Award–winning journalist Andrea Bernstein is the Metro Editor for WNYC News. She has previously served as Political Director, Director of Transportation Nation, and Senior Reporter.
A little after one in the morning in the morning, musician Roger Manning got a text message: police were removing protesters from Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street had been going on 24/7 for the last two months. With a friend, Rachel Schneider, Manning grabbed his bike and rode from his lower Manhattan apartment to Zuccotti Park.
“There were a lot of bikes,” Manning said later that morning, after protesters had migrated over to a park at Canal Street and 6th Avenue, about a mile from Zuccotti Park. “They were swarming and circling around because it’s mobile you can get in and out and around.”
Kayla Paulino also rode her bike down -- but from the South Bronx, a considerably longer distance. She said her bike enabled her to zip around police barricades, and get into the encampment before she and the rest of the protesters were cleared out.
Manning said he ran into people from Bushwick and other parts of Brooklyn who’d also cycled over. “What else would you do in the middle of the night,” he said, “wait on a subway platform?” Besides, he says “there were rumors the subway system was skipping stops.” (The MTA says service was not impacted.)
“I didn’t know how to get a cab in Bushwick in the middle of the night,” protester Ben T. told The Takeaway’s Ben Johnson early this morning. He also rode his bike in.
Bikes also became a way for scattered protesters to communicate with each other, said TN's own Alex Goldmark, who was reporting on the protest most of the night. “The most consistent and reliable news service were protesters on bikes who would ride around spreading word of which gathering spots had the most people and what the consensus plan was at each one,” Goldmark sent us in an early morning dispatch.
“New arrivals by bike would call for a ‘mic check,’” he continued, “the method protesters use to speak to large groups without a microphone where other members of the crowd repeat the speaker's words to amplify it. The bike news messengers were always quick to speak and share what they knew, and usually got instant precedence to talk. They always started by saying their name, and where they came from.”
As New Yorkers began to wake up, others joined protesters as they made their way through Manhattan. “I typically commute by subway but the bike was a more flexible option today,” said Bushwick-based web developer Dan Phiffer, who rode in this morning with his wife, Ellie Irons, an artist. “When I heard they had evacuated the park by the time I came down to where I thought they’d be, they’d be somewhere else. I used Twitter to map out where to go and I watched the helicopters, the bike was a way better option than anything else.”
In fact, many cyclists could be seen this morning weaving their way through truck traffic on Canal Street, periodically pulling over to consult their smartphones.