Aug. 24, 2005 – Nearly a year after New York City police preemptively arrested throngs of bicyclists at the kick-off to protests against the Republican Partyâ€™s National Convention in the Big Apple last year, officers are still rounding up and arresting riders, prompting protests from some groups and the initiation of a worldwide campaign to draw attention to the cityâ€™s actions.
Yesterday, the World Carfree Network, a coalition of people and groups promoting alternatives to automobile transportation, announced that on August 27, it would initiate international efforts to end a crackdown on cyclists participating in community Critical Mass rides. August 27 marks the one-year anniversary of last yearâ€™s pre-convention round-up in which police arrested hundreds of cyclists. Earthjustice, a US-based environmental law group, joined in support of the campaign.
Critical Mass is a loosely organized bike ride that typically takes place once a month in cities across the world. In New York, the riders gather on the last Friday of every month. The body of cyclists has been known to span several blocks at times, snarling traffic as the group rides in celebration their non-polluting mode of transport.
As part of its efforts, World Carfree Network is asking supporters to sign a letter demanding New York officials halt police interference with bike riders participating in Critical Mass rides. They are also demanding the police return confiscated bicycles and other property to the cyclists.
Over the last year, the New York City Police Department and other US law enforcement agencies have cracked down on Critical Mass rides, citing blocked traffic and other complications. Earlier this year, New York officials brought a lawsuit against a city-based environmental group, Timeâ€™s Up, which they accuse of organizing the event.
Timeâ€™s Up denies organizing the rides, though it does support them and other urban cycling as an alternative to automobiles, according to the organizationâ€™s website. In July, the group issued a set of demands, including the immediate halt to arrests of bikers participating in mass rides and for the prosecution of motorists who strike and kill cyclists. In addition, the group is asking New York commit to educating drivers about bicyclistsâ€™ rights and to adopt pro-biking policies citywide.
Cycling advocates claim the NYPD has arrested more than 500 critical mass riders in the past year.