November 19, 2017
Home / Up To Speed / Furor Erupts At CT United Ride

Furor Erupts At CT United Ride

tony-zullo

NEW HAVEN – The CT United Ride, which bills itself as “CT’s largest annual 9/11 tribute,” is being lambasted today by a local motorcycle dealer and by Slingshot owners who charge discrimination in the treatment of a group that wanted to participate in the 15th annual bud-bylinecharity ride on Sunday that attracted 2,500 riders from 12 states.

“We drove in and we got belittled,” said an unhappy George Libby, president of Libby’s Motoworld, the Honda, Triumph, Yamaha, Victory and Slingshot dealer in New Haven. “It left a bad taste in my mouth.”

“It was very upsetting,” said Slingshot owner Tony Zullo of New Haven, saying a group of 20 Slingshot owners were “treated like shit” by the event’s organizers.  “They threw away over $2,000 in donations. It’s unbelievable – the narrow-mindedness, and being rude on top of it.”

ct-united-ride-logo

The event’s organizer, Frederick Garrity Jr., this afternoon countered that the furor was solely caused by the Slingshot contingent, which was “unbelievably belligerent.” He described Zullo as “the perpetrator of the ugliness” and maintained that he tried to work a compromise, with the Slingshots assigned to the rear of the ride.

“I tried to resolve it amicably,” said Garrity, adding that he was blindsided just as the pre-ride program was about to start. “Yes, I was upset because they made the day about them, instead of the event,” which honors those who lost their lives on 9/11 and police and firefighters who still place their lives on the line.

Both sides agree that the situation got heated.

Libby reported that when the Slingshot owners arrived at the Norwalk gathering spot on Sunday morning, they were told, “We don’t want those ‘Bat-cars’ in the place ” – despite Slingshots being allowed to participate in the past. “This was in front of thousands of people. This is supposed to be a tribute to 9/11 – not who can ride and who can’t. I was embarrassed,” Libby said.

Zullo, who bought a Slingshot after suffering injuries in motorcycle and car accidents, said he has participated in in the CT United Ride every year since the inaugural event in 2001 and brought his Slingshot to the CT United Ride in 2015 without an incident. “There was no problem. Nobody said a word,” he recalled. The CT United Ride’s website even displays pictures of Zullo and another Slingshot owner participating a year ago.

Tony Zullo in 2015 CT United Ride
Tony Zullo in 2015 CT United Ride

However, on Sunday, Zullo reported, “This guy comes running over and say, ‘You’re not allowed here.'” Zullo said he explained that a Slingshot is classified by the state as an “autocycle” and has a motorcycle license plate. “He said, ‘I’m not going to argue the point with you.'”

Zullo said he eventually worked his way up the chain of command to Garrity, who reiterated the event’s position. Zullo said he again tried to explain why Slingshots should be allowed; that many owners are motorcycle riders who are no longer able to stay up on two wheels, and that a prohibition would be discriminatory.

“He got mad at me because I was arguing with him (and said) he’s going to call the state police and have me removed,” said Zullo, adding that Garrity also told him that some towns asked him not to allow Slingshots to participate. He added that Garrity wouldn’t reveal the names of those towns. The ride went through Norwalk, Westport, Wilton, Georgetown, Redding, Bethel, Newtown, Monroe, Trumbull and Fairfield before ending in Bridgeport.

Slingshot participant in 2015
Slingshot participant in 2015

Garrity confirmed that he did threaten to have Zullo removed by state police because the Slingshot owner was “screaming at me.”

Garrity explained that the CT United Ride requires permits from the towns involved. “We are permitted and insured as a motorcycle event,” he said, and Slingshots are “clearly not motorcycles.” Slingshots have a motorcycle license plate but operators do not need an “M” endorsement on the driver’s licenses to drive them.

Like a car, Slingshots have side-by-side bucket seats, a shifter inside a middle console, a steering wheel, and a foot clutch. They have two wheels in front and one in the rear. “What some people consider a motorcycle is blurred. They are not classified as a motorcycle,” Garrity said.

Having Slingshots becomes problematic, he continued, because their size prohibits them riding from side by side as motorcycles do. “They are dangerous in these kinds of situations,” Garrity said.

Recalling the 2015 ride, he said two Slingshots did manage to get in line and it was “too late” to remove them. Police cadets direct incoming participants. Once the brouhaha developed, Garrity said he told the Slingshot operators “I will meet you halfway” by letting them ring up the rear. “That’s not enough, Zully said,” according to Garrity.

Libby and Zullo agreed that Slingshot owners were finally told they could participate after the departure of all motorcycles. Two Slingshot owners who had already registered went along, but 18 others simply left. Some dispirited Slingshot owners are commenting negatively on the SlingshotInfo online forum.

“To bar Slingshots is just ridiculous,” said Zullo. “It’s a narrow-minded society again. If you have something different, you’re an outcast.”

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Libby  and Zullo also noted that scooters and other three-wheelers, including V8-powered trikes with what Libby called “huge engines twice the size of the Slingshot,” were welcomed.

Libby’s Motoworld promoted the CT United Ride on its website for weeks in advance of the event, inviting Slingshot owners to join and help raise money for firefighters and law enforcement personnel in the state as well as for two local United Ways. “Libby’s is not a sponsor or promoter of the event,” said Garrity, who promised that the Slingshot situation will be reviewed before the CT United Ride is staged in 2017 and that a disclaimer will be posted.

“Sometimes you can’t think of things until they happen. I try to please everyone; try to make it a success,” he said.

Photos taken from CT United Ride website

4 comments

  1. I need to point out that this is a huge and long group ride. As with any big group, there is always some ” rubber banding” within the group. Front slows, then pick up speed, middle and rear end up sometimes braking hard, then accelerating quickly to catch up.

    With that in mind, the group is typically told to ride in staggered formation, so that caught off guard, you’re less likely to rear end the bike in front of you. Might be one second distance to the bike ahead, but not in your line, but double that distance to the bike that is ahead of you and inline with you.

    The Slingshots are big. I was surprised how long and WIDE they are when I saw one. Well, mixing those into the middle of the group would absolutely prevent the possibility of being staggered in front of, or behind a Slingshot. They take up a lane by themselves.

    Further, now that Slingshots do not require a motorcycle endorsement, the driver may very well not know motorcycle dynamics, braking distances or giving room to a late braker.

    If they brought up the rear, for safety sake and not an insult, with a bit of a space to the bikes ahead, I’d have no problem with them. I’d also like to see the same with all the trikes, for most of the same reasons.

  2. Mr.Garrity said we tried to make ride about us, It was never about us
    the only reason it got turned in an argument was that our group was attacked as soon as we turn in the driveway, We were there to pay tribute to our fallen Hero’s and that was the only reason we were there! So after we left that is what we did we Drove down to exit 18 to the 9/11 memorial to pay tribute and this is what happened.
    We parked to the side a Women came up to me and our group she had tears rolling down her face she had seen the flags on my bike she handed us all a single rose which of course made me start to cry.
    We all laid the roses at the memorial.
    This made up for the whole day in my view this Women had obviously lost someone in the 9/11 attack and to come over to give us a flower just made my day! There is greatness in this world some times you just have to drive a bit farther to find it.

  3. As to what Mr. Frederick Garrity Jr said yes at first I went up and shook his hand and told him my name the reason it was loud was there was a band playing right next to the stand so we had to yell to hear each other and as for him being blindside I find hard to believe
    Because as soon as we pulled up to the gate a guard came running over and said I Quote Those bat cars are not allowed on this ride and I ask who said they were not? the man said his Father said so. This is why they were not blindsided they knew that Slingshot were going to show up they were waiting to tell us at the gate. A simple posting on there web site to say No Slingshot is all they needed to do. And yes they did agree to let us in the ride but we could not park with the other bikes or ride with them we were to wait till all bikes had left then we could join in at the end. As a long time biker I found that to be unacceptable if my money is good enough to take then I should have an equal right to join in with the other motorcycle’s. This is a new class of Motorcycle and should accepted as much the larger or Biker community is the stronger we are lets not be prejudicial against one class of bike it only makes us all weaker in the end!

  4. nate.ravid@gmail.com

    Its too bad that this dispute had to be raised, and especially on this date. Both sides brought vaild arguments to the debate, but both sides brought anger and angst.

    I attended a memorial ride here in Florida, and there were at least 2 dozen Slingshots. Yes, they brought up the rear, but mostly because it was not possible to intersperse them with the rest of the motorcycles, not as a means of belittling or demaining them.

    A valid compromise could have been reached very easily, and hopefully this issue can be addressed before line up next year.