Most of the conservative, robotic, and pretentious people in America would see the radical freedoms in this video and automatically stereotype the youth participating to be reckless, apathetic and absolute cretins. Much like graffiti, this “urban crisis” is really just a misunderstood hobby that the young and unstimulated have as their only outlet for expression. This video also makes me wonder how quickly one of our favorite music video directors, Romain Gavras, will jump on this inner city hobby and make a Harlem-gully video, possibly for the electro duo Justice?
Below, you can find some energetic photos from the clip, along with excellent relatable excerpts we pulled from an interview with one of the long-time dirt bike riders, Benmore.
You can also read the full extensive interview on DNAinfo.
An aliased Benmore, 31, said it was dirt bike riding that kept him from slipping into the grip of gangs and drugs as a teen. “I was once one of those kids back before I got on the bike,” he said. “We were into all kind of crime because we had nothing else to do.” Now, he said, he works construction while trying to finish his bachelor’s degree at City College. He still rides and tries to use it to keep other people out of trouble. “The gang members, the shooters and all these people they are trying to stop from shooting each other, these kids love the bikes,” said Benmore. “I’m talking about hardcore gang members, lead gang members. I’m talking about real hardcore brothers looking for a way out.” Starting in spring, dozens of young people can be seen racing around in Harlem on illegal dirt bikes and ATVs. They speed, pop wheelies for blocks, snake in and out of traffic, run lights, and even hop up on the sidewalk for shortcuts.
“Everyone is really concerned about safety,” said Cator Sparks, president of the 122nd Street Block Association. “Kids have been on the street playing ball and these guys fly by. It’s a horrible situation. Are two children getting hurt what it is going to take to put a plan in motion?” Despite numerous complaints to police, 311 and local politicians, residents complain that nothing changes. “The bikes are everywhere. They aren’t going away,” said Jasline, a clerk at Cycle Therapy, a bike shop in East Harlem.
In the usual, let the citizens do our job fashion, Capt. Kevin Williams of the 28th Precinct has told residents in community meetings that the department is working to find out where the bikes are stored because they are not street legal. He encouraged residents to let police know where the bikes are parked. “I call the police and they don’t do anything,” said Sparks. “It’s like a free-for-all. We now see bikes coming over the bridge from the Bronx.”
Benmore, while acknowledging the bikes are illegal and that many riders don’t wear helmets, said the police and residents who complain are stereotyping the riders. “What activities do they have in place helping the young black male?” he asked. Although police espouse a policy of not chasing the riders, Benmore and a fellow dirt bike rider who gave his name as Ace, said they have been pursued by police numerous times.
“I had a cop tell me I’d love to see you hit the wall,” he said. “All we are going to do is pick up the pieces. Is that not disturbing? You think we are going to stop now when we see them? You bet your bottom dollar we’re not.” The cat-and-mouse game with cops and the frustration of the public could be avoided if there were a place for dirt bike riders to ride, said Ace and Benmore. Bikers created a makeshift riding area on Ward’s Island before police ran them off a few years ago.