2004-10-26 Federal Judge Asked to Shut Down CM

October 26th, 2004

New York City Asks Federal Judge to Shut Down
Monthly Critical Mass Bike Rides

Peaceful Pro-Cycling Event Takes Place in 400 Cities Worldwide

Five Cyclists Filed Suit to Prevent the NYPD From Arbitrarily Confiscating
Bikes; City Responds by Attacking Cycling Tradition

NEW YORK (October 26, 2004) Lawyers from the City of New York
aksed a U.S. District Court on Monday to permanently enjoin anyone
from riding in Critical Mass, the peaceful monthly bike riding event
held in 400 worldwide cities. The monthly rides seek to promote
cycling as a means of safe and non-polluting transportation; the next
ride in New York, the Halloween Critical Mass ride, is this Friday.

The injunction attempt is the city’s response to a suit filed last
Tuesday, Oct. 19, by five cyclists who had their bikes confiscated
during the September 24th Critical Mass bike ride here. According to
the cyclists’ lawsuit, the NYPD used Emergency Service Unit power saws
to cut the locks off of and confiscate not only their own bicycles,
but a total of 40 bicycles that were secured outdoors, under the
pretext that they were “abandoned property”. Many of the bikes
belonged to neighborhood residents who subsequently assumed their
bikes had been stolen.

Indeed, civil rights lawyers and cyclists argue that the police
actions amounted to theft. The cyclists’ lawyers, prominent civil
rights attorney Norman Siegel, and co-counsel Steven Hyman of
McLaughlin Stern, say that the cyclists were not charged with any
crime, and thus there was no legal predicate for the seizure of their

“The police unlawfully and unconstitutionally tried to retaliate
against cyclists by confiscating all of the bikes in the area,” said
Matthew Roth, a TIME’S UP! volunteer. “This is equivalent to stopping
a few drivers for a traffic violation and then towing all the cars
on the street. It’s clear that the NYPD has been overstepping its
authority over street demonstrations ever since the Republican
Convention. The Bloomberg Administration needs to say to the police,
enough is enough.”

Critical Mass rides have occurred the last Friday of every month
for six years in New York, often with NYPD facilitation. But the
arrest of 264 cyclists on the August 27 ride before the Republican
National Convention signaled a precipitous change in the Bloomberg
Administration’s and NYPD’s approach to mass bike rides. Cyclists
say that the police are unnecessarily cracking down on what has
always been a peaceful and positive social event.

“It would be tragic if the City of New York is allowed to use the
events around a conservative political fete to justify the destruction
of a vibrant New York City tradition,” said Thomas Stephanos, a bike
messenger and plainpng in the cyclists’ lawsuit. “The Critical Mass
rides celebrate non-polluting transportation and advocate for
increased cycling. I urge Mayor Bloomberg to join in the celebration
and participate in Friday’s Halloween Critical Mass.”

Riders also pointed out the global reach of the event and the
city’s need to address environmental and traffic problems.

“Critical Mass occurs all over the world, in 400 cities, on
six continents,” said Rebecca Bray, art director for a non-profit
organization and plainpng in the cyclists’ suit. “So why is the
Bloomberg Administration attempting to use a federal judge to forbid
a celebration of cycling that 399 other cities have come to embrace?
This is a failure of governance by a mayor who won’t admit that the
city needs to address the important issues of bicycle safety and city
pollution, rather than attack cycling.” Public hearings before Judge
William Pauley III are scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, October 27
at 3:00 p.m., at 500 Pearl Street.

The city’s request for an injunction against the cyclists is
available here:

Other supporting documents are available here: