Brooklyn Critical Mass and messenger race for Yeti

If you enjoy riding your bike in 30 degree weather, then tonight is your night. Tonight is the annual Brooklyn Critical Mass, the ride where we don’t need a permit and we allowed to ride our bikes in a group as long as we behave and be “good little bike riders.” 7:00pm either at the Base of the Williamsburg bridge in Brooklyn or at Grand Army Plaza.

There is also a benifit race for YETI,

This upstanding young bike courier was T-boned by a car on 7th ave an hour before he was suppose to get off work and go to Boston for the weekend. Instead he went to the hospital and got 36 stitches in his face. And his bike is fucking totaled.
So there is an alleycat tonight to help out the Yeti, because it is up to us to support our bike community and the fearless bikers who live and work on a bike.

Weather you race or ride…you can end up at the Alleycat after party in Brooklyn at the Bushwick Country Club, 618 Grand Street between Leonard and Lorimer in Brooklyn.Starts at around 9pm, and the word is there’s some sort of drink special.

Villager article and Brooklyn Critical Mass

The Villager reported on the last February critical mass in NYC where we tried to give our beloved Smolka a retirement present. As usual, Jefferson Siegel was on the scene.
The villager article
Bicyclists give gift to a chief who gave them hell
Cyclists Christopher Ryan and Rachael Myers tried to give the “Smolka Cruiser” bike to a police officer at the 13th Precinct, but it was refused.

For two and a half years, police have chased cyclists in the monthly Critical Mass rides. Last Friday, participants turned the tables, leaving the traditional Union Square starting point on foot and marching directly to the nearest police precinct. Riders were celebrating the news that Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka, commander of Patrol Borough Manhattan South, announced his retirement a week earlier.

Cyclists viewed Smolka as the force behind the arrests of Critical Mass riders. His departure inspired many to dub last Friday’s ride “Smolka’s retirement party.”

Several hundred cyclists and many people without bikes walked out of Union Square, passing by Pete’s Tavern on Irving Pl. and the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park S. The procession, led by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a brass marching band, was followed by police on motor scooters and in vans.

Arriving at the 13th Precinct on E. 21st St., cycling activists Rachael Myers and Christopher Ryan walked a blue-painted bike to the precinct’s front door. The bike was dubbed the “Smolka Cruiser” and adorned with the words “N.Y.P.D. Retired.” A police commander refused to accept the gift on behalf of Smolka and advised the pair not to leave it, since it would be considered abandoned property.

The Critical Mass cyclists then began walking down Second Ave., followed by a large police presence. At 18th St., a police commander advised the crowd to disperse or face arrest for disorderly conduct. Police then stopped two cyclists and issued them summonses for having bikes without front lights.

As Katie from Bedford-Stuyvesant stood waiting for her ticket, she questioned a police commander about being stopped.

“It’s not us against you,” the officer replied, explaining that she had violated a law requiring a front light.

“There’s a gazillion things going on in the city right now, where he could be ‘just doing his job,’” Katie said after receiving her ticket. “But they’re choosing to target us.”

Friday’s ride was the last in Manhattan before new parade rules go into effect. At next month’s ride, which is being referred to by the cyclists as “Criminal Mass,” police will have the authority to arrest anyone in a group of 50 or more that has not first obtained a permit for the event.

Last Saturday, Dude Abides Race

Jacob of Jacobcycles, put together a long, complicated…and I hear fustrating alleycat in Boston last Saturday. (just getting around to talk about it now)
It started at King’s Bowling alley which is perfect because the theme was the Big Lebowski…the “Dude Abides” race. You had to complete 5 missions, or so I heard. I just sort of followed people around with the helmet cam and then ended up drinking at a checkpoint where they dowsed people in flour. Yes, I’m getting old and tired. But Boston has a great scene and people came out from NY, DC, Philly and represented. Then we ened up at a V.F.W. in South Boston and listened to a great band, “CocktoPuss” and raced gold sprints. Here are some pictures of the start of the race.

Here are the final race results

Our own NACCC won, best out of towner…go Austin.

Thanks to Jacob and all those who put on a great time in Beantown.

bikesnotscott has some pictures up on flickr.

Another alleycat in Boston

The Battle over Fixed gears legality gets a break…get it.

Oregon has been fighting with a fixie law which effects our favorite simple form of the bicycle. Here is an article from the Oregonian which sheds some light on the situation.

Inside the Capitol

Fixie Bill Introduced

The Oregonian, March 02, 2007

By Harry Esteve

Attention all you fans of “fixies” out there — yeah, you know who you
are. You ride stripped-down road bicycles or track bikes with fixed
gears. You disdain brakes. Occasionally, you get nailed for it and find
yourself explaining to a skeptical judge how you can stop really
quickly, even going downhill, in the rain, just by pushing back on the

You feel like outcasts — and that’s the way you like it.

No more. You’ve now got a friend in the Oregon Legislature. And he
might surprise you. He’s no liberal bike-riding Portland Democrat who
thinks cars are evil.

He’s a conservative bike-riding Southern Oregon Republican who knows
pelotons from velodromes.

Sen. Jason Atkinson, who ran for governor last year in the Republican
primary, has introduced a bill that would explicitly exempt fixed-gear
bikes from a law that requires all bikes to have brakes capable of
bringing a bike to a skid on dry pavement.

“I’ve got a lot of friends in the cycling community,” said Atkinson,
who used to race internationally. “When I was racing, I used to train
with messengers for speed work.”

Bike messengers, who zip around downtown Portland rain or shine, prefer
the single-speed, no-brake bikes for their simplicity, feathery weight
and, let’s face it, outlaw cachet.

Atkinson cops to riding one as well. “When I campaigned, I always had a
fixed-gear with me.”

In Portland, that might have been enough to get him a ticket and a
fine. Last year, in a case that outraged a hefty segment of the
two-wheeled set, a Multnomah County Circuit judge found four cyclists
guilty of riding bikes without brakes. The fines were about 70 bucks,
but that still hurts.

A bicycle attorney argued they weren’t breaking the law, that their leg
muscles were brakes. The judge had none of it. Some fixies staged a
demonstration of how fast they could stop, including jamming a stick
between the rear wheel and the frame.

Like I said, outcasts.

Atkinson’s bill, Senate Bill 729, would settle the issue for good. It
would change Oregon law to require all bikes to have brakes EXCEPT
fixed gear ones.

Woo-hoo, said Jonathan Maus, an activist who runs, an
all-things-bicycle blog.

OK, that’s not a direct quote. He did say it’s a good idea not to
criminalize a perfectly legitimate form of transportation. But he also
cautioned against inexperienced cyclists hopping a fixie without some
serious training. They’re difficult to ride. And, yes, to stop.

“Everybody would agree, there’s a safety issue,” Maus said. But, he
said, the popularity of the cycling style is growing fast and
addressing it in state law is a good idea.

“It’s a fashion thing,” he said. In the bike world, there’s always some
new twist to spark riders’ interest. “The fixed gear is definitely in
the running to be the next big thing.”

Atkinson also is behind a bill that would set aside state parks money
and matching grants to build two velodromes — banked tracks for racing
fixed-gear bikes — one each in Portland and Southern Oregon.

Whether his bike bills get traction is anyone’s guess at this point.
The Legislature has plenty of bigger issues on its plate. In the
meantime, Portland’s fixie community must put its hopes in probably the
only man in the Legislature who knows how to shave his legs.

Read Harry Esteve’s Inside the Capitol blog and other coverage of the
state Legislature at

Whats wrong with our city council?

Let me see if I got this straight. The legislative branch of the cities government…the city council, did nothing when the police superseded them and changed the definitions of a parade rule to stop the critical mass bike ride…But they did act when it came to passing a bill to limit the number of pedicabs in the city, a viable business solution to a polluted car obsessed city.

I don’t get it. Maybe they should give themselves another raise.

With them in office…who needs the city council.

Here are a number of articles on the why our city council hates clean air.

NY Times

Daily News



Article on Radical Bike Culture

Chris Carlsson, one of the founding fathers of the critical mass experience in San Francisco, wrote a long article about the rise of radical bicycle culture in the new century. The article can be found at Streets blog

Then read a bunch of arguments about the radicals at Time’s up left in the comments section. Its the same old BS…griping about the radical nature of the critical mass ride as if Time’s Up is responsible. Lets not forget the hundreds of free events Time’s Up puts on every year, without a permit and without asking for a dime. Very little is said about the lose of our civil liberties and the violent nature of the NYPD to completely dimantle a peaceful event during a time of oil wars and a nationwide crackdown on environmentalists and activists in general. Lets all sit around and play the blame game while our CM is erased over the need for a permit to freely ASSEMBLE…completely destroyed because why…we run red lights? TAKE A LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE. Look who is in charge…a bunch of oil barrons and corporate thugs who rob us blind every day to fund an illegal war for profit. Hmmm what was Exxon’s profit share last year? We have 600,000 dead Iraqi’s, a thief for a president, a mayor who favors development over anything else, a planet which is having the hotest climate in history and we are crying about a bunch of cyclists who run red lights…give me a break.

Also check out Chris’s blog at Chris’s Blog Ah yes, a critical mass of 800-1000 people…those were the days.

Freegans bike-building workshops

gothamist had a story about a free bike building workshop hosted by the Freegans.

check out the video.

Build a bike by turning found bike parts into working bicycles. Workshops are held every Wednesday and Saturday; starting at 6:00 pm on Wednesdays, going until at least 9:00 pm, and from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm Saturdays. 327 West 36th St. bet. 8th & 9th Aves (look for sign at entrance). For more information go to

Whats next

Who is the man to bring you great photos of the hotest alleycats around? Kevin Dillard of demoncats

Check out his latest batch of photos of Monster Track 8. Try and find yourself.
Photo by Kevin Dillard of nightime racing in Brooklyn during MT8

So you may be asking yourself…well…I raced Monster Track…now what do I do? There is a whole slew of events coming up this year to race, ride and participate in.

First off, this weekend is a night time alleycat in Bean town based on one of my favorite movies…The Big Lebowski.

Its the Dude Abides race.

Just cause Walter doesn’t roll on Shomar Shabbos is no excuse for you to miss this alleycat.
March 3rd, in Boston, Jacob of jacob’s bicycles, when not building awesome frames is putting on alleycat races in Boston.

more info is at the dudeabides
Basically its $10.00, starts in Boston at 6pm and should be kick ass.

There will also be goldsprints afterwards hosted by non-other than NYC goldsprints

This year the Cycle Messenger World Championships are a bit closer than Sydney Australia. This time around the 15th annual event is in Dublin Ireland. Check em out at Myspace/CMWCXV
August 3rd-7th.

To get there…you could win a free ticket at this years VELOCITY tour by being the fastest urban rider on the track. The event is open to all urban riders…but I believe only working couriers can win tickets to the courier world championships…imagine that. Squid organized an amazing event last year an the three city tour is on again with NYC being the first stop.
May 6th at Kissena Velodrome in Queens. Then its heading to San Francisco on May 28th as Part of the NACCC (North American Cycle Courier Championships)
Then to Chicago June, 2007 (date TBA)
This is a great oppurtunity for messengers to try their unique ability of dodging cabs and amp it up to a new level of athleticism by racing on a velodrome.

Another great Alleycat to check out is the Tour De Simpson. Last year it was the Tour LeMond in honor of Greg LeMond’s Tour de France victory. The race coincides with the tour. Check out more info at LesDemoncats
This guy puts on Unbelievable Alleycats. Check his blog for great stuff about this race and pro-racing in general.

Introducing StreetFilms

Clarence Eckerson of Bike Tv is up and running with a new place for his videos at Streetfilms

This is a vblog partnering with the New York City Street Renaissance Campaign

So far Clarence has posted about 30 of his videos
great informative things like why NYC needs seperated bike lanes.

Check the site for future projects.

Critical Mass report and pictures.

Union Square North. February Critical Mass, Farewell to Chief Smolka…photo by Jordan Groh

Last Friday, we bid farewell to former Assistant police chief Bruce Smolka at what is left of NYC critical mass. The crowd of a hundred or so revelers, gathered at Union Square and were serenaded by the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a rag-tag marching band who have been playing street performances and protests for several years now. The band comes complete with coordinated dancers who dazzled the crowd of freezing bikers as they congregated in the North side of Union Square Park, the normal gathing point for the monthly critical mass bike ride.
RMO picture by Jordan Groh

The police were floating around as usual, lined up with scooters, SUV’s and 15 passanger vans, waiting for the bikers to take off. This is the normal bigade of intimidation and excess the police like to unveil at each ride to strike fear into the hearts of a peaceful and non-confrontational bike ride. Bruce Smolka has been the main force behind this type of activity, overseeing critical mass and doing everything in his power to stop this event that for 10 years the police never had a problem with and which also takes place in over 300 cities around the world. NYC has set the precedence for the phenomenon known as critical mass, spending several years wittling down the ridership with violent intimidation and reckless behavior. The police claim the main goal of critical mass is for riders to go out and stop traffic which couldn’t be further from the truth. One of the goals of critical mass is to promote alternative transportation and to move freely about the city. Traffic is stopped so the ride can stay together causing most vehicles to be delayed a maximum of 5 minutes. Normally the traffic is stopped by the police.

On this critical mass, the group followed the Rude Mechanical Orchestra North out of Union Square up Park Ave. South. People respected the precious automobile traffic and chose to march on the sidewalk. All traffic laws were obeyed by the people and the police proceeded to break the laws by riding their mopeds through red lights and down the wrong way of oneway streets. How nice. The police were extremely confused that most people were walking their bicycles. They must have been thinking…”Where are they going?” “Why are they not disrupting traffic?” “Why are the anarchists all peacefully walking on the sidewalk?” The police couldn’t comprehend that the group was celebrating the retirement of their beloved police chief. They even brought gifts. The marchers arrived at the 13th precinct on East 21st street. There they lined up on the sidewalk and a few riders tried to present Smolka with a retirement present, a nice bicycle, with flashing police lights…a real gem. Turns out Smolka wasn’t around. So someone made a speech and then people went there seperate ways. No ride. They gave the police a break.
Crowd infront of 13th, photo by Jordan Groh

Well, here we are. The parade rules go into effect and state that it is illegal for 50 or more cyclists to ride together in the street without a permit.

We shall see what happens. As the Sinatra song goes…”If I can make it there (NYC) I’ll make it anywhere…” could be interpreted for critical mass as “If they (NYPD) can shut it down here (NYC) they can shut it down anywhere…Its up to YOU New York, New York.” Other cities beware.

My flickr photos at Flickr