Everyone who took part in this year’s Crash Marathon Race might have noticed something different – the friendly LAPD police presence. Yes. Friendly, as in, they didn’t show up to stop the race or arrest anyone for crashing the course they actually came out to help keep it safe. The effort was led by LAPD bicycle officer Gordon Helper of the LAPD Olympic division and it took a bit of convincing the LAPD higher ups that this was an event worth supporting rather than stopping. With 2000 people crashing the course, the LAPD saw the excitement of the people and the goodness of riding bikes and went with it.
We caught up with Officer Gordon Helper who is an avid cyclist and set to ride the east coast on the Police Unity Tour to Washington DC:
I sit here in my chair at 36,000 feet in the air somewhere above the great state of Missouri reading over the questions that Roadblock has asked me. What better way or time to answer them then now while flying to Newark, New Jersey where I will be riding in the largest contingency of Police Officers on bicycles anywhere in the world.
My name is Officer Gordon Helper and I am a Training Officer for the Los Angeles Police Department assigned to Olympic Area. Olympic Area sits in the heart of Koreatown and we as Olympic Officers riding in the Bicycle Unit have championed the cause of participating every month in the largest bike ride in the Country called Critical Mass. I have been assigned as the Department expert and liaison to anything involving Critical Mass. I am a Department Senior bicycle instructor and have trained thousands of Officers and Command Staff in techniques of doing Police Work on a bike.
What got you into cycling?
My inspiration for my craft and the pure passionate desire I have for cycling started when I was just a child. My father was a fitness expert and loved cycling so naturally it was passed on to me. I had my first road bike at age 10 and I never looked back. I’ve since raced cross country mountain bikes and competed in endurance races called the 24 hours of adrenaline. I compete in the United States Police Games where cycling is well represented in various classes.
You were the officer who not only championed the cause internally with the LAPD but also lead the effort to help keep the Marathon Crash Race safe along the route. The dashcam footage is priceless… you had your hands full! Tell us a bit about why you became an advocate of the race…
I’ve known about the crash race since its inception. What else did they think would happen when you eliminate the Acura Bike Tour before the largest marathon in the Country and therefore eliminate cycling. Especially during a time when cycling was on the rise not only in LA but around the Country due to the re birth of the Single Speed an the Fixie. Something had to give in the cycling community- my community, and so, the Crash Race was born.
Of course it’s illegal and it is un-sanctioned by the City of LA. Is there another alternative? Can there be another alternative? I believe if the City can shut down 10 miles of Downtown Streets for 6 hours twice a year then Crash Race should be allowed to ride before the marathon on a closed course operated and managed by volunteers from Wolf pack. I believe it can be done with the right assistance from City leaders and the City Attorneys office. The Crash Race is an event that brings together another side and group of cyclists that are sometimes ignored and even forgotten. These are the people that can only watch the Tour De France or the Tour of California from the sidelines but for one day, for one hour, this time is theirs. They own the streets, they are racing and people are watching them.
You are about to embark on The Police Unity Tour on the east coast. Tell us about it.
We ride for those that have died. That is the motto of the ride. There are several different chapters across the nation that will all meet on May 10 and ride from three different locations on the East Coast to Washington DC. Two of the rides are moderate but the chapter I belong to has chosen the Challenge Ride which is the most difficult because of the speed and distance. The average speed will be 16 – 20 mph and we will ride close to 300 miles when it’s all said and done. Over 170 Officers were killed in the line of duty last year. I carry their torch to Washington DC so that their light can burn in eternity on the walls of the National Monument Police Memorial.
The ride will take 3 days and we will be stopping in some of this Country’s most beautiful landmarks. When we arrive in DC we will be greeted by thousands of other Officers and the families of the Officers who were killed in the line of duty over the past year. It will be a somber occasion but an occasion no less. I’m proud to be a part of it. I’m proud to be a Los Angeles Police Officer. I’m proud to be a Veteran of the Navy and the Army. I’m proud to be a cyclist and represent you and the City of Los Angeles in the Police Unity Tour Challenge Ride.