Monday, December 11, 2023

Bike incident report draws big, intense response

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

Much fall-out and follow-up from last week’s Chronicle report of an incident on Veterans Road in Queensbury. A slew of bicyclists was using both lanes of the road. A woman driver said she was forced to stop her car, which she said was struck by a bicycle. She expressed fear.

The Chronicle found out that the incident occurred during the Glens Falls “MC” Rideout,” a BMX event promoted by SE Bikes, a “worldwide” bike brand based in Philadelphia.

Initially, many messages on social media dismissed the incident, some calling the anonymous driver a “karen.”

But Thursday afternoon, The Chronicle posted a video clip. The tone of many comments changed.

One person commented, “I came across this same group Friday as I was traveling down Jerome Ave. to Fire Rd. and they forced onto the grass shoulder! Fortunately no damage to my car.”

Some defended the event.

Thursday evening, another bike video was posted, by Facebook user “Tristin Mattison.” The video — 2:08 in length — shows an apparent motorized bike in downtown Glens Falls, weaving through oncoming traffic and onto sidewalks.

It was captioned, “I’m outside.”

A video clip of the Veterans Road incident was played 700,000 times on Instagram. Coverage has generated more than 2,000 comments on Instagram alone.

The videos can be viewed on Facebook, @glensfallschronicle.

SE Bikes told The Chronicle that the initial “rideout” event was planned in part by “Paige Elizabeth.

This is a Facebook username. She responded with an obscenity when asked to confirm her last name.

Ms. Elizabeth, after contacting The Chronicle, said via phone that the “rideout” was organized for her son’s birthday.

On the call and in Facebook comments Sunday, she said, “As far as the ride out go, there WILL BE MORE. I will try harder to get the kids to stay in one lane.

“As far as slowing traffic up I could care less. Take a left or a right and go a different path or enjoy the show for 2 minutes and move on, cause the pack will turn again.”

She told The Chronicle, “Will I push to make them more organized in the future? Certainly. Was I expecting such a large turnout at this event? No. I absolutely was not.” She added, “There’ll be many, many more to come.”

She took issue with coverage of the event. “Glens Falls is a non-bussing District,” she said.

“That means hundreds of children ride their bicycles and walk to school every day. How many of those kids now have targets on their backs because you wanted to write an article and get some views? So when those kids die, and get hit by people, that’s on you, you’re to blame now. You caused chaos in our city.”

“The blood will be on your hands,” she said. “Not mine.”

Does she believe the “rideout” may have put kids into danger?

“When you ride a bike, you ride at your own risk,” she said.

“I’m not all of their parents, My kids stayed on the right side of the road. But that’s because I raised my kids that way.”

“When kids show up at these, most of them are troubled kids, troubled kids that I hope can have a better future if they can see the positive side of bike life. But the people in this community are not wanting to see that side, you included.”

Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins said the first he heard of the ‘rideout’ was from The Chronicle article. “We had no knowledge of the event, certainly didn’t approve the event,” the Mayor said.

“If we had received any calls, we would have went and broke it up. You can’t drive down a city street and interrupt traffic without a plan,” he said.

Glens Falls Police Chief Jared Smith said he was unaware of any 911 calls regarding the “rideout.”

He said, “They haven’t given us any notification that they’re having these events. It would be nice if that group did, because we may be able to assist them with getting through the city safely.”

The Chief said nothing is in the works to get future events officially on the books, but that he’d be open to it. “Absolutely. We could send some officers out and meet with the organizers and try to make it as smooth as possible — so they’re not blocking traffic, so they’re being safe.”

After being sent the Glen Street video, Chief Smith said, “It’s sad to think this person has to engage in such reckless behavior not only to themselves but to innocent people on the roadway and pedestrians.

“All for what? To just to gain popularity on social media which obviously this person is achieving. The Glens Falls Police Department will continue to investigate this person’s actions.”

Chief Smith said it’s difficult to do anything about social media videos, as it’s challenging to confirm the identity and provenance of the video.

Plus, he said, “there’s very little in the law about E-bikes, but typically, we would just treat them as a bicycle.”

Warren County Sheriff Jim LaFarr said the Queensbury video was “troubling on many levels. For one, that anyone would be subjected to such behavior…

“And from the other side, that children would be operating in a roadway like that in a manner that puts them in harm’s way. If you’re riding in the roadway driving in a direction towards vehicles, it’s only a matter of time that there’s going to be a collision.”

Is there an investigation? He said, “Anything that’s pending would be open and current, and I wouldn’t comment.”

“I know that we have School Resource Officers who are assisting. I know that we’ve been in contact, in conversation with the probation department. We are actively investigating.”

Sheriff LaFarr said Tuesday he had not seen in The Chronicle that the event was promoted by national brand SE Bikes.

And if the “rideouts” continue? “Each and every time something like this were to occur, if we learn about it, obviously we would respond,” the Sheriff said.

“Obstructing vehicular traffic is an offense under the penal law. And certain things — harassing, damaging property. Those types of things are clear violations.”

“If you’re doing something like this as an organizer, as a group, and you’re doing it with the only intent of causing alarm, about the only thing I can say is shame on you. For me, it’s troubling,” he said.

“But all we can do is take it case by case and respond,” he added.

Chief: Kids & parents charged in GF incidents

Glens Falls Police Chief Jared Smith said some parents have been charged in recent incidents attributed to minors, involving bikes and an Aug. 22 assault.

“There have been several juveniles that have been petitioned to Family Court, as well as their families or the parent guardians,” Chief Smith said.

“There’s been several arrests for endangering the welfare of a child for failure to exercise proper supervision over your minor.

“Three to four juveniles and their parents have been arrested. All the juveniles that we can identify from the video that were involved.”

He said things have quieted down since the arrests. “Nothing major like that. We still get reports of groups of kids riding around, in and out of traffic, but nothing to that extent.”

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