2006-02-27 Three Arrested - Columbia Spectator

Three Arrested as Critical Mass Rides On
Columbia Spectator
Ben Reininga
February 27, 2006

Several hundred cyclists showed up at locations around the city to ride in Friday’s Critical Mass, a loosely organized bicycle ride that takes place on the last Friday of every month. Three riders were arrested at the event, even after the legality of the ride was upheld in a court decision last week.

Last month’s ride ended when two police offers riding scooters crashed while accompanying the group of riders. In the chaos that followed, 14 riders were arrested and two police officers were hospitalized. New York Police Department officials blamed the accident on the riders, who they claimed were breaking the law, while most riders blamed the accident on aggressive police conduct.

Luke Son, a 23-year-old General Studies student who regularly attends Critical Mass, said he didn’t see the rides as particularly harmful or politically motivated. “It’s just a bike ride. That’s all it is, people out expressing their right to ride on the streets.” Son, a certified EMT, made news for his role in helping a police officer injured in last month’s ride.

According to Son, it’s ironic that the police’s “stated reason for being involved is public safety, and yet it’s their continued aggression that’s been causing problems for the city and for themselves ... no riders have been hospitalized.” The scooter crash took place in front of a group of riders that Son was leading, and he stopped to help the injured officer.

The city’s attempt to ban the rides or to require riders to obtain a parade permit was rejected last week by a state court.

“The win in court makes a difference. People might not be so afraid to come out now. It’s a legal thing to do,” Sara Stout, a legal observer from the World Carefree Network, said. Stout was there with several other members of her organization. “We’re just here to observe what happens, make sure there are witnesses, and provide some support,” she said.

The troubles with last month’s ride didn’t seem to affect turnout this month. Participation varies due to weather and other factors, but the hundred or so riders at Friday’s event were on par with previous rides, according to attendees.

The riders set off at 7:30 p.m. with an array of police cars flashing their sirens following close behind. The three riders who were arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, according to the New York Times. No riders were charged with parading without a permit, a frequent charge before last week’s ruling.

The ride is facilitated, though not officially organized, by members of Time’s Up!, a grassroots environmental group that supports bicycling as an alternative means of transportation.

The rides have no established leader or pre-organized route. Small clusters and long lines of cyclists take over one or more lanes of traffic and ride throughout the city. Some of the participants come to support an environmental cause, while others are simply there for the fun of the ride.

Gino Oliveri, a gallery manager from Brooklyn, said most days, he rides his bike to the gallery in Manhattan where he works. He comes to Critical Mass, he said, “to show support-—more bikes, less cars, less pollution.”