Saturday, April 01, 2006

Most Defiant ride I've ever seen

Wow. Critical Mass kicked ass in NYC last night. What a weird, sometimes scary, fun, sometimes you-lost-everyone...ride. Riding around NYC for the last couple of weeks I can't help but think about when and if some cop is going to feel like giving me a ticket. I've heard all kinds of stories, even friends getting tickets for riding bikes on the sidewalk in Williamsburg. Yes even the outer boroughs are feeling the pinch of the ticket blitz war against bike riders. Then I look at all the other violations that the NYPD wouldn't even bat an eye at...Motor powered skateboards on the Williamsburg bridge, cars driving backwards, cars in the bike lane, modified import race cars speeding around the streets, running stop signs...Is all this ticketing of cyclists really about safer streets or is it a stick up some cops ass about critical mass? Yeah Smolka?

The ride last night was well attended. Almost like the good ol days, before August 2004. I'd say there were a couple hundred people, maybe even 300. There were messengers, a guy on a giant treaded unicycle, some small tallbikes, a homemade tandem bike, a real tandem bike--all of the diversity that makes up our cycling community. One of our community members had made a laminated spoke card with the picture of the flyer I designed on one side and two reconvene spots in case people got broken up...One at Washington Square Park and one at Madison Park.

We rode out of Union Square as a huge pack, proudly chanting and yelling a chorus of "whose streets!" Cops were nowhere to be found, but of course, they always seem to let us get a few blocks out of the square and then pounce. I was in the front with about 75 riders. At the Midtown tunnel (the one that goes under the MetLife building, we turned right. I looked back to see that no one was following. Surprise. The police cut the ride in half and began to ticket people for running red lights or what ever they felt like ticketing them for. The police always claim that critical mass is dangerous and illegal and ties up traffic. We'll nothing could of tied up traffic more than the cops blocking off the streets to write traffic violations for bikers. Some day they will learn to write faster, but seeing as how they have lowered the standards for recruiting is a surprise they can read and write at all. awwww. cheap shot.

So now the ride was broken up into smaller groups and we scrambled on our cell phones to find out who was where. Seems like the front ride and those that got away from the cops at about 20th and Park Ave had headed over to 6th and were back together heading up towards 34th. We joined up with them only to see another squadron of cops swoop in and cut off 34th for another round of ticketing. The ticketing was not just for running red lights but also for not having a bell or illegally existing in NYC or what ever the cops feel like. They must feel a little emasculated since a State court judge told them it wasn't illegal to ride as a group and therefore they weren't practicing their macho bravado of tackling people and making arrests. This may curb the chances of the scooter cops from smashing into each other and falling down because critical mass is sooooo dangerous.

We turned around 6th Ave and headed down Broadway back to Herald Square after sitting and watch the cops create the largest traffic snarl imaginable. Cars were stopped all the way up 6th for up to 20 blocks. I later found out the cops blocked people from going forward and told them to go left or right only to discover there was no where to go but into the cops ticket trap. Nice work boys. The cops were playing some sort of zone defense where they would cut the ride in half and slowly break us down. I mean these tickets are no joke. Even if you didn't run a red light and had a bell, and bike still get a ticket, have to appear in court, loose work, go in front of an unsympathetic judge who hears hundreds of cases a day about bike violations and public urinating and pay up to $100 plus stupid ass sur-charges which they tack on. I wonder if these tickets are pre-written?

So we picked up people who were hanging out at Herald Square and headed down to Washington Square to reconvene with other riders, like it was suggested on the laminated spoke card.

We slowly picked up stragglers and rolled into the park with a squadron of police vans following. Then we had a weird Mexican standoff in the park while the cops tied up all of 5th ave. waiting to see what would happen. Then the weirdest part happened. Everyone began to ride into Washington Square Park. From all corners. The spoke card worked. We soon grew in size to almost as many as we had at Union Square with people cheering as different groups came in. Then we walked over to the other side of the park and left out of Thompson street cheering and riding. The cop brigade move out and then we made our way to the big wide-open 6th Ave. We were cheering and chanting..."more bikes, less cars" and it sort of turned into "more bikes, less cops."

The ride went on way past 9:00pm with the cops still pulling the cut off and ticket. I hear there were some arrests. It must have been that people didn't have a bike light or some sort of other egregious violation.

Well, I've never seen such a defiant group. Everyone riding tight, sticking together and enjoying the weather. Lets keep at it. The weather is only going to get nicer and warmer since our government is ignoring climate change and using up as much oil as possible.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Christmas morning, a cop on horseback was sitting at a traffic light. Next to him was a kid on his shiny new bike.
The cop said to the kid, "Nice bike you've got there. Did Santa bring that to you?"
The kid said, "Yeah."
The cop said, "Well, next year tell Santa to put a taillight on that bike." The cop then proceeded to issue the kid a $20 bicycle safety violation ticket.
The kid took the ticket, but before he rode off he said, "By the way, that's a nice horse you got there. Did Santa bring that to you?"
Humoring the kid, the cop said, "Yeah, he sure did."
The kid said, "Well, next year tell Santa to put the dick underneath the horse, instead of on top."

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this was my first critical mass and unfortunately I was one of the first people pinched at 20th and Park... I was on the far right and a cop was wobbling all over the place on his scooter and forcing me left which made me nervous as I cut 3 other bikes short because of him... yeah, I blew the red light but that was because there were no cars at the light and I was trying to get away from him and I just wasn't thinking that was a trap

I was really mad as he wrote the ticket for 15mins and with this $200 fine, I am still pissed... but more importantly, I think it is important for future rides, while everyone is hanging out and waiting for things to start, there should be someone reminding people - especially the more green - what can happen to them... had I known I would not have made such a poor decision and have this $200(!!!!) ticket on my head

will I ride again... HELL YES... but I will make sure to be much more mindful so some cop can't pinch me for asinine crap (that was done to avoid him mind you!!!) and fill his ticket quota... I WILL NOT make it easy for them again

please pass on my above idea so less sacrificial lambs get hit by the cops and keep the ride as positive as possible for everyone... you can never be too prepared...if you want some help doing this, just drop me a note by adding to my name here

see you folks next month

5:38 PM  
Blogger Brian McGloin said...

This was my second Critical Mass. It was awesome - so many people. Everyone was chanting and shouting and riding together.

I was in the Critical Mass peleton when the group turned onto W41st onto Fifth. Just before the turn, the group turned around and rode againt the traffic for half of a block (the riders in the back just made the left).
Scotter cops fell out of the sky and rode in agressively ordering us to "get off the bike!" The idea was to block us off ... I leaned on the pedals and got out of there riding down w41st turning left onto Broadway. I was behind someone who didn't seem to get the idea there were cops right behind us with tickets to issue.
On Broadway, I stopped and walked my bike onto the sidewalk. I just didn't want a ticket - its an extra pain in the ass for me to come to NYC from CT to pay tickets and so forth. I still feel like a pussy for bailing out.
I didn't know there were plans to meet up at Washington Square or I would have gone there.
I hung out on Broadway for a bit waiting for the cops to disperse. While waiting, I noticed some asshole driving through the red light with no headlights and 2 seperate food delivery guys riding against the traffic flow - all in front of a cop iin a marked car. I walked back over to w41st to see what was happeneing.
4 cops had surrounded a cyclist and were making angry demands for an ID while more cops had 5th blocked partially.
I get the avenues and streets mixed up a little still. When I move to NYC I'll get it straight.
Moments later, 2 NYPD vans and an unmarked black NYPD car roared violently down 41st toward Broadway. Honestly, I was waiting for a crash - I was surprised they could even go so fast. I imagine they were on their way to Washington Square.
Since Critical Mass is so dangerous to the Public, I see the need for such actions. It was a little strange to see a light Police Presence at first. No helicopter, no paddy wagons ... no black unmarked SUVs ... I was waiting for machine guns or tear gas. It was too nice, at first.

I'll do a write up on my blog as well as posting photos to Flickr and Times Up!. I did both for last month's Critical Mass.

See everyone next month - this time I won't miss the spoke cards.

7:41 PM  
Blogger rondinara said...

My first Critical Mass ride and it was great fun riding with such a cool mass of people. Everyone was very friendly and supportive including people on sidewalks (except for one guy who yelled "run'em over!").

This in spite of my ticket on Park and 23rd. Just after starting out from Union Square, cops in scooters converged on us in a show of "strength" and passed out tickets for whatever came into their minds.

The cops sucessfully broke up the pack of riders but I rode with a small group over to to Hearld Square where we met up with a lot more riders. We then headed to Washington Square. We left WS and rode around a little aimlessly but having great fun as we circled back to WS. This time several hundred more riders were hanging out. Eventually we departed, rode through the Village to 6th Ave and up to 23rd St. It was getting late so I peeled off but as I did a large group of scooter cops and cop cars followed the bikers westbound on 23rd.

What's the point of this harassment? Here's an idea. Let's all call and email our local officials and complain about our treatment by the police. We pay taxes, we're citizens, we obey the law (within reason); why should we have to put up with this harassment?

Let them hear your voices:

Your elected officials really do respond if you present your case.

9:23 AM  

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