August 27, 2005
Monthly Mass Bicycle Ride Leads to 49 Arrests in Manhattan
By JENNIFER 8. LEE AND MATTHEW SWEENEY
Forty-nine bicyclists were arrested last night in Manhattan at the monthly Critical Mass ride, the police department reported.
The rides are described by their organizers, the environmental advocacy group Time’s Up!, as a demonstration to promote the use of transportation other than cars. The ride at Republican National Convention a year ago swelled to more than 5,000 riders, several hundred of whom were arrested. Since then, the rides have become a point of contention with the police.
Last night’s arrests took place in at least four locations: Astor Place; Houston Street and Second Avenue; West 18th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues; and along West 34th Street. The captain who was overseeing arrests at Astor Place said the bicyclists were being charged with parading without a permit, disorderly conduct and obstructing traffic.
The Bloomberg administration says that the rides are large and not spontaneous, and thus require a permit. Lawyers for the city have requested an injunction against the rides. No ruling has been issued, but Time’s Up! is in discussions with city lawyers.
The bicyclists, who have split into different starting points since the police confrontations began, began riding last night around 7:30. About 250 cyclists started in Union Square with 15 officers on scooters behind them. As that group moved through the city, officers from different directions converged on the group and bisected it, arresting bicyclists.
Time’s Up! says that because the rides are demonstrations, they are subject to free-speech protections.
“People have a right to ride their bicycles on the street of New York,” said Norman Siegel, a lawyer who represents the group. He is also a candidate for the city’s public advocate.
“I’m calling on Mayor Bloomberg to intervene,” Mr. Siegel said. “He has to tell the police department to chill.”