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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bicyclists tie up traffic in rush hour

A group of bicyclists protesting society’s dependence on cars created traffic headaches during Friday afternoon’s rush hour in downtown Spokane.

After a half-hour ride during which they would not allow motorists to pass, police forced the protesters to stop and gave about 10 of them $46 citations for being pedestrians in the roadway. At least two were briefly handcuffed.

The bicyclists said they are part of the “Critical Mass” movement. In other cities, such as Portland and Seattle, Critical Mass bikers meet on the last Friday of each month and ride through city streets, often slowing – and ticking off – motorists.

About 30 riders came to the Spokane gathering Friday, said Gus Clark, who received one of the $46 tickets. He said the Spokane events began recently and will continue.

Spokane police Lt. Dave McGovern said police were patient with the protesters. Officers followed them for 20 minutes before deciding that the protest was too dangerous and the flow of traffic was too impeded.

McGovern said law requires bicyclists to use the far right lane of traffic.

“We were concerned about their safety because of the angry motorists and the road rage that is prevalent in today’s society,” McGovern said. “There was no indication that they were going to stop.”

On Second Avenue, officers asked protesters to at least keep one lane open, McGovern said. Bikers complied for a while, but soon refilled all the lanes of the street, McGovern said.

Clark said that by stopping the ride, police were accommodating road rage, not preventing it.

“They’re trying to intimidate us,” he said.

Clark said the event was advertised through fliers and word of mouth. The bicyclists, who started at Riverfront Park, received mixed reactions from drivers, he said.

This year’s emergence of Critical Mass in Spokane is not the first time the movement has been present in Spokane. Critical Mass events took place in 1997 and 2000.