By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Mayor Richard Bloom, a member of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the sometimes rowdy, leftist tenants’ group that has controlled city government for most of the past quarter century, sounds more like the establishment he once fought, saying, “It’s something I don’t think we can tolerate if they’re violating public safety laws.”
Council Member Kevin McKeown, a daily cyclist, goes even further, writing in a letter to a constituent that the event is nothing short of a “violation of the crucial social contract” that requires everyone to stop at red lights. He accused the bicyclists of taking “life-threatening risk.”
Police Chief Tim Jackman, a former Long Beach deputy chief who took over Santa Monica’s top post last December, insists that if “people decide not to abide by the rules, regardless of how noble the cause, the system breaks down.”
He notes that Critical Mass riders are clearly breaking the law — you can’t ride more than two abreast and must obey all traffic signals — and could potentially injure pedestrians, motorists and other bicyclists, whom he says have filed complaints.
Jackman says he has urged Critical Mass to use the city’s beach-side bike path, which would be a legal alternative to its spontaneous routes through busy streets, but “They want to cause traffic disruption to draw attention to the issue.”
The chief, whose high-ranking officers met with Thompson and Feinstein after the July ride, also suggested that the group “apply for a permit and pay for the police services to protect them, set up a route and make sure they’re safe. We didn’t get anywhere,” he adds.
This particular evening, the riders reach Venice, where they regroup off Abbott Kinney Boulevard and circle the rotary near Windward Avenue. They form a beeline up Venice Boulevard, turn and ride past the canals up and down the wooden bridges, and end up at a huge parking lot.
There are still some 200 bikers, and several are complaining about the crackdown in Santa Monica. The former mayor, Feinstein, suggests that the city spend some money on police services for the bicyclists, as is now routine in San Francisco. “This should be twice as big in sustainable Santa Monica — ‘bike-friendly’ Santa Monica,” the Green Party leader says.
Suddenly, a man in a vintage hat rides up, hip-hop blaring from a glowing Plexiglas container shaped like a tropical fish set above the back wheel of his bicycle, control lights flashing. Fossil Fool, a rolling rapper from San Francisco who rides the college circuit preaching the benefits of peddling, grabs his microphone, cranks up the volume and starts to rap. The riders bob in their seats as Fossil Fool raps about cabbies in east Africa — and his rides through the much friendlier streets of San Francisco.
People wave from their balconies, teenagers laugh and cheer from the back of a corner store, a woman comes dancing down the street. “Bike culture blowing up,” Fossil Fool sings. “Car culture slowing down.”