Another tale from the April 29 Critical Mass

I biked from work over the Manhattan Bridge (taking care to note the new gaps in the Brooklyn side anti-bike barriers [see Infoshop story for related communique]). It was close to 7:30 by the time I crossed Houston on Lafayette, and instead of riding all the way up to Union Square, I latched on to a group of 30 or so cyclists I encountered as they were heading west. We rode through the West Village and SoHo for a while, periodically whooping and cheering and dinging our bells, getting smiles and thumbs-ups and the occasional angry honk -- all in all, a very pleasant springtime Critical Mass experience.

Then my group merged with another group at 14th St, and we all rode up 8th Ave, I think. I turned back to see how big our group had gotten and saw flashing lights in the distance. By the time we turned west, I think onto 21st, people were really riding, trying to get away from a mass of police that, it turned out, had already surrounded us. I came up on 10th Ave and saw police on scooters zooming in everywhere, blocking our path. Bicyclists were turning left and right onto the sidewalk, trying to get away. I actually dismounted and started walking my bike on the sidewalk, thinking the situation might defuse, but there was commotion all around me.

I got back on my bike and started hobbling towards the curb, looking for a way out. A beefy cop moved towards me and actually kicked a bag of garbage (a pretty puny one, by New York standards) into my path in an attempt to stop me. I can't remember if he was saying anything to me -- because I was getting quite rattled at this point -- but I kept going until he was physically blocking me at the curb.

"Look," I said, "I'm just trying to get out of here." He paused and then stepped back. "Just ride with the traffic," he said, gesturing towards 10th Ave. I pedaled away, glancing back to see a woman with a fuzzy bear hat I'd noticed earlier in the ride getting handcuffed and two or three people up against a building being arrested.

As I am one of the remaining cellphone-less people in NYC, I had to ride a couple of blocks in order to find a payphone or people with cellphones. I ended up approaching a couple of fellow cyclists at 22nd and using the man's phone to call the NLG (just press 0 to cut through the greeting and get a human on the line!).

I'm still going to ride next month.