Tickets before the Mass.

A funny thing happened to me on the way home on Friday. I was racing home to my wife who had gotten sick and needed me to pick her up a heating pad. I had gotten off work from a video shoot in a Lowe’s hotel on 61st and Park. I decided to go down 5th Ave. because I thought it would be fun to immerse myself into the chaos of the holiday traffic jam with lots of gawking to see the recently lit tree and Sak’s window displays. What a mess, luckily I was on the most efficient form of transportation…you guessed it…the bicycle. It was around 6:30pm. I knew it was the night of critical mass but I wasn’t going. Besides my wife needing attention, you sort of have to be in the tactical mood to deal with the police and their childish grudge against bike riding. I wasn’t. I got to Broadway, crossed 23rd and was heading down to Union Square. I began to see the tell tail signs of the excessive waste of our police resources which has continued since the Republican National Convention. The rows of police cruisers, SUVs, arrest bread trucks…all part of an event that has fallen into the radar of the NYPD’s list of “terrorist attacks.” A cop pulled me over right in front of Paragon sports, 17th and Broadway. I was issued a summons for, get this, “not riding in the bike lane.” I instantly knew what was up. How could I have been so stupid. This was part of the NYPD’s bicycle harassment campaign. I knew these things existed but it completely slipped my mind and I thought, “why would they be doing this before the ride even started?” Silly me. So this is how it works. The cops begin to harass cyclists the last Friday of every month as punishment for daring to ride your bike in during critical mass, which gathers in Union Square North around 7:00pm. Every month, they move the sting operation to different points around Union Square. There is a sergeant in charge who commands a group of about 5-7 officers to pull over as many cyclists as they can and issue them tickets for things that are technically illegal but never enforced. If you don’t believe in selective enforcement or think the cops only do this to the participants of critical mass…think again. Now I understand the situation. Believe me. I’ve been going to critical mass on and off for 7 years. But please, can anyone justify this type of activity? So a uniform cop pulls me over and scolds me for not riding in the bike lane. WHAT?? tick2.jpgI guess since I had a helmet (not wearing one is illegal only if under 14 years of age) and a front light and a rear light, the only thing they could get me on was this bike lane bs. Freewheels has a lot of information on getting tickets at critical mass. Check out the link that says tickets for: The Freewheels Guide to Critical Mass Tickets.

My new friends:
113007_18472.jpg Meanwhile, I remained calm. I was asked for my id. I reached in my back pocket and realized I had forgotten my wallet. Luckily I had my passport…don’t ask me why. It is not illegal to not have id, but in this limitless environment of harassment, the NYPD may would have no problem in taking you in to central booking, a far worse experience than just a summons. Some people prescribe to caring a passport so that these kind of offenses stay off the driving record. Others carry an expired passport or a student id and use that. Something to think about…nuff said.

Anyway. I am very pissed about this whole experience. Its one thing to get a ticket during critical mass, the new punishment for riding and playing cat and mouse with the cops, but it is another when the police go out of their way to intimidate bikers. It should come as no surprise because this is part of a long list of police activities which I have been reporting on in almost 4 years of blogging. Things like clocking the speed of cyclists on bridges, telling people its illegal to not have a helmet, ticketing cyclists for running the red lights in central park. The list goes on and on. I think the biggest offense for me was knowing how much we have to put up with just to ride a bike in NYC, that goes unpunished. The day to day parking in bike lanes, the hit and runs, the dooring. And I’m getting a ticket for “NOT RIDING in the bike lane. Oh but wait…NYC is supposed to be a “GREEN CITY.” Yeah Green as in the color of money and finding new ways to tax its citizenry.

I think we need to get more focused on stopping the harassment. I know a lot of work has already been done and I have a few mores suggestions of what we can do.

1) we need to stop the harassment before critical mass. We know how effective our video cameras are and we need to get people dispatched to these sting operations. We may also want to set up people ahead of them and warn cyclists to go a different route. Remember, most of these operations happen a half hour before 7:00, a few blocks North of Union Square, probably to catch people coming downtown. I know this takes continual commitment but its worth it and I intend to be at the next ride, armed with a video camera for documentation.

+++I noticed someone was video taping the group that I was in. If that person has footage, please get in touch with me.+++

2) I’d like to create a survey asking fellow cyclists and citizens of NYC to report on how they have been harassed and if they think this is responsible or necessary actions of our valued police force. I will set this up on line and use the information to report to our city council. If anyone wants to help out, please let me know.

So now I’ll be losing time and money dealing with my ticket. I’m pleading “not-guilty” and will keep you informed of my progress.

BTW, I heard there was a lot of ticketing at the critical mass. I applaud all those who rode.

After being stopped I rode to Union Square and chatted with a few people who had a similar experience. I got the heating pad, thanks Brandon for the borrowed cash. I also lost my 70.00 lock in all the confusion. I rode home, down 2nd Ave, trying to hold back my anger and avoiding all the cars parked in the bike lane.

Here are some good resources to carry on the struggle:

Time’s Up, get involved with video taping.
Look Campaign awareness of cyclists.
Freewheels, great resource with what is the law, and how to deal with tickets.
Critical Mass Tickets mapping where people get tickets. If you got a ticket this Friday, go here and report it.

11 comments to Tickets before the Mass.

  • rachael

    Tickets for riding outside the bike lane, more than two abreast, or on the wrong side of the road: THESE TICKETS ARE NOT VALID. These “violations” are not actually against any law. Cyclists are not required to ride in the bike lane and are not required to keep to the right, pursuant to local traffic rules 34 RCNY 4-02 and 34 RCNY 4-12(p). To read the laws, c Have the full text of the law ready to show the judge, and you should be able to get this ticket dismissed.

  • EM

    thank you for the information. I got a ticket too this Friday for not having lights on my bike. I was on my way to a friend’s art opening and dinner, was held for almost half hour and missed the opening. The officer apologized and said that it was directly related to Critical Mass meeting and the ticket would most likely be dismissed. I told him it was plain harassment, my time was lost and will be also wasted dealing with the ticket.

  • Joe Peralta

    When I took in my first Critical Mass in Manhattan I was shocked and outraged by what the NYPD was doing. I was even more so over the next few days when I saw this was passing without remark in the press or on-line. This despite every other person there having a camera out. What the ride needs is a minister of media and PR. In that respect, its nonarchy strikes me as a complete flustercluck.

    I found what little reporting is available is scattershot all over the web – ny.indy, youtube, cmtickets, bikeblog, Wagner’s blog, my site, and probably various blogs and local bulletin boards I haven’t seen. Those who post pix and reports are heroes, but, scattered and uncoordinated, their work is ineffective.

    I’d suggest picking one site to handle and archive reports and links. I’d suggest handing out business cards at the ride with that URL, encouraging people to contribute their images and experiences. CMtickets seems set up with that in mind.

    It’d be a boon if some person or group would take on the chore of editing the raw input down to its valuable essence.

    Maybe a release form on the site would allow the editor to use the material in a press release to local media outlets who love to have their stories delivered hot to their desks.

    Yeah it takes time, and we’re all real busy, but in a situation of political harassment and repression like this, inaction is complicity.

  • Anonymous

    What a crock! Your story that is. You play it off like you are just going out for a heating pad for your “poor suffering wife” (maybe this will get me some sympathy), but decide to go all the way to union square on your bike on the night you already know is critical mass. You plan to try and avoid any tickets from showing up on your license by bringing your passport with you, apparently didn’t think ahead to bring money to buy the heating pad (your so-called reason for going out in the first place), complain that you lost your bike lock in the process (again trying to drum up sympathy for yourself and has nothing to do with the police), complain about things that the cops write tickets for that are “technically illegal” (either something is illegal or it’s not and once again had nothing to do with you on this night you are talking about) and yet you still go there to talk to and hang out with your other critical mass friends. You obviously wanted to go to the critical mass event but just didn’t want to participate in the ride. So why not just say that? Instead you try to hide behind some story about going out for a heating pad when there is a duane reade or cvs on nearly every corner of the city. All you obviously wanted to do was complain about how nypd supposedly treats critical mass riders sooooo unfairly and give a boo-hoo, poor me spin to your post.

  • Eric

    I work at 20 and Broadway and am an avid cyclist. While I’m a member of Time’s Up, I don’t participate in CM as I just can’t get arrested again for riding my bike. Plus, I’m still not happy with them for the lack of support when I was arrested in a bike block right before the RNC started.

    All that said, I see the police on B-way across from the movie theater on the last Friday of every month – and NO OTHER DAY! Coincidence? You do the math.

  • philipp

    interesting to read what joe and eric have to say.

    1) joe, there actually has been a concerted effort by verious parties who have been working together more than it may seem. if you are really interesting in this YOU need to get involved. you cannot just assume that someone else should do it. yes, we ALL are busy, but, truly, no one is really busier than anyone else. that idea also applies to eric’s complaint about time’s up. you know the old saying… you don’t have time, you MAKE time. that said, there are several things going on to fight the cop harrassment such as a newly filed lawsuit plus others in the works, etc. if you really care, get involved not necessarily through time’s up!.

    2) both eric and joe, remember this is CM!!!!!!! the key principal of CM is that it is leaderless, and, by extension, one could argue that this applies to everything else associated with CM. as a result, there are many who actually do not really want ANY ONE single group to control, take over, or whatever any CM stuff. in fact, it is my impression, and i could be incorrect about this, that many folks were turned off by CM when it seemed that time’s up! was may be, just may be, promoting the ride and indeed was sending out press releases. people felt that time’s up! was taking over. that claim is arguable especially because a lot of that comes from the errrouneous claim by the NYPD that time’s up! was running the whole show so to speak. full disclosure, that lawsuit has been tossed more or less. either way, just the barest indication that time’s up! may have been playing a bigger role than many wanted was bad enough.

    that said, one really should be careful about arguing that not enough is being done to fight the cop harrassment. there is plenty going on, but at the same time, there needs to be a certain hands off approach in order to live up to the ideals of CM.

  • philipp

    i just want to add that, at the same time, i agree that the effort to fight the cop harrassment does leave some stuff to be desired……

    at the same time, it has not been as much of failure as some may think. one needs to think of the bigger picture and not only about one’s own ticket.

  • Joe Peralta

    While I was rambling around back east I took in 3 Manhattan rides, and published 2 slide shows with pix of the NYPD assaulting and arresting bicyclists around Union Square.

    Now I’m back in the west, but I wish you-all would clen that town up so I don’t have to deal with it when I go back.

    I happen to be shacked up with an Internet connection. If I can do more, I’m in.

  • not anonymous

    Was that “anonymous” for real?

    Ooooh, you secret Critical-Masser, you! Don’t try to hide that fact from us! We know you are a no-good-nic!

    That’s gotta be a joke.

  • Dave

    Hey Michael, I’ve been stopped on my way to CM before. Blocks away from union sq!! I’ve fought 4 CM tickets so far and have won every single one. Going back to court next week for my 5th. I know for most people it’s much harder to be able to leave work during the day to show up at court, but the law if definitely on your side if you go. Another good tip is to delay the hearing for as long as you can. I did get a ticket once for not having lights on my bike, which I couldn’t really defend. But I delayed the hearing 3 times, which pushed it back about half a year. By the time I did goto the hearing, the cop didn’t remember anything and it was dismissed right away. Good luck.

  • heard

    If you get a ticket for no lights you can show up at the issuing precinct within 24 hours, present your (possibly brand-new) lights and they will waive the ticket.