Slog - The Stranger's Blog

Line Out

The Music Blog

« It's a Series of Tubes | Million-Dollar Burner »

Monday, July 3, 2006

Critical Mass: Whose Streets?

Posted by on July 3 at 10:50 AM

This morning’s P-I has an account of Friday’s Critical Mass arrests, and this line from the P-I story jumped out at me:

Seattle police were not called to assist and were not involved with the investigation.

I’ve ridden with Critical Mass before, so I know that it’s often monitored by Seattle Police officers who seem to get what the event is about. For example: Last year, for a potential story, I was on a Friday evening Critical Mass ride that decided to head over the Aurora Bridge. The bikers began by occupying every lane of the bridge and riding really slowly, forcing the normal car traffic to become a creeping parade led by cyclists. Seattle Police arrived in short order and used their patrol cars and loudspeakers to force the cyclists into one lane the far right lane. Then the patrol cars occupied the lane next to the cyclists to protect them, and to keep them in place as car traffic whizzed by in the other lanes. No arrests, no injuries, and the cyclists exited the bridge on the Ballard side a few minutes later, point made.

I doubt the King County Sheriff’s deputies who came upon Critical Mass last Friday were very familiar with the event. And it doesn’t seem that the deputies involved in Friday’s incident made much of an effort to get in touch with their Seattle colleagues about what they were witnessing either before of after they made two arrests. Which strikes me as strange.

I just spoke to Sean Whitcomb, the Seattle Police spokesman, and he said he’s been looking, but hasn’t yet found any record of communication between the King County Sheriff’s deputies and the Seattle Police department about the incident. He wouldn’t comment on whether the Sheriff’s deputies should have contacted the Seattle Police because he’s still getting to the bottom of the situation.

But he did say that for minor arrests (like a Sheriff’s deputy taking a disruptive drunk on a Seattle bus into custody) it’s not expected that the Seattle Police be notified, while for major incidents (like a Sheriff’s deputy disrupting a Seattle bank robbery) it is expected that the Seattle Police be notified.

Where does Friday’s incident undercover King County Sheriff’s deputies making two arrests at a monthly Seattle bike protest fit into this spectrum? Whitcomb wouldn’t say.


CommentsRSS icon

I kind of alluded to this in a previous comment on this issue, but I think that the kind of SPD participation you described is EXACTLY the kind of thing that needs to happen EVERY TIME.

A few months ago I was sitting at Von's having a drink with co-workers at around six pm. We heard a commotion, saw SPD squad cars, several dozen or maybe a hundred folks on bikes (must be CM, right?), and then a few more SPD cars at the back end. The cops were working to protect both the riders and the general public. what a brilliant fucking idea.

see, there needs to be a balance. Cars shouldn't be running bikers into the curb, but bikers shouldn't monopolize the street with the implied "fuck you" that includes. Having the SPD there, working CONSTRUCTIVELY with them to plan events ahead of time and make sure things are SAFE and ORDERLY seems like a Good Idea (tm).

this kind of goes against the whole social revolution thing their web site has going on, but if its really about getting attention towards a tangible end (increased awareness and ACCEPTANCE of bikers), then these things need to be legitimate.

that means no "corking" and rolling around with beer in your bag. i'm not saying what the KC dudes did was right, but if these events aren't better managed this will happen again, and that would be a shame and it works to make the entire point seem illigitmate in the first place.

I mean, for how many PI readers will some story about a kid "corking" traffic be their first introduction to CM? What does that do for bikers rights?

Eli you are so radical! Wow, you ride in Critical Mass? That's really making a statment! About...bikes are oppressed...it should be OK to clog downtown streets...


The "real" newspapers are just going to ignore this and report instead about Israel killing dozens of women and children in Gaza...unimportant things like that.


Please do a Stranger cover story about this privledged white male bike rider oppressed because he slugged an Seattle Asian cop. And you Eli, your rights are being violated. Find out the name of the Asian Seattle Cop...Seattle teens have the right to carry beer in backpacks and stop downtown traffic...we must protest this oppression!


Seattle drivers never do the following:

Turn right from the left lane.
Turn without signaling.
Talk on cellphones.
Read.
Put on make up.
Turn left from the right lane.
Use their signal.

We live in such a wonderful city, one in which every Seattle car owner is a model of lawfull driving.

The Good Citizens of Seattle should not underestimate the scourge that is the Undercover Police Force (SPD and KC). They work with impunity and immunity and are never called to task. They are the cockroaches of law enforcement.

Cars are bad and people who drive cars are bad to. Protest against bad things!

My point is, People are bad. The same assholes that drive are sometimes the same assholes who ride bikes, scooters, Segways (teh gay), helicopter pilots, etc...

Cars block intersections all the time. Ever heard of the Mercer mess?

i guess nobody wants to actually discuss the larger issue here. the last time I tried to raise a legitimate issue everyone got distracted by the "some guy" flamer... and in the absence of that we get the same old tripe. If this is the level of discourse in CM, then who friggin cares what happens to them?

Radical Chic, you are either deliberately twisting the facts to suit your argument, or are completely ignorant of the facts.

Every eye-whitness account so far has indicated that the cops instigated the attack without identifying themselves. To all concerned it appeared to be two thugs jumping out of a van and attacking the cyclists. Only AFTER it seemed things might not go their way did the thugs identify themselves as police and start arresting people.

You can certainly make the argument that the tactics of Critical Mass are marginally illegal and at times counterproductive to their aims. But that does not excuse the reprehensible behavior of the cops. They behaved like the stereotypical bullies with badges. They should be reprimanded at the very least, and fired if this is a normal pattern of behavior for them. This is not the old west. We do not need cops like that in a modern civil society.

Be aware that these things happen ALL THE TIME in Seattle -- undercover cops beating the crap out of people. Typically these people are poor or crazy or drugged or black or all of the above. Only when these incidents happen to the white middle-class in broad daylight does anyone pay attention.

Critical Mass had a point decade ago and they made it by getting press coverage in San Francisco.


A teenager with a backpack full of beer "Corking" downtown Seattle streets isn't making a political point, it's chic pseudo-rebellion that will get your picture in The Stranger.


End oppression! Allow Seattle Teens to cork streets and drink beer! Punching Asian cops is our right!

Privledged white male bikers have the right to cork streets and punch cops! Critical Mass is making a statement...groups of white middle class people on bikes...oppression...cops are mean...cars are bad...bikes are the latest fashion...the affluent young white male demographic might like bike articles...protesting anything is chic...

Critical Mass is bullshit. It's been going on in Seattle for how many years now? What has it accomplished? It's pissed off a bunch of people and problably made a lot of drivers less likely to share the rode with cyclists. Why not try using all that extra energy to do something constructive, like more bike lanes, dedicated paths for bikes, etc. Oh, but I guess that would take some actual work, and it's much easier to go on a bike ride once a month and feel like you're stickin' it to the man.

Radical Chic, Cars Are Bad, Critical Mess, White Middle Class Bikers Unite, Religion Sucks, etc...

This is all the same dickwipe. A form letter with a couple of words changed every post. Dumb as a bleached dictionary. Urr, urr, drag my arms, urr, urr, sleep under bridge. Sun too bright, mrrrrr. Must eat, urrrr, must survive, urrr. Why I cry? Ma-hah-hah. Tear so salty, wah-hah, bah-hah hah. Nobody like me? Please, somebody, help big, sad beast. Sleep Under Bridge Sucks.

Critical Mass is bullshit share the f-in road!

Some rich ass math major, who'll be working for Microsoft in a year, rides his expensive moutain bike through Belltown and punches a cop. The Horror! Working class cops don't like rich little pricks punching them.


Seattle would be a better city if the working class Cops spent more time roughing up rich people in front of million dollar Belltown condos. Just because some rich little fuck is riding a bike doesn't make him oppressed. Yeah Cops! Manhandle more rich people in Belltown!

What's with all the "middle class white male" crap? What would lead anyone to assume that those who ride in Critical Mass rallies are anything but a demographic cross section of the city itself?

There were tons of working class Mexicans, African Americans, Koreans who work night shift, and single mothers who work seventy hours a week to support their kids, riding with Critical Mass through gentrified Belltown on friday.


It's not only straight white males who can afford expensive mountain bikes that cost more than cars. (It's true that in Seattle they used to call REI the "happy healthy white man's store" but that was before Seattle became the most diverse city in America.)


When Critical Mass rides through Central District or Rainier Valley, the crowds say "the people on those bikes are just like us."


Remember even George Bush rides a mountain bike now and he's just a simple rancher from Texas.

Some "rich little fuck" getting his face ground into the tarmac, on the other hand, does make him oppressed.

I have one word for Seattle cops rough up rich little white fucks - Progress.

Wait until the kick-ass lawyer, DAVID SPEIKERS of Fall City, who is representing the "POLICE ROAD RAGE VICTIM" presents his case on this one-
He will bring this case to justice and put the King County Sherriff's in their place!!!

Wait until the kick-ass lawyer, DAVID SPEIKERS of Fall City, who is representing the "POLICE ROAD RAGE VICTIM" presents his case on this one-
He will bring this case to justice and put the King County Sherriff's in their place!!!

Justice Stranger Style -


Seattle Police rough up Seattle protestor = outrage


Israeli Police kill protestor with bulldozer = no problem


Hey Eli what about finding out the name of the Israeli police officer driving the bulldozer, the name of his supervisor? Oooops...you've got to waste hours on this Critical Mass nonsense instead. You guys at The Stranger need to do a better job at hiding your Zionist bias, it's really showing in this story.

Wow, it's amazing how many people ignore the facts of this particular case and whine about how horrible cyclists are. Quick question: how many people get killed by law-flouting or inattentive cyclists every year? The worst a bicycle is going to do is inconvenience a car, whereas a mishandled auto has the power to kill, and often does.

And to all you wankers throwing out the red herring of "rich ass math major," or whatnot, you're clearly talking out of your asses. Grad students get paid shite in most fields (math included), and most of us aren't getting support from mommy and daddy.

Protesting against bad things, cars are bad, police is bad, meat is bad, suburbs are bad...pissing in the wind.


How many people get killed by police a year?...lots...United States Military Police kill women and children in Iraq...Israeli police running over American college students with bulldozers...


We're just glad our property values are up in Seattle, and a couple new bars opened to spice up night life. Police brutality...Princess Di gets a new dress...life goes on. It's all just the flow and evolution of history...children die of starvation in Africa...new porn anthology comes out in America...it's all good.

I'm pretty certain KC didn't contact SPD on this because these two assholes ERRRRR off duty cops acted alone and without protocol.

Also, I ignore every comment written with an anonymous tag i.e. Against Bad Things or Mass Sucks... so really, I only see about 5-10 useful comments in this thread.

It's funny how I've stopped and directed traffic on my own before, without meriting a beat-down from King County Deputies. I even did just a block away from an SPD officer.

Let's face it - They were probably drunk off their ass dipshits. It'd be criminal if any of them retained their jobs.

Why shouldn't we be allowed to ride around w/ beer in our bags? Some of us "privileged" bikers don't have cars... so how do you expect us to get such things around?

Josh, not to legitimize the violent action of those two scumbags, but I believe the issue given with the beer is that the possessor was underage.

Critical Mass cuts across ethinic, race, age and gender boundries.
It is NOT a bunch of 20-30 something white males.
I saw everyone there and at least 40% of CM is female.
Critical Mass is for everyone and to me it is a protest against cars.

Cars cause so many problems and inconvenicence so many people every day. What is the big deal if one day a month for a couple of hours a bunch of cyclists take over a few roads for a few minutes at a time?

Why don't the news traffic reports know about this yet and announce it?

FYI: Critcal Mass: The last Friday of Every Month 5:30 PM at Westlake Plaza. The ride usually leaves by 6 or 6:30 PM.

Come ride with us! It will change your life view!

Also, In they year and a half that I have been riding with CM I have only witnessed 2 arrests. Last Fridays and one for a guy on Capitol Hill for crossing the center line. Fridays was not justified, the latter was, I have no problem with police enforcing the laws. We cyclists know when we are breaking them. We do so with risk of a ticket.

I see car drivers breaking the rules all the time. It is rampant!

dearest justice stranger style/critical mess/against bad things/etc.

thank god you are here to put things into perspective for us! how ridiculous and childish we were to give any ounce of our attention to local issues. why must we continually fight against cars and their evil?! eli, please use your powers to make sure all bicyclists can trade in their bikes for hummers! why haven't we thought of this before?!

also, eli, make sure you cover all that shit going on in israel and iraq! i know the bbc is already doing a great job and that your focus is on local politics, but we've already established that anything going on on our doorstep is worthless. better yet, let's blow the stranger's budget and send you right over there so you can report on real news! bring me back some oil, okay?

thanks, anonymous kid, for showing us our priorities! how have we gotten along without you?

An idea, Aaron: contact the news outlets and let them know your route, if for no other reason than to allow them to alert listeners during their traffic reports.

CM is leaderless. There is no planned route.

They traffic reporters could just remind drivers to wave if they see a bunch of cyclists. Any one car is only going to be held up for just a minute or two extra. Nothing to get upset about.

Heh, unless you're an off duty cop with road (roid?) rage.

KOMO radio reported this morning that SPD is very upset with KC police acting within their jurisdiction.

You people that are against Critical Mass are obviously not getting the point. Bikes are everywhere and they are a part of city life. The fact that we are riding our bikes miles and miles each day instead of clogging the streets with those useless over-priced tin cans should make sense to you when you look at the long,smelly, obnoxious traffic jams all over the city. I'd be pissed too if I were a driver going through downtown on the last Friday of any given month. There is a simple solution though; cope with it. When you cross paths with a biker downtown, remember that it's one less moron in a car cutting you off. Just pass by and get over it.

As one who rides a bicycle himself, I agree with your sentiment, Stan. But you missed rather badly on one point: people in cars can't pass by a bicyclist, especially on a two lane street (which most of Seattle consists of), so one can't pass by and get over it, at least not until the bicyclist(s) turns off the road.

And I think that's the point with all the hatred. Bicyclists don't just make a point, they smear it in drivers' faces. That doesn't justify getting out of one's car and beating him up, but it does explain why people don't like bicyclists.

There is a line between standing up for yourself and being an asshole about it, and a big problem is that many bicyclists and bicycle activists have no clue where that line is, let alone when they cross it.

I ride 125-150 miles every week. I also drive to work. I share the road wherever I ride in lawful and safe manner. This means that I stop at red lights and stop signs, ride as far to the right as is safe, ride with the flow of traffic (not against it), use hand signals and wear a helmet. For nearly the past 10 years, whenever I see CM involved in a ride, I see very few participants riding in a lawful and safe manner. Many do not wear helmets. CM seems to think that sharing the road means taking the road for themselves and blocking anyone from using the road while they occupy it. That doesn't sound like sharing to me. If this is their version of raising awareness for bikers, I do not want their help. Groups like CM make it very difficult for lawful cyclists who do share the road with cars.

As a driver, I give cyclists the attention that is required. I have no problem with cyclists that act like traffic when they ride in traffic. CM would better serve the cause by encouraging their ranks to ride in a safe manner and obey traffic laws. CM has no right to cork intersections. Drivers should be mad CM when they do this. Drivers would certainly be upset if a bunch of car drivers decided to run a red. No different when cyclists do it. When someone yells at me on the road, I ignore them and silently thank riders like CM members for helping drivers to hate cyclists. Grow up Critical Mass.

why bring up helmets? that is the must runout retarded subject to ever bring up w/ bikers.... Anyone not wearing a helmet is only a danger to themselves!
If you look at 90% of riders who die from being hit by a car, it is not from head trauma, but the rest of the body.
The helmet thing is pointless. get over it.

With JM on this. Let the choice to do so (even if not wearing one is technically illegal) and the consequences thereof be up to the rider. The allegations of safety from wearing a helmet are mostly a myth (propogated in top-down fashion by, HAHA, the manufacturers of said helmets). If you happen to land on the crown of your head, it might protect you. Otherwise....

If I wear one, it's only to shut the other self-righteous bikers up. "OMG you need to wear a helmet!" Mind your own fucking business and chalk one's possible demise up to Darwinism.

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 45 days old).