I had the unusual experience this week of being scolded by a motorcycle cop - whilst we were both in motion. He didn't pull me over - he pulled up alongside, lifted his visor and told me that although I was breaking no laws and had every right to ride where I was, I shouldn't be doing it!
Here's the background.
I was riding through The Rocks, which is a heavily pedestrianised, historical, touristy area. The roads are narrow, twisty and speed limited to 40km/h. Most traffic never gets up to that speed - there are too many speed humps and pedestrian crossings for vehicles to ever get over about 30. Plus there are all the tourist buses crawling along, taxis looking for fares and tourists blundering around in cars (looking for a non-existent parking spot) or on foot (taking photos of the various sights).
The road itself has also been excavated in quite a few spots of late to lay cables and repair pipes, and the crews that do that never fill the trenches in properly, so you've got these canyons running every which way across the tarmac which are hell to ride in or ride across. Where there aren't any tarmac canyons, there are sunken manhole covers and pit hatches.
I upset this particular cop by taking a wide line when I hit one particularly bad stretch of blind corners, tourist bus activity, canyons and manholes. You've got two choices as a cyclist - ride to the left of these hazards, which would mean weaving in and out like a drunken Irishman staggering between pubs (and putting yourself in the door zone), or riding to the right, where you can take an almost dead straight line and are well out of the door zone.
I of course always plump for the safer option, which means I am blocking the lane. Did I mention it's also a double white line area, which means no overtaking?
Since all of this is on a slight downhill slope, I have no problem getting up to 35km/h without any effort. I usually don't go any faster, as I don't want to slam into the road canyons that I can't avoid any faster than that. This cop though wanted to go faster than 35 - he wanted to go 40, and he was mighty annoyed that he couldn't overtake.
Normally, the cops are telling us to slow down and take it easy. To not speed like maniacs. Due to the truckloads of glazed eyed tourists in this area, going 40 is always a risk. Just before he overtook me, I kept well to the right to avoid a gaggle of Asian tourists who were stepping out onto the street from behind a van without looking. Common sense says you just don't ride right up alongside cars when this sort of thing can happen.
Oh, and did I mention that I almost bowled over a cop last week doing just that? There is a police station in the Rocks, and they park their vehicles on the street. A young cop walked around the front of a police van and stepped out in front of me without looking first, and I narrowly avoided an "assault police" charge by swerving hard right. He was about as surprised as me. I've learned my lesson - I stay well away from the cars in this area. To cap it off, tourist buses drive through that spot all the time, and they are too wide for the road. It's not unusual to be approaching one of the blind bends and to find a double decker bus coming at you on the wrong side of the road. It's horrible when there's a car next to you trying to overtake, and they suddenly desperately want to get out of the way of the oncoming bus - except you are next to them. No thanks. I'm not getting squashed that way.
After he told me off, I respectfully replied (using his rank) that there was no way I was going to comply - that it simply isn't safe to ride in the zone he wanted me in. He frowned his cop frown - the frown they get when civilians don't comply with directions - and told me off again. I pointed out that there was a bike lane coming up ahead, and that was a safe zone to ride in. The bit we had just been through had no bike lane, and riding to the left is simply stupid. I noticed he wouldn't ride his motorbike where he expected me to ride my bike.
He then gestured at his speedo and said I was going to slow.
Then he noticed that we were doing nearly 40 - the speed limit - and I was able to hold a sensible conversation with him without breathing hard. He frowned at me once more, hit his right indicator and shot off up a side street. Conversation over.
On the way home yesterday, I passed a different motorcycle cop in almost the same spot where I was told off.
He was ticketing a driver for speeding!