original picture by: Jeff Daniel
Was I in some sort of time warp? Propelled back to 2001 when this free wheeling bike ride of fun rode through my beloved city on the last Friday of each month? The April Critical Mass ride, who’s attendance had been dwindled to a few brave souls…was back with new exuberant youthful energy reminding me of a time of (not too) long ago. Despite four years of police harassment, this months ride was really fun and amazing.
I was hard pressed to leave the excitement and comfort of Chris Ryan’s apartment, sprawled out on his couch watching game 1 of the New York Rangers NHL playoff game against Pittsburgh. Chris was busy coordinating some flyer drop off for his band, Team Spider and making last minute preparations to avoid tickets by jerry rigging flashlights to his bicycle. I especially like the laser pointer in back to act as the red light and have the potential of blinding people.
About 7:30pm we made it out of the comforts of the cable tv and headed over to Union Square to see how many people, if any, would be at Critical Mass. The weather has been beautiful and this was another warm spring night. Tourists were out attending theatre, people were everywhere and traffic was getting jammed up around 17th and Union Square East.
The big question was, how would the cops be reacting tonight with so many of their rank and file on HIGH alert from the Sean Bell verdict. Just in case the people get all uppity due to, once again, no repercussions for police going on a shooting spree and taking innocent life. I love the automatic assumption that an acquittal charge of cops could lead to massive rioting and thus a need for tightened police presence, just like a peaceful bike ride every month brings out helicopters and arrest vans. Lets also not forget its operation TORCH
Bringing a special unit of police with machine guns and bomb sniffing dogs to the subways and streets. Hmmm, Sean Bell verdict, operation Torch…a coincidence?
Rolling into whats left of Union Square North, it was clear that we had our usual welcoming committee of police scooters and arrest vehicles lined up in the park and up Broadway. There was a healthy crowd of just over one hundred riders gathered just west of the new construction. People were handing out flyers for art shows, political rallys and one of my favorite new offenses…The NYPD trying to require permits for Environmental studies and air monitoring. Why would we have any reason to doubt the government when it comes to our environment? HMMMMMMMMMM…can you say 9/11.
Check out new intro 650.
After saying hi to old friends it was nearing 8:00pm and time for the ride to begin.
We headed over to the West Side Highway. This mass had lots of new faces, young kids who were riding fast and full of excitement. Some of the veterans of past rides worked with them to slow down, keep the ride together, help hold intersections and work as a collective. We heard this Samba band practice on the East side of the West side highway and reconvened our group, stopping to listen to the loud beats of multiple drums. Then the ride headed up 10th Ave and worked its way East. There was no attempt at stopping for red lights, a cautionary measure from rides past in order to avoid ticketing from police, but this ride was different. There were no cops.
We snaked our way up 6th Ave to 59th Street and then headed West to Columbus Circle. Made a few circles and then headed down Broadway to Times Square. It was like the good ol days. People cheering, chanting…”who’s streets.” Although this time it felt a little different. No matter where we went, uptown, midtown, downtown…people on the sidelines were cheering, clapping, smiling. Almost as if they supported us, that somehow they know the struggle this event has been going through. Maybe they just saw the sight of 100 bikes riding together was empowering and reminded them of all this “Green Chic”…”What-you-can-do-for-the-environmentalism” buzz thats going around. Who knows, but people were supportive and the ride was really fun.
We ended up in the West Village at a fund-raiser for Time’s Up with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra and a giant trampoline at the HUB station bike shop.
Perhaps this is new beginnings for the ongoing story of Critical Mass in NYC. Maybe the police will be back next month with their same old tricks and tactics.
More people should really come out to the next ride. The weather will be warmer and after all MAY is BIKE MONTH.
I hope more people start coming to the ride but for now…WE’RE BACK!!!!
More photos from Jeff Daniel-
Heading down Broadway
Impromptu bike lift