NYC bicycle abuse

critical mass in times squareIf you’ve ever been in New York on the last Friday of any month, you’ve probably come into contact with the NYC Critical Mass bike ride wherein hundreds of bicyclists “spontaneously come together to ride the ordinarily car-clogged streets of their cities.” I’ve seen this spectacle twice completely by chance, and it’s awesome.

Tension has been rising between these peaceful bikers and police, who claim their actions to be a dangerous act. This dispute reached its apex during the RNC when the NYC office of transportation declared Critical Mass to be “Disorderly Conduct and Obstructing Governmental Administration.” Since then numerous bikers have been harassed and sometimes even arrested on charges of traffic violations. Yesterday I recieved this email from my friend Jamie:

Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 12:26:45 -0500 (EST)
From: Jamie Rollins
Subject: biking is a crime
So you guys might be interested to hear that I was arrested Friday night for riding my bicycle here in New York City. Yes, you heard me right; I was arrested for riding my bike, IN A BIKE LANE, in Manhattan on Friday night. I was riding during the monthly Critical Mass bike rally, which the city of New York seems to have deemed a criminal activity.

As a bit of background, the city of New York has been launching quite an assult on bicyclists, specifically those that ride in Critical Mass. Recent Masses have been subject to severe police intimidation, including plain cloths officers filming every one participating in the ride. Because of the cold, there weren’t that many riders, so the Mass was not quite critical enough. With absolutely no blocking of any traffic the mass took off from Union Square. I made it about 4 blocks before I was swarmed by cops on scooters who grabbed me off my bike and put me in handcuffs. Let me make one point particularly clear: I WAS RIDING IN THE BIKE LANE at the time of my arrest. The mass was small so we it wasn’t taking up the whole road and everyone was riding off to the side. Not that it mattered. A small woman who was riding behind me was forcibly pulled from her bike and thrown to the ground with a knee in the back of her neck.After sitting in the back of a paddy wagon for about an hour, the other 7 riders and I who were arrested in the same block were taken to the police station where we were processed, pictured with our “weapons” (read bicycles) and put in holding cells where we stayed for a couple of hours before being released.Those who know me well will not be surprised to learn that I was not shy about expressing my anger and indignation at the incredible injustice.

My bicycle has also been confiscated by the police, completely illegally as it turns out. Not that any of this is particularly legal anyway. I was charged with a violation of “parading without a permit and disorderly conduct”. Lawyers from the Nation Lawyers Guild have taken to accompanying the Critical Mass to document the abuses by the police. The lawyer who has contacted me likened the situation to “being arrested and having your car inbounded for running a red light”. It’s unclear how and when I will be able to recover my bike.

My court date is set for February 23rd. I plan on fighting every charge they throw at me.

To get a sense of how bad it is in New York right now, a city council woman recently tried to pass a bill that would make it illegal to ride a bicycle in the city at all without a permit, punishable by fines and jail time. Luckily it didn’t pass. Meanwhile, some car plowed over two pedestrians trying to cross the street at the corner outside our apartment a couple of weeks ago. And the night before the Mass, a gang of hoodlums shot and killed a woman walking home from a club in the lower east side. But apparently the New York City police is so overstaffed that they can send 50 police officers to arrest people riding their bikes down the street.

Update: I apologize for the problem with the comments. It’s been fixed, and all of the comments should be public now.

90 thoughts on “NYC bicycle abuse

  1. Ever since I first heard about critical mass rides, I’ve been ashamed to live in city where such things are unheard of.

    I admire the courage of those who take part in critical mass rides.

    Your post has confirmed my cyclist paranoia. I really don’t know why cyclists are hated so much.

    I wish you and the others all the best in court!

  2. Jeez. I’m almost speechless. If this weren’t bad enough by itself, the fact that your president is happy to invade other countries to preserve these “freedoms” is just too much to comprehend…

  3. I live in Fresno, CA and I ride a bicydle to work when the rain forecast
    is not too bad.
    I undeerstand that biking is perhaps more intensive in the use of fossil fuels than driving a car
    but I still think that bikers should be allowed to ride, particularly when they abide by the rules of the road.

  4. The cyclists might as well be faking a punch to a cop’s face. You are provoking the police and they are responding.

  5. I am not surprised. You live in the ‘free’ part of western hemisphere where the Government is free to make any restriction it sees appropriate. As Guantanamo is losing residents, perhaps your free and democratically elected government might consider this as a suitable holiday camp for ‘terrorist’ cyclists.

  6. Hey, let me know when you guys finally get around to taking that “land of the free” stuff out of your anthem.

  7. I’m glad they’ve finally taken some action against these idiots. It’s one thing to want to take a bike ride, or to oraganize a large bike ride and get the appropriate permits so you don’t interfere with other people on the streets. However, these folks intentionally try to disrupt traffic, and do so repeatedly.

    They’re certainly not winning any converts to whatever cause they’re trying to promote, and just make more enemies each time they come out and annoy a fresh bunch of New Yorkers. Glad to see the city is finally doing something about them. Hope it works.

  8. wow.
    that is Complete Insanity.
    just want to add my kudos to your friend for fighting as vociferously as possible when he get’s to court time.
    what a Nightmare.

  9. Is this the same country that professes to stand up for human rights, civi liberties and democracy. God help us all.

  10. I wanted to make everyone aware of The Ride Of Silence on WEDNESDAY, MAY 18, 7 PM in the below locations. Last year there were over 55 locations from Hawaii to Montreal that hosted this slow, free, silent ride to remember those cyclists you have been killed or injured due to motorists. This year Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, and Germany join us, all on the same day, at the same time. For more information go to
    Thank you.
    Chris Phelan

    WED., MAY 18, 2005, 7 PM

    Note: is also National Bike Month” ( ), and “Bike to Work Week” (May 16-20), while “Bike to Work Day” is May 20th

  11. This has echoes of the Chinese Government’s treatment of Falun Gong supporters meditating en masse in public. The issue here is not so much that cyclists are not being allowed to cycle, but that the Police seem to be targeting a public gathering with a political (albeit harmless) agenda. Is this the Neo Fascist American state beginning to flex its muscles and test its powers against free assembly? Perhaps not, but it sounds bloody ridiculous to me. Today they charge people with traffic offenses. Who knows, maybe tomorrow they’ll be labelled terrorists?

  12. It’s about time we clamped down on these PUNKS, these degenerates. The nerve of these malcontents trying to compound our interest rates, steal our rights as Bush-loving, flag-waving Amurrrrricans….! Yee-haaaa!

  13. heh…one commenter says we won’t win converts, but he’s wrong….critical mass rides are growing in many cities, and are happening in new cities. Here in Vancouver, there were 66 riders on a rainy January evening, and over 1000 last June.

    Just remember that the cops aren’t friendly neighbourhood do-gooders. they’re there to keep the powerful in their positions, and they’re starting to recognize critical mass as a group of people who are ready to criticize the status quo.

  14. I ride my bike in NYC 365 days a year.
    The bicycle defines who I am more than anything in my life/lifestyle.
    I’ve tried riding in the Critical Mass rides, but I find I can’t identify with these people. They are unfocused, idiotic and make a generally bad impression. Whatever they’re tryng to sell, they’re convincing a lot of people not to buy it.
    That said, no one should be harrassed or arrested by police for riding their bike in a lawful manner.
    Every NYC bike rider has to get used to being treated like a criminal by almost everyone, but that shouldn’t include the police, who have to know better.
    Things are bad here. Since the RNC, we finally live in a country where someone can go to the corner to get a pint of ice cream, and be “disappeared” for several days without word. Scary.

  15. While not too much of a biker nor a New Yorker (I hail from Philly), this concerns me and I wonder if anyone has information on the “powers that be” that supporters could contact by phone/email/fax to make their opinions heard? A concentrated barrage of disapproval combined with some media attention will likely be enough to change some attitudes in the right places…

    Keep up the ride!


  16. I have been assaulted by Critical Mass participants. (You can Google on my name and “Critical Mass” in GoogleGroups to find the story.)

    I was a bicycled commuter at the time that it happened to.

    Critical Mass protestors have done things like block ambulences.

    I have *no* sympathy for them, whatsoever.

  17. While I agree the cops were too overzealous in this particular case and should be held accountable… I’ve got a nit to pick with you hippies…

    Sigh… instead of some big conspiracy [start glorious music in background with choir] to stop the bicycle “freedom fighters” who shall oppose the “status quo”… [end music]

    Could it just be that New Yorkers are getting tired of blocked traffic and the police are (overall) acting accordingly?

    I agree that the United States needs an enema; but blocking traffic isn’t a very effective procedure. It alienates far, far more than it educates. That is NOT good for the cause overall. If anything, it sends it backwards in some ways.

    Walk or ride your bike to school and get more educated. Use that higher education to discover, enhance and promote more renewable energy and energy conservation methodologies.

    We we REALLY need is more scientists, educators, lobbyists, public relations people and government leaders who push for renewable energy and conservation. Apply your time wisely, become an effective part of the solution by applying yourself to these goals and become these people! You won’t have time for blocking traffic, sorry.

    I think your techniques are lazy and relate to the typical, hippy “status quo” that I’ve come to expect from a “typical”, ineffective hippy.

    Do something really radical… integrate and deviate. Sorry, this technique doesn’t get you laid and it’s nothing to rave about over coffee with hippy pals. Hell, it can be very thankless work and you’ll even get the stink-eye from hippies who see how you are dressed and have no clue you are on their side. But, maybe… just maybe… you’ll feel DAMN GOOD about actually being an effective part of change… instead of the “status quo” hippy with the glaring stink-eye cast upon you.

    Quit blocking traffic.

  18. Remember there are three sides to every story: What you saw, what they saw and then what really happened.

    I really can see both sides of the issue.

    Blocking traffic, especially during rush hour, isn’t a constructive way to get your fellow citizens to see you in a good light. But people shouldn’t be harrased and arrested for riding in the bike lane with a bike. Perhaps you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time?

    The other side.

    I live in Portland OR. and I’ve never seen such a bike friendly place. There are bike lanes, stop signs, and bike street lights. Not to mention plenty of designated space on the lite rail and bus. This being said I routinely have close calls with cyclists who ride on the SIDEWALK. Even when it’s a one way street they are riding the wrong way on the SIDEWALK!

    I know not all bikers are like this, though it happens enough that I have given serious thought to purposefully obstructing them and ask them why can’t they use the provided lanes and follow the correct traffic flow.

  19. The naysayers are right. We should stop challenging the status quo. We should just get in line and maybe send a letter to the editor or carry a sign outside some congressman’s office and beg them to do something different. Give me a break. Cowicide, you ever think maybe a lot of critical mass riders ARE scientists, educators, etc.? We aren’t all layabout hippies who put down our bongs long enough to “block traffic” every now and then. Jeez.

    The whole point is to reassert the fact that people and other things that breathe deserve to take precedence over metal smog-machines. And if commuters and taxi drivers are pissed about traffic being blocked, well, they aren’t nearly as pissed as I am at having to breathe their fumes and avoid their bumpers and listen to their engines and pay for their damn roads and parking lots and shell out taxes to a government that spends more trying to keep the price of gas low than it does on making sure everyone has enough to eat.

    So enough of your sanctimonious whining about the primacy of the poor downtrodden car commuter.

  20. Blocking traffic? By far, the largest cause of blocked traffic are cars! If there were fewer cars on the streets, traffic would flow a lot smoother, and one way to reduce the cars is to have more people cycling.

  21. I’m another bike commuter in Portland, OR, and I agree that Critical Mass succeeds only in pissing off motorists to no useful purpose. I’ve seen people do extremely stupid, dangerous things during Critical Mass, like try to block freeway exit ramps. From my experience, any useful message that Critical Mass may once have had has been lost.

    How do you expect NYPD to respond to a large group of cyclists intent on further snarling NYC’s already lousy traffic? Are they going to welcome them with open arms?

    YES, it’s fine to demand your rights as a road user. NO, you shouldn’t go out of your way to deliberately inconvenience other users of the road. Is this rocket science?

  22. I’ll say this simply:

    Cars have no more right to be on the road than bikes. This is the law. There is no logical way to determine that 200 or 2000 bikes are an unlawful assembly and to ignore the fact that there are more than a million autos on the street at the same time. Additionally motorists constantly run reds and speed in this city and are rarely ticketed. Finally, Critical Mass has been going on for a decade in NYC without arrests and WITH police assistance.

    These arrests have no proper grounds and represent a major equal protection gap. The man responsible for these arrests, Cheif Smolka was also in charge of the street crimes unit that was responsible for the death of Amadou Diallo. He is a disgrace to cops everywhere and his poor judgment has cost innocent citizens a lot of pain. Do what I did and write the mayor asking him to give him the boot.

    Biking is healthy and uses less natural resources than using an Auto or even riding public transport. If many more people were to bike instead of drive we would see a positive impact in health costs, fuel use and attitude. Critical Mass has always been a time when the bikers take to the streets to show folks that biking is fun and to give motorists a taste of their own medicine. It is hard to feel bad for drivers as a long time Manhattan resident who has had to put up with pollution, being stuck by cars on several occasions, the noise and the anxiety caused by these thousands and thousands of cars. Too bad for them if they are slightly inconvenienced occasionally.

  23. So enough of your sanctimonious whining about the primacy of the poor downtrodden car commuter.

    Haha, talk about sanctimonious whining . . .

    I live in San Francisco where bike culture is a big thing and driving is (relative to other US cities) discouraged. I also happen love the folks who chose to bike over spewing smog into the air with their space-hogging environment-harming cars. That said, as a PEDESTRIAN (who also rides Muni), bikers are almost as guilty for making my commute to work as dangerous as the cars they complain about so much. Not a day goes by where I don’t see some guy on a bike speed through stop signs, ride on sidewalks, etc. I’ve even seen a guy on a bike yell at a woman in a crosswalk who was in his way, even though he had a RED LIGHT and had the whole fucking street to manuever around her.

    So, I could go on a huge spiel about how, as a pedestrian I resent having being run off sidewalks, yelled at when legitmately in crosswalks and having to share the street with people who help pollute the planet with their busted tires and old bike frames. But . . . that would be stupid.

    So, I agree that cars and their drivers generally suck, but cyclists are hardly completely innocent either. As a matter of fact, neither are pedestrians. So, bike-folk, follow your own mantra and SHARE THE ROAD!

  24. What a horrible story. I hope everybody gets their wheels returned and the NYPD gets a good spanking.
    Here in SF, we have had many ugly confrontations with the Orcs, but not

    It’s typical of coward cops to pick the low-hanging fruit of non-violent cyclists. Those bad (real) criminals are too scary and sometimes they shoot back. Ouch.

    And to you motorists who have vented your spleen (off topic, I may add)I ask:
    Was there ever a whinier constituency than The Motorist in the history of democracy?

    Motorists could sit in traffic all day and shrug their shoulders. But put a bike in their way and it’s time to “line ’em up and shoot ’em.”

    My favorite whine is the time-honored “You won’t get any supporters by disrupting traffic.” All controversy (especially negative press)strengthens the Mass. That’s why most events are unannounced and unreported by “The Press” – pretend it doesn’t exist. So every month for over 11 years, CM catches San Francisco by “Complete Surprise.”

    Hey Drew, “ON YER LEFT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  25. Well this just blows my mind to think that people are getting arrested for riding bikes. But it would have been fine to have been driving a car? Something is bad wrong with this picture. If more people got out from time to time and went for a bike ride they might have a different view point. But most of the people complaining about it are overweight, uptight, smokers who will most likely kill over dead while driving their car somewhere and hit some pedestrians who I will assume shouldn’t have been walking either.

    But on the other hand everyone who knows how to ride there bike should not be riding anymore than 2 abreast and not taking up the entire road. We as cyclist deserve to be on the road ever bit as much as cars, but we must observe all the same rules. Slower traffic should stay to the right. I think Critical Mass sounds great! But it shouldn’t be a negative thing. I hope this works out.

  26. The naysayers are right. We should stop challenging the status quo.

    Brad, sadly, you don’t understand. I’m talking about effectiveness here. I mentioned this quite a few times up there in my first post. Blocking traffic is ineffective and, worse, very possibly sends environmentalism backwards to a certain extent by spreading ill will towards the general movement. Sure, challenge the status quo…. the status quo hippy mentality.

    We should just get in line and maybe send a letter to the editor or carry a sign outside some congressman’s office and beg them to do something different. Give me a break.

    No, go back and read what I said. We BECOME the congressmen, the scientists, the educators, the lobbyists, and PR people who push for renewable energy and conservation. We don’t ASK for change, you pussy. We make it. When we discover, enhance and promote more renewable energy and energy conservation methodologies… we don’t have time to block traffic and piss off the general public.

    Cowicide, you ever think maybe a lot of critical mass riders ARE scientists, educators, etc.? We aren’t all layabout hippies who put down our bongs long enough to “block traffic” every now and then. Jeez.

    Dude, I’ve met you guys. Most of you are intelligent, concerned activists and I highly respect that… despite many of you being dirty hippies. But, this blocking traffic thing is not helping environmentalism, bro. I’ve yet to hear of any group of esteemed scientists blocking traffic. Will you point me to that group so I can stand corrected on this?

    Hey, and don’t bring bongs into this… I have nothing against bongs. What did a bong ever do to you? Jeez.

    The whole point is to reassert the fact that people and other things that breathe deserve to take precedence over metal smog-machines.

    And that is a commendable point that I agree with.

    And if commuters and taxi drivers are pissed about traffic being blocked, well, they aren’t nearly as pissed as I am… [you then go on to rant and rave about pollution, traffic, etc.]

    Well, isn’t that nice? Fight fire with fire. They piss you off, so you go and piss them off. Hmmm… that all kinda reminds me of Bush administration policy.

    So enough of your sanctimonious whining about the primacy of the poor downtrodden car commuter.

    You just don’t get it, do you? I’m not “pro-car commuter” or whatever. I’m pro environment. That’s why I say…

    Stop blocking traffic. Do something effective with your time instead.

  27. Y’all blow my mind. I just can’t do it — I can’t make the leap of logic that a bunch of buffed up cyclists who regularly inconvenience motorists are REALLY trying to make a point about environmentalism and not dangerous and discourteous drivers. I think Critical Mass should get a marketing director, devise a mission statement and focus, focus, focus. (I bet the marketing director is the dude with the bong.)

    I’ve lived for years up and down the front range of Wyoming and Colorado. I rode my bike on the roads of Casper, Wyoming, where rednecks in pickup trucks actually veered out of their way to try to run me over.

    A few years earlier, I commuted 20 miles one-way into Boulder, Colorado, (and I won’t apologize for the gas-guzzling — it wasn’t my fault I didn’t make the required $200,000/year required to live in the Peoples’ Republic of Boulder) where I was in constant fear that it was just a matter of time before I unintentionally mowed down a cyclist. Those peeps were crazy!! Riding in the middle of traffic, sitting in the left-hand turn lane next to me, all while there was a foot of snow on the ground with blizzard conditions reducing visibility to near 0.

    I now live in Pueblo, Colorado, where there’s a meandering bike trail that goes out to a state park. I much prefer to ride there. I don’t have to worry about nutty drivers, or breathing exhaust fumes, or dog poop because some nice person sticks little umbrellas (the kind you find in drinks served in a Chinese restaurant) in the piles left behind by ill-mannered dog walkers.

    An aside: I’ve been working on a degree in environmental studies. What I’ve learned has changed my world view about numerous issues. One in particular is about oil. I now say “Bring on the Hummers!!” Let’s use up the world’s oil PDQ!! There’s no point in trying to conserve for future generations or for China, which will just spew fumes into their air without reproach. If we use it up quick, then we’ll be forced to employ alternative energy sources and maybe focus on the REAL problem facing us: a 500-year stockpile of coal that is FAR more dangerous to the environment than stupid oil.

  28. I have been on a CM ride here in Melbourne, Australia. Yes, it was disruptive and yes, motorists get frustrated. However, it was no worse than some of the other events sanctioned/supported/endured by the city council. (Read football finals, street parades, union protests, roadworks, storms, etc…)

    Perhaps the message might get through if all CMers took cars instead. The result of taking up 6m2 of road space per participant instead of 0.5m2 may be a more effective statement. (As galling as it may be to some CMers to chose this mode of transport.)

  29. Hey. that’s my “safe and comfortable accident causing distraction maker” you’re talking about!

    Besides, I love bikes and would ditch my (small & economical) car altogether if it was practical for my situation… which it isn’t.

  30. I road with these people 11 or 12 times years ago, (1999-2000). I witnessed riders intentionally swiping at middle aged couples, older ladies, play chicken with oncoming motor vehicle traffic, and generally be complete arseholes to their fellow neighborhood residents.

    No one wants to deal with “radicals” who are openly belligerent to people minding their business in their own neighborhoods.

  31. 1. Bicyclists _are_ traffic. There’s no reason they should be arrested if they’re following the rules of the road.

    2. Court rulings make it clear that the police have no right to interfere with CM.

    3. Anyone on CM that’s breaking the rules of the road is acting like a moron and removing the plausible defence given above.

    4. I used to ride CM but I don’t anymore because of the lack of communication and the mob mentality.

    5. The person writing as “Cowicide” seems to miss the point that cyclists _are_ traffic and the cops are getting their jollies by assaulting them.

  32. Cowicide, I’m not dissing your idea that we should infiltrate the halls of power, but doing that, and raising a ruckus are not mutually exclusive. By your logic, any kind of demonstration that inconveniences people is counter-productive, but that’s simply not the case, and the examples are legion. Sometimes the best way – heck, the only way – to get the point across is to gather en masse or create a spectacle or generate a little controversy. Sure, most of the carholics are going to dismiss the CM people. But there are other people out there who may be moved to action. or at least motivated to re-think their transportation choices, because of something they see on the TV or read in the paper.

    Nobody will listen to you if you can’t be heard.

  33. 5. The person writing as “Cowicide” seems to miss the point that cyclists _are_ traffic and the cops are getting their jollies by assaulting them.

    1. The person writing as “LABiker” seems to miss the first sentence of Cowicide’s first post: “…the cops were too overzealous in this particular case and should be held accountable…”

    2. See Cowicide’s first sentence of first post.

  34. By your logic, any kind of demonstration that inconveniences people is counter-productive

    No, that’s not my logic. I never even implied that.

    My logic says purposefully blocking traffic with bicycles is counter-productive (not just “any kind” of demonstration that “inconveniences” people). All demonstrations will “inconvenience” and anger people to some degree or another… it’s just a question of effectiveness… you know, whether it moves a cause forward or not.

    I mean, comparing blocking traffic to something like (for instance) Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” demonstration in D.C. is hilarious. King’s speech drew people into the civil rights cause (in mass) that were sitting on the fence beforehand. It drastically moved the civil rights cause forward. On the other hand, blocking traffic just makes people more likely to brush aside all forms of environmentalism as “wacky”. It repels far more people than it brings in.

    Sometimes the best way – heck, the only way – to get the point across is to gather en masse or create a spectacle or generate a little controversy.

    I agree to a point, but stopping busy traffic and enraging stressed out people generates BAD publicity. Unlike what the TV may tell you, there is such a thing as bad publicity and it can seriously damage an agenda.

    Hell, get some hot dudes and chicks to ride around nude in central park… anything but physically forcing people to stop in their tracks (which is what you do). All of this is moot anyway if there is a more concerted effort to take over media channels through power and influence. Not running around in chicken suits or whatever.

    Sure, most of the carholics are going to dismiss the CM people. But there are other people out there who may be moved to action. or at least motivated to re-think their transportation choices, because of something they see on the TV or read in the paper.

    Once again, it’s all about effectiveness. Does this all help or harm the cause in the end? Is there a SMARTER way to recruit MORE people with TV exposure? C’mon… you’re obviously a smart person… we could take 5 minutes to think of better ways to get people to ride more bikes more often.

    If more activists spent more time developing themselves, running for office, gathering esteem, etc. they would be in a much better position than begging on the streets for the general public to pay attention to them. Most activists I’ve met are incredibly smart people and I’m sure you are one of them… I just think emotions can get high and get in the way of better judgment sometimes. I think blocking traffic is a bad judgment call.

    Being effective… It takes lots and lots of time, it’s often non-glamorous, it’s hard fvcking work which is usually behind the scenes, boring and often thankless. But, that’s what it takes… for real change.

    Nobody will listen to you if you can’t be heard.

    My point exactly.

  35. This is utter and complete bull. The cops can’t follow the orders provided from the government and instead decide to harrass and arrest people for exercising their 1st admendment rights. Will I ever take part in a critical mass ride, no, I’m a mountainbiker that never really has to put up with drivers. The arrests over this are unconstitutional and if it carries on, you could wind up seeing a major overhaul of the city government and the NYC police department. Yeah oppress those who chose to take part in a healthier and more environmentaly friendly form of transportation and not go to the root of the problem, and take care of the idiot drivers. Don’t get me wrong there are resposible drivers in the city, but the ones I’m referring to those that are irresponsible drivers. Just think NYC is trying to get the 2012 Summer Olympics, now ask me is it deserved based on how brutal the police have been?

  36. Will this cause some action to be brought against the NYPD for bad behaviour?

    (sarc)If all the racially motivated murders carried out by the NYPD doesn’t get anyone in trouble then harassing random, mostly white, traffic blocking cyclists will for sure bring them down!!!! (sarc)

    Keep on dreaming guys.

  37. Poor Mike, so oppressed. So surrounded by injustice. So whacked out.

    As for the poor sad bikeless bozo, hey, you want to start throwing clots of bikes around NYC to make your cheap and childish point, jail and confiscation are in your future every time.

  38. well, usa is doing many war for oil around the world, killing civilians more than any “communist” regime had ever done. ask the afghans.
    the president is a puppet of oil industry.
    police exist to protect corporate power. not the people.

    it is just obvious that is forbidden to ride a bike. it is terrorism.

    greetings by the only mean we have:
    a bicycle

  39. America, ‘land of the free’? What a joke! Wake up, in reality the USA is a right-wing hierarchical/ authoritarian state where anyone perceived to pose a threat to the established car-centric social norm is regarded as being a subversive…

    This is exactly the sort of thing which you can expect to happen in a state where the majority are willing to vote for for the likes of George W. Bush…

    ‘The American way’ appears to mean simply a belief in the principle that ‘might is right’, be this motor vehicle drivers quite deliberately taking liberties with the safety of cyclists and pedestrians (and fully expecting to be allowed to escape proper censure should they cause death or injury) to the state illegally invading foreign countries in order to get greater control of the oil needed to fuel its car-dependent economy (whilst at the same time refusing to act to limits it’s huge contribution to global warming).

    Unfortunately, I feel that you can expect much more of this sort of thing as the USA declines further into corporate Fascism (in all probability dragging the UK with it). Is ‘Fascism’ a too strong a term? Well, it is certainly the term favoured by such eminent thinkers as Noam Chomsky.

    To take a historical perspective there are many obvious parallels between the attitudes displayed towards car use, cyclists and pedestrians and ‘road safety’ evident in modern Britain and the USA and those which were current in Hitler’s Germany. Hitler firmly believed the car-owning state where the motor vehicle owner was ‘the natural successor, to the Nietszchean Man on Horseback’ as 1940’s UK road safety campaigner J.S. Dean put it. Hitler also thought that the ‘correct’ way to deal with the supposed ‘misdemeanours’ of cyclists and pedestrians was ‘zero tolerance’ policing whilst motor vehicle users should be merely ‘educated’ to drive more responsibly. And let’s not forget that one of Hitler’s more enthusiastic supporters was Henry Ford…

    The message such actions give out is clear, ‘real’ American’s drive cars and cyclists are just a load of subversive ‘pinkos’ undermining the conspicuous consumption of the car culture and as such fully deserving all the (corporate run) state throws at them…

  40. May I just point out that CM rides do not have a “point,” nor, for that matter, do they have an organization or even organizers. They are a minor, local but incredibly successful demonstration of anarchist organization. At least here in Chicago, the rallying cry is “Happy Friday!” not “Fvck you, Taxi!” Sure, riders get angry and occasionally belligerent, but almost always with good cause. It may be counter-productive, but the point of the Mass is not productivity. That’s what orgs like the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation are for.

    The point of the Mass is to hit the streets with a bunch of other cyclists for a low-key, low-pace fun ride. The only part of the Mass that’s Critical is having a enough cyclists to ensure that we can safely take a leisurely ride in the city streets that our taxes pay to build and which the law ensures we have the legal right to ride.

  41. Critical Massholes can go screw themselves. Dirty drum-beaating hippies out to raise hell and fuck with the cops. They have NO respect for pedestrians, drivers, or people who live along the route they choose to invade once every month.

    Had these idiots not tied themselves together with anti-Bush protest during the convention in NYC, the NYPD would likely not be cracking down. The fears of Chicago ’68 were justified (back when a bunch of out-of-town dirty hippies got the shit kicked out of them by local cops).

    Quit yer whining.

  42. boo hoo, sounds like your case is sound, but hey, it’s illegal to block traffic. i’ve seen these masses in dc and ny. i almost killed one of these riders because he just decided to “be over there now” guess what if i’m driving and you swerve into the road and i break your leg, it’s your fault. the bike lanes are there for a reason. use them, i don’t give a poo how many of you guys are in the lanes, but please please stay in them. agree totally on the police issue here, but for christ sakes stay outta the designated car lanes if you’re with that many people.

  43. I feel that the comments made by the likes of ‘growler’ simply prove the suggestion made by ‘A resident of Airstrip One’ that the dominant mindset in the USA is that of ‘Fascism’ is fundamentally correct.

    Rather than claim that it is ‘Critical Massholes’ who have a lack of respect for others and the law perhaps ‘growler’ might take time out to ponder just how much respect drivers show to the residents whose streets they ‘invade’ and pollute day in and day out, or just how much respect many drivers have for the law and the safety of others when it comes to speed limits, drink driving and so on.

  44. growler, are you suggesting that the NYPD is only cracking down on Critical Mass because of the political inclinations (anti-Bush, anti-RNC) of the bulk of its participants? This might be true, but it is a pretty blatant violation of the First Amendment if it is.

    And phallic moron, they aren’t “designated car lanes”. They are actually “traffic lanes”. and as much as you might dislike bicycles, they are traffic and have as much a right to the traffic lane as cars do. The purpose of bicycle lanes is not to provide a road-ghetto to contain all bikes, but rather to provide a place for bicyclists to ride where (in theory) they won’t have to worry as much about being run down by cars.

    In practice, of course, it is much more common for an auto to illegally encroach on a bike lane than it is for a bicycle rider to decide to use a general traffic lane when a bike lane is present and unobstructed. Examples of what cyclists in the bike lane have to deal with are:

    taxis cutting in to pick up passengers
    delivery vehicles
    car doors opening suddenly (being “doored” is the leading cause of serious injury to bikers)
    road cuts and other construction (much more common at the side of the street, where the bike lane tends to be, and much more dangerous to cyclists than to autos)
    double parkers
    drivers idling “out of the way”

    And we do willingly deal with all these things when a bike lane is present because it is usually even more dangerous to share the general traffic lane with the typical automobile driver.

    Under circumstances when the general traffic lane is safe for cyclists (sadly, critical mass is one of the only times this is the case), you can bet that some of us will take it, even on streets where a bike lane does exist.

  45. =v= To all of you writing about Critical Mass “blocking,” “disrupting,” “snarling,” or otherwise exacerbating traffic, some advice: don’t believe everything you read or watch on teevee. A traffic expert has shown that a hypothetical (worse than real life) Critical Mass in Manhattan adds about as much incremental congestion as a billboard truck. Bike traffic is legal in Manhattan, but those trucks are not. If this was *really* about traffic and safety, the NYPD would do something about things like that, instead of attacking CM.

    mobius: Unfortunately the federal court ruling mentioned in that article is very narrow and the final decision is up to state court. But last night the police did blatantly violate the federal court ruling by seizing locked bikes that didn’t belong to anyone who was being arrested.

    doviende: Over 400 cities have achieved Critical Mass:

    Mark Atwood: Critical Mass has never blocked an ambulance. The NYPD has been running fire engines and ambulances through Critical Mass for the last few months, with videotape rolling, trying to stage an incident. Bicycles get out of the way of emergency vehicles much faster than car-dominated traffic could ever hope to. (Also, a Google Groups search reveals more about you than about Critical Mass.)

    Cowicide: “New Yorkers” aren’t the ones attacking Critical Mass, so it’s specious to write about how “New Yorkers” are getting tired of it. New Yorkers are more carfree than any other city in the U.S. and are generally savvy about the fact that cars, not bikes, create traffic jams.

    Drew: I agree that bicyclists shouldn’t menace pedestrians. Your perception that they are as dangerous as cars, though, is not supported by statistics. Not in San Francisco, New York, or even Amsterdam and China.

    SF Markie: Word. Motorist whininess is the result of an overarching sense of entitlement. Here’s an activity that destroys more of the environment and society than anything else done by everyday individuals, and is subsidized out the wazoo, yet its practitioners take umbrage at a 5-second delay or a 25-cent parking meter.

    Anon: Critical Mass is traffic. It has no marketing director.

    growler: You write as if you watch Faux News or read tabloids AND ACTUALLY BELIEVE THEM. Amazing. The fears you refer to were not justified. Not one single alarmist press release from the police (even the ones not tabloidized) turned out to be true.

  46. 1. Bicyclists _are_ traffic. There’s no reason they should be arrested if they’re following the rules of the road. I agree. The problem with most critical mass riders here in NYC is that they do not follow the rules of the road. Running lights en masse, blocking the box, illegal turns, all constitute breaking the law. As a 3/4 time commuter who rides from Brooklyn to the Bronx, I witness mass amounts of cycling idiocy. I really wish that CM riders would understand that by breaking traffic laws, they are hurting, and not helping all cyclist in NYC.

  47. Jym: “New Yorkers” aren’t the ones attacking Critical Mass, so it’s specious to write about how “New Yorkers” are getting tired of it. New Yorkers are more carfree than any other city in the U.S. and are generally savvy about the fact that cars, not bikes, create traffic jams.

    Cow: First of all, I never specified New Yorkers so I’m not sure why you think I’m focusing only on them. But now that you’ve brought them up, I can assure you many New Yorkers are indeed ready to kick some CM ass at this point. Don’t take my word for it, watch them during a CM event… There are some ANGRY New Yorkers behind the CM bikers. Talk to New Yorkers, they’ll tell you CM is a pain in their ass. You may also note some of the CM detractors on this message board are New Yorkers. BTW, I’m not against the overall cause, I just don’t think CM is effective.

  48. growler: I lived on a very frequent CM route for four years (34th and Park.) I bet you don’t. They never bothered me in the least. Traffic in midtown Manhattan is outrageously awful Friday nights that the bikers were a pleasant diversion. Like when the circus comes to town — it is fun to see people making their own fun. AND living where I lived made me so anti-car that I enjoyed seeing them frustrated. Cars suck.

  49. oh dear. i hope there really is a god or else we really will be phaarked. see i thought that so long as americans don’t hurt their own people it’d be ok. but now they are arresting critical mass riders. phaaark. they’ll be arresting the working class soon cause they’re asking for too much money. bastards.

  50. Seems to be 2 kinds of people. Those who bike and those who bitch. And I’ve just read a lot of bitching. Just get out and bike hard. Don’t join the mob/demonstration/rally/riot/CM whatever you call it. Bike the other way or suffer the justice of the mob’s reduction upon you. If you’re in CM you are CM. if you are arrested in CM, CM is being arrested not You. Don’t go snapping back to poor Individual status and play woe is you just because you got busted in the mob. Just bike, be doored, be veered into the trash cans by the bus…It is unfair yet charming and always up-hill; and you know it. So if you are going to bike anyway where the car always wins, (think Detroit, think Physics), like Nike says “just do it” without pretension, without entitlement, without politics, without bitching.

  51. Hi People
    I live in London UK. I watch the TV news every day an hour or two at the least. I also read the news online every day. And today October 2005 is the first I’ve heard of this New York situation banning bike riding and arresting bicyclists. I have just read in a UK online paper today (Guardian) that they have now banned bike riding here in London, if it goes near the Houses of Parliament, the supposed home of democracy.. A big ride is planned for the end of October as a protest.

  52. OK, here’s something to mosh over during this transit strike: You can ride your bike from any burough into Manhattan but you cannot take your bike on the Path train during commuting hours. MTA has no way for people to get to work. Bikers who live in NY but work in NJ are apparently second class citizens. Thanks Port Authority.

  53. I also am a regular bike rider in NYC. I rode one time with Critical Mass, and would never ride with those people again. I expected, as the name implies, that there would be a mass of people riding, and that because of the sheer volume of riders, it would be shown that NYC needs to do more to accomodate bike riding. But that is not what happened. First of all, there were very few riders, no more then twenty, and the weather was perfect. At the time,the ride started in the east village, near the Cube. When we started out we cut thru Thomkins Square Park, which is not even big enough to handle bike traffic. Needless to say, we didnt encounter any cars, only women with baby carriages, who had to get out of our way. My fellow bikers then went out of their way to ride on a major highway ( FDR Drive !!!), putting us and every other vehicle in danger.This was ironic, since, if there is one place in Manhattan where car traffic should be, its the FDR. It is doubly ironic, when you consider that, a half block further, is probably the best bikelane in all of Manhattan, completely traffic free, which they avoided.So here we are, biking on one of the busiest highways in the city, and bringing traffic almost to a standstill. The bicyclists are shouting obsenities and giving the finger at the car drivers , most of whom just want to get to wherever they are going. Further back, in the traffic pileup, most people dont even know what is going on, so horns start blaring. There is not a cop in sight. This is really reckless, I think.This could lead to a really bad accident. When we finally returned to regular streets, they rode in the center of the street, purposefully blocking traffic, all the while shouting obscenities at the car drivers behind us, as if anyone in a car were ‘the enemy’. The most shocking thing is that they also shouted obscenities at PEDESTRIANS!. You got it, the people WALKING on sidewalks, were also the target of angry abuse. The ride ended where it began, with someone picking a fight with …some oil company exec sitting in a limo? No. Someone driving a Hummer? No. An SUV? No! How about a cabbie? Yes, of course. They pick a fight with some poor shmuck out trying to make ends meet. At the end , I attempted a discussion about their tactics with one of these angry jerks, and he rudely suggested they were just too ‘radical’ for me, and perhaps I might want to try something more ‘mellow’. As I said, I have never been back. My critical mass experience started in disappointment, grew in disillusionment, and ended in disgust.

  54. hey there, i have to interject with the point made above where the gentleman talks about that instead of taking part in these demostrations we should be going to school and getting an education in such matters.what utter rubbish. just because someone makes a stand for a belief that they hold close doesnt mean that they are uneducated. i ride bmx bikes, and have done for ten years, yet i am a doctor.does this mean tat i should not take part in such =rallies. though not on the same level as the race protest walks held by martin luthor king jr there is a similarality in the way that both are non violent, demonstrations that show that without these people alot of society would be lacking ordeteriating in struture and size. As i have discussed with many before about america’s act now, think later strategies in general life and law this seems to just be a continuatiion of this autrocity you call a government. I have a degree in law as well as my degree in medicine and what the police did was utterly illegal.from what i made out of the riders stort and the “confiscation” of property this is verging on theft,yet because of the sham of a police force in newyork it is allowed to continue. Question the law and get a good lawyer to fight this all the way. Don’t just settle for compensation,continue to fight against the law and make your voice heard, the struggle may be arduous but persevere and you can go along way. good luck and i hop to find out how it goes. Oh,also,i hope these rides arent full of the types of people descrivbed above because, if you want to move forward, these things must be done in a sensible,mature way
    Stuart Wyllie

  55. i live and ride in the south of the uk and we have no laws like that its a bit confusing 2 me will sumone explain how riding a bike is criminal activities? also will sumone plase build a skatepark in luton or bedford!!!
    LU3BMX forever…..

  56. Hey, I have been biking for a little while now and i live in taber alberta canada, i cant believe the kinda shit that is going on, if my bike got impounded for something stupid i would be furious. i dont know how you guys put up with it.

    I use to skatboard and in my town it is like the same thing, no worse before you even think about sk8ing a spot the cops know it happening.

    peace and hope things get better.

  57. oi oi god coppers these days how a rider ment to do his thing if all these dick’s keep stoping us ay were the cuffs needed lol ha BMX FOR LIFE F.I.T RULES ! X x X x X

  58. I don’t see CM winning anymore bike rights at all. If im right this disscussion was about someone getting arressted and bike takin away, because of CM. sounds like it is creating more opposition.

  59. everytime these people cause traffic delays, round them up and fine them for the LOSS OF PRODUCTIVITY caused by their behavior.

    the roads are for all to use. their “holier-than-thou” approach is utterly sickening.

    by the way, everytime i almost got run over by a vehicle in Manhattan, it’s ALWAYS a bike going in the wrong direction.

    they don’t get my sympathy whenever one gets turned into roadkill.

  60. this is so messed up.. i ride a bike and have been arrested for it but this is too much i can see being arrested for riding bmx on private property but this is ridiculous

  61. bmw m3, your fucking ignorant. I can say the same thing about you, i wont give a fuck or feel any sympathy when you end up in a three car pile up. fuck you. BMX FOREVER!

  62. My local park does not allow bikes either. Only one of has had any type of punishment for rining there and he got kicked out and banned from the park. I think this is bullshit. You shouldnt get arrested for riging your bike at a skate park.

  63. Urgh…I am all for biking and the environment but CM riders are the worst of the worst of bikers. Yes cars are big and dirty, and yes some drivers are unsafe. But a CM ride has kept me waiting at ONE traffic light for over 10 minutes without moving. I can also attest to the traffic being a nightmare when we finally did start moving again. They have cursed at me, spit at me and once attacked the car I was in while waiting patiently for them all to pass. Oddly enough, standing on the hood of a car isn’t the way to get the driver to convert to your cause. Since then I have noticed more and more bikers ignoring traffic laws while whining about their “right to ride”. Go ahead and ride…but not against the light, the wrong way down a 1-way street or on MY sidewalk.


  65. Wow. That is an extremely one-sided version of the “Critical Mass” story. Has “Critical Mass” ever tried to deal with the city to get a permit to hold such demonstrations? I seem to doubt it. Sometimes if you work with the city, it works back with you. Public demonstration is a protected first amendment right, but without the proper planning and permits yes, they will throw you off your bicycle.

  66. BLT,

    what a silly comment. i’m no fan of CM, necessarily, but you seem to be confusing two very critical distinctions. what the cops “do” (throw you off your bikes” is important only to your kneecaps and other symptoms of being “attacked”. thugs and police can/will do proper/improper things all the time . what the police can do, lawfully, is the only issue. police have one job alone: the enforce the law. what law were they enforcing?

    where is the requirement for a permit? simply because others choose to buy into a certain protocol does not require the next person/ group to as well. the requirement if for the city/police to demonstrate a permit is required (a whole other issue to be dealt with).

    finally, CM is a demonstration or a protest of sorts. getting into bed with the city of ny is hardly a way to protest. it’s time to step outside of the mindless thinking of this post 911 city.

  67. I’d love to see more NYC cyclists obeying traffic laws. Pedestrians have to be extremely careful while crossing the streets in NY because you never know when you’re going to be struck by a cyclist going the wrong way on a one way street or blowing through a red light.

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