Volume 80, Number 7 | September 23 - 29, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Clayton Patterson

‘Anti-Critical Mass’ bikers have ‘upright’ attitude

By Lincoln Anderson

Taking a more civilized and safe approach to cycling — while taking a more comfortable position on their seats — about 160 people participated in the First Annual Upright Bicycle Ride last Saturday.

The brainchild of George Bliss of the HUB (Hudson Urban Bicycles) store, at Charles and Washington Sts., the event was “upright” both in terms of the style of ride — so-called upright bikes, as opposed to racing-style bikes with drop-down handlebars — and the cyclists’ obedience to the rules of the road.

Bliss dubbed it the “anti-Critical Mass,” in contrast to the anarchic, freewheeling monthly ride whose participants like to challenge authority and outfox the police. In fact, Bliss — who was a New York City pedicab pioneer — claims to have coined the term “Critical Mass” when he used it to refer to how cyclists in China can take over intersections through sheer numbers. But, he said, Critical Mass rides in the city have devolved into mere “cat and mouse” games with the police, and now mainly draw “anarchists and renegades.”

The Upright Bicycle Ride, on the other hand, stopped at all traffic lights as it wended its way from the HUB, up through Chelsea and then back down through Union Square, the Village, Tribeca and the Hudson River waterfront, before finishing back at the HUB. It was a ride where everyone could feel comfortable, he said, noting some people had child carriers.

As a way of “celebrating the city’s new cycling infrastructure,” the riders used the new bike lanes wherever possible, he added.

Bliss applied for a parade permit, but police didn’t give it to him, claiming he applied too late. So, the cyclists broke into groups of 49 — the maximum number that can bike together without a permit.

Actor Matthew Modine, proud owner of an upright bike, participated and gave a talk beforehand, stressing the importance of being “civil” as they rode. Bliss said they plan to do at least one upright ride next year, maybe two, and that he’ll make sure to have a permit next time around.

Photos by Melissa von Ludwig

Above, Matthew Modine, left, and George Bliss spoke before the ride’s start. Top, how the upright riders rolled, including fashion designer Lela Rose, at left in photo at left.


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