2004-09-23 Cops: We'll Break Cycle of Protests - Daily News

Cops: We'll Break Cycle of Protests
New York Daily News
By Greg Gittrich and Pete Donohue
September 23rd, 2004

Cyclists and cops are headed for another showdown in the streets tomorrow
night.

Bike riders who take part in large group rides called Critical Mass the
last Friday night of each month are vowing to pedal the pavement again -
even after cops arrested more than 230 riders Aug. 27 for blocking traffic.

The police are ready to crack down again.

"We're going to take a stance," a high-ranking police official said. "It's
in the interest of public safety that the bike riders comply with traffic
regulations. After the number of bike riders the last time, it would be
irresponsible of us not to act as a deterrent."

Critical Mass rides began in the city in 1998 and have grown from about 60
riders a month to more than a 1,000 per ride in the months leading up to
the Republican National Convention.

The largest ride came Aug. 27, with about 5,000 cyclists. It ended in the
East Village when thousands stopped riding, blocking several intersections.
Police moved in, cuffed riders and confiscated bicycles. Cops complained
that several ambulances were delayed by the cyclists.

"Manhattan's car-clogged streets will be reclaimed by thousands of cyclists
this Friday," the group Time's Up!, which bills itself as an environmental
advocacy organization and promotes the rides, declared in a statement.

Matthew Roth, 27, a Time's Up! volunteer, said last month's bumpy ride has
some on edge.

"People are concerned about being arrested," he said. "No one likes that.
But the feeling is Critical Mass is such a part of New York City ... if
they do crack down, they do crack down."

He added: "It's a celebration of what our city could look like when we
promote bicycle riding as rational, nonpolluting transportation as opposed
to automobiles."

Just as they did before the convention, police are reaching out to the
organizers and issuing warnings. But Roth said there are no real leaders
or organizers of the monthly events. He did say, however, that riders had
arranged for lawyers and legal advisers to be present to negotiate with
police, if necessary.

Copyright 2004, Daily News.