Saturday, July 01, 2006

June Critical Mass-NYC 2006-aaarghh!

Another critical mass in New York City I missed because of work. Somehow I wound up on the night shift of this Jody Foster movie I was working on in Prospect Park. I got a bit of a report from the lost viking. Sounds like another all out harassment campaign from the NYPD going out of there way to intimidate the riders and act like high school bullys, only the kind found in a well armed police state. Hard to believe these thugs have courtesy, professionalism and respect written on all of their police vehicles and expect the general populous to abide by this as a code of good behavior. What about them? This ride comes one week after two cyclists were killed by motor vehicles in the city making for a somber atmosphere and people asking the questions about how these incidents happened. Dr. Nacht was killed on the BIKE path on the Westside highway, an impressive civic achievement for pedestrians and cyclists, yet used as the benchmark of where we are supposed to ride. The NYTimes called it a privilege for us to have it, as if we are allotted a tiny little table scrap of all our public we'd better like it and not cry when an NYPD tow trucks driver makes a left turn at 40 mph and kills someone. Then everyone starts trying to blame the posting safety tips to tell us we shouldn't ride in bad weather and always wear a helmet. So let me see if I got this straight...Only ride on the bike path, wear a helmet, not in bad weather and yield to unsafe drivers...Right. I think with those requirements I would ride my bike maybe once a year. All of this found me asking...was the driver on his cell phone, was he drunk...shouldn't he yield to pedestrians?? My questions will never be answered because the NYPD doesn't bother to investigate any of these cyclist the filmmaker killed on Houston Street. What are the codes for these metal plates in the road? Was it faulty? Isn't this the kind of thing ambulance chasers like Jacoby and Meyers get off on and bombard us with cheap ads on daytime television? Hello...LAWSUIT! Then it brings us to Critical Mass, where all the "Bad bike riders go." Not those "Good" bike riders who know better and never ride without a helmet or red blinking light in the back. "Why they are just asking for a 2 year campaign of harassment." After all we should just be accepting our dangerous fate and pay $50 a week to fill up our cars and wonder why our weather patterns are so erratic and asthma effects so many people in this city.

I heard the ride was about 300 people. There were some mysterious vehicles looming around Union Square Park. One Time's up volunteer armed with a video camera went over to investigate a creepy looking mini van on the East Side of the park. As he got closer some dudes jumped out and grabbed him and took his camera. Why would guys in casual wear and jeans be so upset for being documented? They claimed they weren't cops...then more people began to gather around demanding the justification for the hold up...Then they said they were cops. WHAT??!?? in this day an age with no money is going to the police to investigate domestic spying and our president not spying on his own citizenry and THIS WHOLE DAMN country not becoming a POLICE STATE!!!! How can this be!!??? The crowd of people were able to get the volunteer released and not sent to Guantanamo and have his camera returned...Maybe the small group of Japanese tourists wondering what kind of movie stars the (COPS) were was the final straw that made them cower back into their soccer mom Mobile...The crowd all had video cameras...which seemed to stop...the "coparatzzi" I heard one well known blogger and photographer was playing a weird dance of COPueria trying to take pictures of the harassment...he should have some good photos on his blog. I also heard one of the cops responded to someone asking his badge number as..."My badge number is 999 never you mind." Oh my God, I know they lowered the standard of education for people to become comes...but I didn't realize it was to the third grade.
Because of these Honshu rule violations and other police harassment, the ride didn't leave till 8:00pm and headed down the usual Broadway...obeying traffic laws, wearing helmets, STOPPING at RED that matters...and having proper warning devises and whatever else’s the police say we don't have. Yes another critical Mass, another opportunity to give the 40,000 strong underpaid police force something to do on Friday night, cause, there couldn't be anything else going on.
Then the scooter brigade came out and began ticketing people. One woman got a ticket for not having a warning devise although she had four horns on her bike. Then the cops cut off the LEGAL ride at 8th and Broadway and demanded everyone pull over so they could check for warning devises. Everyone scattered, except for the sacrificial lambs who couldn't get away and the ride broke up into smaller groups. Then it was the typical game of cat and mouse. A couple of girls were detained by police and not given any reason. They began a dialogue with the cops and it turned out one of them was the investigating officer in Derek Lake's death...the kid who died on Houston and LaGuardia riding over faulty illegal metal grates. He said that Derek ran a red light and therefore case closed. He also was laughing about the death. Nice. That must be the professionalism the police force is trained in or is it the respect?
Then the ride meet up in Styvesant Town and had a reconvene. The cops were called in and chased everybody out around 9:31pm. The lost Viking rode with the pack and turned off to go home to his apartment in the East Village...he was chased by four scooters all the way up to his front gate. He ducked in, just in time and ran upstairs...the cops were saying..."Ohh you got a way...nah nah nah"
I heard a group of thirty riders persisted on and did a bike lift in Time's Square...RIGHT ON!
This was supposed to be a pirate themed ride but there is way too much to worry about when the police are spying on us from vans and jumping out at you to worry about a theme...but Thanks to all who tried....



Blogger Paul Tay said...

We are all taking notes. Thanks a million.

12:13 PM  
Blogger David J said...

Wow you guys are realy under the hammer! I don't know about NYC but I would guess that most adult cyclists here in Australia, like me, also have a car at home (we don't have such population density as you).
I prefer to ride when I can but have a family and also need to transport them.
Although I ride my bike to work every day I still pay full registration for my car. The money from which goes toward infrastructure.
Surely it would be in the states best interests for me to put far less wear and tear on that infrastructure therefore increasing the value of my registration $.
Often people travel solo in their car, which takes up far more space that 4 or even 6 cyclists. So the rego I pay for my car could be providing infrastructure for at least 5 other cyclists! What a bargain for the state!

12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish EVERY SINGLE PERSON who rides at least once a week showed up for a rally to show politicians and the police that there is so many of us and our needs have to be addressed. How naive of me. On the other hand, perhaps a rally - with a permit and stuff - would get some attention? It is sad that the public reacts - then quickly forgets - tragedies, like the ones that happened last week. THe bike month was great, but I wish there is bike month every month.
Separately, when I talk to non-bikers they often complaint about bikers on sidewalks and riding against traffic, being hit by a bike, etc. While most of the time these people are whiners and sourpusses, their attitude reflects certain attitudes among non-bike-riding public, which probably should be addressed by us. How? (apologies for a rambling post)

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I participated in last night's CM ride and was disgusted at the cops' cowardly and illegal tactics. It was my first ride, I'm new in the city, and i participated mainly to meet new friends and have fun. Little did I know that I would be changed forever into a bicycle activist. I ride my bike both as a primary form of transportation and as a living. I can't afford to live in a city where bikers are killed and harrassed like this.

After the bad experience last night, I plan on trying to start a ride EVERY FRIDAY. OR at least as often as i can. If anyone else is interested, send me an email.

5:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, if you witnessed any illegal behavior or want to make your feeling known, write a note
to the mayor's office and/or file a complaint with the civilian complaint board. Links are:

If the officer refused to give a badge number, YOU SHOULD ABSOLUTLEY fill out a complaint!!

11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mad props to the Canadian dude on the coker!

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea of suddenly changing the night. It would be great if a ton of bikers showed up on the second to last friday of the month with the police totally unprepared.

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, mike, i put a short version of a long technical memorandum on cycling and safety in the city on my site today. i wrote the long version last week and sent it to a couple of dozen city agency offices. if people want to grab the shorter 2 page version along with a list of addresses, customize it, print it and mail it, they should do so. here's the link.

-chris habib

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good report, but as I, an ex-CMer have said many times, stopping at red lights DOES make a difference. It makes all the difference in the world. To my mind it should be essential in any sort of cycling demonstration or protest (of course people I used to ride with say "but it's not a protest! It's just a bike ride! DISINGENUOUS AND YOU KNOW IT SO DON'T SAY IT!)

Here are the things that running red lights does:

1. keep levels of the mind-numbing opiate (fun) high, by allowing us to go fast and not stop or slow down (not as fun)

2. SCREWS OVER PEDESTRIANS, especially when we have a beautiful, big Critical Mass.

3. Gets us out of the way faster, minimizing the nuisance that we, cyclists are, to the real, righteous users of public space, murderers in cars.

Friends, wouldn't it be better to tie up traffic MORE, but hold up pedestrians LESS? A large CM that runs red lights does exactly the opposite.

In sum (of this admittedly disorganized and hastily written rant), even though stories of lying cops who confiscate cameras make my blood boil, the Critical Mass ride itself is rife with negative side-effects (I stop short of proclaiming "it hurts the cause") because it's not a medium of intelligent debate about existing city laws and design, but an exercise in angrily defended FUN.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

are bike riders to small a group in nyc to warrant an effective PAC? or somekind of collective orginization with a narrow purpose you can all agree to agitate on?

I feel like it would be quite effective.

10:23 PM  

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