Last Friday marked the first Fort Lauderdale Critical Mass in which the police offered to help direct traffic. But instead of showing up on bikes, officers policed the area in cars and motorcycles. Although video circulated on Saturday of a 30-year-old accountant being tackled from his bike after blocking a cop car from passing, that wasn't the only confrontation -- or cyclist -- that went down.
Who was right or wrong in these instances isn't entirely black and white. What's clear is that tensions arose between cyclists who behaved a little recklessly and cops who didn't understand that it's technically legal for a bike to take up an entire lane of traffic or to overtake using the left lane. When officers don't understand bike statutes and put cyclists on the defensive, it creates a self-perpetuating cycle of conflict.
Rahim "Ra" Benjamin, a 23-year-old who lives in Sunrise, was not even part of the Mass on Friday. He was biking home from his job at an optical center in Plantation when he pedaled through Victoria Park and came upon the pack of about 900 cyclists. He turned east on 16th Street and tried to pass the mob, traveling just over the double-yellow line near the street's 1700 block. That's when a cop, he and several witnesses tell Pulp, started trying to force him into the crowd.