Tag Archive for Critical Mass Takedown

More Critical Mass fallout: the mayor speaks out, LAPD steps up

Sometimes it only takes a videotape of an assault under color of authority to get a little attention.

Just a few days after the LACBC called on L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa to step up and unequivocally voice his support for cycling in the City of Angeles following the now infamous Critical Mass Takedown, he did.

Sort of.

The next business day after the letter was hand-delivered to his office, he offered his response to the LACBC.

Bicyclists have every right to use our City streets and to be treated with courtesy and respect—both by drivers and law enforcement.

I fully support LAPD Chief Charlie Beck’s efforts to improve the relationship between cyclists and police officers, and I was very   disappointed  to hear about the confrontation in Hollywood on May 28.

The video from that night is disturbing. The LAPD is conducting a full investigation of this incident, and I have complete confidence in Chief Beck’s commitment to making the City’s streets safe for everyone.

—Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa

It’s a great message, as far as it goes. Which isn’t nearly far enough.

As Damien Newton points out, it’s a baby step, but one that goes far beyond anything we’ve heard from the mayor before.

But baby steps aren’t good enough. Not anymore.

Mayor Villaraigosa needs to take this opportunity to make it clear to all city departments and employees that bikes have a vital role to play in L.A.’s transportation future, and that cyclists deserve the same respect and consideration given to any other users of the city’s streets. And that the bureaucratic obstructionism that’s prevented implementation of the 1996 bike plan needs to end.

Now.

It’s also long past time for the mayor to meet with cyclists.

The Transportation Committee has done it. The full City Council has heard us. Even the new Chief and Asst. Chief of the LAPD sat down with cyclists — and made real changes as a result.

Now the mayor needs to come forward to meet with cyclists to share his thoughts, answer our questions and really listen to the concerns of the cycling community.

Anything less would be a failure of leadership. And yet another failure to communicate.

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On the other hand, the LAPD seems to have gotten the message.

In response to the bungled Critical Mass response — which is far from the first time the LAPD has used force against cyclists — Commander Jorge Villegas, the Assistant Director of Operations, has ordered the Training Division to develop new tactics that would allow all officers to safely and effectively deal with riders on an individual and group basis, including:

  • stopping a single moving bicyclist
  • stopping bicyclists riding in a group
  • managing large bicycle rides and events
  • developing a pursuit policy for bicyclists who refuse to yield
  • any other bicycle-related tactical issues that may arise

That doesn’t mean things are going to change overnight. Or that the next time a police officer feels overwhelmed by cyclists, he won’t resort to the sort of use of force that would never be employed against a motorist under similar circumstances.

But it does mean that the department has gotten the message.

And that they are committed to finding a better way to deal with us.

A special thanks to Sgt. David Krumer of the LAPD’s Office of Operations, the department’s point man on biking issues, who has gone out of his way to address the concerns of bicyclists and improve communications between the department and the cycling community.

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Alex Trujillo is scheduled to go on trial Wednesday for felony murder in the drunk driving death of Catherine Busse in Seal Beach two years ago. According to the Orange County Register, Trujillo was on multiple prescription drugs and had a blood alcohol level of 0.11 when he swerved onto the sidewalk and hit Busse at a speed of 45 mph. Trujillo had also been convicted of DUI in 2002.

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Attack of the killer cyclists: The suspect in the vicious hit-and-run attacks that targeted four cyclists in San Francisco is described as an “avid cyclist,” while a bike-riding Wisconsin driver gets 30 months in jail for killing a cyclist while driving drunk.

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Travelin’ Local ask why LA isn’t more bike friendly than NYC; two words: Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan. Or is that three? San Francisco takes space from the traffic lane to reduce the door zone. The mayor of Aspen, CO is seriously injured in a solo bike accident; that’s why you don’t wrap anything around your handles bars. A group of Critical Mass riders are captured on film actually stopping for a red light. Floyd “Seriously, I’m Telling the Truth Now, Even Though I was Lying Before” Landis lawyers up with LeMond’s attorneys; probably a damn good idea. NBA star Caron Butler teams with Denmark’s crown prince and a couple of Congressmen to promote cycling. The bamboo bike makers visit the Bay Area. Bad things can happen when you pass on the right; then again, the left isn’t always so great, either. Actually, there is a safe way for delivery trucks to double park without blocking the bike lane. Chicago gets artistic new bike racks. A bike wedding in Tucson. Tips on how to ride in a group without becoming roadkill. My idea of heaven: fly fishing by bike. What’s your carbon footprint when you ride? Manchester UK recruits cyclists for a new bicycle ballet. A BBC broadcaster would rather travel by bike than limo. Britain considers lowering the blood alcohol limit for drivers from .08 to .05. A British program doubles the percentage of children who bike to school. Courtesy of Witch on a Bicycle comes word of an intentional road-rage assault in the UK.

Finally, after a bus hits a cyclist on Denver’s 16th Mall, the driver gets a ticket; yet instead of improving driver training, Denver transportation officials consider banning bikes entirely in response. And just west of Denver, the small town of Blackhawk bans bikes entirely from most streets; you know, for our own safety.

God forbid they should actually focus on the big, dangerous vehicles that can kill people.

You’re the next victim of the Critical Mass Takedown; mass bike assault in San Francisco

Not surprisingly, the first lawsuit over last week’s LAPD Critical Mass Takedown is about to be filed.

I received an email last night indicating that a press conference will be held Downtown this afternoon to announce the filing on behalf of Manny Gallegos. You may know him as the cyclist who recorded the now infamous YouTube video showing an officer apparently kicking a passing bike, only to be taken down himself by officers who seemed to understand the first amendment about as well s they did rights of cyclists.

Which is to say, not at all. Then again, that seems to be an ongoing problem for them.

And that makes it your problem, too.

Even though you’ve never assaulted a cyclist or denied a photographer his rights, you’re going to end up picking up the tab, once the financially strapped city eventually reaches a settlement with the victims.

A settlement that will come out of your taxes, just as it did when the police clashed with May Day protesters in MacArthur Park in 2007.

It’s not that the victims in these cases don’t deserve something. From what I’ve seen, the city might as well open its checkbook right now.

But we’d all be better off if the LAPD learned to avoid incidents like this in the first place. Because we’re all about to pay for their misguided actions.

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If you ever wondered if drivers were out to get you, the answer may be yes.

In a horrific attack on apparently random riders, four San Francisco cyclists were struck — apparently intentionally — by a hit-and-run driver in four separate assaults over a six minute period. The driver then fled the scene after crashing his car, leaving broken bikes and bodies strewn in his wake.

Fortunately, no one was killed. Yet the injuries ran the gamut, with three riders hospitalized — one in critical condition, one serious and one fair — with the fourth treated and released at the scene. Injuries included two broken legs and a head injury that left the victim floating in and out of consciousness; fortunately, all are expected to survive.

Police Lt. Lyn Tomioka said all the victims “do appear to be targeted. We don’t know if they were known victims, or if it’s because they were on bicycles or what the issue was.”

The SUV involved, a blue Nissan Rogue, was left at the scene of the final assault after colliding with two other vehicles, then hitting a pole. The car does not appear to be stolen, and as of Friday morning, the police were still looking for the suspect.

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LAist reminds readers that the 10th Annual River Ride takes place this Sunday, starting at Griffith Park. The LACBC meets with representatives of several regional bike groups. If you’re going to look cool pooping your pants, you definitely need a bike in the background. A look at some of the less tangible benefits of biking. A San Francisco cyclist says church goers who park in the bike lane are worshipping the wrong God. A report from yet another Tweed ride. It only takes one jerk to ruin a ride. Now you can charge your Nokia cell phone while you ride. The misguided bill requiring Florida cyclists to stay in the damn bike lane now awaits the governor’s signature; does he sign it and piss off cyclists, or veto it and risk his chances in the upcoming Senatorial race? DC area park police urge drivers to share the road, which might not be necessary if they weren’t blocking the bike lane. A road-raging senior citizen cyclist smashes a car that infringed on the crosswalk. Greg “Everyone Dopes But Me” LeMond says he feels vindicated by Floyd Landis’ unsubstantiated charges. Bike lawyer Bob Mionske offers his take on the inexplicable dropping of charges against Toronto cyclist killer Michael Bryant. Cyclists get no respect in British Columbia. Pro cyclist Fabian Cancellara laughs off charges that he cheated with an electric boost; Copenhagenize says real bikes don’t have motors. A UK motorist apologizes for carelessly killing a bike riding father, which evidently makes it okay as the driver walks away with a suspended sentence and community service. After a London cyclist is hit by a taxi, he’s strangled to unconsciousness with his own scarf by the angry driver; he goes on trial next week — the cyclist that is, not the driver.

Finally, France’s new Street Code offers common-sense solutions to sharing the road in the truest sense. If anyone at LADOT or the Department of Planning is listening, there’s your new blueprint to really revitalize Downtown.

What does Friday’s Critical Mass Takedown say about police/cyclist relations in LA?

Things had been going so well.

Just this last February, Chief Beck and Asst. Chief Paysinger came to a meeting of the City Council Transportation Committee to speak — and more importantly, listen — to cyclists. A meeting where the Chief got an earful, and responded by saying “We will do better for you.”

“Don’t listen to what I say,” Chief Beck said, “but watch what I do.”

That was followed by the formation and growth of the LAPD’s Bike Task Force, from a group that included a relative handful of cyclists to one that now includes representatives from the BAC, Bikeside, LACBC, the East Side Bike Club, among others, as well as yours truly.

The result has been, or at least seemed to be, a new era in the department’s relationship with the bicyclists who ride its streets.

There was even a new training video that went out to patrol officers throughout the city that clearly explained the rights and responsibilities of cyclists, which has been seen by roughly two-thirds of the city’s police force so far.

Maybe that’s the problem.

If two-thirds of the of department’s 9,000 plus officers have completed the training, that means somewhere around 3,000 haven’t.

Maybe they were the ones patrolling the streets of Hollywood Friday night, when officers are accused of violently assaulting cyclists — and violating the first amendment rights of a rider who tried to record the night’s events — in the LAPD’s Critical Mass Takedown.

Maybe they’d seen the training, but their supervisors who ordered the massively inappropriate response hadn’t — including the Watch Commander who allegedly hung up on Stephen Box not once, not twice, but four times when he attempted to report the alleged abuse. Just a bad connection, I’m sure.

Or maybe it just takes a long damn time to change the attitudes and actions of an organization as large and entrenched in their own way of doing things as the LAPD.

As many others have noted over the past several days, the infractions for which the cyclists were stopped were simple traffic violations, like running a red light and failure to have lights and reflectors at night. And the police were well within their authority to write-up every legitimate violation that occurred during the ride.

Whether they had the capability to do so is another matter. As is the wisdom of attempting it in the first place — let alone use of force for a simple traffic violation.

Or do they make a habit of violently forcing motorists off the road for running a red light, and routinely taking down and cuffing drivers caught with a broken brake light?

According to the LACBC, Asst. Chief Paysinger has personally ordered an investigation into the matter. And as I write this, cyclists are confronting representatives of the LAPD at tonight’s meeting of the Bike Advisory Committee.

But the problem goes beyond the actions of a few out-of-control — or possibly overwhelmed — officers. Or any single division, for that matter.

The LAPD has to find a way to deal with large groups of cyclists that doesn’t involve driving patrol cars into packs of riders, herding them into dangerous situations or risking serious injury by knocking cyclists off their bikes.

Other cities have found ways to accommodate Critical Mass and other large, unofficial group rides without violence or aggressive, antagonistic responses. As the LACBC’s blog points out, rather than trying to halt their CM, Chicago smartly assigns bike officers to ride along with it, going so far as to allow officers to block intersections and cork uncooperative drivers.

If the result of this investigation is the disciplining of a handful of officers, the department will have failed once again. What’s needed is new policies that will prevent this kind of violent, heavy-handed overreaction from ever happening again.

Not to mention official, department-wide recognition that every citizen of the United States has a first amendment right to record the actions of officers on the street, without fear of interference or retaliation.

It’s time for real action that results in new policies on the streets. And a new, more effective relationship that demonstrates real respect for riders and concern for their safety, even when stopping them for whatever reason.

This should never have happened. But since it did, it’s up to the LAPD to ensure it never happens again.

We’re watching now, Chief.

………

Writing for Eco Village, Joe Linton says that the police only have to look at the streets around them to see how little respect riders get in Los Angeles. And suggests that the city could easily do something about that by moving forward with a number of inexpensive, previously approved projects  — some dating back to 1996 — that could transform cycling in L.A. virtually overnight.

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Four years later, Operación Puerto catches up to #1 ranked pro cyclist Alejandro Valverde in the form of a two-year suspension; interesting that the hundreds of non-cycling professional athletes implicated in the scandal have yet to face any serious repercussions. Meanwhile, Swiss star Fabian Cancellara denies rumors that he used a tiny engine hidden inside his bike to win two major races earlier this year.

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At least some officials in San Diego understand that widening the freeway is only a short-term solution to traffic congestion; I’m still waiting for someone to figure that out up here. Imagine what L.A. could due with the $450 million currently being spent to widen a few miles of the 405 to relieve congestion for just a few years.

………

LADOT #2 John Fisher — who has previously been accused of treating local bicycling that way, too —  talks traffic, bikes and pedestrians with The Atlantic; the comments on Streetsblog’s coverage are worth the read. Creek Freak says don’t tear down the historic Spring Street Bridge for cyclists’ sake. More on last week’s Caltrans 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting. A Cycle Chic Sunday in Santa Monica. Brand X reports that the Department of DIY isn’t just limited to the bike world. San Jose is the latest city to host a ciclovia. A cyclist gets brushed by a passing truck, resulting in a parking lot altercation that ends with two riders stabbed and the driver behind bars. A Florida bike cop explains bike safety. Bystanders lift a car off an injured cyclist; although what his helmet has to do why he got hit is beyond me. Chicago turns Lake Shore Drive over to bikes for a day, or five hours, anyway. Can drivers and cyclists co-exist in the City of Brotherly Love? An Indiana legislator proposes strengthening the laws protecting cyclists; the commenters demonstrate how little they understand bicycling, or spelling for that matter. Efforts are underway to make the federal government more bike friendly; who wants to bet the feds get there before L.A. does? Bob Mionske links to the executive summary of the inexplicable dropping of charges against the former Ontario Attorney General who killed bike messenger Darcy Allan Sheppard. One-third of Canadian parents aren’t worried that their children will be injured while biking; is that good news or bad news? A bike advocate looks at tensions between drivers and bicyclists in BC. Britain’s new Transportation Minister dashes the hopes of cyclists, saying the “war on motorists” must end — and suggests that riders are responsible for their own safety. A London bike advocacy group proposes solutions to online fencing of stolen bikes. Video evidence of a fatally substandard bike lane. This year’s Tour of Ireland is cancelled due to funding issues.

Finally, thanks to the Trickster for tipping us to the story of Kiwi bus drivers who took to two wheels to understand what it feels like to share the road with a 12 ton bus.

Any time Metro — or any other local bus operators — want to try that here, just drop me a line.

Memorial Day bike links; more on the LAPD’s Critical Mass Takedown

More on the LAPD’s Critical Mass Takedown from KCBS Channel 2, KNBC Channel 4 and KTLA Channel 5; not surprising, it’s mostly a rehash of what we’ve already heard. If the story moves forward, it probably won’t be until the press gets back to work on Tuesday.

Cyclists are encouraged to attend Tuesday’s meeting of the Bicycle Advisory Committee to express their concerns; representatives of the LAPD are expected to be present.

LA City Council’s Bicycle Advisory Committee
Hollywood Neighborhood City Hall
6501 Fountain Ave. (between Cole & Wilcox)
Los Angeles, CA 90028
7 pm

And one day after the Critical Mass Takedown, Bike Town Beta 3 shows what biking in L.A. could be.

UPDATE: As always, Damien Newton is on the case.

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Ivan Basso culminates his remarkable comeback from a two year suspension by cementing his victory in the final stage of the Giro D’Itlia; surprising Spaniard David Arroyo holds on for second, as pre-race favorites Cadel Evans, Alexandre Vinokourov and Carlos Sastre fail to bounce back from a devastating breakaway earlier in the race.

When the Tour of California offers competition like that, it will be on it’s way to becoming a great race.

Meanwhile, the comeback of Floyd “I was lying then but I’m totally telling the truth now, seriously” Landis is derailed when he gets dumped by the Bahati Foundation racing team.

So Basso takes his lumps, serves his suspension with dignity and comes back to win the Giro, while Landis fights like hell – knowing he’s lying the whole time – and loses his ride without qualifying for the ToC, let alone the grand tours.

Maybe there’s a lesson there.

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There’s a lot to be said for bikes on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. San Diego gets a long overdue update to the city’s bike plan. A Seattle cyclist is knocked off his bike by a passing car, then beaten and robbed as he’s on the ground. Anchorage police foil a bike-riding bank robber’s getaway. Formerly bike-unfriendly Florida doesn’t suck anymore. NPR looks at the Race Across American (or RAAM), the country’s brutal coast-to-coast endurance bike race. A Manchester cyclist is blamed for cutting off a bus, forcing it to brake so sharply that a 78-year old passenger was killed. The price of a cyclist’s life in New Zealand is just $5,000. A rider in Australia joins other strangers in trying to save the life of a fallen cyclist. How to lock your bike to a crappy bike rack. In Copenhagen, when a cyclist inadvertently assaults other riders, he apologizes profusely — and his victims warmly accept it. Time to start preparing your uniform for June’s Naked Bike Ride; I think mine needs to be taken in a little.

Finally, take just a moment amid all the biking, grilling, sun basking and bargain hunting to remember what today’s holiday is all about. And here’s the perfect place to start, where you’ll find more than just a potential shortcut from Westwood to Brentwood, including 14 Medal of Honor winners, 10,000 Civil War vets and over 100 of the famed and too-long forgotten Buffalo Soldiers.

LAPD Critical Mass takedown

By now, you’ve probably heard about the heavy-handed police response to Friday’s Critical Mass, which included a protest of the BP oil spill in the gulf. From all descriptions, it was a peaceful, friendly ride until it got to the Hollywood area, where police reacted in force.

I’m on the run this weekend, but in the meantime, here’s the official police statement and links to the story so far.

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Los Angeles Police Department Investigates Complaint of Use of Force Against Bicyclist

Los Angeles: Hollywood Area LAPD bike officers are involved in an incident that results in a complaint filed by representatives of the LA biking community.

On May 28, 2010 around 9:30 pm, LAPD Hollywood Area bike unit officers were patrolling the Entertainment District in Hollywood, at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard, just east of Highland Avenue, when a group of bicyclists numbering approximately 400 traveled eastbound on Hollywood Boulevard.

As part of enforcement efforts, LAPD Officers were watching for red light violations, and issuing citations. As Officers attempted to detain several bicyclists, a reported use of force was captured on video.

“In response to what we learned, we immediately launched a full-scale investigation to determine the facts surrounding the events,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger. “The Departments Professional Standards Bureau has taken the lead in the inquiry and the Police Commission’s Inspector General has also been made fully aware of the matter.”

Since November 2009, the LAPD Office of Operations has worked closely with representatives of the biking community to improve relations, make the streets safer for bicyclists and discuss and identify issues involving bicyclists that are problematic for the motoring public.

“Our Department takes seriously its obligations and commitment to all members of the community. The Chief of Police and I pledged our strong support to work closely with the bike community and that promise has not wavered. It’s our hope that the relationship we’ve developed with the biking community over the past months will be strengthened even more as we continue to work together to find solutions to difficult circumstances such as these.”

LAPD Internal Affairs Group is investigating this reported use of force incident.

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Cyclelicious: LAPD attacks CM cyclists

WeHo Daily: Bike Riders Protest BP, LAPD Takes Some Down; LAPD Launches Investigation of Bike Ride Video Incident

KABC TV-7: LAPD investigating officer excessive force

FromTheOld.com: Video – Hollywood police brutality against cyclists

LAist: Caught on Tape: Police Harass Bike Riders During BP Protest Ride; LAPD Launches Investigation of Use of Force Against Cyclists Captured on Video

LA Figa: Caught on Tape: Hollywood LAPD Bash Bicyclists During BP Protest Ride

LA Independent: Video appears to show use of force by LAPD officers during protest ride in Hollywood

Bikeside LA: Hollywood LAPD Assault/Harass Cyclists on LA Critical Mass; Los Angeles Police Protective League – Hollywood bike incident statement; Los Angeles Police Department Investigates Complaint of Use of Force Against Bicyclist

LA Curbed: Cyclists Storm Hollywood, But What’s Going on Here?

LA Times: LAPD to investigate scuffle between officers and BP protestors

Midnight Ridazz: CM Police Brutality

Legman LA: LAPD Confronts Anarcho Cyclists

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