About 100 cyclists gathered at the north end of Higgins Ave. on Friday afternoon to partake in Critical Mass, a gathering of human-powered riders who want greater motorist awareness and more space on the city’s roadways.
Missoula Police were ready for the demonstration and responded with 12 officers who wrote 10 citations during the event, Lt. Gregg Willoughby said. On hand were both the day shift and evening shift, along with a few Highway Patrol vehicles.
Officers met with the riders at the beginning of the event and told them to ride single file or face the prospect of a ticket as police with video cameras stood by.
Upon seeing the cameras, many participants produced white respirator masks, producing an eerie feeling that anonymity was necessary at a public assembly.
“Are they going to tackle us again?” asked one rider, referring to a widely publicized incident from last April’s Critical Mass rally, and preparing to take to the street.
A man wearing a white mask, a large black afro wig and black shades led the procession. On the back of his black suit a sign read: “I am oil, die for me,” a protest against a motorized society and the wars needed to keep engine pistons running free of friction.
Two blocks later the man in black was facing a citation for parking his transport—a cycle with two front wheels, one rear wheel and a passenger seat—in a space designated for bicycles on Higgins. More citations followed as the crew zig-zagged around town, with the event disintegrating near the Rose Garden where peace marchers had gathered.
Officially, if there is a bike lane, which there isn’t on Higgins, cyclists can ride two abreast, unless they are out of their lane. Otherwise they must stay single file to the right side of the road. Cyclists can venture out of that zone to make a left turn or to pass other traffic, but there are prohibitions on impeding traffic, Willoughby said.
Among the tickets issued were five for disorderly conduct, four for traffic violations and one for possession of drug paraphernalia.