There’s irony to be found that the 5th anniversary of Long Beach’s inaugural Critical Mass ride is being dubbed “Critical Massacre”—and it’s not because of its nod to Halloween. It’s for the reason that, well, what the first one became a mess in terms of our city’s so-called bike-friendly image.
Critical Mass, originating in San Francisco in 1992, has become an international event that takes place on the last Friday of each month in hundreds of cities around the world. Initially beginning as a form of protest against the fact that the vastness of public property is dedicated to vehicles, Critical Mass created a new juncture in the thought about what streets are and what they can be used for—in this case, as a legal pathway for hundreds of bikes.
Back in late October of 2010, 100 bicyclists took to the streets to mark our fair city’s first Critical Mass ride—complete with public advertising and notification. The result? 85 cyclists cited and more than 20 bicycles seized for various offenses, including riding unlicensed bikes (a now-defunct legal requirement in Long Beach). At the time, Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) officials claimed that organizers lacked a special events permit and that bicyclists broke many laws. Starting at Cal State Long Beach, LBPD cracked down on the ride before it had even hit the 20 minute mark.
Then-LBPD Chief Jim McDonnell was quoted as saying that the bike ride “engages in dangerous conduct, violating every rule of the road and endangering the public.”
Anyone would be hard-pressed to believe that LBPD would have such an issue five years later. (If anything, we feel they should be ticketing sidewalk riders and other violators; not people engaged in what they are legally allowed to do, that is, ride their bikes on the street, even if en masse).
While we don’t have much more information because, well, that’s the point of the rides… We do know what they’ve posted around town: Friday, October 30, meet at “6:66PM” (that’s wit for 7:06PM) near the Belmont Pool and Pier. And to avoid a 2010-like failure, the advertisement is clear: come safely prepared.