2006-04-01 Police, Bicyclists Can Get Along - Brooklyn Papers

Police, bicyclists can get along

http://www.brooklynpapers.com/html/issues/_vol29/29_13/29_13bp.pdf (Page 3)

The Brooklyn Papers

April 1, 2006

Ariella Cohen

Bicycle riders and police can be friends after all -- almost.

Fifteen cops and 100 bicyclists -- some Brooklynites and some in the bridge-and-tun-nel crowd -- participated in the "Critical Mass" bike ride through Downtown and Brownstone Brooklyn last month.

And unlike a similar monthly ride in Man-hattan, the only traffic summons was written to a driver, not a biker.

Armed with nothing but blinking clip lights, the bikers swept across the bicycle path on Fifth Avenue, shot up the new lane on Clinton Street, and even pedaled up car-heavy Fourth Avenue.

The night ended with no injuries and the single ticket written to a driver who hadn't obeyed traffic signals. It was quite a contrast to Critical Mass in Manhattan, which has seen 324 arrests over the past two years, plus two injured police officers, who were hurt last month chasing bikers, police said.

"The cops in Brooklyn are facilitating, not hating," said cyclist Chris Ryan.

Brooklyn Critical Mass was established in 2004 as a response to the hostilities that had overtaken the Manhattan version during the Republican National Convention, when bikers were arrested and held.

Since the monthly ride began, there have been no arrests. Instead of hostility, it has bred friendship between the riders and officers in Park Slope's 78th Precinct. After bikers complained about the exhaust trailing from police cars that patrolled the ride, the cars morphed into scooters and even a few cops-on-bikes.

When riders complained about enforcement of the bike lanes, the officers began ticket-ing drivers.

"It seems to me that the Brooklyn police are following the law and the Manhattan police are doing something different," said Bill DePaulo, executive director of Time's Up, a grassroots environmental group that is being sued by the city for encouraging Critical Mass.

"It's an ideological difference," said DePaulo.

The only true conflict arose when the officers wanted to take off promptly at 7 pm and the bikers wanted to wait for strag-glers.

Relations between the cops and the bikers are so good, in fact, that Critical Mass riders actually want to work with the police to get better equipment for the men and women blue.

"They can barely ride the bikes they have," said cyclist Ryan Kuonen. "Their forks are broken. Some of the forks are on backwards."

Kuonen planned to pass a hat around at the next Critical Mass -- that it, until she found out that the group's help was not wanted. "We appreciate the well-wishing, but we can't let just anyone from the outside get involved," said Det. Dennis Laffin, spokesman for the NYPD.

Police sources say there are six working bikes at the precinct, with another 15 or so in need of some minor, or major, fiddling.

But, like all NYPD equipment, the bikes are fixed at a "secure" repair shop at the proverbial "undisclosed location."

"We do appreciate the offer," Laffin said, as "a gesture."

Copyright 2006, The Brooklyn Papers