Critical Mass, The Inside View

As most of you readers know, Critical Mass is an event held on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world, including Minneapolis where I live. It is a protest and a show of solidarity where bicyclists take to the streets en masse. Originally founded to draw attention to how unfriendly cities were to bicyclists, the event has featured arrests, bike crashes, brawls with motorists. . . and change in the way bikes are viewed (e.g., as viable city transportation).

Last month, reporting on a story about Critical Mass, I pedaled for more than an hour in the July 25th Minneapolis ride. It was an intriguing experience, with the entire spectrum of the cycling demographic represented, including moms and kids, commuters, messengers, a couple mtb’ers, male roadies (with shaved legs), and female anarchist types (with hairy legs). Oh, and we had 28 cops on bikes pedaling along with the pack to keep things in line. Squad cars were circling and revving their engines, honking, blocking off intersections for us when we pedaled through the busiest parts of town.

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It was a bit odd, as the event started with some tension between the riders and the cops, but later everything eased. Bystanders and people in cars cheered more than they honked or yelled. The group blocked traffic as it tootled along at maybe 6mph, and after an hour the event, to me, began to feel more like a parade than a protest. That’s when I left.

Now, I’m not 100 percent cool with Critical Mass. “Don’t crap where you eat” comes to mind for me, as Minneapolis is among the most bike-friendly and tolerant cities on the planet to pedal two wheels. On the other hand, a couple hours each month to show some solidarity as cyclists who have a right to be on the road is not such a bad thing, either.

I’ll write a full story on the Mass experience soon. But today I leave you with the below sequence, a few screen shots from a video of a Mass rider treated wrong in New York on July 25.

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Ready!
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Set!
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Slam!

According to gothamist.com, this scene—where one of New York’s finest violently shoves a cyclist off his bicycle, launching him through the air to the curb—happened at 46th street and Seventh Avenue.

Although a judge ruled in 2006 that the monthly Critical Mass bicycle rides could proceed without a permit, the NYPD’s stance remains somewhat adversarial, according to Gothamist. Police have been ticketing cyclists during the ride for such infractions as not having the required lights.

The report said the knocked-down rider, Christopher Long, an Army veteran who works as a grocer, was arrested, held for 26 hours, and charged with attempted assault and resisting arrest.

Fortunatly, it now looks like the police officer in the video—a 22-year-old man named Patrick Pogan—has been stripped of his badge and gun and the NYPD has “placed the officer on desk duty pending the outcome of a department investigation.”

The cyclist has not commented, but his lawyer said, “The video speaks for itself.”

Go here for the full story: http://gothamist.com/2008/07/28/cop_caught_on_video_assaulting_cycl.php

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