Tempers could well boil over tomorrow as over 3000 cyclists plan to plug up Vancouver's downtown streets during rush hour
Vancouverites are bracing for traffic gridlock in the downtown core tomorrow after the Vancouver Police Department issued a rare statement urging people to stay out of the area due to a massive cyclist protest aimed at plugging up city streets.
Vancouver's Mayor (and Chair of the Police Board), once a proud supporter of what is known fondly as "Critical Mass", was doing everything he could today to backpedal from his previous support of the group. Critical Mass takes place the last Friday of every month. It basically consists of thousands of cyclists allegedly protesting the lack of bicycle paths and routes within city limits. It is claimed there are no organizers of the event and it simply happens spontaneously.
The protest consists of riding en masse (often in funny costumes or skimpy outfits) throughout the downtown core and plugging up traffic, all the while breaking every traffic violation known to man. Prior to becoming the Chair of the Police Board, Robertson (an avid cyclist) was often seen riding with the protestors through the streets of Vancouver. Former NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner also participated in the protests. As it happens, many of these same cyclists were also pivotal in helping the Mayor sweep to victory last November.
That was then, this is now. Today the Mayor issued an almost laughable statement saying he felt the protests had now run their course and it was time for the cyclists to stand down in order to prevent a mass revolt by automobile drivers. Huh? This after he supported their relentless efforts at causing traffic mayhem downtown for years? Me thinks the Mayor is worried that he might have to wear some of the blame if the downtown really does get plugged up with traffic chaos tomorrow.
Interestingly, his statement was issued a day after the police chief warned residents of the pending traffic chaos. With so many events happening downtown on the eve of a long-weekend, the critical mass ride, which is predicted to consist of 3000 cyclists, could very well shut down the heart of the city. Or at least some major roadways.
As for the Vancouver police, they state they will not arrest a single cyclist for breaking the laws of the road. They say that issuing tickets would only inflame the situation, so they would rather people simply avoid coming downtown all together. Who could blame them for taking a softer approach when the Chair of the Police Board has proven to be an ardent supporter of Critical Mass in the past.
Ironically, it is being reported the cyclists are planning on going over the Burrard Bridge tomorrow as part of their protest. They will apparently not only use the new bicycle lane provided to them by Robertson, but they also plan to use the other lanes currently occupied by vehicular traffic. That is unless the Mayor can meet with the "organizers" prior to this happening.
A tough sounding Robertson told the Vancouver Sun editorial board that he was "pissed off" that the organizers hadn't announced which route they were going to take tomorrow. Note he wasn't "pissed off" that the protest was happening, rather, just that they hadn't published their route.
I would be "pissed off" too if I had just used up a lot of political capital to build a new $1.5 million dollar bike lane on Burrard Bridge for these folks, only to have that effort wiped out by a stupid protest a few weeks later.
Perhaps in a weaker moment as he flashed back to his Critical Mass days, the Mayor told the Sun that cyclists have been:
rightfully upset about the lack of bike lanes
It is worth noting that previous Vancouver councils have invested tens of millions of dollars to build bicycle paths throughout the city. In fact, by 2008 there were over 400 kilometres of bicycle paths weaving throughout the City of Vancouver.
Once again the Mayor's wingnutty supporters are causing him grief. With Critical Mass, he's caught between the law abiding tax paying citizens who put him in office and the nut bar activists who continue to surround him and his staff. I for one believe the patience of Vancouver's citizenry is about to be put to the test tomorrow, and it likely won't be pretty. That is, unless the Mayor can call off his troops in time.