I sent my email. Does this warrent a CM response?
It'd be interesting how he would handle it.
Celebrate Critical Mass or crack down?
Some participants mean well, but many want to wage war with drivers
Published: Sunday, July 27, 2008
By the time you read this, Vancouver will have experienced another Critical Mass bicycle rally.
How many of you will have been in dustups with these characters is hard to say. Most of the cyclists showing up for Critical Mass rides are legitimate enthusiasts -- two-wheeled, earth-loving anti-carbonaros.
They hit the streets on the last Friday of each month, ostensibly to promote biking as a realistic form of transport. Cycling crowds as large as 3,000 gather at the downtown art gallery, then roll through downtown traffic en masse.
Intersections are blocked illegally, as a mile-long pack traverses city centre at peak inopportune moments. Typically, their leaders stop to ponder the meaning of it all atop the Lions Gate Bridge, holding riders still all the way back to the Park Drive overpass, while cars are made to idle in place behind.
That said, the group has no formal leadership, or none they'll admit to. No one to hold accountable for lack of permits or willful obstruction of traffic. No one to discuss the bizarre and confrontational behaviour seen on Critical Mass fringes.
Any number of these people drink or smoke dope as they roll along. Some ride naked. Others taunt frustrated motorists, swarming drivers stuck at crossings.
There are fistfights. Cars are damaged as bicycles scrape by on purpose, teaching "lessons" to those who dare voice an opinion about being forced to a stop.
Police escorts for such a debacle are seen by some as a bad idea. Lending legitimacy to confrontational groups is inadvisable, and assisting people in blocking bridge traffic is difficult to justify these days.
Think back to the recent freezing of the Ironworkers Memorial bridge, and how poorly that was received. How calmly would commuters accept another shut-down bridge, with no lives in danger -- just a crowd of cyclists with strong feelings?
Other options are just as vexing. Moving in for enforcement could cause a major stir. Some readers would applaud police action; others would curse us for failure to support the greening of the West Coast.
A general summer bicycle campaign is being considered, to deal with an epidemic reluctance to wear helmets. Bicyclists almost never stop for stop signs, and they blow downtown traffic lights as often as not.
I'll assume they know they're accountable to traffic law. Many don't have driver's licences, and perceive themselves to be immune to traffic fines, though the feeling is false. Unpaid fines are kept on record, to be discussed whenever a DL is applied for.
I don't want to be preachy. Even if I did, I'd admit to a certain flexibility when it comes to bicycles on the road. Nevertheless, having two wheelers turn on motorists sweeps notions of leniency off the table.
I'm in search of readership thought. Should these people be subjected to an intense enforcement campaign, with special attention to the violent fringe? Should they be pampered with a full motorcade escort?
It's not my decision to make, which may be a blessing. Drop me a line at the address below.
Sgt. Mark Tonner is a Vancouver police officer, whose column appears biweekly in Unwind. His opinions aren't necessarily those of the city's police department or board.
Mark may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.