As I pedaled up 4th, I knew I was getting close, not because I saw other bikers, but because there was a police helicopter hovering a few blocks ahead. I rode into Westlake park to find about 20 other cyclists preparing for the Critical Mass ride to remember Jaahnavi Kandula. The helicopter made conversation difficult so I just stood there getting cold with strangers. Eventually I got used to the noise and could chat with others around me. Many were there for their first Critical Mass ride ever. It’s amazing how well the police can encourage different people to come together…
Monday evening, Jaahnavi was using a crosswalk when a Seattle Police officer, driving to a call, struck and killed her with his SPD SUV. Details have been slow to come out this week but there’s a lot here that shines a negative light on SPD and other city organizations.
The number of bikers continued to grow as we got closer to our 7:00 roll out time. As we took to the streets, there were around 100 riders including a few on skateboards or Onewheels. We were easily able to shut down the street as we rode from Westlake Park to the intersection where she was killed.
We had a two-minute moment of silence and set up a vigil. Eventually the police helicopter that had been over us for about an hour, decided we weren’t that interesting and left a different silence in its wake. People started talking and asking what it will take to finally get police and drivers/cars to stop killing people. There was hope that this would be the first and last vigil of the year, but no one really believed it would be. The only thing we can do is to continue to draw attention to each injury and death to try to change public opinion enough to create real change.
Many drivers seemed to be extra alert tonight, especially around the intersection where she was killed. When it was time to head home, I was starting to have hope that change was coming. Perhaps this would be the event to draw enough attention to change the tide.
The rain started to fall on my ride home. I was cruising down 12th when a van in front of me slowed and I rolled into their blind spot. Concerned, my hands were already gripping my brakes when they started to turn into my lane. I slowed quickly enough to avoid them and they decided not to turn after all. As the dark van continued forward slowly, I decided I would be safest if I passed them now, when they had no opportunity to turn. Glancing over, I saw it was an SPD van with two officers up front and realized it is going to take a lot more for our city and culture to change.
Good bye, Jaahnavi. I wish we’d had a chance to meet.
My name is Christopher Bartlett. I was the person in the neon green jacket who made a lot of speeches that night. This article paints a beautiful picture of last night! Thank you so much for coming out and riding with Critical Mass! You make the ride what it is! See you next month.