2004-09-25 Nine Cyclists Arrested – NY Times

9 Cyclists Are Arrested in Protest
The New York Times


September 25, 2004
By Lydia Polgreen and Colin Moynihan

Nine people were arrested last night and 40 bicycles were seized
as about a thousand cyclists hit the streets in the monthly Critical
Mass bicycle protest ride, the police said. The cyclists filled the
canyons of Park Avenue and Broadway in a smaller replay of the ride
that led to hundreds of arrests on the eve of the Republican
National Convention.

With police and news media helicopters whirling overhead, the ride
began at Union Square and proceeded in fairly orderly fashion for
about an hour as a phalanx of police officers on scooters and in
vans kept close watch.

“We said we’d head up Park Avenue, and they let us go ahead,” said
Bill DiPaola, executive director of Time’s Up!, the environmental
group that promotes the ride to bring attention to the pollution
caused by cars and encourage cycling.

Whistles shrieking and bells tinkling, hundreds of cyclists flooded
into the street, heading north on Park Avenue until 57th Street, then
west to Broadway and south again through Times Square.

But the mood suddenly changed at Broadway and 33rd Street, when a
string of officers on scooters briefly blocked Broadway, setting off
a panic among riders, many of whom headed north on Broadway and turned
east on 36th Street, only to find themselves blocked again at Fifth

“The cops blocked off the whole street and scared everyone,” said Gus
Ortiz, a 43-year-old graduate student. “I locked up my bicycle
immediately and ran into a building lobby.”

Many cyclists hopped off their bikes and tried to walk away, but the
police began grabbing people from the crowd, said Caitlin Hawke, 39,
who said her friend Andrew was among those arrested.

“They blocked us in,” she said.

Officers used power saws to cut the chains securing bikes to sign posts,
despite the protests of their owners, who offered to unlock them.

Still, the arrests seemed to arise out of confusion rather than
confrontation. At the end of the ride, Mr. DiPaola said that it had gone
relatively smoothly.

A police spokesman said the arrests were made on charges of disorderly
conduct and obstruction of traffic.

Police officials said a route had been agreed upon earlier in the day,
but a police spokesman could not say with whom the agreement had been

Critical Mass is a monthly bike ride that claims no organizers but simply
materializes on the last Friday of every month. People who promote the
ride have said they have no control over the route.

Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who represented cyclists arrested
before and during the convention, said before the ride began that the
police had told him they planned to make arrests for “any and all

Copyright 2004, The New York Times Company

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