Monday, October 02, 2006

Critical Mass rolls on.

This is a really late posting, since Critical Mass was about 5 days ago...oh well.

So I missed another one by being away in Las Vegas for Interbike 2006. There was talk of doing a post convention ride, a la Critical Mass, which would be a hoot down the strip, but we didn't make that either.

So the city is making moves to make the NYC more bike friendly, but clearly not budging on their personal vendetta with the freely formed critical mass.

Here is one account of Friday's ride sent to me by Elizabeth, it was her first ride:

I thought I would send a quick email to pass along the story of my
first critical mass. Perhaps you were there last night and experienced
the chaos the police created at the beginning of the ride. My
boyfriend and I were towards the back of the pack and we were able to
ride by the first group of cops without incident. However, soon after
we turned east on 20th street and hooked up with a few other riders
the cops showed up again on their mopeds. We were all obeying all
traffic lights and there was only a group of about 7-8 of us at that
moment. One cop began driving very close to a cyclist and pinning him
to the far side of the street eventually driving him into the back of
a parked car. A girl stopped to scream at the cops because it was so
outragous. My boyfriend and I went back to union Square with a few
other guys and got one of the green capped guys to come back to the
scene with us. The cops were just finishing ticketing the two of them
for not having head lights. Luckily the guy was okay. The green capped
guy took down all of our information and said someone should get in
touch with us.
Is this the kind of shit the cops are getting away with every month?

This was the first critical mass I have experienced and I am
relatively new to cycling in NYC. My boyfriend is an avid cyclist and
has been commuting to NJ everyday using his bike and the train for the
past year. (He emailed you some picture of ticketing in Central Park a
few months ago if you recall, his name is Alex Kahl) So we both
finally got out to critical mass last night, excited to ride through
the city with a bunch of like-minded people.
My initial impression was somewhat dissapointing as there appeared to
be little to no leadership in regards to where we ride, when we ride
and how we ride. There were many others like us who were out there for
the first time and I fear many of them will not return. The cops seem
to have perfected their fear tactics so that critical mass has been
severely crippled the past few months. For all of us with both
front/back lights and bells there is no reason why we can't just ride
down the street together without cops harrassing us or driving us into
Some of the ideas we've thrown around over this past day, would be to
split into 4 groups and all ride different directions meeting up at
colombus circle or somehwere central. This would make the cops job
exponentially more difficult. Another thought would be to ride up the
bike path on 8th Avenue, creating an enormous cycling presence and
making other motorist more aware of that bike path. This would make
the cops ticketing even more outrageous as we'd be in a designated
bike lane.

Despite all the chaos of last night, alex & I will be out there next
month, jobs willing. I just hope that others weren't discouraged by
the police tirad.
Mike Pidel, made this video:

Lauren put up these pictures from the ride.


Blogger Paul Tay said...

Beautiful, people. Just beautiful. Santa's takin' notes. Keep up the good work, NYC!!

11:20 PM  
Blogger :: smo :: said...

i think that bike lane concept is a really good idea, with or without the critical mass tag. it'd be a bitch because we all know how many cars park in the lane and if we had to stay single file and get around them it'd be rough riding, but it'd just prove the point that much more! i'll keep tabs to see if something like that goes down!

:: smo ::

3:05 AM  
Anonymous who's knows who's reading this? said...

It's really a shame what the rides have turned into. I've done them on an off for about 4 years. When I first started, the cops would escort us up Park and around town in their scooters, blocking traffic for us. They would scold the cyclists who would act as "pluggers" blocking cars (Yes we had enough people to do this and it meant we truly took over the streets). The 2004 RNC changed the whole tone of the ride and suddenly instead of environmentalists we became liberal pig-hating anarchists. Now it's an asinine monthly training exercise for them, just in case NYC is invaded by 100 cycling terrorists, our NYPD blue is prepared. A lot of the hardcore cyclists dropped off and it's mostly new blood every month. The messenger contingent also gave up on it. That said, it can STILL be a very good turnout thanks to all the publicity the ride got the past 2 years.

I was the one who led the largest contingent, towards the front. And it was more because what I saw behind me was a group of mostly scared kids. As far as leadership, understand that while there are people active in the community, the whole point is that there are no leaders or organization to be targeted, and that the head of the ride goes as it pleases. Usually it's a few enterprising individuals up front debating what's best.

And that's the reason I rode up and took charge is because I didn't really feel like there was anybody there who knew the streets, traffic patterns and NYPD hiding areas better than I did there. The thing you have to remember about the recent police harassment is, first off, on a bicycle you are just far more mobile than their scooters, cars, paddy wagons, etc. So rule #1 is just GET AWAY - don't make eye contact, don't collide, just get away and mind your own business. I've done the rides dozens of times even with the recent harassment and always have escaped any problems. If you're paranoid then just don't blatantly break a traffic rule in front of them and if you get talked to, know your rights and privacy. Worst case, hope off and walk it half a block before riding off. Remember, you were just biking home when you got caught up in this, and then you were just following the flow of traffic, bicycle traffic, which is not closely defined under NYC traffic laws, it's neither pedestrian or vehicle traffic.. which is why they are trying to pass these new rule which you should go and protest.

So, we headed out of Union Square heading east, I think it was 16 or 17th street, and were able to make it to 1st Avenue. That's a good avenue, like Broadway, where if you get the speed right, you will ride the lights all the way up, which we did but then decided to break off at I believe 39th because at 42nd would be a significant NYPD presence.

Then it was up Park at which point I said F it let's do GCT, if you're gonna go down, go down in style. So up the ramp and around GCT we went, as we exited Park some scooters and cars attempted to head us off. A bunch of us got through but I hope the rest were able to turn around or slip out somehow as the upper ramp around GCT could turn into a real dead end if both ends were plugged. Nevertheless, nothing is better than taking the upper ramp of GCT.

Might have been better to have continued west but honestly, all it takes is a dozen scooters and cars and there are just tons of cops out at that point, all of Gramercy, Midtown, etc. was completed covered. So there really isn't any winning.

Don't forget, in the past, we have taken the West Side highway. We have taken the Williamsburg Bridge. We have gone through the Park Avenue tunnel. We've massed up at Washington Square park just to continue the ride...

So, my advice is for everyone to keep doing the rides, try to ride the lights and try uncommon routes, find out where the "alamo" is whether it's columbus circle or thompkin's square, pick something less obvious, for all the other splinter groups to meet up at, because often then it is slow for the NYPD to get it together at the 2nd location and you can mass up and head out again...

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry can you move this to the 10/26 ride... I meant to post it there...

8:30 PM  

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