Last Wednesday evening the Midnight Ridazz came through town. I happened to be out for a stroll around 11:30 p.m. and was just rounding the bend at the "Stalin Statue" when they passed by heading west down Burbank Boulevard.
It looked like a happy bunch of perhaps 30 or so people of assorted ages and inclinations out for a bicycle ride, exuberantly exercising, socializing and harmlessly taking in what our city had to offer.
I saw a little piece about the loosely knit organization on the news a few years ago and immediately thought to myself, "Hey, these must be the guys I saw on television — how cool, they really exist!"
They passed me by talking up a storm and just exhibiting a genuine joie de vivre that almost made me envious of their youth and energy. What a fabulous idea, I thought — pedaling around L.A. County in the late-evening hours when the streets are free of traffic, being with friends, getting the old heart pumping, breathing fresh air, seeing the city in a different light and not doing anybody a bit of harm — absolutely beautiful. Sure, it's a little bit edgy, alternative and nonstandard, but why not? Isn't that what America is all about?
Several blocks later, a little shy of Keystone Street, they appeared to have stopped at either a bar or a liquor store, or, I couldn't tell, maybe it was merely a random point just to let the stragglers catch up. They had filled the sidewalk and overflowed out into the street about the time I met up with them again.
For some reason, two Burbank police cars suddenly appeared, one stopping by Lamer Street and the second on the other side of the crowd closer to Keystone. Seeing the sidewalk jammed, I simply stepped off onto the street to pass by the scene just as one officer approached them.
Exhibiting no courtesy whatsoever and talking as though he was addressing a lawn mower that wouldn't start, the officer yelled: "Get those bikes off the street!"
I then overheard a few of the Ridazz urging their friends to comply with the intimidating edict and, while I would have been insulted by the ill manners of the policeman, they seemed to take it all in stride and lifted the few offending two-wheelers off the pavement without any argument.
I kept on walking and didn't catch any more of what went on, but before I had gone another block I could hear bicyclists approaching from behind. As the first bunch of riders passed me, I heard: "Burbank cops are all (expletive deleted)!"
A short time later, the rest of the gang pedaled by, headed off in the direction of North Hollywood, laughing and once again appearing to be having the time of their lives.
What just happened here? I thought this city was supposed to be bicycle friendly? City Hall spends thousands of dollars to bring cyclists into town, and then the cops come by, treat them like dog droppings and chase them out of town? What gives?
Perhaps erecting a statue at Five Points that looks like a former Soviet dictator was a good idea after all — I'm sure Comrade Joe would have heartily approved of the Burbank Police Department last Wednesday night.