NYC Monster Track Alleycat cancelled
2.03.08 by Buffalo Bill
This just in from New York City:
Saturday March 1st, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The organizers of Monster Track 2008 have decided, after careful consideration, to cancel this year’s main race.
This decision did not come easy and was debated at length. Our reasons are many but the overall factor was that the race has become unmanageable due to the large participation and our concern for the participant’s safety.
As many of you know, Monster Track started as a race held for a small, close group of NYC bike messengers. It has now become an overwhelmingly all-inclusive event. This, on its face, may seem like a positive direction for a race but in the context of a solely track bike alleycat it brings many problems. First and foremost, the safety of the racers is compromised. We believe that this is not a tenable position for race organizers.
Although the main race is canceled, please join us for Gold Sprints on Friday evening, Fixed Gear Competition (track stands, skids, footdown, freestyle, sprints, etc.) on Saturday and the Velo City Tour, at Kissena Velodrome on Sunday.
Schedule of Events:
Friday March 7, 8PM
Goldsprints at Third Ward
195 Morgan Ave. Brooklyn
Saturday March 8, 1PM
Fixed Gear Comp and injured messenger fundraiser at Rocky’s
South 5th St. at Kent Ave. Brooklyn
Sunday March 9, 12PM
Velo City Track Competition at Kissena Velodrome
Booth Memorial Ave near Kissena Blvd. Queens
The Monster Track is claimed to be the biggest track bike only alleycat in the world. If you were at the Bicycle Film Festival, you might have seen a short film on it. There seemed to be over 50, if not 100, participants, which would make it as big as any alleycat I have been to, and as big as anything seen in London. There can be little doubt that the cancellation is the result of last weekend’s death, and the resulting media coverage.
Is this the end of alleycats?
Well, it’s probably the end of big, well-publicised alleycats. As it says in the press release, Monster Track was orginally a ‘race held for a small, close group of NYC bike messengers’. The same goes for London alleycats, and alleycats across the world.
When there is messenger only participation, or messengers and their friends, smaller fields then there are fewer potential problems. With a big group of riders, there are more risks. Also, when you have non-messenger participants, there is also a greater chance that an injured rider might be tempted to sue the organisers. At the risk of making a statement that I will later regret, I can not imagine any messenger even considering legal action against a race organiser. There is no suggestion that Manger-Lynch’s family are considering legal action, but even the threat of it would be enough to discourage any organiser.
I am not sure I buy into the arguments against non-messenger alleycats that were put to me by Erik Zo, when he was here a few weeks ago. In SF right now, there are apparently several alleycats have been thrown by the SF fixie community, and there is little or no participation from the messenger scene. As far as I am concerned, like fixie culture, alleycats are something that were popularized by messengers, but there is no reason why other cyclists should not copy messengers.
Erik has more right than most to claim ownership of fixie culture, and messenger culture (see the Zindex!). I remember him describing fixies as ‘this year’s wallet-on-a-chain’ a couple of years ago.
When he was here last time, he expressed great concern that something like the Chicago incident might happen very soon, and he correctly predicted that the victim would be a non-messenger. At the time that Erik made the prediction, I was not so sure.
Sure, most veteran messengers are a lot more skilled than other cyclists at moving through traffic safely. Every time I ride with a messenger, I am struck by how much sharper my companion is at cutting through. But avoiding collisions is as much about knowing where to draw the line, as having the skills. After a couple of beers, everyone’s judgement, or risk assesment if you prefer, is impaired. Given the fondness of the average messenger for a a beer or six before a race, I would say that average messenger is just as likely, as a non-messenger, to get it wrong and eat it large in an alleycat. I think it was merely coincidence that a non-messenger was killed. But what do I know? It turns out that Erik’s prediction was right.
Looks like someone forgot to tell the New York Times that Monster Track was off. It’s got a long interview with my favourite NY messenger, Mike D. In it he says Monstertrack… …is a race that I helped start. Ten years ago, Monstertrack had 45 entries. This year there should be 250 people. Way more than half of them won’t even be couriers.
He is also quoted as saying this:
For some reason, companies don’t want to sponsor underground illegal bicycle races through the streets. They’re afraid that somebody’s going to get run over and killed. At Rumble in the Bronx last year, at least four people ended up in hospitals. Three while racing and one, my own roommate, got run over going home. His hand was literally underneath a car, but it wasn’t broken.
We give away a prize for Best Crash at every alley-cat. Usually it’s pretty cool. A guy shows up at the finish line with his bike on his shoulder holding a broken front wheel, or there’s blood streaming down his head, or he’s missing skin on his arm. You need to give away prizes for things like that.
People in NYC say that the interview took place before last weekend, so Mike (and the interviewer) was unaware of the death of Matt Manger-Lynch. All the same, it looks bad. Andy Zalan had this to say:
While i love the guy, Mike Dee is a public relations disaster. he always seems to have something sexist to say, and many of his comments (at least in the article joe just posted) just add fuel to the public’s fire in terms of proving their point that these races are dangerous. you can’t say something to the ny times like: “We give away a prize for Best Crash at every alley-cat…” jesus, dude! this just glorifies everything that is wrong with alleycats. i’ll even concede that he may be right, a lot of people may share the same views, but you can’t say that sort of thing to a newspaper!