Saturday, April 29, 2006

Critical Smash

Last night's Critical Mass ride was awesome, peaceful and fun -- until the shit royally hit the fan.

John designed the map, left town and had Paul and other friends pass it out. This map won and Paul had to lead it. I stayed near to the front and it was an awesome, well-planned ride. Paul did a great job keeping the ride massed up and under control.

The mass ended horribly however and did not ride the extra block or two to the final destination of a public park. At the 'six corners' intersection of Damen, Milwaukee and North the bikers parked themselves. This is a crazy-busy intersection in one of the busiest, trendiest, bar and restaurant-laden parts of Chicago. I hate it when we linger in intersections, because it really serves no point but to piss people off and make us look like juvenile assholes.

I started to break away with a group, but realized that the vast bulk of the Mass wasn't following. The blue lights of police were visible and I turned back around and stood on the sidewalks to see what would happen and hope that all ended well.

The cops started clearing bikers out and a large, black SUV/Pick-up truck vehicle jammed itself into the intersection. The driver was angry and yelling and not particularly concerned about the people he might hit. In his eagerness to get through the crowd, he kept causing a bottleneck and wouldn't listen to my and other's reasonable arguments that he was only slowing things down, and that the intersection would clear quicker if he stopped moving.

The crowd went wild with glee and laughter when a cop barked over the PA "Just get on your bikes and ride." Best thing I heard from a cop all night long.

We headed East on North Avenue along with a thick crowd. After biking out of the fray of the intersection, I pulled over to get some photos of the bikes streaming past me. There was a gap in the bikes and I heard the sound of a vehicle aggressively accelerating. Mr. Black Truck.

Moments after he screamed past me I heard a sickening crunching noise. I followed to find a scene of disarray. Apparently he smashed through the bikers, hitting several people and dragging two bikes with him, before smashing into a vehicle to make a left turn onto a side street.

Clusterfuck doesn't begin to describe the scene. People were shouting the license plate number and freaked out. The one bike I saw was amazingly mangled.

The cops were total assholes. They simply would not, could not comprehend that a serious crime happened. They also demonstrated that they are clueless about biking laws, "You guys need to learn to stick to the bike lanes, riding outside of bike lane is illegal in Chicago." When I informed this cop that bikes have all of the rights of a motorized vehicle in Illinois and Chicago the cop shook his head, denied my statement and assured me that as a police officer, he "knows the law better than we do." Copper then gave a lecture that we should expect that drivers try to run us down if we make them wait.

The cops only began to take the situation seriously when the driver of the vehicle who was hit by Black Truck got their attention. Once they understood that another car was involved, their attitude changed and they started calling in the license plate number and writing a report.

One of the guys who was hit and whose bike was dragged requested an ambulance and to file a police report. The police arrested him, along with another guy who was hit and four other bikers.

I scooted home to get my ARDC card, swapped the slow Breeze for the speedy Julep and biked to the police station at California/Shakespear.

After getting the information about some of the arrested from the crowd, I went inside to play lawyer. After much bullshit, I was told that they were getting processed and would be released on their own recognisance in about an hour. The crowd was relieved and we goofed off outside.

An hour passed and I learned that a shift change had occurred. The new staff laughed when I mentioned the hour and they said that it would be 4-8 hours before their prints cleared and they were released. Grrrr...... I asked to see them and dealt with the police's shit about my status as a lawyer.


We waited, and waited, and napped and waited and waited.

The first guy was released around 4:00am.

One of the cops came out to greet us with bike registration forms, in case our bikes get stolen. He seemed nice and the group started talking with him and asking questions about the Black Truck. This officer also doesn't know the law and began this little dialogue with members of the group:

"Unfortunately, the law in Illinois says that any time a vehicle is in a collision with a bike or pedestrian, it is always the biker or ped's fault. The motorist is not at fault for hitting bikes or peds."

--- But what about the hit and run? Leaving the scene has to be a crime.

"Sure, if it was with another car, but he couldn't be at fault with a bike or ped, so he doesn't have to stay at the scene. Unless the biker is in a bike lane, or the pedestrian on the sidewalk, they are the party at fault."

--- What about leaving the bike lane to avoid getting doored?

"Then you need to get the contact information of the person who opened the door. They are the responsible party."


Then we were told we had to leave the station. One arestee was not yet released. His brother was allowed to wait inside, and I needed to give him some more advice. I was told to leave and I said I was waiting for my remaining client, and counseling the one with me. The officer again tried to call my bluff and my credentials came out yet again. After reviewing them, I was told I had to leave anyway. I was quite tired and cranky and furious at the ignorance and hostility from the police and I felt my nostrils flaring and ears pulling back. I told the cop that I was going to speak with my client that had been released and marched into the waiting room to do so.

I don't know the exact rules at police stations, but I doubt that they were supposed to make any of us leave. There were plenty of other people at the station wating for something or another. I have no doubt that they crossed a line when they demanded that I leave, too.

At the same time, the station is their turf. Being right doesn't mean that you can't get arrrested. Not a single part of me wanted to get arrested myself and spend another eight hours at the station.

I left and was home in bed by 5:12am.


The whole situation sucked. There is so much about the situation that I don't know -- including what happened between when I left the Black Truck and when he violently ran into people. There are rumors of some sort of altercation, but nothing concrete. Whatever happened, he didn't have the right to ram into a random group of people, even if Mr. Copper finds it understandable.

The cops' gross misunderstanding of several points of law is truly frightening. There is a constant problem of cops not taking accidents involving bicycles or pedestrians seriously. These are the cops who write the police reports that are very important in insurance settlements, criminal/traffic citations or civil disputes to determine liability and damages. With their ignorance and/or anymosity towards bikers and laws, it is no wonder that so many bikers have injuries/damages that cannot be recovered. Grrrr......

Also, I am suspicious about this group of arrestees and their friends waiting at the jail. They apparently spend a lot of time waiting outside of police stations and/or getting arrested themselves. On Saturday, a friend identified one of them as the man who hit another friend of ours and are the "young punks who are always causing trouble and trying to antagonize motorists."

I'm going to try to ride the next Mass with them and see for myself. If they ride like assholes, I will royally call them out on it -- if they are arrested again, they are on their own and won't get any help from me. This jail stuff is exhausting; I'll do it for someone who deserves help, but damn if I will do it for kids who cause their own trouble.


At 6:49 AM, Blogger George said...

You're a good person.

Just wanted to point that out in case no one else does.

At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Randy said...

Get 'em, Jojo!

But make sure you are in the right.


At 5:49 PM, Blogger blakemsu said...

Jojo, Very interesting. Due to riding buddy noshow and drinking I bagged out on Mass Friday.

I used to live near that intersection. It is awful, it went from the drug dealing sorts to the my shit don't stink yuppie crowd that owns bikes but drives to the beach to ride the on the LFBP.

My wife seriously regrets law school too. But it is nice to have someone with some legal knowledge around.

My last run in with Chicago's finest resulted in failure to grant me my moranda rights, phone call, etc. In the end they dismissed my "drinking on the public way" tickie.

At 6:16 PM, Blogger Sean said...

Hey I stumbled upon your blog. I am from Chicago as well and I am a long time cycling enthusiast.

I was going to go to CCM last week but my sick puppy prevented that. Now I am kind of glad!

Anyway, I'm gonna add you to the links on my site. Hope you don't mind!

At 3:31 PM, Blogger TincĂ©ir said...

OMG. I ride critical mass at times, and sometimes I even ride it with my 11 yo son. Some asshole plowing through the crowd of bikers is a total nightmare, and that fucker deserves nothing less than to be prosecuted for several counts of attempted murder... regardless of the bikers' actions (I seriously seriously doubt anything the bikers did could make the motorist's attempt to kill them an act of self-defense). I hope none of the bikers were hurt?

The cops not caring though... that's almost as bad! Our society is so often a sick and twisted parody of what it should be.


At 5:18 PM, Blogger Darren J said...

This is disturbing. Is it possible to sue the police department for not educating their force to a reasonable standard?


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