CityWatch, June 29, 2010
Vol 8 Issue 51
It's not often that the streets of Los Angeles are filled with shouts of "Thank You!" and "Happy Friday!" but when dozens of LAPD Bike Officers joined hundreds of cyclists on Friday's Critical Mass ride, an amazing thing happened, mass civility broke out and the LAPD set a new standard for respect that drew cheers of support from pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. Most of all, from the cyclists. LA's Critical Mass ride is a tradition that takes place on the last Friday of the month when cyclists gather at the Wilshire & Western Metro Station, taking to the streets in a leaderless journey that some perceive as a protest ride while others frame it as a social ride.
Over the years it has grown in popularity for some while others find the large number of cyclists on the streets disturbing.
Last month's Critical Mass ride drew the ire of the LAPD and resulted in an incident that saw charges of excessive force leveled at the LAPD, casting a pall over the work of the Cyclists/LAPD Task Force and drawing a swift response from Chief Beck who assured the cycling community "Police work by nature will have conflict, it’s not whether they occur or not, it’s how you resolve them that is the test.”
The LAPD's participation in Friday's Critical Mass ride came with a great deal of apprehension, resulting in oversight from Assistant Chief McCarthy and a meeting at the LAPD Headquarters with members of the cycling community and an agreement that respect and communication were the most powerful opportunities for progress.
"Red" jumped on a Tall Bike and took a spin around the quad, drawing cheers and breaking the ice.
The Olympic Division's Bicycle Officers greeted arriving cyclists with "Thanks for inviting us!" and the die was cast for a great ride that bordered on the surreal.
Heading south on Western, the Critical Mass ride stretched for a mile and the sight of bike officers "hosting" the streets of LA confirmed that the City of LA is well on its way to becoming a Great City.
While Critical Mass is a group ride that occurs only once a month, it's on a daily basis that cyclists take to the streets of LA and ride alone, an act that typically draws commentary on LA's dangerous traffic.
The LAPD's participation in Friday's Critical Mass ride set a new standard for respect, cooperation, and understanding. By joining the cyclists of LA for a ride, the LAPD made huge progress in making the streets safer for everybody, and it all started with a bike ride!
Photo credit: Alex C. Thompson
(Stephen Box is a cycling advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net)