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Critical Mass is BACK in NYC


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


Youthful energy.

Don’t Forget…Fundraiser for Time’s Up

Critical Mass Tomorrow. Meet 7pm at Union Square North (whats left of it)
Then
Party at the new Time’s Up Space:
the Hub Station-
73 Morton St. West Village, Manhattan

Dance party with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra & DJ Suggested D, an olympic-size trampoline, Hot Seat photo gallery and video projection by Velchrome.

11pm to 12:30am the Traffic Jam tap dancers will perform with the Boom Boom Brooks Trio plus a Bicycle Fashion Show – be in it!

Fundraiser for Time’s Up! and Hub Station. Sliding scale starting at $10. If you can’t make the party you can donate online. Valet parking available and plenty of food to snack on.

There will also be photos on display at the Hub Station/Time’s Up fundraiser party.

Portraits of Fabulous Female Pedicab Drivers

Melissa von Ludwig, pedicab driver and artist, debuts her photographs of the pedicab calendar girls. “Driving a pedicab made me a stronger person, not just physically but mentally too” said von Ludwig. Starting in 2005, von Ludwig documented her adventures both on and off the streets. Her chronicle, HOT SEAT, celebrates courageous women “hauling ass” in New York City traffic.

What’s going on with Union Square North?


Is this the next Guantanamo? …To hold and interrogate radical bike activists and subject them to loud Brittany Spears songs?

Nope, its your friendly neighborhood constructions or should we say disruption.
Gothamist has a story on local neighborhood activists banning together to halt construction of a private restaurant and park plans.

Friday-APRIL 25th, Arbor Day, there will be a rally in Union Square to Protest the construction from 6-8pm RIGHT WHEN CRITICAL MASS STARTS.

Here is more info on that rally.

Then

Sunday, April 27th…Reverend Billy will be leading a Rally against Privatizing our Parks.

Here is a letter from the Rev:

PUBLICIZING THE PRIVATIZING
The Parks Are For All The People!

Dear Lovers of Union Square Park and Freedom in Our City,

By now some of you may have heard of impending changes on the north side of Union Square Park. This effort by the Local Business Improvement District was sold to the people as a desperately needed “refurbishment” of the Playgrounds and Green Market but it’s little more than a land grab. Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates says, “The city is taking away thousands of square feet of potential play space in an area with the lowest amount of play space in the city and one of the highest concentration of restaurants.”

Society chef Danny Myer is the chairman of the Union Square Partnership and the future proprietor and profiteer of the fancy cafe planned for the pavilion. It’s construction will include tearing down 14 trees. Construction began two weeks ago but was halted by a judge today !!

THIS is our chance to save Union Square. On SUNDAY APRIL 27th at 3 pm we are having a rally to HALT the privatization of our BELOVED park.

Meet at the North End of Union Square. Check “http://www.REVBILLY.com”> Rev billy.com for details. PLEASE get involved, spread the word, be creative, CONTACT US.

The
Ny Times article on the Halting of construction.

Thanks to Gothamist and BikeSnob

Well according to the comments I got on Gothamist, you’d be hard pressed to believe you were reading the work of the biggest sucker on the planet. I had to share my experience with the online community in the hopes of people looking for my bike and possibly getting it back, despite the scathing comments I knew I would be subjected to. I’m not looking for any sympathy here. Yes, it was a very embarrassing experience, but you learn from it. Perhaps if I had read about a scam like this on someone else’s blog, I would never have given up my bike the way I did. Especially when I found out from other people that this same thing had happened to them…in the same part of town. I’m not going to live my life as an paranoid recluse never trusting humanity again. Live and learn. Perhaps more people can share their bike theft stories and we can begin to look out for one another and not just look the other way when that person is cutting a bike lock with a hack saw. It takes the better man to admit when you’ve been had, and the cowards who make anonymous comments are not contributing to anything. I hope they never need help in a situation or become the unfortunate victim of a crime.

Big shout out to BikeSnob. He really made an excellent post and had some really good advice about dealing with bike theft. Thanks to him and Gothamist for helping out.

A few people wanted to know about my renters insurance. I’ve had State Farm for years. You pay $270 for the year and it covers theft and fire. It also covers property loss even if its outside of your home. You pay a $500.00 deductible, so the value of the loss has to somewhat worth it. You call the insurance company and explain what happened, then a separate insurance agent gets assigned to your case. in which you list the value of the property lost and provide them with as much accurate records as you can. They did not ask for the police report in my situation, but I’m sure that is case specific.

Thanks for all the responses

Thanks everyone. I stayed up late last night scouring the neighborhood for green areospoke wheels. I called my renters insurance and could make a claim for a $500.00 deductable. I’ll be on the hunt for a new green bicycle.

More importantly then my own stupidity I wanted to announce that there will be a memorial ride for two cyclists who were killed last week in Manhattan.

Here are the details:

Memorial Ride–TODAY, April 23rd. Start at Union Square South 7pm

Memorial Ride for Alvaro Olson and Jian-Lan Zhang
both killed on April 16, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Union Square South, 7 pm

Alvaro Olson, 54
West 36th Street and Broadway

Jian-Lan Zhang, 55
Allen Street and Hester Street

Visit: Ghostbikes.org

Here is article about Jian Lan Zhang from the NY METRO

This article from the Daily News, on Alvaro Olson, leaves lots in question and illustrates the need for these accidents to be properly investigated.

Happy Earthday…I got a great present: MY BIKE STOLEN

I’m in shock. Someone just stole my track bike, and I let them do it. After biking in NYC for 18 years I just fell victim to a scam. It happened April 22nd, 5:00pm. I was on 1st ave between 13th and 14th, in front of the birdbath bakery, which gives you 25% off if you use a bike. I wanted to bring my bike in the store but instead took a minute to look for a place to lock it up. A Hispanic male about 5’8, stocky, short cropped hair, looking kind of pale like he was on the methadone program. He was fit. A good 250 lbs. Wearing a white button down short sleeved shirt with a huge airbrushed image of scar-face. Jean shorts, white sneakers. He had some religious tattoos including a cross on his hand that looked home-made. He walked by me, then turned around and came back. He walked up to me and asked where he could get a bike like mine. Then he asked if he could feel how heavy it was. I knew he was going to want to try it out and I knew I would SAY NO! Then for some dumb ass reason, I gave in and let him ride it. Before this happened he gave me the keys to his car which he walked over to a car parked in the street and turned the lock. I didn’t pay to much attention to these details…YEAH I know…I should Have. I shouldn’t have even let him touch my bike…going with my initial gut feelings. This will be the hardest part to swallow. I share it with you knowing the embarsment I will have to live with for the rest of my life. I had a policy, never to let people ride my bike, never to stop on the Bridge if someone flagged me down. WHY WHY WHY did I let down my guard.

Then the guy rode back and forth up and down the block between 14th and 13th. 3 times. On the third pass he headed North on 1st and then crossed 14th street on a green light, stopping traffic. He took off down 14th street towards AVE A. Sorry, I’m still in shock and have to write this as fast as I can.

So I called the police. They came right away, they were nice and helpful. We took a ride. We went over to Continuum bike shop to see if he tried to make the quick sale. Jeff at the bike shop told me someone else had this happen to them too, recently, he said a lot of people have been reporting bike theft. I knew about this. I had no idea the same scam was being tried on other people.

If you see this bike please please please let me know.

criticalmassbiker@mac.com

It is a a orange khs bike all covered up with round green and white crumpler stickers. It has a gold Kris King headset. It has a green areospoke front wheel with a green tire. It has green Oury hand grips. I love this bike…really. I feel like a total schmuck.

Please help me get it back. Any information will help.

Here are pictures:

Back in the New York Groove with Tragedy

Well after another round of a sick computer and the removal of an enlarged parathyroid…

I’m back to being the, “pain in the neck” of NYC bike community and beyond.

First off let me give a big shout out to Digital Society on 10th street for fixing my laptop. Apple care helped a bunch but this nice boutique had great service

Some old news round-up.

So just to be thorough, here are some things I missed that went on in late March and April:

1) Our own Kevin “Squid” Bolger, organizer of the Velocity Tour and co-owner of Cyclehawk messengers, got into the NY Post, about his dedication to being a bicycle courier. Congratulations Kevin.

2) The Cutthroats mutant bicycle club from Richmond Virgina held their annual Slaughtertrama 5.

Tallbike Jousting, Beer guzzling…good times!

check out the myspace page.

Here are some great photos from Kevin Dillard of Demoncats

3) 9th annual April Fool’s Race here in NYC, hosted by Steve Klein, happened on Tuesday…April 1st. Steve always finds a way to pickout weird and obscure streets that really test a persons knowledge of the city.

Here were the checkpoints:
Start – Cooper SQ
- Corner of Varick + Ericsson Pl.. # of building
- West 64st + West End Ave. Name of Park Statue
- 173-175 E. Bway. Apprx time of Clock
- 59 St.James Pl. !st Cemetery of the Spanish + Portuguese Synagogue. Date
- 174 Hudson.
- Dyer Ave + W 36th st.
- 143 Franklin St. Name of Statue
- Tunnel Approach Street N/E Corner of E 35th St.
- Little W. 12th St. 32-36
- 199 Ave B
- W. 21st St btwn 6th + 7th 18___ ~ 18___
Finish – Chelsea Waterside Park

Here is who supposedly won:

1. dan c
2. crihs
3. yatika
4. cooper
5. drew

Here is who claimed he won:
(photo by Carlos

I dunno, I wasn’t there…but he Felipe is the King…so…

Also

4) In April was an Art show featuring the photographic styles of Takuya, who has been documenting the messenger community here in NYC for years.

Carlos was on hand with photos

There’s that guy again.

Tak is in the middle.

Check out the video by Carlos

Congestion pricing died. Now what?

Congestion pricing officially died in Albany today and with it was Mayor Bloomberg’s big hopes and dreams of getting 500 million of federal funds to improve our ailing transit system and reduce carbon emissions overall in NYC.

NY Times article, which highlights the big gap between State politics and the heavy handed condescending tone of our Billionaire Mayor.

The sad part about this was that Congestion Pricing had a lot of merit in reducing carbon emissions and increasing the efficiency of our city, not to mention making this a much better bicycle commute (Hey, we all have our agendas!!)

Read a full report from one group who spent much time and effort on this important issue:

Transportation xAlternatives, and their guide to the benefits of Congestion Pricing.

Sad days. We may be ready for a smoking ban and elimination of trans fats, but don’t mess with people’s cars.

Here is a great comedic take on the plan and a few things bikesnob would like to see added to the taxing of drivers.

Here is a good Op-Ed from the NY Times talking about how State Speaker Sheldon Silver, wouldn’t even take this to a vote.

Oh well, now we can look forward to paying through the nose in other ways such as Fare hikes from the MTA who never have to reveal their books to us.

Hey, but cheer-up Bloomie…I’ve got a few suggestions that could help in all this:

1) Start enforcing all the traffic violations that go on everyday in NYC and use that money to fund better public transportation. Give out a $25.00 ticket to everyone who double parks illegally and a $45.00 ticket to everyone who parks in the bike lane. Why judging by what I see just on a daily commute through midtown, you’d have $500 million in no time.

2) Create a special division of traffic police who ride bicycles to enforce these parking violations. Reduce the regular police force from the current 40,000 (the sixth largest standing army in the world, more then the number of troops we have in Afghanistan) This would help with the obesity factor and get more people on bikes. Also, pay the cops more than $25,000 a year and maybe they would stay here instead of going to Seattle where they are paid a real living wage, since you demand that cops live in the city and the last time I checked the average price to own an apartment in Manhattan was 1.7million (as an example of how ridiculously expensive it is to live here)

3) Put bike racks on buses.

4) increase the number of bike racks and make them more secure.

5) But more barriered bike lanes in Manhattan, like the one on 9th Ave, one that goes more than 10 blocks. It seems like you can put a special bus lane on lower Broadway. And put some bike lanes on Houston street where more than 4 people have died on their bikes…hmmmmmm.

6) Create more FREE bike parking in buildings and parking garages

7) Eliminate ridiculous building regulations that seem to allow all kinds of freight into their premises but freak out when someone tries to bring in a bicycle.

8) Give employers tax incentives if their employees bike to work or use public transportation.

9) (MY FAVORITE) Make it illegal for any vehicle to be in the five borough area that serves NO OTHER PURPOSE but to advertise. This means no SUV’s all covered in stickers for a new rap record, no roving billboards, no double decker buses that hand out products, no hordes of mopeds selling something, no semi trucks that have glass encased scenes of some vacation spot with real actors inside them. Sorry, no more of those dumb Jekyl and Hyde trucks that drive around promoting that stupid tourist trap.

10) eliminate all caps on pedicabs

11) create green initiatives (small business loans) for companies willing to deliver by bicycle.

12) STOP building stupid unnecessary things like basketball stadiums, Nascar tracks and water parks.

Congestion pricing explained, sort of.

Has the debate over congestion pricing gotten you all confused? Let the clowns explain it.