Okay, I've waited 24 hours to post this, because I didn't want to write while I was angry. Well, I'm still pi$$ed twenty-four hours later, so I'm writing it anyway.
I went out for my first Critical Mass and met up with about 70+ other riders last night, almost all of whom were experienced commuters. There was even a couple of camera-persons along for the ride to document the event. One was riding in a 50's style Indian pedi-cab. Many of the cyclists had digital cameras or camera-phones and, as it turned out, they would need them and not just for taking pictures of the awesome collection of cyclists. All was going well: we proceeded slowly and received very few protests from inconvenienced motorists. We were pointedly polite when we blocked intersections, thanking drivers for their patience and only a few honked their objections. We only created one significant incident when we stopped in the middle of a one busy intersection, dismounted and raised our bikes over our heads before clearing the way and letting everyone go about their business.
About fifteen minutes later, the cops swooped down on us: one motorcycle cop, three bicycle cops and two cruisers with two officers each. They demanded we ride in single-file on the right. We countered that we were entitled to the entire right lane and were not restricted to riding in single-file. I even pointed out that the three bike cops were riding side by side when they approached and were out at the far side of the lane as we were speaking. They were unimpressed, attemting to cite the Highway Traffic Act regulations that many of us had considerable knowledge of as well. It was rather comical that they didn't know as much as they thought.
The motorcycle cop was the most beligerent, threatening to arrest people for riding too slowly on the street and on the sidewalk until we reminded him, rather vociferously, that we couldn't be ticketed for that when we were not moving during our...ahem...conversation and, in fact, most had dismounted their bikes on the sidewalk. I added that there are other vehicles like back-hoes that blocked traffic regularly and they were not ticketed. One rider politely asked him to stop idling his motor-cycle while he was reading us the riot act wherein he proceeded to rev his engine over and over, sending a noxious cloud blue smoke over everyone. When the smoke cleared and he was questioned why he was intent on killing us, he laughed. When he was questioned why he wasn't preventing motorists from killing and injuring motorists, he said it was our fault. I then asked him how many motorists had been killed by cyclists. He didn't have a smart-assed answer for that.
Then they arrested one guy for refusing to give his name. Then they started going over each and every persons bike to check for virtually every single safety feature. I asked them why they were being such hard-asses, why eight cops were busy with us while motorists throughout the rest of the downtown core were now free to drive as recklessly as they wanted to, because us cyclists (and we all know how much damage and mayhem we cause) were being such a menace. They had no answers. I asked them why they didn't protect us and ensure our safety, like they were supposed to do, pointing out that the legend on their cars and motorcycles states 'to serve and protect' not 'ignore and harass.' We only got steely glares and no-nonsense attitude.
Yes, I know, our questions and protests were somewhat naive, but none-the-less valid.
They were going to give me a ticket for not having a reflective strip on my stretched Firebike cruiser until I pointed out that the entire frame was painted in reflective paint, just like they had on their patrol-cars and that I would consider malicious prosecution legal action if I had to take time of work to prove we were doing nothing wrong. With three lights on the front, two on the rear and a 115db air horn they couldn't find anything else to cite me for. But it was the unnecessary persecution by these nazi's that got to me. I will be writing to the mayor ( a left-wing, cycling kind of guy) to appraise him how an official Bike Week event was dealt with by his cops and how, if it hadn't been for the documentary camera crew as well as everyone else's digital video cams, things would have been much worse judging by the attitudes of the jerks they slap a badge on.
Did anyone else attend a Critical Mass? How did the cops react?
Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel much better now.