The executive director of Time’s Up wrote a letter to the editors of the New York Times about Critical Mass and misconceptions of the NYPD. This was in response to an article that was published on August 4th.
Letter The Cyclists and the Police Published: August 12, 2008
To the Editor:
Re â€œPolice and a Cyclistsâ€™ Group, and Four Years of Clashesâ€ (news article, Aug. 4), in which I am quoted as the director of Timeâ€™s Up, which promotes the Critical Mass rides but is not involved.
in organizing them:
The function of Critical Mass is to create a safe space where people can ride together. Group rides like Critical Mass play an important role in generating new cyclists, who in turn become everyday bike commuters. The ride grew steadily for a decade until the crackdown after the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.
The article reports that Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly â€œsaid the Police Department wants to work with the riders.â€ By no means has the Police Department tried to work with us. Critical Mass riders have been harassed, spied on, beaten, arrested and even sued by the city. Yet we have prevailed in the courtroom â€” it has been proved over and over that police statements do not match videotaped evidence.
We also contest Mr. Kellyâ€™s claim that Critical Mass riders go against traffic. While it is true that the ride has no set route, under normal circumstances, it does follow the traffic flow.
Most appalling is Mr. Kellyâ€™s and the spokesmanâ€™s assertion that the ride was â€œhijackedâ€ by an â€œanarchist groupâ€ before the Republican convention. This is a baseless scare tactic. Critical Mass has no leaders. The lack of control that Mr. Kelly calls anarchy can be better termed community.
We are aware that the phenomenon of leaderless mass bike rides can be perceived as something different and unusual to the police. But that does not make it provocation or anarchy. It is a celebration of what our streets could look like in a better New York City.
Bill DiPaola New York, Aug. 5, 2008
The writer is the executive director of Timeâ€™s Up, an environmental organization.
Today I was making multiple trips into the city from Brooklyn, trying to avoid potential downpours. Failing miserably. I rode through the Flat Iron district around 23rd and Broadway, which has become this bizarre maze of orange cones and Green painted bike lanes all flowing in a rather illogical order. Then I discovered the D.O.T. secret plan for making our streets more “ecco-friendly,” paving them with birdseed. show here to the left of the green lanes. Not sure why there are sporatic zones of what looks like birdseed. But the birds aren’t eating it. It does seem to limit thespace for motor vehicles so it looks like both the 34th/Broadway and the 23rd intersections are big enough to provide lots of room for big wide bike lanes and vehicular traffic.
Then I headed over to the Green Market in Union Square and saw this bizarre site: No its not a bunch of freaks heading to burning man, oh, wait they are, but its also: Daniel Bowman Simon’s the thewhofarm.org.
That stands for the White House Organic Farm Project. The idea is that the 17 acres of land currently occupied by the president belongs to the people and therefore should have an organic farm on it growing wholesome natural food…and be a model for the world. The goal would be to deliver fresh fruits and vegetables to local residents fo the DC area.
9/1/08 will be the date of an online petition to demand the farm be built.
from their website: TheWhoFarm Project is a non-partisan, petition-based initiative to respectfully request that our 44th President plant an organic farm on the grounds of the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The farm will be tended by school children and Americans with disabilities, to feed the President, healthy school lunch programs, and food pantries. The farm will serve as a model for education, health, and sustainability for the United States of America & the world at large.
There will be a fund raiser for the WHOFarm, tomorrow in Central Park.
More info: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Location: Roof Garden and Gallery @ The Arsenal, Central Park 830 5th Avenue, New York, NY (@ 64th Street) RSVP: rsvp@TheWhoFarm.org
We just purchased the Topsy Turvy bus from Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s…using credit cards, which will come due soon. We also need gas money, etc. We are planting a small organic farm on the roof.
On Tuesday, come support our version of Community Supported Agriculture…buy a share in TheWhoFarm…the bounty of course is an organic farm at our shared house, The White House. (Suggested donation: as much as you can possibly afford! $100+ preferred…but nobody turned away for lack of $100 bills
Come for excellent tasty local food and drink, as well as gorgeous views of Central Park, the zoo, and the rest of it…we are working on fine entertainment as well…bring friends.
From now through Friday Aug 15, we are in NYC prepping and promoting TheWhoFarm at events, gardens, and greenmarkets…before heading West towards California (via Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, and Burning Man) for Slow Food Nation Labor Day weekend. We’ll also hit Austin City Limits at the end of Sept, but the rest of the itinerary is still in planning stages…so if you have any suggestions…let us know…
The DNCC has vowed it will be the “greenest convention in history.” Here’s a list of greenness:
Counting carbon: The DNCC is comprehensively calculating the carbon footprint of the convention. Where emissions are unavoidable, the DNCC has said it will participate in carbon-offset programs.
Greening the arena: After becoming the conventionâ€™s location, the Pepsi Center announced it was going â€œ100 percent green.â€ Plans are to operate entirely on renewable wind and solar energy and to include new recycling bins, a hybrid vehicle-only parking area and a â€œno idling zoneâ€ outside the arena.â€¨
Relying on buses: The buses used to transport delegates and media from all the hotels to the Pepsi Center will be either hybrid, alternative fuel or run on biodiesel, organizers said, and all vehicle miles traveled will be tracked and included in the conventionâ€™s carbon footprint calculations.
Sharing bikes: A bike-sharing program will be implemented. The â€œFreewheelinâ€ bike program developed by Humana Inc, bike industry leaders and Bikes Belong, will bring 1,000 bikes to Denver to be used free of charge.
Diverting waste: The DNCC has set a goal for a minimum of 85 percent waste diversion from the landfill through a comprehensive recycling and waste minimization program and through composting.
Ok, but Bicycles are not allowed within the DNC perimeter of the Pepsi Center, nor at Invesco Field, where Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech, because of security threats.
SECURITY THREATS? What the delegates might get their suit pants caught in the chain?
This sounds typical of the so-called progressive green movement clashing with the “green-scare” tactics of federal law enforcement. I’m sure there are key heads of security giving power point presentations to the DNC about the security threat of “anarchists” getting together and riding their bicycles together in a group.
Just like in the RNC in NYC in 2004 and you can expect the same behavior at the RNC in Minneapolis in September.
This reflects much of the politics going on right here in New York. The D.O.T. is making a consorted effort to create more infrastructure for bicycles, more bike lanes, more bike racks, special events like: summer streets. Meanwhile the NYPD is continuing a harassment campaign against bikes tied up with numerous lawsuits and occasionally bodychecking people off their bikes during critical mass.
Ok, lets make the planet more green. Heres a bike, only don’t ride it to the convention.
Every city has a different story with critical mass. Some have 50 people, stop at lights, don’t block intersections. Some have numbers into the thousands. Each city has a different relationship with its motor vehicles and with the local police departments bringing up the challenges of road rules and road rage.
Here what is going on San Diego:
Once a month, county cyclists claim the streets. By Pauline Repard UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Hundreds of bicyclists pump doggedly up Fifth Avenue’s steady incline out of downtown, their taillights strobing in the dark. It’s the last Friday of the month, when cycling enthusiasts from throughout the county join in a Critical Mass ride around San Diego.
Its popularity has grown from a handful of bicyclists about 11 years ago to more than 1,000 in July. They begin each ride in Balboa Park, but from there the route is spontaneous and fluid.
Definitions of Critical Mass also are fluid â€“ and not always complimentary.
Bike rider Tom Hepler of North Park called it â€œwacky, anachronistic.â€
Cyclist Esther Perkins of Poway said it sends a message to motorists that bicyclists have rights to the road. â€œSan Diego’s supposed to be a green city, but cycling is not encouraged,â€ she said. â€œIt’s so unsafe.â€
â€œCritical Mass is simple,â€ cyclist Mike Lashua of San Diego said. â€œOnce a month, bikes take over the road.â€
San Diego police Capt. Chris Ball of Central Division had his own take on the event.
â€œCritical Mass is an interesting and challenging phenomenon for law enforcement worldwide,â€ Ball said. â€œIs it some form of civil disobedience? Is it political speech? This isn’t just a bike ride.â€
A mass of riders Critical Mass originated in San Francisco in 1992 to promote cycling. Now, in more than 300 cities from Anchorage, Alaska, to Mumbai, India, riders hit the road each month in numbers from a few dozen to several thousand. There are no leaders. Cyclists learn by word-of-mouth and Web sites when and where to turn up.
Joshua Sibelman, 37, of South Park, who pedals to work in Chula Vista, said Critical Mass draws â€œthose who are coming out for fun, for awareness, or to be more militant about it.â€
The political-environmental message can be lost on motorists suddenly surrounded by cyclists who run red lights, ride into oncoming traffic, or occasionally pound on a car that fails to yield.
â€œIt was arrogant, more like anarchy, to take over the streets like that,â€ said a 71-year-old visitor from Tucson who was frightened when cyclists surrounded his car July 25. He asked that his name not be published for fear of retribution.
The man said his 68-year-old wife was driving south on Kettner Boulevard about 10 p.m. when about 1,000 cyclists came north in their lane. He told his wife to pull over, fast.
â€œLots of them had no headlights on their bikes,â€ he said. â€œThere was no advance warning this event was to take place. Someone is going to get hurt. The city is looking the other way while this mob is on the road.â€
Riders say it is safer for them to stay together, even if it means running red lights.
Ball, the police captain, said the local rides have sparked nothing more than an occasional argument between drivers and bicyclists.
But in Seattle, police arrested two riders on their July 25 ride when a motorist was beaten after he ran over a cyclist. Officer Mark Jamieson said that for 10 years the department has kept a hands-off approach to Critical Mass, which draws 100 to 300 riders, but that may change in light of the Seattle incident.
At the park In San Diego, the events take on the look of a carnival as riders start gathering about 6 p.m. around the fountain at the end of Balboa Park’s Prado.
Young women in summer dresses and young men in cutoffs and T-shirts show up in flip-flops, on beach cruisers. Serious cyclists sport Spandex and aerodynamic helmets. Antlers or stuffed animals adorn ballcaps. Some riders sneak swigs of alcohol tucked into packs. Bikes range from multispeed and fixed speed, to BMXs, mountain bikes, tandems and giant-wheeled homemade ones.
The July ride was dedicated to Atip Ouypron, who was fatally injured July 18 when he ran a red light on his bike in Hillcrest and a pickup hit him.
About 8 p.m., out of a swelling crowd, a handful of cyclists start pedaling slowly around the fountain. Riders whoop and ring their bicycle bells.
More and more cyclists circle the fountain. One rider tows a booming stereo on a lightweight trailer. No leader has been chosen, but soon a few riders break out and pedal down the Prado.
For the next several hours, bicyclists follow one another down San Diego streets, with Ball and another officer loosely trailing in cars.
The cyclists travel downtown, past the airport, then into Hillcrest. A police helicopter hovers. Ball and the other officer direct traffic at Park Boulevard and University Avenue as riders circle around mounds of flowers in Ouypron’s memory.
Many cyclists then regroup and turn north up Park Boulevard to continue the ride.
Where to meet for Critical Mass San Diego: At the large fountain in Balboa Park. 7 p.m. on the last Friday of each month.
David Byrne, Cultural Omnivore, Raises Cycling Rack to an Art Form By ARIEL KAMINER Published: August 8, 2008, NYTimes
David Byrne is an installation artist, author, blogger, recording executive, photographer, film director and PowerPoint enthusiast. Heâ€™s even been known to dabble in music. But in certain New York neighborhoods he may be most visible as a bicycle rider, a lanky figure pedaling around the Lower East Side, or from Bay Ridge out to Coney Island in Brooklyn or up to the Bronx Museum of the Arts.