Tag Archives: ATVs

Dirt bikes, dogs and racism

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Riders, Chandler Street pic:R.T.

By Gordon Davis

The Worcester City Council recently passed an “emergency” ordinance prohibiting the use and ownership of dirt bikes and ATVs in Worcester. It was rammed through so fast that I still have not seen a copy of it on-line. I suppose I will have to seek a copy from the Worcester City Clerk.

Because I have not seen anything official on this “emergency” I think it reasonable to assume that most people in Worcester have not seen anything officially about it either.

When I was a soccer coach the dirt bike riders used to upset me, as they would wreck the soccer field and other athletic fields. At that time most of the off road riders were White kids. Not much was done, with the exception of better securing the fields. No one was injured by the kids on dirt bikes back then. These days I hear there are 84 “incidents”; I have not heard of any injuries.

So what was the emergency?

Why ram through another city ordinance with little public input?

The answer seems to be the bias of the people pushing through the emergency order. It is my understanding that Main South activist Billy Breault had a large part to play in its passage. Many people, mostly Hispanic young men, have been arrested. Many have had their property seized. The City and Worcester police have formed a special task force to make the arrests and confiscate the bikes. Most people adversely affected did not know the “emergency ordinance” even existed. The ordinance went into effect immediately after passage.

Now compare this treatment of Hispanic young men to the treatment of the White dog owners who have for two decades defied City government by bringing their dogs to City of Worcester parks where all dogs are prohibited. The City is working to accommodate these lawbreakers by doing nothing adverse against them. In fact, Councilor Gary Rosen has taken up their cause and is working on allowing dogs in our parks.

Please do not misunderstand me on this issue: I like dogs and I think there should be a dog park. But the facts are that there have been more people bitten by dogs than have been injured by dirt bikes. Dogs can be a noise nuisance with their barking.

The young men who ride dirt bikes in our city have complained that there should be a City of Worcester park/space where they can ride. Well, that makes sense. There will be a dog park in Worcester. We have a skateboard park. We have a water (spray) park.

Instead of an emergency ordinance, there should have been a phase-in of the particulars. There also should have been some outreach to explain the ordinance to riders. There should have been a grace period for the bike owners to comply with the ordinance, instead of immediate arrests and seizures.

It is clear that the people who pushed this ordinance think that the police should deal with Hispanic young men, instead of community services. It is not a wonder why we feel alienated from our City government and its police force.

Worcester’s outlaw-angels!

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

You see them racing the thunder clouds down Worcester’s beat-up inner-city streets …

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No yellow lines, median strips, or threats from our City Manager can hold them back! So why paint their roads full of rules? They’ll only break them!

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Pop that wheely!!

With the sweetest smiles – they are shy when you stop them to talk – they pose for photos, even if their bikes don’t have license plates and they are infact “illegal” on our streets. I promise them: no names in my story, no mention of missing plates. I admire their bikes – the spirit it takes to get from point A to B when you’re young and poor. They know I’m on their side – even the guy with this crazy little motorized number!

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It takes him where he needs to go!

With something bigger you can get around the entire city …

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The Worcester police and the Worcester City Council treat this urban phenom like the bubonic plague. It’s not! It’s the trend…it’s poor kids trying to make it in the city during summer time. I was once who they are: in my Lafayette Street bedroom hot, restless, feeling hemmed in by my mother, our religion, our poverty, the close, opressive violence of my world, smothering me when I wanted to BE FREE, RUN FREE, SEE THE WORLD, CLIMB ALL MOUNTAINS . But I couldn’t do much, even take a summer vacation, like some of my school chums from Burncoat Senior High School. One classmate, the daughter of a lawyer, would be in Nantucket with her family. Another friend in D.C. touring the White House, where the President of the United States lived! She told me about the cherry blossoms in Washington in springtime…

If someone had given me a cute little motor bike on which to tool around the neighborhood, on which to ride for fun! or to zip to places for fun – up to the Girls Club on Providence Street in the neighborhood next to mine – Vernon Hill –  or  down to a gal pal’s house on Siegel Street, I would have turned somersaults in glee!

The attractions are obvious, as stated by this older rider! He has two cool bikes:

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Bike #1

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Bike #2

I like Bike #1 pic better! The Al Pacino tee shirt! The I love my dog decal! The NY Yankees sticker! … all so colorful … and autobiographical! You can learn alot about this guy by looking at his bike!

So, What’s the attraction for you (old man!), I ask him, smiling.

Well, Mama,  he says, smiling back, It doesn’t need a lot of gas. It’s cheap to run. I can get around the city. Plus, a lot of beautiful girls come up to you, wanting to talk about your bike. Like you! Like this!

Playful as a tree house in the backyard in summer time!

And yet Worcester’s kid bikers can cause havoc in our city: zip though Vernon Hill, Green Island, Piedmont and Main South on their gerryrigged motor bikes at night, no headlights attached to alert oncoming vehicles. In the daytime,  big fat wheels, small skinny wheels grind against city traffic and city drivers’ nerves. Some follow the rules of the road …

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Others don’t. They’re kids!. They want to be as free as they can be … on Endicott or Suffield streets.

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They want to look cool, sexy, independent …   The Latina girls with their dark wavy hair whipping around under their helmets are something to see! Their tattoos are about love … and death.

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See the electrical tape wrapped around the seat of this guy’s bike? It’s to mend a tear or gash because a new  bike seat costs too much $$$. I was once a poor city kid  – my 10 dollar bill feeling like $100. My first car (15 years old!) feeling like a yacht, and I didn’t buy my first car until I was 25!

The bikers don’t have cars either, and they need wheels! They improvise, ingeniously creating their own transportation  –  with the frame from this place, the wheels from that shop. They work on their bikes or motorized scooters in church parking lots. …Wire, spray paint, motor, decals, black electrical tape – the pieces of the puzzle float together in some mystical city cloud. Some bikes are beautiful, many are otherworldly, perfect for science fiction dystopias – and Chandler Street!

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But the new city ordinances have been passed! The Worcester City Council has voted to ban the riding of these gerryrigged, outside-the-law bikes. City officials say many are stolen. They label some of them All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) because of their huge wheels – tricycle style. The ATVs chew up and spit out the mowed grass when driven through our city parks! This pisses many people off. The Worcester police are serious and have made arrests. Some city leaders are apoplectic! Some are sympathetic: they’re calling for the setting aside of city parkland for the city bikers – creating a  special space for them to roam free.

But can you roam free in a bike park?

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To take a kid whose world is circumscribed by poverty, a kid who is facing a  city summer, a kid who is just waking up to adulthood and maybe understanding the hard truth for the first time: the game’s been rigged for people with money. So … on his own terms, through his and his friends’ creativity and sweat, he creates his own chariot of fire, his own inner-city Pegasus on which to ride … to his friend’s house, to his sister’s place three neighborhoods away….To be able to travel with friends on their bikes, to suck up serious city space with the group: a calvalcade of city kids on souped up, wild eyed motorized bikes. Today’s mods and rockers, today’s drag racers. American Graffiti … Worcester style.

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… It’s all been done before. In hot rods. On motorcycles. The racing.  The glamour of youth! Kids have always had cool wheels and taken them and themselves to the cusp.

High above Worcester …

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… over its buildings and mewling skyline …

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.. into the sunset …

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… Worcester’s inner-city youth ride! Don’t hate them! Work to understand them!

A no-brainer, Worcester: Guns down! Bikes up!


By Rosalie Tirella

A few columns back I wrote about the BIKES UP! GUNS DOWN! guys: how, while on the road in Worcester one night, I saw about 20 of them riding through a city intersection on their dark, dusty, lunar-landscape bikes…no headlights, no blinkers, no reflectors, no mufflers, no nothing, just tires on hunks of metal and the youths straddling their glorified urban go-carts like Greek gods astride thuderbolts! They were loving it! The freedom of it! One kid, the leader, stood up while riding, punched his fist into the air as the herd of bikes crested the hill to swoop down into the belly of the ‘hood. The other guys, following his lead, whipped out colorful bandanas and let them fly in the breeze. The scene felt transformative: they were no longer poor, inner-city youths without hope, without direction, without the dough to buy new motorcycles or those pointless baby mopeds that the rich kids, the Millennials, ride around on – more toy than bike. Nope, these Worcester young people got “creative”… and silly slapped their poverty and bested the moped-riding middle-class kids –  some as old as 34/35! – to make something MAGICAL.  They were not riding something store-bought, shiny and new, a marketing tool like you’d see in some insipid style blog. These kids were Urban Poetry at its most sublime. The look all their own. Their reasons for riding deep. Nothing fake or derivative about these guys. Through riding their lunar bikes they were saying: Who has time for guns and killing when you’re in the eye of THIS hurricane, with the summer wind softly caressing your body as you rumble like hell through all the places that please you/repel you? How can blood beat riding in the night with your friends, under cover, under the radar, outside the law?

Remember what Dylan sang: To live outside the law you must be honest. Or something like that, which means …

WE NEED TO KEEP THIS BIKER MOVEMENT MOVING.

Today, while gassing up, I saw this:

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Guys with bikes on a UHaul pull. They were walking amongst the several colorful bikes they had, like cowboys rustling a herd of cattle. One guy had the gas nozzle in his hand and was gassing up the several bikes they were hauling. A guy with long hair and forearms festooned with tattoos seemed to be the leader. He was driving the  vehicle that was pulling the bikes.

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I told him I liked the movement, the politics behind it: Screw the guns and the killing, LET’S RIDE, MAN!!!!

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He smiled. I asked him if it was ok to take pics. I didn’t want to get anyone into trouble or make anyone feel uncomfortable because I believe what these guys are doing is BRILLIANT. In a totally organic, homegrown, up from the roots move these guys, with no funds, no support, no nothing are solving their problem, STEMMING THE KILLING. By riding around on junky bikes they are saving our junky city.

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Who wants to play hoop with a bunch of middle-aged cops trying to reach them where no one really can?  Who wants to listen to some middle-class social worker from Holden drone on and on about a youth rec program?

No one. Not really.

This is their answer to their reality. To the drugs, the shit apartments, the shit jobs. Better than some social worker cuz IT’S THE GUYS HELPING EACH OTHER. Better than a church program cuz they’ve made their own church. What is CHURCH if not a community built around non-violence/brotherhood/love??… a community whose members support each other, keep each other safe, minister to each other?

The church of dirt bikes! If Jesus were here, he’d ride!!!!

It is a shame the pointless Worcester Millennials putter around on their fancy mopeds because they can lay down the $$$, while these kings and princes, just because they are poor, are chased down by the police and are the topic of Worcester City Council subcommittee meetings: HOW CAN WE STOP THIS? HOW CAN WE BRING THESE GUYS DOWN? WE MUST CONFISCATE THE BIKES! They’re stolen! They’re hot!

No, they’re not! according to the guys I met.

The guy with the long hair told me: “EVERYTHING YOU’RE READING IS WRONG.” Looking at his bikes, he said, “You can’t steal a 200…” … his voice trailed off.

I CHOSE/CHOOSE to believe him.

I took a few more photos, then went back to my car, where Jett and Lilac were waiting for me. Lilac, my new dog, tends to eat the upholstery if I’m gone for longer than 5 minutes …

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She is young and high-spirited … a little wild, which is WHY I LOVE her. Her mayhem is her magic. I try to work with and through her mayhem because she is, when all is said and done, beautiful.

Just like these dirt-bike-riding youths. Why kill youngness? Why kill spirit? Why annihilate an expression of hope? What happens to a dream deferred? Why take away their junk bikes? They’ll pick up junk guns! Why not work with them, not against them? There is already so much working against them! Why not give them: headlights, reflective gear (you can by reflective adhesive tape at the Dollar Store) … a break? Why not hold repair workshops to help bring their bikes up to snuff? Why not dedicate some stretch of city land to them so they can ride and have fun? Country kids go out, climb on their bikes and just ride the back roads and fallow fields outside their homes. I’ve seen this. It’s primal.

It’s not fair that the GUNS DOWN! BIKES UP! youths are society’s targets. It’s classicism and racism and dream-imploding.

We can do better, Worcester!

GUNS DOWN! BIKES UP!

BIKES UP! GUNS DOWN!