Scores of Cops Descend Upon Fort Lauderdale Critical Mass, but Only One Arrest (Video)
At this month's Critical Mass in Fort Lauderdale, there seemed to be more police present than cyclists. Cops on bikes, in cars, and mounted atop horses showed up at Holiday Park to herd several hundred riders along their group ride on Friday. Even (and oddly enough) park rangers were present.
Photo by James Argyropoulos
Close to 8 p.m., one officer laid down the ground rules through a megaphone: Biking sober, obeying all traffic laws, and putting helmets on kids were expected. About 500 cyclists applauded and cheered in response.
It was a surprising reaction given what happened last month. May marked the first time that FLPD assisted with Critical Mass, which takes place in about 300 cities across the globe, and it was also the first time conflict occurred at the event. Dan Littell was tackled by an officer, and Rahim Benjamin says a police motorcycle rammed him on purpose.
Although one man was arrested for drug possession before the ride even started, that was the last sign of trouble. Cops politely rode alongside cyclists and kept them from going into oncoming traffic. There was even friendly banter between the two groups.
"We didn't invite them to the party, but at least they behaved themselves while they were there," says Ray Strack, the 55-year-old New York native who often serves as a spokesman of the leaderless group. The former U.S. Customs agent even helped police out by sending them a copy of the route beforehand.
South Florida is a notoriously dangerous place for cyclists, and Critical Mass is all about promoting awareness among motorists. People in both the Broward and Miami bike scenes say that people's ignorance of bike laws puts them in danger every time they hit the road. (Even Strack has been struck. In January, he was run over and fractured his T9 vertebrae.)