How often do police confiscate a vehicle when the operator runs a stop sign? Probably never, unless the driver also is charged with drunken driving.
But that didn't stop Long Beach police from confiscating about 40 bicycles and ticketing many of the 100 cyclists in a Critical Mass rally Friday evening in this bronze-level Bicycle Friendly community.
One of the promoters of Critical Mass ride told the Press-Telegram that they were met by a phalanx of police about five minutes into the ride. “We thought they were facilitating us,” said Ronnie Sandlin, who has unsuccessfully sought a permit for the ride.
Instead, police started issuing tickets and confiscating bicycles. Variously, according to police, the cyclists “endangered other people's safety,” ”blew a stop sign,” and violated other rules of the road.
Police Chief Jim McDonnell was quoted after the arrests:
“The group known as Critical Mass travels from city to city and as a matter of practice engages in dangerous conduct, violating every rule of the road and endangering the public.”
Whoa. Sounds like the chief is blaming outside agitators for traveling from city to city to create these law-breaking bike rides.
Actually, Critical Mass started in 1992 with a ride in San Francisco and has spread to some 300 cities worldwide. Usually held on the last Friday of the month, the rides aren't organized much beyond the publication of a place and time to start.
Some cities, such as New York, Seattle and Los Angeles, have seen violent confrontations with police that draw lots of attention. There also was that altercation between a motorist and cyclists in Seattle back in 2008. Other Critical Mass bike rides proceed without incident.
Bicyclists in Long Beach are planning a response to the ticketing and bike confiscations, perhaps by arriving en masse to pick up their bikes and attending a Nov. 9 city council meeting, according to the Press-Telegram. Cyclists need an appointment (call 562-570-1075) to pick up their bikes at the Long Beach Bike Warehouse.
Bicycles in Long Beach also are required to have a $3 bicycle license, which can be picked up at fire stations Saturday and Sunday mornings.
In a subsequent article, the LA Times puts the number of confiscated bikes at “more than 20.” Violations included running a stop sign, improper lighting for night riding, no brakes (on fixies, I assume) and lack of proper registration.