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MEDIA about the Critical Mass Ride
of Sept. 28, 2001

Our coverage of the 9-28-01 ride:


Austin American-Statesman, 9-29-01

Metro & State Roundup

CENTRAL TEXAS: Bikes block traffic; driver charged

by Jonathan Osborne, American-Statesman Staff, PAGE: B2

AUSTIN -- Several dozen members of the bicycle-awareness group Critical Mass blocked downtown traffic Friday evening at the intersection of Congress Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street in what rider Ezra Teeter called "a protest against a lack of bicycle lanes."

The protest turned into a melee when Mike Henderson, frustrated by the delay, drove his Jeep Wrangler into the intersection. He narrowly missed several bicyclists but hit the front end of Krissy Morrow's Honda Civic. "I was probably in the wrong," said Henderson, who acknowledged driving into the crowd of bicyclists.

Henderson, who said he was beaten by four bicyclists, was charged with reckless driving, said Austin police spokesman Paul Flanigan.

The bicyclists cheered when Henderson was handcuffed and placed in a squad car. An unidentified bicyclist, whose friends said he was one of the riders who beat Henderson, also was taken into custody, but police had no information on him late Friday.

Morrow said she and her 4-year-old son were not injured. But her Honda had to be towed away.

Said one bicycle rider who declined to give his name: "We were just trying to raise awareness about bike safety."


Austin Chronicle, 10-5-01

Statesman Falls Off Its Bike

BY JORDAN SMITH

Photo: A Critical Mass meeting on the UT West Mall, circa early 1990s
(Courtesy of criticalmasshub.com)

If you read the Metro & State Roundup section of Saturday's Austin American-Statesman (Sept. 29) you might be under the impression that a "melee" instigated by cyclists with the activist group Critical Mass ended with four of the cyclists beating the driver of a Jeep Wrangler who got in their way. Not so, say at least two of the riders who vociferously (and independently) objected to the Statesman's version of events. "We're not looking for an article that is pro-Critical Mass," said cyclist Ezra Teter. "[We're] just looking for something to balance out the Statesman." According to the Statesman account, the bicyclists were deliberately blocking traffic at the intersection of Cesar Chavez and Congress Avenue, when a driver "frustrated by the delay" drove into the intersection and "narrowly missed" several of the riders, "but hit the front end" of another driver's car. Further, the paper reported that Mike Henderson, the driver of the Wrangler, told the Statesman that he had been "beaten by four bicyclists."
 
The unbylined reporter(s) were right about Henderson's Jeep hitting another car -- but according to other witnesses, the rest of the report is less than accurate.
 
According to Justin Davis -- the Statesman's "unidentified bicyclist" who supposedly participated in Henderson's group beating -- the Critical Mass riders encountered Henderson at the corner of Congress and Second. "We had come to the intersection and while we were going through, the light turned red," he said. In an effort to keep the group together, the riders continued through the red light. "[Drivers] at Second Street began to creep forward," he said. "When I looked over, a guy in a Jeep -- four or five cars back on Second -- just gunned it." According to both Davis and Teter, Henderson drove around the other cars and began swerving through the cyclists as they headed south toward Cesar Chavez, where they finally had to stop for eastbound traffic. At that point, said Teter, five or six cyclists, including Davis, got in front of Henderson's car to stop him from moving. This is when Henderson tried to continue driving southbound, and hit another car. "I couldn't believe it," said Teter. "He just stepped on the accelerator, with like five or six people in front of him, and got one bike [Davis'] wedged under his front wheels." According to both riders, Henderson got out of his Jeep and did get into at least a pair of one-on-one altercations with cyclists, but according to Teter and Davis, each quickly dissipated.
 
Shortly thereafter, APD officers arrived, followed by a Statesman reporter and a photographer. "The cops talked to [Henderson] and they didn't even ask us what happened," Teter said. "Originally they weren't even going to arrest him -- until we told the cops that we had a video." Indeed, another of the cyclists had been running a video camera throughout the entire event. Police ended up arresting Henderson for reckless driving and Davis for "obstructing a highway," apparently because his bike was lodged beneath Henderson's Jeep. At press time, APD had not returned phone calls requesting comment.
According to Teter and Davis, the Statesman reporter -- like the cops -- failed to interview cyclists about what exactly had occurred. "He never asked me what happened," said Teter, "he just asked me what the political views are of the people on Critical Mass." (The Statesman duly noted that someone named Ezra "Teeter" called the ride "a protest against a lack of bicycle lanes.") And Teter adds that the daily's photographer made comments likening the Critical Mass cyclists to the terrorists who attacked New York and D.C. "He said, basically, that the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 were just a more extreme form of Critical Mass. ... I hardly expected them to write a fair article, but I still couldn't believe it."
 
John Bridges, the Statesman's acting metro editor, would not name the reporter on the story and said he didn't know who the photographer was. Asked about the photographer's reported comments, he responded, "That's the first time I ever heard of that." Bridges insisted, "If you read the brief, if makes it clear that we did talk to the cyclists," and said he had received only one e-mail from a cyclist charging inaccuracies in the story. "I don't agree," he said. "I don't think the differences are enough to warrant a correction. ... Basically everything you need is in the brief, as far as I'm concerned."
 


Austin Chronicle, 10-12-01

Hypocritical Mass?
(Naked City)
BY JORDAN SMITH
Last week, "Naked City" reported on apparent discrepancies between the Austin American-Statesman's coverage of a "melee" that occurred during the Sept. 28 Critical Mass bike ride and what several cyclists said actually happened. Riders Justin Davis and Ezra Teter disputed the Statesman's assertion that four cyclists beat on driver Mike Henderson at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Congress. They contend that Henderson started the "melee" by racing his Jeep Wrangler around traffic at the intersection of Second and Congress and "fishtailing" through the pack of cyclists, nearly running over several of them before hitting another car near the Congress Avenue bridge.
 
Davis and Teter said the Statesman reporter never asked the cyclists for their version of events. And, they add, the daily's photographer likened the cyclists to the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
 
Krissy Morrow, who had been heading north on Congress when Henderson's Wrangler hit her Honda Civic, recently contacted the Chronicle to shed additional light. From her perspective, the cyclists were acting in a hostile and aggressive manner toward Henderson. They "were blocking the traffic there. There was a green light and no one could go," she says. "Somehow, [the cyclists] had decided it was their right to make a citizens arrest [of Henderson]."
 
Although Morrow didn't see the action go down, she did notice that someone had slashed Henderson's tires, and Henderson told her the cyclists spat in his car. Morrow says she was frightened by the cyclists' hostility. "They came over to my car [after the accident] to ask if I was okay, and I said, 'yes, no thanks to you,' and rolled up my windows and locked my doors."
 
Morrow does see eye-to-eye with the cyclists in their characterization of the Statesman reporter's impoliteness. (John Bridges, the Statesman's acting metro editor, did not name the reporter who was at the scene, and told the Chronicle he did not know who the photographer was.) The reporter approached her while she was in her car and asked for her name. "I guess I paused too long," she says. "He just turned around and said, 'fine, I'll just get it off of the police report then.' He was just rude."


Austin Chronicle, Oct. 26, 2001

Bikes vs. Cars: The Never-Ending Story
by Krissy Morrow
Editor:
 
I just wanted to correct some inaccuracies in the article about the Critical Mass/Jeep incident ["Statesman Falls Off Its Bike," Oct. 5]. I was the driver of the car that got hit. Now, I dislike aggressive drivers as much as the rest of us, but I also know the law. Much as I would love to forcibly stop someone after they cut me off and beat the crap out of them, guess what? I don't have the right to.
 
Yes, when the cyclists stopped traffic on Congress when the cyclists illegally ran a red light, Mike Henderson probably should have just sat on his horn like the rest of the drivers and just tolerated the delay. But he didn't. He went around the traffic and stopped at the next intersection. Too aggressive? Maybe. But we as Austin drivers all know how many aggressive offenses we witness a day that go unpunished. If a police officer doesn't witness it, basically it didn't happen.
 
Henderson then came to the next intersection and stopped at the traffic light -- which is where all this mess begins. The cyclists, apparently quite like Gomer Pyle, decided they had the authority to make a citizen's arrest for Henderson's aggressive driving. Now, even if they did actually believe that they had the authority to detain Henderson, I ask you, did any single person in the group actually make a call or seek out police so that the proper authorities could intervene? I'll answer this one for you -- no. Absolutely not. There is no record of a report of an aggressive driver at First and Congress, and even if there were a call -- the cyclists absolutely still did not have the authority to detain Henderson. By the way, the cyclists also harassed the passenger. "Accomplice to the crime" -- is that his charge, Gomer?
 
When the light turned green, Henderson asked the cyclists to please leave him alone because he was going forward. He then inched forward cautiously. When the cyclists still did not heed his warning, he proceeded. Contrary to the Chronicle's report, there were at most two cyclists still in Henderson's path when he went forward. After Henderson landed, the cyclists proceeded to slash his tires (note, this means they were armed with knives) because they decided he was a flight risk and then they keyed his car and spit into it (because as well all know, keying a car and spitting into it greatly increases the chances that it won't move).
 
And you know, if I were Henderson, I would have done exactly the same thing and sped off. I would have felt as threatened as he did and feel the need to remove myself from the situation. "Fight or flight" -- it's human instinct. And Henderson didn't want a fight -- would you take on 20 angry, armed cyclists?
 
To Critical Mass, if you want to promote your cause, taking a day every month to break the law in groups is not the way. If you're just a bunch of cyclists who decide to get back at all the drivers who cut you off all month, then call yourselves that. You're promoting a cause. You're just a pain in the ass.
 
And to the Chronicle: You criticize the Statesman for only getting half of the story. I guess I must have missed the part in your article where you managed to get the other half of the story (the non-cyclist perspective) -- both my and Henderson's contact information are on the police report. I object to the Statesman version as well, but on the grounds that it is biased toward Critical Mass. Henderson did not get "frustrated by the delay" and speed off. He had a green light and the right to proceed, but the cyclists would not allow him to do so. I guess the only agreement we can all come to here is that the Statesman can't ever seem to get the story right.
 
Krissy Morrow
 


Austin Chronicle, Nov. 9, 2001

Critical Mass: The Real Story

Editor:

 

Okay, with all the differing versions of what happened on the Critical Mass bike ride in September ["'Statesman' Falls Off Its Bike," Oct. 5 and "Naked City: Hypocritical Mass?" Oct. 12], how are we to know what really happened? Simple: Watch the video which I now have at www.BicycleAustin.info.

 

Here's a short summary: Mike Henderson, frustrated by the delay, squealed his tires and sped his jeep recklessly through a pack of cyclists, who parted to avoid getting hit. Cyclists then surrounded him at the red light and yelled at him. The light turned green, and then Henderson stepped on his accelerator, plowing right through cyclist Justin Davis (slamming him into the ground), while Davis' bike was caught under the wheels. Henderson proceeded to crash into Krissy Morrow's Honda Civic which was waiting at the same light but headed in the opposite direction. Henderson got out of his jeep and one cyclist (reportedly one of those whose bike Henderson hit) pushed Henderson's head with his hand.

 

Henderson then walked around his jeep and grabbed another cyclist's bike, throwing it to the ground. That cyclist punched Henderson in the face. No other punches were thrown, Henderson certainly wasn't "beat up," and what little did happen certainly wasn't unprovoked (though I by no means support it). During this time, a cyclist slashed at least one of Henderson's tires.

 

Krissy Morrow's recent letter to the Chron about this event is complete bullshit, as the video proves. Henderson didn't "inch forward cautiously," he frickin' stepped on his accelerator with people directly in front of him. Henderson didn't try to flee ô la "fight or flight," since he then willingly got out of his jeep and started mangling a cyclist's bike. And then the cyclists didn't "beat the crap" out of Henderson, though the cyclist whose bike he was mangling punched him once until Henderson backed off.

 

I stopped riding in CM myself about a year ago because the riders were getting too confrontational for my tastes, and because most of them didn't do any bike advocacy outside of CM. And I don't condone the cyclists' aggression on the September ride either. But that said, whatever the cyclists did on this ride pales in comparison to Henderson's actions: He stepped on his accelerator and plowed through cyclists directly in his path, and slammed into another car with a child in the back. CM'ers didn't do anything close to this violent and reckless.

 

Michael Bluejay


Austin Chronicle, Nov. 9, 2001

Road Raging: The Video

by Jordan Smith

Four frames from Jeff Lazar's video footage of driver Mike Henderson mowing down cyclist Justin Davis with his Jeep at the corner of Congress and Cesar Chavez, Sept. 28.

Cyclist Jeff Lazar's video footage of the Sept. 28 Critical Mass bike ride paints a brutal picture of what took place on the corner of Congress and Cesar Chavez that fated Friday [see "Hypocritical Mass," austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2001-10-12/pols_naked3.html ]. Posted at cycle advocate Michael Bluejay's www.BicycleAustin.info, the video shows Jeep Wrangler driver Mike Henderson -- apparently annoyed by cyclists holding up traffic at the intersection of Second and Congress -- swerving, tires squealing, onto Congress and right toward the cyclists. After riders (who were obviously angry and quick-lipped about it) surrounded Henderson at the Chavez light, he plowed his Jeep directly toward cyclist Justin Davis, who in turn was thrown to the pavement. To judge only from the video, Henderson appears to drive recklessly into the cyclist either without seeing or without realizing the potential consequences.

Cyclists upset about the Statesman's account of the ride contacted "Naked City" last month to complain that the daily's reporter did little to ferret out both sides of the story [See "Statesman Falls Off Its Bike," austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2001-10-05/pols_feature3.html]. According to the cyclists, the Statesman simply reprinted what motorist Mike Henderson told their reporter -- that four Mass riders beat him up.

In contrast, on Lazar's tape the alleged beating Henderson described to the Statesman looks instead to be mutual aggression between him and two bikers. Lazar's tape also shows at least one rider slashing a tire on Henderson's Jeep. A second driver, Krissy Morrow -- whose Honda Civic was struck by Henderson's Jeep as Henderson tried to cross through the Cesar Chavez intersection with Davis' bike lodged under his front axle -- agreed that the Statesman's reporters were rude at the scene of the incident. But the cyclists' hostility was frightening, she said, and their decision to take the law into their own hands (by trying to detain Henderson at the Chavez intersection) was wrong.

Austin cyclist Charles McNeil believes the Critical Mass bike rides have become somewhat unruly. "They've gotten pretty bad," McNeil said. "I'd like to change it, but I don't feel like I can effect change from the inside." McNeil, Bluejay, and a group of cyclists have organized an alternative to Critical Mass they've dubbed Courteous Mass. "We're going to ride by the law, stop at all red lights, and all that good stuff," he said. "We're going to take that good vibration to the Critical Mass to try and teach them to be nicer." Surely, McNeil says, it is easier to catch flies -- or motorists -- with honey than vinegar.

The inaugural Courteous Mass ride will take place Friday, Nov. 9, at 6pm. Riders are asked to meet at the new Lamar pedestrian bridge at the corner of Lamar and Riverside. Subsequent rides will take place the second Friday of each month. Riders who'd like more info can e-mail the group at [austin-bikes@topica.com].


Editor's Note: Morrow is blowing smoke like nobody's business, as the video of the event clearly proves. Also see our commentary on this whole incident.




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