Saturday, September 08, 2007

Chicago's Critical Mass in the News

Chatboard fall-out:

Critical Mass: Bike riders, cops clash; 7 arrested
Police force thousands to change route
September 2, 2007
Staff Reporter, Chicago Sun Times

Last month, a city official said the city was a "partner" with Critical Mass, the monthly ride in which thousands of cyclers pedal through various Chicago neighborhoods.

But Friday night, that partnership fizzled as Chicago Police took control of the ride, forbade riders to finish their planned route and then arrested seven riders on charges of obstructing traffic and disobeying police.

Longtime riders are upset at what they say were heavy-handed tactics by police.

"Our ride was taken over," said Dave "Mr. Bike" Glowacz, education director for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation.

But authorities said the sheer number of riders---estimated at 2,000 to 3,000---led authorities to take control of the ride. "Police have a responsibility to ensure the safety of those citizens who are not participants," spokeswoman Monique Bond said Saturday.

Glowacz, 50, of Logan Square, and a friend spent hours creating Friday's route. The plan, distributed to all riders who gathered at Daley Center Plaza, was to ride slightly north and east, double back down Indiana, past Mayor Daley's home, through the IIT campus, past Sox Park, through Chinatown and then end at 12th Street Beach.

Several police officers rode with the bikers, including one at the front. When they got to Randolph just east of Columbus, an officer announced, "'You are not going east of Michigan and you are not going down Indiana,'" recalled Glowacz. "'If you continue going that way, we are going to lock you up.'"

The riders obeyed, and the officer steered the bicyclists west on Randolph to Wabash and then on various streets from there.

In interviews and on Internet forums Saturday, some riders speculated that police did not want cyclers to go by the mayor's house, especially since earlier rides had gone down busy downtown streets before. But Bond denied that, saying "the route was redirected for safety reasons" away from Jazzfest and a concert at Northerly Island.

Riders still wanted to finish at the lake and attempted to head east, but police refused to allow it, said Carl Hayden, who was at the front of the ride.

At Roosevelt and Canal, a standoff ensued as police would only allow riders to head west. Police arrested cyclists who they say refused to leave the intersection.
Dave Vondle, 24, an electrical engineer from Logan's Square, said he was arrested because "I didn't move fast enough."

Hayden, an information technology manager from Cary, was also arrested.

All seven spent the night in jail on misdemeanor charges.