Last Sunday, August 3rd, anyone venturing near the downtown area saw a long standing Fiesta tradition, signified by the presence of many bike riders and just as many (so it seemed) police officers. It was the annual Fiesta Cruiser bike ride, a Santa Barbara tradition for 30-plus years, and typically involves thousands of riders, going all the way from the bottom of State to Isla Vista. In the past, it’s been a very happy and somewhat chaotic event, but free of injury, property damage, and general negativity.
Because of complaints of congestion over the last few years there has been an increased police presence. This last Sunday, however, fell just short of fascist. I’m a big proponent of Santa Barbara’s police force, and I know they have a very difficult job that we all benefit from, but they did serious harm to their public image on Sunday. The ride, which is only promoted by word-of-mouth, started with a police banner threatening a $500 ticket for traffic violations. As it got underway, the typically lively crowd rode quietly because of constant berating by the very aggressive and imposing officers (who issued many $500-$800 tickets).
While I understand that an unsanctioned ride like this does cause a degree of chaos down Santa Barbara’s main street, it seems ironic that in a community that promotes bicycle use as essential to our well being, the city is very much against this event. It’s a shame that a fun event with so much potential has been irreparably damaged by our city’s police.