2004-09-24 Police Warn of Arrests – NY Times

Police Warn of Arrests at a Mass Bike Ride
The New York Times
By Thomas J. Lueck
September 24, 2004


The police warned a group of 1,000 cyclists expected to congregate
tonight at Union Square for a monthly ride that they faced mass
arrests like those that occurred last month if they did not apply for
a permit and obey traffic laws.

There were roughly 200 arrests at the event, Critical Mass, last month
in the runup to the Republican National Convention, when an estimated
5,000 cyclists rode through city streets, some of them carrying
protest signs.

The monthly bike ride has spilled for years into Manhattan streets on
the last Friday night of each month. It is described by participants
as a free-form ritual intended to celebrate nonpolluting forms of

Participants in the ride have ruled out applying for a permit, since
they disavow any formal organization, have no sponsors and claim to
merely show up each month to ride. Even the route through Manhattan is
unplanned: riders at the head of the mass decide which way to turn,
and others follow if they choose.

They have said that tonight’s ride will start at Union Square at 7
p.m. and involve cyclists, in-line skaters and skate boarders.

Yesterday, in a letter to people the police believe to be organizing
the Critical Mass ride, Michael Scagnelli, the department’s chief of
transportation, warned of more arrests. “I suggest that you work with
the framework of our law and apply for a permit for a ride which may
then be sanctioned by the police department,” Mr. Scagnelli said in
his letter.

But Matthew Roth, a regular Critical Mass participant, was not
persuaded by the letter. “Applying for a permit wouldn’t mean
anything,” he said. “There is no organization to apply.”

Leah Rorvig, another participant, criticized what she called an
“invasive police crackdown” in a press release distributed by Time’s
Up!, an environmental advocacy group.

“For the city to criminalize an event that promotes an environmentally
sound form of transportation is tragic,” she said.

The event, which had traditionally involved far smaller numbers of
riders, mushroomed on Aug. 27, the police say. The more than 200
arrests were for disorderly conduct, running red lights and other
violations. Hundreds of bicycles were seized and locked up as

It was unclear yesterday whether the publicity about the arrests of
cyclists in August will heighten the numbers and emotions of people
riding tonight. Mr. Roth said he expected a minimum of 1,000 riders to
turn out, but added that “the numbers could be huge.”

Copyright 2004, New York Times, Inc.