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.