not been so well done, and from my perspective, it was purely because of the confrontational stance taken by the LAPD.

    I would love to hear something like “Hey, the LAPD said, “We’ll stay with the front, and sweet up the back, and if you help us keep the group together, you can go safely around LA. If you leave LA, or the ride we’re helping, you’ll be subject to ticketing just like any other time.” so we’re gonna see how they do.”

    Regardless of what it is though, trying to offer a solution is better than just telling cyclists, “Hey, if you guys wanna be treated like regular traffic, then you need to suck it up and play by the same rules as everybody else.” They know they’re not treated the same as traffic – not by the motorists, not by bus drivers, and not by the police – and that’s why they’re out there. They call it a Mass. When you break them up, you not only take away their voice, you make them less safe.

  • jennix

    “… front, and SWEEP up the back…” — ed.

  • Okay, I’m tired of the kumbaiya sentiments. Krumer, I know you’re a good guy. I appreciate your efforts, but I really disagree with you.

    “What you can not do is demand equality but insist on a double standard.”

    That’s BS; there already is a higher standard. Cyclists are being held to a HIGHER standard of traffic law abidance than any other mode of transportation. Motorists break traffic laws every time they get behind the wheel–ALL OF THEM, even the LAPD, and I watch them do it everyday. EVERY SINGLE MOTORIST I ENCOUNTER BREAKS A TRAFFIC LAW IN SOME WAY. When there is a big game at the Staples Center, motorists frequently block traffic, pull into intersections and block them as the lights change to red and oncoming traffic gets a green, and they NEVER get ticketed by LAPD for it. Yet, they are blocking traffic just as an LACM route would. They are all going to the same place, just like a large LACM group. You call LACM a ride, but it’s really just like a bunch of people going to Staples Center. But you just turn your head away and say (about motorists), oh well, it’s traffic–even though blocking an intersection is clearly a traffic violation. I demand, on behalf of cyclists, that you apply that same common sense logic to LACM. As another commenter said: you cow-tow to the motoring public and target cyclists–targeting the minority–harassing us for miniscule violations and putting other people at risk just to “nab” someone for not having a light. I watch motorists nearly kill pedestrians everyday, in clear view of officers looking straight at them, and they do nothing. To say that Critical Mass cannot cork intersections because it’s a double standard is another double standard.

    We do demand equality: we demand you apply the same leniency you apply to motorists to cyclists. Or you start cracking down on motorists they way you do cyclists. It’s absolutely ridiculous the amount of resources being put towards a bike ride. You do realize that for years LACM has been handling itself without the problems this LAPD escort is now causing? I bet the number of citations handed out by some of those officers on Friday is more than they hand out in a single day to motorists.

    I am not a criminal, and there is no reason to be afraid of me. I am tired of being treated like a fearsome criminal on the last Friday of every month by LAPD. We are just citizens, from all walks of life, exercising our rights.

    On second thought, maybe LAPD should be afraid.

  • Meant at the beginning of my statement that there already is a double standard, not already a higher standard…

  • Pete Malloy

    I’e never hated bicyclists in my life before this “Critical Mass” BS started. Riders demanding special treatment, blowing through lights (Most do this not the minority), drinking while riding, taking up multiple lanes. No wonder you get hit by cars.

    Anyone know what the “lugnut rule” is?

  • Spokker

    “Motorists break traffic laws every time they get behind the wheel–ALL OF THEM”

    I don’t.

    I get flipped off enough times to know I’m following the rules of the road.

  • Sgt. David Krumer

    Hey ninjabiker,

    Yesterday I filed an official complaint based on your post that motor officers used excessive force by slamming someones head down. You mentioned that there is video. I asked you to contact me and provided you my e-mail. I really need your assistance if this complaint is going to go anywhere. As I mentioned the LAPD will not tolerate excessive force and will take appropriate action. Since you are a witness I need your cooperation. Please contact me! If anyone else witnessed the incident ninjabiker refers to above please speak up.

    35128@lapd.lacity.org Please use “LACM EXCESSIVE FORCE COMPLAINT” as the subject line.

    Thanks.

  • Sgt. David Krumer

    Hi danceralamode,

    The average traffic officer writes about 20 citations a day…the average patrol officer writes about 20 citations a month. While I was a patrol supervisor I reviewed every citation that was written by units under my command…roughly 50-75 citations a day. Of those citations I may see one or two citations issued to bikes. The vast majority of all citations issued are to motorists. With regards to Staples Center, officers do issue citations to those folks as well. Just like LACM we can not cite all violators and only get a very small percentage. You may not see the enforcement but it is there.

  • Eric

    I’m starting to get skeptical about some of the claims of excessive force on the part of LAPD. On this site and Midnight Ridazz there have been several people who claim to have videos of LAPD engaged in excessive force. so far i have yet to see any videos that back this up.

  • Meatonski

    As a bicycle commuter of 20 years in San Francisco, Minneapolis and Seattle I appreciate what Critical Mass is trying to do – bring the idea and joy of Bicycle riding to the 4 wheel people. I don’t think it helps to get 2000 people together for a ride and then drop them of on a residential street at 10pm with no further goals. I am sitting in my living room listening to the people out front, they have no goal, no ideals no direction. Critical Mass has a responsibility not just to gather these people but lead them and then disperse them. By creating a nuisance in neighborhoods you decrease public support for cyclists.

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