Saturday, July 31, 2010

Critical Mass-New York Style

When I saw the last Friday of the month get closer and closer, I had visions of the 1000+ rider Critical Mass rides that I had seen on the internet. New York's Critical Mass was known for its size and its voice. The videos of the rider being struck by the police officer in Times Square were a hit on YouTube and in the advocate community for years. As I reached Union Square last night, I was surprised to see a dozen or so bikers standing around. Could this be right? Did I have my time right? Something was up, but I soon found out the whole story.

The rides of the past were gone. The city had heard the cyclist message and reacted by introducing bike facilities and legislation that gave the Critical Mass riders very little to complain about. The rides of over 1000 were now simply 75-100, and several of them were tourists and were riding for a once in a lifetime experience of riding through the city at night

There were a few things about this ride that is totally different from Orlando's. The police department gathers at the same square with about 12 scooters, 2 electric carts, 3 squad cars, a paddy wagon van, and a few unmarked cars that contained police higher ups and city commissioner types. These cops are not there to lead the group through the city and give them a safe escort. They are instead there to ticket any cyclists that break any traffic violations. New York laws require lights on their bikes once it gets dark and if there is a bike lane present, the group has to maintain itself in it. Of course they have to stop at all lights and there are no corking of intersections. It basically makes the ride a very uneasy tour through the city.

Either way it is cool to see that the message was sent loud and clear and was heard by the city officials. The new bike culture and facilities in New York have some thanks to give to the Critical Mass movement.

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