Elevate Difference

Bipedal, By Pedal! #2: Confidential Mad Libs

Because it’s been about ten years, I forgot how funny mad libs could be, and the ones in Bipedal, By Pedal! #2 have proven to be a fun distraction during lunch breaks and in long grocery store lines. Take, for example, my mad lib from this morning: “On Wednesday, September 29th at 17:30 hours, the so-called 'bananas' are planning a bicycle rally in downtown Portland. From information supplied by C.I.D., their plans...were to gather coffees in the South Park Blocks, group into formations of twelve riders...and gyrate along a predetermined path.” Okay, it’s not the most mature form of entertainment, but that’s a large part of its appeal.

What I was most excited about when Bipedal, By Pedal! #2 came in the mail was seeing the awesome creativity of fellow cyclists. I anticipated seeing the heavy-handed injustice that had fallen upon riders nationwide portrayed through silly rewordings of the Portland police inter-office memorandums. Yet the purpose of the small paperback booklet is presented in an aggravating way. While the information is served up with a strong slant against law enforcement, and in favor of the Portland Critical Mass Bicycle Rally, it doesn’t make cyclists look very good.

Critical Mass rallies are huge (usually monthly) rides that take place in many metropolitan areas around the world. The ride works better in some cities than others. Last year in L.A., for example, the LAPD was asked to join the group in order to protect the cyclists. And riders in Sydney, Australia have long ridden with police officers, who help control car traffic and facilitate the ride.

So, when I read that the group’s mission was to be “as non-confrontational as possible and...try and educate people about the stupidity of -ing verb cars,” I cringed. How can tired motorists trying to get home in rush hour traffic relate to a group of 200 cyclists blocking the intersection they need to cross? How do reports of cyclists “lifting their bikes above their heads and shaking them at police,” help anyone? In short, how will adding another frustration to people’s day win them over?

This is not to say there have not been reports of disturbing police behavior toward cyclists. One report, written by the arresting officer, details a confrontation with a cyclist: “I watch (Rothkoph) ride [eastbound] in the [westbound] lane. [When I] asked for his identification, he replied that he had none with him...I informed him that for his own and my protection I would place him in handcuffs...he looked at me and said ‘I don’t think so.’ I grabbed him by his head and took him to the ground.” Would that have happened to a motorist without I.D.? Unlikely.

We all have an agenda—that’s why many of us choose to write for Elevate Difference—but brandishing bicycles like weapons doesn’t seem like it will help the cause. In response to the antagonistic nature of Critical Mass in Austin, TX, a number of alternative rides have started, check for social cycling groups in your town, or try a Critical Mass to see if it’s right for you. Maybe you can step up and ask both the law enforcement and confrontational cyclists to be on the side of the greater good, no matter when or where or how they ride.

Written by: Tatiana Ryckman, April 3rd 2011