In case you’re still wondering why you need to vote today, consider this.
Even in the most bike-friendly city in Southern California, a seemingly out-of-control police department can engage in a heavy-handed crackdown on cyclists.
Not only did the Long Beach police department halt the city’s first Critical Mass ride for lack of a permit — raising questions over the rider’s First Amendment right to free association and freedom of assembly — they seized up to 40 bikes with no apparent legal basis.
Or at least, no police officer I’ve spoken with was aware of any law that would allow a mass seizure of legally owned bikes.
Maybe they have a different set of laws down there.
One of the reasons for the seizure cited in the Times article was a lack of brakes on 11 of the bikes. Yet the standard under state law only requires that the operator must be able to make one wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement — a standard that most fixies can easily meet.
Any guesses whether the officers made the riders try to skid their bikes before taking them?
Yeah, I don’t think so either.
The article also says that bikes must be registered with the city and inspected by the fire department. Yet under state law, such local licensing requirements can only be enforced against city residents, and cannot be applied to anyone who lives in a different jurisdiction or is just riding through the city.
And the law only allows for a maximum fine of $10 for not having a license. Nothing in the law allows for the seizure of a bike for not having a license — even for local residents.
The official statement from the city, which goes to great lengths to remind everyone what a cycling Nirvana Long Beach is — or rather, was prior to Friday — says 21 bikes were impounded, and over 70 citations issued. It also claims the riders chose not to get a permit, even though the Times story reports that they attempted to get a permit for the past two months.
And even though that pesky little First Amendment seems to make a permit unnecessary. Does Long Beach plan to crack down on any group of riders who happen to gather together for a ride?
Or only the ones that call themselves Critical Mass?
As more details come to light, the words of Police Chief Jim McDonnell sound even more chilling than they did over the weekend:
“The group known as Critical Mass travels from city to city and as a matter of practice engages in dangerous conduct, violating every rule of the road and endangering the public.” said Police Chief Jim McDonnell. “We take bicycle safety seriously in Long Beach and will not stand by idly while any person or group acts with blatant disregard for safety of the residents of our community.”
If you’ve been reading this for awhile, you may know that I’ve never been a fan of Critical Mass. And I’m the first to agree that police have every right to write up cyclists for legitimate violations such as running stop signs and not having lights after dark.
On the other hand, I’m even less a fan of police officers who seem to operate under their own version of the law. If this is how the “most bicycle friendly city in America” treats cyclists, God help the rest of us.
I thought this kind of policing went out of style with Bull Connor in the ‘60s.
But clearly, not everyone agrees.
The ride is tentatively scheduled to begin at 8 am on Saturday, November 20th, at the Agoura Bicycle John’s at Kanan Road and East Thousand Oaks Blvd, and will pass by the site where he was killed on Agoura Road. It will be short, and slow to moderate pace, so it should be something anyone can feel comfortable participating in.
The early start may make it difficult for me to get out there in time for the ride, but I’m going to do my best to be there.
Because we need remember all those cyclists who have died needlessly on our streets, and let their loved ones know we share their grief.
And make it clear that too damn many of us have died already.
Thanks to Dave Mace for the information.