Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ride Or Die?

In this recent article in the Santa Monica Daily Press("Ride Or Die", by Melody Hanatani, February 20, 2007) there is discussion about critical mass riders following the rules of the road. What do you guy think, do critical mass riders follow the rules of the road? If so, explain. If not, explain what rules not obeyed? Any other comments about this article?

Ride Or Die
February 20, 2007
Santa Monica Daily Press

DOWNTOWN SM Once a month, they take to the streets more than a hundred strong in a show of solidarity. Their goal is to celebrate cycling and promote their rights to the road along with motorists.

To a growing number of peeved bystanders, the group of enthused cyclists known as the Critical Mass might be promoting bike riding as an alternative means of transportation, but it’s doing anything but promoting safe cycling practices.

On the first Friday evening of the month, the group gathers near the Santa Monica Pier for a ride through the city’s streets, meandering through Santa Monica for up to two hours. Their route is not predetermined, the effort is norganized and there is no real pack leader.

To some, the rolling parade is nothing short of anarchy.

“The rules of the road state we are to ‘share the road,’ not impede innocent people with the inconveniences of their behavior,” wrote Steven Weller, of Venice, in a letter to the Daily Press.

Santa Monica resident Ellen Drury concurs, arguing that Critical Mass poses a threat to public safety. She calls the mobile mob “a bratty pack of bullies” and criticizes the Santa Monica Police Department for failing to enforce traffic laws on cyclists.

Under California law, bicyclists are subject to the same rules and regulations as motorists.More than one hundred bicyclists are killed in traffic-related collisions every year.

“They ignore traffic and public safety laws,” Drury said. “They menace drivers and pedestrians alike, and do so with a dangerously contagious sociopathy.”

Not so, according to Jon Michaels, the owner of Triathlete Zombie on Santa Monica Boulevard.Michaels has ridden with the group for the past two months and has not observed any illegal behavior by the cyclists.

“Riding is important to the city and it’s important to be visible,” Michaels said. “We need to get more attention on bicycle as a viable means of transportation.”

Critical condition

Critical Mass groups exist in cities around the globe and have crossed law enforcement authorities in the past. Their activities have been called a protest and members have been accused of intentionally disrupting traffic flow and impeding motorists.

In 2004, the New York Police Department arrested 33 Critical Mass cyclists for running red lights and other traffic violations.

Two Critical Mass cyclists in Seattle were arrested last summer for allegedly blocking an intersection in the city. The arrest incited claims of police brutality, as several of the plainclothes police officers were accused by Critical Mass of failing to identify themselves as police officers during the arrest, which resulted in a tussle between the cyclists and law enforcement.

In 1997, in the city where Critical Mass was founded five years prior, San Francisco Police arrested 250 cyclists for allegedly overflowing city streets and aggravating traffic.

“Critical Mass has reached critical mass,” then-Mayor Willie Brown was quoted as saying.

An occasional rider with Santa Monica Critical Mass, Andrew Smith believes the group needs to conduct its activities in a manner that promotes safe cycling. Smith, who owns Bike Attack on Main Street, believes the cyclists should abide by laws, ride in single file, use lights and wear helmets.

“It’s more of an issue of not disrupting the traffic flow,” Smith said. “Cars (also) need to be aware of cyclists and if you research California motor vehicle code, we are allowed to have a whole lane to ourselves.”

There are those cyclists who are “blatantly lawless,” but since Critical Mass is not an organized effort, there is really nothing that Beatty could do to control the crowd, Smith said.

“It organically grows into what it is,” said Smith.

But sometimes, doing everything right doesn’t necessarily mean an accident can be avoided. Four months ago, Bill Greenslade was riding his bike at night in Venice when he was struck by a car that ran through a stop sign. Greenslade, the manager of Sea Mist Skate and Bike Rental on Ocean Front Walk, injured his collarbone and was unable to get back on a bike until last week. Fortunately, that was the extent of his injury.

“I had an angel with me,” Greenslade said.

Today, Greenslade refuses to ride on the street and rides on the bike path from his home near the Venice Pier to work.

“I was thinking a couple of days after the accident that there was nothing I could’ve done to change (what happened),” Greenslade said. “Except not be there.”

Recommeded Links:
- Santa-Monica/West-L.A./Venice critical mass community forum
- Cycle Santa Monica! community forum

Related Posts:
- Santa Monica Critical Mass (video)
- SM Critical Mass (video)
- CarLESS Santa Monica (video news report)
- Velorution (Video Paris Critical Mass)
- Critical Mass Origin (video)
- Bicycle Workshop (Santa Monica, CA - Audio)


Jay said...

What do they mean by "Ride Or Die" as the title?

Anonymous said...

If you would link to the original you would be doing everyone a favor.

Chris said...

I think the "Ride And Die" title probably implies that people need to ride their bicycle or will die because of pollution, and other problems caused by driving cars.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the article PDF file

Anonymous said...

It's the cars that don't follow the rules. I'm not talking about critical mass per se, but I've been riding on the streets of LA for 39 years, and cars are always crowding me, in my lane, and treating me as if I should be riding in the gutter.

I've been hit, run off the road, threatened, menaced, attacked by a softball team, complete with softball batts, spit on, honked at, etc. for riding exactly within the vehicle code.

I'd also like to poin out that the vehicle code applies only to 'persons subject to the code' but except for commercial drivers and drivers of (described as multi axle vehicles bla bla etc) of big trucks, the Vehicle code doesn't define who is a "person subject to the code".

I ride in the right-hand lane, except when passing slower vehicles or making left-hand turns, however, I do ride in the left-most portion of the right-most lane in busier traffic, to avoid having cars pass me in my lane and push me off the road.

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