Erik wrote an artilce about his experience with August’s Brooklyn Critical Mass originally inteded for Dirt Rag Magazine. It didn’t make the print date but they put it up on their website. Dirt Rag Mag encourages people to make submissions.
Feeling Low by Erik Ferguson
A few weeks ago, I rode in the Brooklyn Critical Mass. Unlike the NYC (Manhattan) Mass across the East River, this ride is not only tolerated, but even facilitated by the NYPD. They ride along with a handful of scooters, bicycle officers, and a motor vehicle or two. It was a flashback to CM rides of a few years ago, and a really wonderful vibe on one of the nicest nights of the summer.
The August Critical Mass ride marked a dual anniversary. It was two years after the Republican National Convention ride when 264 cyclists were arrested and it marked a year since Hurricane Katrina wreaked its vengence on the Gulf Coast. Several dozen rides around the country participated in a Critical Mass for Climate Justice ride to commemorate the latter.
The ride came a week after the Police Department announced it would revise planned regulations that would have required groups of two or more cyclists not following traffic laws to obtain a permit. The regulations also would have required groups of 20 or more cyclists or vehicles to get a permit.
Three hundred riders gathered in Union Square as anticonsumerism activist Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping Choir preached of the dangers facing the First Amendment. Using an electric bullhorn to spread his gospel to the farthest reaches of the bike-filled plaza, Billy was eventually approached by two police community affairs officers who reminded him of the prohibition of using amplified sound without a permit. None too pleased, Billy, aka Bill Talen, turned off the megaphone and raised his voice as his choir sang, accompanied by an unamplified but very audible Hungry Marching Band.
Just before 8 p.m., the familiar whoops and yells rose into the late summer air as cyclists began converging on the northwest corner of the park. However, there was at least one false start as the riders warily eyed some police scooters nearby. The ride then started, proceeding west on 17th St. It didnâ€™t get far, before a phalanx of scooter police immediately cut the ride off at Fifth Ave. Though a dozen cyclists managed to get through and raced away down the avenue, the rest of the Mass did a quick 180, with many dismounting as they turned and retreated back toward Union Square. They rode to 14th St. and then west.
Not so lucky were the first six riders stopped and ticketed for â€œfailure to keep right.â€ Among these half-dozen was Reverend Billyâ€™s wife, Savitri D.
â€œI feel annoyed and agitated,â€ she said as an officer wrote out her ticket. â€œI feel itâ€™s a waste of my tax dollars and resources. Weâ€™re not bothering anybody,â€ she added, biting into a piece of fruit as she waited. Reverend Billy also reportedly got a ticket.
Minutes later, a band of 12 cyclists rode east on 12th St, followed by 14 motorcycle police. By now the Mass had splintered and taken several routes throughout the city. Three cyclists were stopped and ticketed on 40th St. near Second Ave. One cyclist, Joe Koenig, an East Villager, was riding a unicycle when he was stopped and ticketed for riding a â€œbicycleâ€ without a bell.
By the end of the night, police reported issuing 65 Class B summonses for moving violations. In addition, 2 Class C summonses, which were issued for serious violations in lieu of arrest, were also handed out. There was one arrest for reckless endangerment.
September 5th, 2006 | Category: General | Comments are closed
During the course of the last two years, the New York Police Department and the Mayor’s office have attempted unsuccessfully to thwart the monthly critical mass rides in Manhattan. This circus has cost millions of dollars, countless police man hours, and even a few injuries to both cyclist and officer. As many people know, the crackdown started with the August 2004 ride because of the confusion and proximity with the Republican National Convention.
Interestingly enough another critical mass has emerged in this city over the same time period. On the second Friday of July or August of 2004, Brooklyn saw its first critical mass. The actual date of the first ride will differ with each cyclist to whom you talk. The Brooklyn critical mass riders have seen the NYPD on their rides, starting in October of 2004. The interaction between the officers and the cyclists is extremely different from their counterpart across the East River. The police and the riders have an agreement, similar to the way it was before August of 2004 in Manhattan. When the front of the ride gets to a red light, the cyclists will stop, and if the light changes while the ride is going through, the police will cork the intersection. For those of you not in the know, corking is when a person will situate themselves in front of stopped cars to let them know that there is a ride coming through. By corking, the ride becomes safer, while traffic believe it or not can run smoother.
The relationship between the riders and police has become so friendly that when the cyclists asked the police officers if they would ride their bikes instead of their scooters, the police officers happily obliged. Some have even reported that when a motorist asks “What is going on?” one police officer replied, “It’s Critical Mass, they are riding to demonstrate their right to the road.” The same officer is just as confused as everyone, as to the disparity between the two rides.
Last month (August 11th, 2006), over one hundred cyclists rode out to the Brownsville section of Brooklyn to memorialize Shamar Porter, a ten year old who was killed by a truck, while riding his bike home from his little league game. Alarmingly and coincidentally, another child Jose` Mora, 11, was killed by a car Monday September 4th at 730 pm crossing North Conduit Blvd near Atlantic Ave. Brooklyn Critical Mass may or may not make it out to East New York on Friday September 8th. There is no route, and there are no leaders, but when enough people hear about Jose’s death, momentum will carry the riders there.
NEW YORK — An 11-year-old boy was struck and killed while he was riding his bicycle in Brooklyn.
New York City police say the accident was at 6:30 Monday evening on Conduit Boulevard. Family members told police that Jose Manual Mora was on his way to get a haircut for the first day of school. He was walking his bike across the busy intersection at McKinley Avenue when he was hit by a Honda Accord.
Police say the driver of the car stayed at the scene and was not charged.
The boy was taken to Brookdale Hospital where he was pronounced dead — about 90 minutes after the accident.
Relatives say the boy, his mother and younger sister had just moved from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Neighbors say the street lights in the area have been out for months — making the area dark and dangerous.
September 5th, 2006 | Category: General | Comments are closed
NYC’s own Austin Horse was crowned this years fastest cylce courier in North America. This weekend was the North American Cycle Courier Championships hosted in Philadelphia PA over labor day weekend. Hundreds of messengers from around the country and Canada descended upon Philly for a great event which included racing, rides and parities. The main race was on Sunday and luckily the weather cooperated. Austin completed 5 manifests in a grueling main race to be one of only two other riders to do this. That’s like competing in 5 allycats in one three hour race. Congratulations Austin! Austin is a member of the bike team 4916 and a diligent volunteer with Time’s Up environmental education and direct action group.
Play in Traffic Productions was on hand to record the action with 6 cameras rolling including helmet cameras. Special thanks to Bilenky Bikes for lending us one of their amazing tandem recumbant bicycles at the race. We will be working on video content of this years NACCC and getting it online soon.
Joe Hendry put up some video on Youtube of old cycle courier championships. Check out the nostalgia.
Here is an article from the Philadelphia Inquier about this years NACCC written by: Joe Bewley
This bike race would daunt even Lance
Professional couriers cycled furiously through Fairmount Park in championship finals.
By Joel Bewley
Philadelphia Inquirer September 4, 2006
Think of it as a mini Tour De France, but with the riders stopping every so often to pick up and deliver packages.
The course ran through Fairmount Park, where nearly 125 professional messengers gathered yesterday for the finals of the sixth annual North American Cycle Courier Championship.
Nine mock businesses were set up at different locations. After starting near Memorial Hall, riders were given three hours to collect and deliver five packages spelled out in their manifests, or work orders.
“It is designed to simulate a day of work,” said Kevin “Stewy” Stewart of North Philadelphia, one of the organizers.
While the work was the same, the atmosphere was not.
The spacious course was just blocks away but worlds apart from the cramped Philadelphia streets where some of the riders earn their pay. No automobile traffic to fight, no red lights to challenge, and no chance of getting “doored” by someone coming out of a parked car.
But it was a little hairy at the beginning, when riders sprinted from the starting line to find and unlock their bikes, which had been placed in 26 rows of four based on qualifying times.
Less than a minute in, a couple of cyclists wiped out as the group crowded through the second turn.
Meredith Begin, 25, a courier from Washington, went down hard, but got up, shook it off and kept on racing.
She finished with blood oozing from both knees, an elbow and several knuckles.
“I knew when I headed to the inside of the pack it might be trouble,” she said as her boyfriend photographed her battle wounds. “But that’s part of the race.”
More than 250 messengers registered for the competition, but less than half showed up in Saturday’s rain for the qualifying race.
The top hundred were supposed to advance, but race organizers gave everyone who rode in the downpour an automatic bump to yesterday’s final.
“I’m used to riding in the rain, so Saturday was no big deal for me,” said Joe Lumbroso, 24, a former courier from Portland, Ore. “I just wish the airline hadn’t lost my tools.”
Lumbroso didn’t bother to replace his wrenches, pump and other essential items, and was helpless after blowing a tire 10 minutes into the race.
“It was disappointing, but I’m not sorry I came,” he said. “I met a lot of great people. The messenger community is a really tight subculture.”
It’s a cocky, grungy world of piercings, tattoos and the ability to zip through the city like a bolt of lightning, said Isaac Adams, 24, a courier from West Philadelphia who helped organize yesterday’s race.
Couriers prefer fixed-gear bikes with no brakes instead of street racers with several speeds.
“You can’t fake it,” Adams said. “If you can’t ride, if you don’t have the look and the attitude, then you will stand out as a phony.”
Only two riders were able to deliver all five packages within the allotted time. The winner, Austin Horse, didn’t necessarily fit the courier mold.
Unlike several riders, who wore T-shirts, cut-off shorts and sneakers, Horse, 24, was decked out in cycling gear and sported a 20-speed bike.
He rode down for the race from his home in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he works as a messenger during the day and delivers food at night.
Horse, who has no tattoos, isn’t against body art. But making a living as a courier, it’s a matter of economics.
“Good tattoos cost a lot of money,” he said. “If I have $100 to spend, I would rather put it toward some food or something more important, like a date.”
Global Gutz is a worldwide alleycat race that takes place simultaneously in various cities all over the world. Each city organizes their own alleycat with 5 check points and a total course distance of 21km or 13 miles.
Just got back from the North American Cycle Courier Championships in Philadelphia. They really put on a great event there and I got to hang out with messengers from all over Canada and America. Much, much more to come.
Here is Josh Whitesnakes of mess nyc with tips if you’re going to the NACCC.
1. Bring a bike. Even if you don’t plan on racing. Last year I gat ran over the week before the NACCC and had cool steel pins holding my arm together until after the CMWC. Cabs and subways suck when everyone else is out riding. Plus, the SEPTA (Philly mass transit) is effin’ gross. Upholstered seats and carpeted floors is the worst possible thing you can do to mass transit.
2. Drink Beer. It’s cool and refreshing. The more you drink, the cooler you’ll look, be, and feel! Everything and everyone is better when they’re totally shit-faced. Chances are, you won’t have to face these people for another year.
Or don’t drink, if that’s your preference. No peer pressure here.
3. Bring stuff to trade. People seem to do this less and less. But I like having all sorts of cool stuff from places I’ve never even been to. That way, when someone’s like “Oh wow! You were at _________ in __________?” You can say “Look buddy, I got the T-shirt to prove it.”
Don’t even think about asking me for my New Jack City shirt or my Star Track shirt.
4. Bring a bag. It will make carrying stuff to trade and beer easier. Chances are you’ll want to change your clothes at some point. It also doubles as a pillow if you ever go to sleep.
5. Sleep is for rookies. There will be party going on at all times. Even when most the rest of the world is asleep. You’re closest to death in your sleep. Try not to miss a moment.
Personally, I’m getting old, and will likely try to sleep in your hotel room in the late am hours.(If I can sleep in your hotel room, please email email@example.com)
6. Do the main race. It’s always a lot of fun, and a lot of people miss out cause they get too wasted to ride. You need to be able to stand up, and being able to ride the bike is helpful too. If the officials can see that you are drunk, then you are too drunk to race, even if they’re too drunk to really make that decision. Remember to bring a helmet, or a friend that has head sweat you don’t mind sharing.
7. Don’t talk about your bike, you gear ratio, or how you clean your drivetrain with your tongue. Most people tire of this type of conversation quickly when they’re not talking about their stuff. Here are some other suggested topics of conversation:
-Are you in a band? What type and speed of punk rock or heavy metal do you play?
-Did someone do something stupid at the last alleycat? It’s not a messenger event until someone is unconscious. Did they pee themselves? Did anyone draw on them or light them on fire? Do you have photos you’d like to contribute to the website? (email me photos at firstname.lastname@example.org)
-Is there something really cool about where you work? Where’s the park with the crackheads? Or the junkies? Where do the kids drink beer in the alley? Ever get busy with a client in the supply locker?
-Oh, you’re an artist? Author? Poet-Laureate of Illinois? That’s pretty fucking interesting. Maybe you should share that.
8. Be friendly to strangers at that these things. Buy someone you don’t know a beer, offer them a hit of whatever, let em watch your mom in the shower. It’s a really big family. I’ve worked in a few cities and this job is a pretty similar experience anywhere. Of course every city has it’s own thing, but if you carry packages from one place to another, it’s the same job.
9. Bring a towel. You’ll want to shower at some point. There will be bike riding and the like, you’ll work up a sweat. Time and time again all weekend. You’ll smell great, really, please shower, and bring your own towel. Drying off with a dirty t-shirt is self-defeating.
I almost never remember to bring my towel, and I’ve learned that a lot of messengers only own one. Remember yours. You don’t want to use someone else’s dirty wet towel after them. Or maybe you do. (If you want to borrow my dirty, wet towel email me at email@example.com)
10. Leave your drama at home. Unless your from Philly, in which case you should put your drama somewhere else for the weekend. This is our annual family reunion, we’re here for the same purpose: To get wasted, ride bikes, and try to get laid.
So, Ladies, Gentlemen, here’s to the pursuit of happiness, have a great and safe time this weekend.
August 30th, 2006 | Category: General | Comments are closed