It was a clash that has altered the way the Los Angeles Police Department deals with bicyclists: In May an officer was captured on tape throwing a kick at a cyclist during an impromptu, two-wheeled demonstration by bicyclists in Hollywood that seemed to overwhelm cops.
On Wednesday the department planned a 5 p.m. press conference at its downtown headquarters to announce how it will deal with the latest Critical Mass ride, this one scheduled for Friday. Riders are starting at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue in Koreatown at 7:30 p.m. but an LAPD spokesman told the Weekly it wasn't entirely clear where they'll travel.
In any case, we're guessing that bike-kicking drills and batons-through-the-spokes moves aren't part of the LAPD's preparations. And, ruth be told, this is progress: Critical Mass likes to show up on the scene with hundreds of bikes and take over lanes and intersections without the kinds of permits it would take for the rest of us to block traffic. At least the LAPD is ready for this one.
Chief Charlie Beck and Alex Thompson, president of Bikeside LA, will be at the conference. An LAPD spokesman told the Weekly that the focus will be on Friday: Monday morning quarterbacking about the May clash apparently isn't on the menu.
The man taping the May confrontation claimed cops tried to stomp his video-capable iPhone to death as they allegedly threw him down and pummeled him. And other cyclists – who appeared to have rolled through a red light at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue en masse – claimed that officers charged at them and attacked them. It was enough to get the LAPD to investigate the officers involved and to make a serious effort to meet radical bicyclists halfway in efforts to keep such demonstrations safe.
Cordial meetings between cyclists and the LAPD, including city leaders, ensued, and even Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa took up the two-wheeled cause after he broke an elbow in his own cycling accident in July.
Bike activists have claimed that the LAPD has been heavy handed when enforcing traffic laws against cyclists and that, at the same time, the department has failed to pursue hit-and-run drivers who have collided with bicyclists.
One thing has changed since the Critical Mass clash: The LAPD is now investigating hit-and-runs involving two-wheeled victims as full-on car crashes, which means Traffic Division cops must take over such cases.