Monday, April 02, 2007


Another Mess at Critical Mass

Above : Council person Mendez and Norman Segal harangued the eager crowd of riders with the usual Critical Mass rhetorical claptrap including the claim that they all had some special "right " to ride their bicycles in the streets of NYC anytime , in any manner and in a group of any number .

The big issue of protest was of course the new rules and regulations that include a requirement for a parade permit for any group of riders of a number larger than the claimed to be "arbitrary number " , by Segal and Mendez , of 50 riders .

Sorry Ms. Mendez , Mr. Segal and Critical Mass ; though right and privilege are quite often used interchangeably and though in the extreme there are several varieties of both rights and privileges , riding in or on the streets of this city is more simply and properly in this case a privilege afforded to us all at birth...and not some sort of unfettered inalienable right as your rhetoric before the Critical Mass crowd seems to irresponsibly imply . As soon as any of us can can safely ride a bicycle on the streets we are free to do so but there are limitations (rules and regulations ) to this privilege to ride the streets that we must all adhere to for obvious reasons like assuring the safe orderly flow of traffic . These limitations apply to all Critical Mass riders as well in the same manner and extent .

Critical Mass does not make its own unique law for its use of the streets : the people of this city make the law in general for all of us .The streets belong to all of the people ;they exist to serve all of the people ; the people pay for their construction and maintenance with their tax money and they charge NYPD with the responsibility for providing for the safe and orderly use of these city streets by enforcing the pertinent , applicable law.

There is no special privilege or right afforded just to Critical Mass riders to ride its exclusive way in the streets of this city . No amount of arrogating enviromental issues to the Critical Mass cause or sloppy over-reaching legal reasoning concerning first amendment issues changes the nature of the privilege to ride a bicycle in the streets of this city. Critical Mass could get a permit to ride the streets just like every other bicycle group that rides the streets of this city in groups with large numbers of riders .

I was very likely the first person to place a picture of a Critical Mass ride in a NYC newspaper . That was some time ago back in the '90s .The event was very much the same ride then as now though then it was perhaps more exhuberant : ride where-ever you can , as fast as you can , blocking traffic when desirable and ride up one way streets the wrong way in a fundamentally anarchist celebration on spoked wheels ... with NYPD hot on your wheels . There was no environmental bullshit of any consequence or special legal reasoning ever associated with this least that was ever mentioned in any publication of note .

Though the monthly ride must still be a lot of fun ... just like it was back in the '90s , the monthly ride is now more soberly and respectably claimed to be held for the cause of safer city bicycling as well as for the protection and improvement of the environment . This is such a good and wholesome collection of causes that few if any would dare argue with any of it . But as for the true inspiration for the Critical Mass ride : the inconvenient truth is that Critical Mass is in its true heart-of-hearts and in its deeds still that same anarchist celebration on spoked wheels ... with NYPD hot on its wheels . First amendment dithering , environmentalism and preciousness-in-the-extreme does not obscure this salient truth .

ABOVE : Ready to ride

ABOVE : Inspector Codiglia as he has at so many previous rides tries to control and minimize the chaos in the street.ABOVE : the first arrest at 16th street and Park Ave. South . There were 2 arrest downtown and at least 3 in Times Square .There were reported to be more than 30 summons issued .

ABOVE : An arrest having occured , the police cameramen of TARU start recording the event .

ABOVE : The second arrest at 18th street and Park Ave. South .

ABOVE and BELOW : The second arrestee is curiously escorted by Lt. Albano from the NYPD law department to a police RMP which removes both from the scene.

Hey Bob, great job!

Re: The first Critical Mass picutre you said:

"The event was very much the same ride then as now though then it was perhaps more exhuberant : ride where-ever you can , as fast as you can , blocking traffic when desirable and ride up one way streets the wrong way in a fundamentally anarchist celebration on spoked wheels"

Actually, the originally ride had some very important differences from what it has become today, namely that back then the emphasis was on following the traffic rules to the letter to show how fundamentally flawed they were-- that even a small number of bikers following traffic laws could cause massive gridlock. This was of course in response to Koch's attempt to ban bicycles completely from certain streets.

Clearly the ride is now a much more anarchistic, even confrontational version, and the case could also be made that it differs significantly from Critical Mass rides in other major cities.

Great writing AND great photo's, what a rare gem this blog is!
What I saw back then ,whatever year it was , was people riding as I described in the post : it was anarchic then at its core and in general and as I see it today it is no different though with the exception of the costumes and exotic bike constructions being more prevalent.
Back then ,in the '90s I saw several massive arrests ,perhaps 30 to 50 people per ride .The same "corking" of the intersections and riding the wrong way on one-way streets was the rule .As I remember it traffic rules were generally ignored .I don't see that it is any more anarchistic today but perhaps one could say that the ride is more intensely activist with a more chaotic and troubling result.
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