Note. There will be a followup to this article after I sort out a few details. The account given here seems incomplete in important ways. Stay tuned.
Stephan Orsak uses his bicycle as a means of transport. It's one small way in which people can modify their lifestyle so as to reduce their impact on the environment. He is about to go to court facing five counts of various misdemeanors and one of gross misdemeanor, relating to an interaction with police at Minneapolis St Paul airport.
I've revised my original blog post considerably. I hope Stephan manages ok in court. I would also like to see bicycles given more recognition as a valid choice for ground transport. But I think in this particular incident Stephan made a bad situation worse. Ah well. I have blogged it anyway, so I'll leave it up with a pointer to Stephan's account at greencycles.
Now, after a bit of time to sit and think, I'll try and add something substantive.
Most people who have ridden a bicycle as a regular means of ground transport will have met up with occasional instances of "road rage" directed against them for no other reason than being on a bicycle, even when using it legally and responsibly. But when it comes from the cops, things can go bad.
In this case, Stephan was riding legally on roads that are heavily used and not bicycle friendly. He's got a video on his website showing the roads in question. I've ridden in such conditions as well, but it's not a place for a beginner, nor is it a place where you would want to meet up with car drivers that are intolerant of bicycles. There was, however, no legal impediment I can see to a bicycle being used. Using a bicycle is a reasonable choice and not one to which other vehicles can object.
Nevertheless, Stephan was stopped by police, who told him to walk his bike to a different location, and proceed from there. He was directed to use an adjacent one-way minor road, and to walk the bike against the traffic flow to another road where he could continue to ride. Police allege in their complaint that bicycles were not permitted; Stephan appears to have a good case that they were mistaken.
This is where matters became really ugly. Stephan provides his own account, as well as the police statements and the formal complaint brought against him. There are some differences, but it is clear even by Stephan's own account that he tried to argue with police, and that by his own initiative he decided that the conversation with police was over and it was time to leave. He left along the one-way road, but decided on his own initiative to ride rather than walk the bike. He was physically brought down off the bike, tasered, arrested, taken to hospital, and then to the police station to be charged and detained. There's a fair bit more detail at Stephan's website for those interested, both by his own account and as statements made by the arresting officers.
There are many comments at the website, and they are highly polarized. Many comments strongly attack the police, even to the point of wanting to see them with years in prison for assault. Many are extraordinarily critical of Stephan, with crude gutter language.
Don't take this the wrong way Stephan. I sympathize, and I hope you win in court; either acquitted or else at worst given a light token punishment. I've been a daily bicycle commuter myself, in central city traffic; it looks to me that this started out as an unfair response to responsible use of a bicycle in heavy traffic.
But I think you made some unfortunate choices, and share the responsibility for what followed. So here is my "Duae Quartunciae" on the issues raised by your clash with the law.
I hope you don't take this the wrong way. I am wishing you the best of luck in July.