Tag Archive for protest

A not-so-brief lesson in social protest.

Let’s spend just one more day discussing the recent crosswalk protest in Santa Monica. Or more precisely, the reasons behind the protest and what can be done about them.

As Alex points out in his post about the crosswalk protest, the Santa Monica CM riders have tried everything they could think of to get the city manager, council members and police to work with them to in finding solutions that would work to everyone’s benefit. The only result was more tickets, and more ham-handed police tactics, as if this was the most important item on their agenda.

So what can be done, if nothing has worked?

Start by thinking like a politician. While there are some elected officials who really do want to do the right thing, what matters most to most pols these days are A) the votes they need to get re-elected, and B) the money they need to get those votes. Yes, it sucks, and yes, we all like to pretend that’s not the case, but that’s the system we’re living with these days. So deal with it, already.

And judging by the reaction, the city is more concerned about the people who complain about Critical Mass, than they are about the votes they might lose from CM riders — many of whom live outside the city.

So that leaves money. If one or more of those C.M. rider have extra-deep pockets, it’s game over. Just make the maximum donation allowed under law to the re-election funds of every council member, and drop a hint that it would be nice if the police backed off a little. Then just wait a reasonable amount of time, and the council will decide that maybe Critical Mass isn’t so bad after all.

On the other hand, no deep pockets means you’ve got to get a little more creative.

Get the public on your side. People love underdogs in this country, and want to support those who are being treated unfairly by government — especially in a left-leaning community like Santa Monica.

So why aren’t the people on the cyclists side here? After all, the cyclists are the victims here, at least in terms of being unfairly — and possibly, illegally — ticketed. (Hint: protests that keep them from getting home to their families don’t usually help.)

Get some publicity. Tell your side of the story to anyone who will listen. Talk about why Critical Mass exists, and why you ride like relatively well-behaved hooligans through the streets of Santa Monica once a month. And tell everyone who’ll listen about how unfair the city is being.

While Santa Monica doesn’t have a local newspaper anymore, this is a story that’s tailor made for one of the alternative weeklies. You might also be able to get someone at the Times interested, such as Steve Hyman at the Bottleneck Blog.

Call every TV station. Call the radio stations and see if anyone will put you on the air to tell your story — especially Santa Monica’s public radio station, KCRW. Go to the 3rd Street Promenade and the Farmer’s Market and pass out handbills explaining the police harassment, and the city’s refusal to meet with you.

In other words, use every opportunity and forum you can think of to get your side of the story out there — without pissing people off at the same time.

Document your ride. Equip as many riders as you can with small digital video recorders. That way, you will have proof of what really happens if the police crack down again. Just remember, though — they can use it for proof, too.

Invite guest riders. Invite the press to ride along, and bring their notebooks and cameras. Let them see for themselves how harmless the ride is — and how heavy-handed the police reaction. If they see you getting tickets for violations that didn’t happen, they’ll report on it. And the public is a lot more likely to believe them than a group of rowdy riders.

Besides, wouldn’t you just love to see Paul Moyer on a Critical Mass ride?

Or invite a celebrity to join in. There’s no shortage of successful actors, musicians, models, etc., around here, and some of them love to ride. In this town, it often takes a lot less than six degrees of separation to find someone who knows them.

Just the presence of someone famous may be enough to get the police to back off. Let’s hope not, though. Because if you get a ticket, chances are, no one will really care. But if someone like that gets a ticket, it’s the lead story on Entertainment Tonight.

Contact the City Attorney. If the police really are acting illegally, the city attorney’s not likely to be very happy about it. And if you don’t get any traction there, go over her head.

Get a good lawyer. This is America, where litigation — or the threat of litigation — trumps all. There’s no shortage of cycling attorney’s around here; you may be able to find one willing to represent you pro bono through one of the cycling clubs, like Velo LaGrange. Or you might be able to get the ACLU or Common Cause interested; if not, they should be able to refer you to someone who will be.

Apply pressure. While a couple hundred CM cyclists probably aren’t enough to get the city’s attention, a couple thousand angry cyclists will — and that’s still just a small fraction of the riders who live in Santa Monica, let alone the tens of thousands who pass through every day.

So start a letter writing campaign. Ask everyone you know — and everyone they know — to write the Santa Monica city government and demand that they work with you to find a solution that will allow CM to go on, without causing undue inconvenience to city residents.

There’s always a comprise, if the city and the riders are motivated to find it.

Or go viral. Start an email campaign explaining your position, and asking people to email the city government. Then send it to every rider you know, and ask them to pass it on to every rider they know, as well as contacting every CM group in the country. When the city starts getting angry emails from Des Moines and Kalamazoo — potentially effecting their tourist trade — they’ll pay attention.

Use economic pressure. Again, if a few hundred CM riders stop shopping in Santa Monica, no one’s going to notice. But if a few thousand riders stop spending money in the city, people will pay attention — and the threat of a boycott is often more effective than the boycott itself.

So start an online petition. Ask people to sign a statement saying that unless the city stops writing illegal tickets and negotiates a reasonable accommodation allowing the rides to continue, they will stop spending any money in Santa Monica. No nightclubs, no restaurants, no (gasp!) Starbucks, no REI, no boutiques on Main or Montana.

Ask them to estimate the amount of money they spend in Santa Monica each week when they sign, as well. When the city sees the amount of money local merchants could lose, and the amount they could lose in taxes, they will pay attention.

And I’ll be one of the first to sign it.

Sometimes, a protest is justified

 

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here

Feel free to copy & use this image. Or make a better one, and I'll post it here.

Let’s go back to Alex Thompson’s report on the recent crosswalk protest in Santa Monica for a bit.

Whether or not you agree with their tactics — and judging by the comments, many don’t — or with Critical Mass in general, the key point to me is what lead up to the protest. Because Alex describes a rising level of frustration, as they repeatedly tried to deal with the local government, but were rebuffed and ignored at every turn.

From city council members who failed to speak to a single cyclist after promising to explore ways to accommodate the Critical Mass rides, to a scheduled meeting with the chief of police — at the urging of the city manager — which lasted all of 30 seconds before the chief excused himself.

Then there’s the matter of the apparent deliberate writing of false tickets by the S.M.P.D. Alex reports that the police issued over 30 tickets for “no light” violations, then repeatedly checked the box indicating that this was not a correctable violation — resulting in a significant increase in the cost of the ticket, from $10 to $100.

Or this, from a recent post on LAist about the latest Santa Monica Critical Mass ride:

“Santa Monica Police Officers were out in full force, riding motorcycles alongside the Santa Monica Critical Mass and citing cyclists for leaving the bike lane (not a violation of the law – CVC 21208), taking control of a traffic lane (not a violation of the law – CVC 21202) and turning left from a left turn lane. (again, not a violation of the law- CVC 22100).”

In other words, the local police were writing tickets for supposed violations that were not against the law. And they wonder why the Crimanimalz felt a need to protest?

Call me crazy, but when the police break the law in order to enforce it, something is seriously wrong.

Now, as a certified Angeleno, I may not live in Santa Monica, but I do spend a lot of time there. More to the point, I also spend a lot of money there — as do many other cyclists, I’m sure.
Which means that we help support the city’s many restaurants, retailers and nightclubs, as well as making a significant contribution to the city coffers.

And while I am not a fan of the tactics employed by Critical Mass — as I’ve said before, I find them counterproductive — I can’t see myself economically supporting a city that would ignore any group of citizens, cyclists or otherwise, who actively reach out for dialogue with city officials. Or who would allow the local police make up their own laws in order to rein in an activity they clearly disagree with.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting a boycott of local businesses. Not yet, anyway.

But the government in Santa Monica needs to wake up, start a dialogue, and stop the heavy handed tactics. And local business owners need to pressure their political leaders to find a way to accommodate everyone who lives in, or does business in, their city — without violating the law themselves.

Maybe the Crimanimalz and S.M. Critical Mass should hire a good lawyer. And start to consider tactics that could be far more effective than delaying traffic for awhile.

 

The Daily News says things aren’t so bad for cyclists in Los Angeles, and getting better. But I wonder if those 1,252 miles of bike routes, lanes and paths in L.A. County they refer to include un-ridable sections like sign for the designated bike route I saw on eastbound Pico at Sepulveda yesterday — which I would only recommend to someone with a death wish.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s bike meister tells Canadians to share the road. But the interesting part of the article in buried inside, where they mention new laws that prohibit “…opening a car door on a cyclist, parking or driving in a bike lane, passing within three feet of a bike, and turning left or right into the path of a cyclist…” with fines ranging from $150 to $500. And a minimum fine of $12,500 and up to a year in jail if careless driving results in the death of a cyclist or pedestrian. When we get laws like that, then our local pols can claim to support cyclist.

And finally, Bike Girl inspires Gary to rhapsodize on locking up.

The ugly side of an ugly incident

It was a shocking, disturbing and hideous case of road rage that sent two local cyclists to the Emergency Room — one made worse by the realization it could just as easily have happened to any of us.

But surprisingly, some good has come out of the good doctor’s Mandeville Canyon brake test. The Cyclist’s Bill of Rights has gained some traction as a result, in the hope that we can keep things like this from happening in the future. A real dialogue has finally begun between cyclists and Canyon residents. And for the first time, we saw an overwhelming response from our new-found biking community.

Unfortunately, we also saw how ugly that community can be.

As you may have noticed, I go out of my way not to name of the doctor who cause the injuries to those riders — and who reportedly refused to offer any medical assistance afterwards.

There’s a reason for that.

It’s not like it’s hard to find his name online. And as outraged as I was when I read about the incident, I was just as  sickened to read on LAist’s followup to the incident: *Note: There are other Dr. (name deleted)s in the Los Angeles area who work in medicine and unfortunately some are being wrongly threatened.

And this from the moderator of the Socal Bike Forum’s thread on the Mandeville Incident:

Just to clarify on the “name” issue. We all know who the guy is now, where he lives and where he works… but there is no good reason for posting his personal information on a public board. On another bike site, his name and phone number was displayed and some yokels thought it would be fun to start systematic harassment. Turns out, they posted the number of the wrong guy. (EDIT: LAist just closed their “Comments” feature because a number of men with the same name have been threatened.) Similarly, the hospital where the doctor works undoubtedly has more pressing issues than dealing with phone calls from a bunch of angry cyclists. That is why we do not want such information posted. The two riders have asked that no one take matters into their own hands, and to let the police do their job…

As my friend, and author of the excellent Altadena Blog that covers life in Pasadena’s less pretentious northern neighbor, put it, “…but it’s OK the threaten the RIGHT one? Anonymous phone calls to HIS mailbox are OK? I’m with the bikers on this one, but…let the cops do the threatening! That’s what they’re paid for!”

I wonder what the doctors who were mistakenly threatened think about cyclists now? Our public perception is bad enough in this town without going around threatening innocent people.

If you’ve been following the story online, like I have, you’ve undoubtedly seen countless comments threatening the doctor, or vowing retaliation against other drivers — just as there have been comments that the riders had it coming. And countless others vowing mass traffic disruptions if the charges are dropped, or if the good doctor should somehow be acquitted.

This isn’t the time for violence — as if there ever is a right time — or aggressive civil disobedience. That would only undo the progress our community has made over the past two weeks.

No, this is a time for action.

Contact the mayor’s office and your local council member to support passage of the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights, and demand prosecution of all violent acts against cyclists, as well as an end to police bias in favor of motorists. Contact the governor’s office, as well as your local representatives in the state legislature, and ask them to take real action to protect cyclists and encourage safe cycling everywhere in California.

And while you’re at it, remind them that you bike.

And you vote.

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