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Critical Mass takes off…on the Subway?

In a bizarre twist of spontaneous regrouping and the immediate need to not be lambs for the slaughter, a small group of legally gathered, un-permitted bike riders (less than 50) took another form of transportation…the subway to start the April Critical Mass. At around 7:30pm, April 27th, 2007 less than 50 people gathered at the North side of Union Square for the monthly critical mass bike ride. It was kind of sad really, that our numbers have been so whittled down by the tiresome antics of the NYPD. I haven’t gone to critical mass in almost a year, but with the break in the action of foul weather and watching a lot of messed up video footage, I felt like it was time to attend. It has really gotten to the point of “not going” makes the police win in their war against a fun event, especially with all this talk of Green Initiatives and reducing global warming. I just get this feeling, that the bike riders are in the right and with persistence, we can be like that blade of grass breaking through concrete and thus eroding the system. I mean, lets not forget the basics…we started this ride, and after all…we are JUST RIDING BICYCLES!

So it was looking grim, there in Union Square, 40 of us die-hards who were starting to be out numbered by scooter cops, people with video cameras and those who came to support the ride, but didn’t bring bicycles…just to see if there was any action, like mass ticketing or tackling. I know, I didn’t want to leave Union Square and quickly have to dodge cops or watch my friends get ticketed for no reason. Is this what Critical mass has become? Ugh. Someone surfaced the idea that we hop on the 4 subway and go somewhere else. This idea became increasingly popular as the time moved away from 7:30, about when the mass gets started and no one had any intention of being the first to leave the park on bike. This is what eventually happened…and it worked! We all walked to the subway stop at the North End of Union square, picked up our bikes and went on the subway…amazing. As we searched for metrocards and passed through the turnstiles…a group of uniformed officers, desperate to have some sort of retribution, ran over to a few riders and questioned them about weather they swiped their cards…with enough erratic fervor that you could of sworn Richard Colvin Reid, the shoe bomber, had escaped Gauntanomo and was loose on the subway. “Stop, hey you, did you swipe your card?” Ridiculous. Other than that, we were scott free. We waited on the GREEN train platform, squeezed into multiple cars, which would have been a lot more difficult if we were more than 50 and headed to Fulton Street in the downtown financial district area. When we got downtown, we got out and gathered on Broadway and then began critical mass…POLICE FREE. This was truly amazing. We had one giant wheel unicycle, one tallbike and about 40 other riders. We had lost a few people along the way, some didn’t go on the subway, some got off at the wrong stop and there was rumor that a group went to Brooklyn, thinking we meant the other Fulton St. For the most part, we were united as a group, taking up all the lanes of traffic and engaged in a fun critical mass. As we headed up Church St. towards Canal, it seemed that a lot more people knew who we were. There was a lot of friendly supportive honking from motor vehicles and crowd waving. We stayed mostly downtown and our numbers grew a little as others joined in and meet up from Union Square…I still think we were always just under 50…so we were technically legal.

It was a successful critical mass…no tickets, no arrests and no cops. Interesting. This new tactic of taking the subway and starting the ride outside of Union Square, seemed to work really well, but we were a tight group. It definitely brings up ideas of starting future rides elsewhere or meeting in a new spot all together…hmmm.

I say we start the multiple meet-up spots, or get back to the text messaging list where you don’t find out the start till 7:30pm.
The thought process is that no matter what we do, the cops catch wind of it (with all their infiltration) and spoil our fun anyway. Its still worth a try and it was really amazing to have a successful critical mass.

We need to get the numbers up…so come to the next ride!

There is a video up already from last nights ride, made by the Times Up video collective and Team Spider.

¬

12 comments to Critical Mass takes off…on the Subway?

  • Paul Tay

    Gotta love it, people! Don’t get mad. Get CREATIVE.

  • Anonymous

    yay. i had a great time. it was actually joyous… i.e., pre-rnc.
    -jamie

  • gwc

    changing, multiple meetup places coordinated by text message/cell sounds great to me!

    no cops, just wow!!
    i cant believe i missed it–an actual pre rnc mass!
    the weather was just so bad earlier, and inline skates cant get traction on wet pavement.

    this certainly wont work next month, because this time we only caught them off guard. but this opens up so many possibilities!

    only 50 people?
    don’t worry, it was most likely the weather–last month’s was like 200.
    i encountered about 50 bikes headed north on 1st ave at 11th st around 8:50pm last friday.
    was that the whole mass?
    ive never been on one that wasnt instantly broken up.
    i bet we got to use corking for the first time in ages?

    -matt s

  • Anonymous

    I heard a report that one biker was ticketed – in the subway, for dragging his bike through the turnstile instead of using the service gate (as required by the MTA rules).

  • Anonymous

    I’m one of those cyclists that actually has a lot against CM, but it’s very important to note that when the cops swarm in such numbers in response to CM (especially a small one), they create much more of a “traffic problem” than the CM itself. The whole NYPD policy towards CM is wounded-ego-driven b.s.

  • rich

    i think one biker got a summons for not paying the fare, he went through the emergency gate. he was from holland, and public transit is probably free there. in nyc it will probably be over 2.50 by the end of the year.

    anyway, the police, with no factual intelligence, went straight to times square, which is why im glad we avoided times square for most of the ride.

    next month, when we do something different, remember that. maybe when we can grow to something at least the size of brooklyn’s mass ride, we can do other things, but i say we avoid painful conflict for a couple of months. it causes bruises that need time to heal.

    just a thought

    -rich!

    p.s. its not hard to spread around a good idea, to a small group

  • Anonymous

    so thats why all you guys were clogging up my train friday night. Let me just say that it was pretty freaking annoying for people trying to get off the train with all the bikes in the way.

  • clarence

    I love this idea.

  • João Lacerda

    Non-violent action… Great idea. Sorry for people in the subway. I guess next month the police might give up their scooters and ride along in the subway…

    Keep riding and keep the fun going!

  • Michael Green

    I’m sorry to the person who was inconvenienced on the subway…wow what a random coincidence that you just happened to be on that train and are a bikeblog reader…hmmm.

  • bmike

    not in NYC anymore… but I think random starting points, or multiple starting points will help spread the ride around… since there is no leader… and no real agenda, why not have unofficial meet up places, and unofficial spots that the ride ‘should’ pass through. multiple starts and multiple groups and multiple ways for the nypd to have to figure out whats happening.

    meeting and leaving from the same place every month seems recipe for confrontation. mixing it up might do some good.

    won’t be long until nypd works with the mta to ban bikes in the subway.

  • Anonymous

    That’s great. I was with a group of bikers that was totally harassed by cops and we had to split up only half hour into the ride because of the cops. I hope more people find out about this trick next time. Great idea. It’s about time.