Monday, July 03, 2006

A couple of articles...

Just for the record, here is an article from the metro paper by Diana Kuan about NYC's critical mass.

Why does NYPD harass cyclists?
my view by diana kuan

At the end of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” there is usually a segment called “Slow News Day” that pokes fun at major news networks for devoting significant time to pop culture instead of more pressing issues. By that same logic, the last Friday of every month must be a slow crime day in New York City. It is the day a few hundred bicyclists ride around Manhattan as part of Critical Mass, a grassroots movement to promote bikes as an alternative form of transportation. Critical Mass takes place peacefully all across the country and abroad. In Manhattan, however, the NYPD tries to suppress the event as though it were a vicious anarchist movement.
Throughout 2005, the NYPD made arrests — often violently — on the grounds that the bicyclists were “parading without a license.” This January, a judge ruled that the “parading” argument was unconstitutional. But that hasn’t prevented the police, both uniformed and undercover, from running the gamut of other intimidation tactics. Video footage, from both regular riders and the recent documentary “Still We Ride,” shows police chainsawing bikes off locks, forcefully pulling people from bikes and using scooters to run cyclists off the road. If my understanding is correct, the function of the police is to protect law-abiding citizens, not harm them.
Last month’s Critical Mass ride saw the NYPD cordoning off cyclists and issuing court summonses for violations as inane as “riding without headlights” in broad daylight. Other riders were ticketed for riding too far left — or too far right — on the same road. A group of bewildered pedestrians who were blockaded near Bryant Park began to shout at the police for wasting tax dollars. “Are there no drug dealers on the street today?” one man asked. According to the NYPD, cyclists riding en masse cause traffic jams and pose a danger should an emergency vehicle need to get through. Well, at the start of the May 26 ride, several hundred cyclists were heading down Broadway from Union Square when an ambulance came up behind them. In a matter of minutes, all of the cyclists were able to pick up their bikes and move them onto the sidewalk. Let’s just say that a wailing ambulance stuck behind clogged lanes of cabs and other cars isn’t so lucky.
In San Francisco and Chicago — two cities whose Critical Masses draw thousands of cyclists — a small number of city police officers stay on the sidelines to ensure safety and order. The case is the same in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. In Manhatttan, however, the NYPD is wasting its already thinned-out resources by sending a large number of officers to block off traffic, harass riders and use other overblown and unconstitutional scare tactics. With gas prices skyrocketing, and the United States going to war because of our foreign oil addiction, there is no worse time to squelch a movement that promotes energy-efficient transportation. According to the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, there are an estimated 110,000 bike commuters in New York City, and their ranks will continue to swell. New York is supposed to be a progressive city. What kind of message is the NYPD sending to citizens and tourists when it aggressively targets people who just want to ride?
and here is an article in the NYDaily News about the Clown Brigade..

link to article

Clown corps pedals bike lane awareness

A gang of Manhattan clowns was on a dead-serious mission yesterday: reminding drivers to steer clear of the city's bike lanes.
"There's so little space for bikes anyway," said writer Marilyn Horan, a member of the Bicycle Clown Brigade decked out in clown makeup and candy-cane striped stockings.

"When the lane is blocked, you have to veer into traffic."

The clown brigade comes from Time's Up! - a group of bike activists who run free bicycle repair workshops and the Critical Mass cycling protests. They also honor victims of fatal bike collisions by placing white-painted "ghost bikes" at crash sites.

As the clowns encountered cars parked in bike lanes yesterday, they acted out slow-motion collisions with comic pratfalls. Then they staggered in disbelief, wondering what the strange, nonbike object could be doing in their bike lane.

"We try and make it funny while still making our point," said Christian Gutierrez, 32.

The clowns also issue real-looking parking tickets that carry a reminder that blocking bike lanes carries the risk of a $115 fine.

Charles Williams, a Brooklyn driver blocking a lane on Eighth Ave. at 29th St., said the clowns helped him realize that even a quick stop in a bike lane can be deadly.

"I knew I wasn't supposed to be here," he said as he headed for a legal spot up the block, "but I figured I'd just be a minute."

Originally published on July 3, 2006


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