2008-08-13 – Ltr to editor: Cyclists & the Police

Ltr to editor: Cyclists & the Police
The New York Times
August 13, 2008
By Bill DiPaola


To the Editor:

Re “Police and a Cyclists’ Group, and Four Years of Clashes” (news article, Aug. 4), in which I am quoted as the director of Time’s Up, which promotes the Critical Mass rides but is not involved in organizing them:

The function of Critical Mass is to create a safe space where people can ride together. Group rides like Critical Mass play an important role in generating new cyclists, who in turn become everyday bike commuters. The ride grew steadily for a decade until the crackdown after the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.

The article reports that Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly “said the Police Department wants to work with the riders.” By no means has the Police Department tried to work with us. Critical Mass riders have been harassed, spied on, beaten, arrested and even sued by the city. Yet we have prevailed in the courtroom — it has been proved over and over that police statements do not match videotaped evidence.

We also contest Mr. Kelly’s claim that Critical Mass riders go against traffic. While it is true that the ride has no set route, under normal circumstances, it does follow the traffic flow.

Most appalling is Mr. Kelly’s and the spokesman’s assertion that the ride was “hijacked” by an “anarchist group” before the Republican convention. This is a baseless scare tactic. Critical Mass has no leaders. The lack of control that Mr. Kelly calls anarchy can be better termed community.

We are aware that the phenomenon of leaderless mass bike rides can be perceived as something different and unusual to the police. But that does not make it provocation or anarchy. It is a celebration of what our streets could look like in a better New York City.

Bill DiPaola
New York, Aug. 5, 2008

The writer is the executive director of Time’s Up, an environmental organization.