This last Friday, LADOT Bike Blog took part in a history-making LA Critical Mass ride. For the first time, LAPD rode with the Critical Mass riders, providing both recognition and escort to the decades-old event.
Covered on Streetsblog, the LAPD decided to ride along with June’s Critical Mass following the furor that developed over police-bicyclist conflict during May’s Critical Mass ride. There was a lot of mixed feelings, uncertainty, and doubt over the role LAPD would play in the upcoming ride, most humorously embodied in a parody version of LAPD’s flyer about the upcoming Critical Mass ride.
From the moment we arrived at the Wilshire and Western Metro Station at 7:00 PM on Friday, however, it was clear that the ride would be a success. LAPD bike officers were right in the middle of the thronging Critical Mass crowd, passing out flyers and engaging in conversation with bicyclists. LADOT Bike Blog even saw an officer try out a “tall bike” offered to him by a friendly Critical Mass participant. While both officers and riders seemed a little nervous, it was equally clear that both groups were dedicated to making the ride work. After some pointers given out by Roadblock of Midnight Ridazz via megaphone, the ride got on its way.
Winding through Hancock Park, Mid-City, Park La Brea, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Koreatown, LAPD bike and motorcycle officers provided escort to the hundreds and hundreds of riders amassed for the event. In many instances, LAPD officers would help to keep the bulk of riders together by holding intersections open after the lights had changed – often called “corking”. LADOT Bike Blog noticed how officers at every stopped-up intersection were showered with “thank you’s” by the passing bicyclists. While LAPD had to peel off from the ride when it entered Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, they quickly joined up again when it passed back in Los Angeles.
LADOT Bike Blog also noticed riders engaging in conversation with bike officers while they kept a perimeter along the double-yellow line of traffic. It’s precisely this kind of conversation, and this kind of interaction, between bicyclists and the LAPD which helps to grow understanding and trust between the bicycling community and law enforcement. While this ride was certainly a success for both riders and the LAPD (exemplified the glowing coverage by LAist, Streetsblog, Streetsblog again, Be A Green Commuter, City Watch LA, LA Now, and Bicycle Fixation), it also is only the beginning. The gains made on Friday need to be further cemented and followed up on by both the LAPD and the bicycling community. Only time will tell if this ride marks the beginning of a new era of cooperation and understanding.
LADOT Bike Blog also had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bowers on the ride. Mike is a representative of 1000bikes.org, an organization dedicated to donating 1000 bikes, helmets, lights, and locks to foster families across the country. To us, this is the epitome of group rides like Critical Mass: bringing people together and growing the bicycle community. We wish Mike the best, and hope to further cover the great work 1000 Bikes does in the future.
And because it wouldn’t be Critical Mass without a little whimsy, here’s a photo of Joe Borfo, who built his own fish costume and wore it for the entire ride.