Critical Mass Ride
Lots of bikes, but far less drama New York Newsday
September 26th, 2004
Reported by Sean Gardiner, Dan Janison, Rocco Parascandola and Graham Rayman
Written by Beth Holland
Closely watched by police on the ground and in helicopters, about 700 bicyclists
rode from Union Square through midtown and down Fifth Avenue Friday night in the
first Critical Mass event since before the Republican National Convention.
By 9 p.m., police said they had arrested eight people on East 36th Street near Fifth
Avenue and one person in Union Square. Those arrested were charged with disorderly
conduct and obstructing traffic, police said. Forty bikes were confiscated, most of
them left at West 36th Street and Seventh Avenue by riders who did not want to be
arrested, police said.
Two of those arrested may not have been involved in the ride, said a witness. “They
started arresting people who were walking on the sidewalk with their bikes,” said
Caitlin Hawke, 39, of the Upper West Side, who was walking her bike and watched as a
friend and fellow cyclist was arrested. “They were totally overzealous.”
Earlier Friday, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly declared that cyclists who violated
traffic laws would be arrested and their bicycles seized.
“If they want to have a peaceful demonstration, we’ll help them,” Kelly said at One
Police Plaza. “But we can’t have them go – perhaps as many as 1,000 bicycles – where
they want to go, ride up on the sidewalk, stop traffic, bring about violent confrontation.
We’ve given them, I believe, fair warning.”
At Union Square, where cyclists assembled, officers handed out fliers warning participants
of the consequences if they violated traffic laws.
The Critical Mass ride began at 7:20 p.m. at Union Square Park North and ended at 8:30 p.m.
The route is not set in advance.
The monthly rides have been held in New York since 1998; similar events, all geared to
promoting pollution-free transportation, are held worldwide.
The Aug. 27 event, organized by the nonprofit bicycle advocacy group Time’s Up!, drew
about 5,000 cyclists. About 250 were arrested that night for obstructing government
administration, unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct. While Critical Mass rides
generally are nonpartisan, many riders at the August event expressed opposition to
President George W. Bush.
Matthew Roth, an organizer with Time’s Up!, said police officials tried to get his group
to apply for a permit for Friday’s ride. He said he noted that Critical Mass has no
organizers, and that police had not applied strict enforcement before August. “The
police have been hands-off, until the convention.”
Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc.