Free NYC Cyclists Campaign
Since August 27, 2004, the New York City police has mounted a major offensive, but not against drug dealers, terrorists or criminals. They went after people on bicycles, cracking down on the monthly Critical Mass group bicycle ride. Since then, almost 700 cyclists have been arrested and many more have had their bicycles stolen by police. Video evidence shows beautiful, peaceful bike rides in New York with artistic bikes, stunt bikes and even small children on training bikes. Then, the camera shows unresisting cyclists being stopped by the police, beaten to the ground, tear gassed and hauled away in handcuffs. Truckloads of bikes have been confiscated, many cut from their locks while their owners stand by helplessly.
Our letter-writing campaigns have been at least partially responsible for calling international attention to this shameful situation. Many thanks to all who have participated.
New York City officials have implemented two new regulations which
actively discourage cycling
Beginning February 25, 2007, any "identifiable" group of 50 or more is
required to get a New York Police Department (NYPD) parade permit,
including approval of the planned route. While it's unclear what
"identifiable" means or how the rule will be enforced, the regulaton
will actively discourage cyclists from participating in group bike
rides, which are popular with new cyclists getting used to riding on
the city streets. The cycling community is united in fighting this
The rule is directed toward Critical Mass, which has been under attack
since the Republican National Convention (RNC) in September 2005.
Since the RNC, NYPD has arrested approximately 500 cyclists on
Critical Mass and have issued hundreds of tickets, many of them
faulty. While courts have almost unanimously found in favor of
cyclists and dismissed many tickets, NYPD continues to expend
tremendous resources (estimates are up to $1.3 million) on policing
On February 27, the New York City Council passed a regulation to limit
the number of pedicabs in New York to 325. There are currently about
450 pedicabs on the street, so this regulation is likely to put some
operators out of business, as well sending the clear message that the
City doesn't support sustainable transporation. The remaining pedicabs
will be restricted from bridge bike paths and parks.
These regulations are moving forward at the same time the Bloomberg
Administration is releasing its vision for 2030, which includes the
goal of having the cleanest air of any big city.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg can be reached at City Hall; New York, NY 10007;
fax: (212) 788-2460; email: http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html
submitted by Naomi Renek, Time's UP!, a member of the World Carfree Network
Although there have been only occasional arrests at Critical Mass
rides in Manhattan since a federal judge ruled in favor of cylists on February 14, 2006, World Carfree Network Legal Observers have continued to monitor the situation. Observers report that police have consistantly issued between 50-75 traffic tickets to
cyclists each month.
Since August 2006, police have also been trying to impose new
regulations that would require groups of 30 or more bicyclist riding together to obtain a permit. If passed, the new regulations would also allow police to arrest any group of ten or more cyclists riding together if they are breaking any traffic laws.
Many thanks to the volunteers on World Carfree Network Legal Observer Team. For more information about the WCN legal observer project please contact .
The WCN legal observer team
(Liane Nikitovich, Mark Taylor, Elizabeth Press, Caroline Samponaro)
- City Rebuffed in Trying to Bar Mass Bike Rides - New York Times, February 16
- Radio interview on the David Lee Roth show (60MB)
- Groups Call for End to New York City 'Critical Mass' Arrests - The NewStandard, Aug. 24, 2005
- Critical Mass Group Invites Bloomberg To Join Monthly Bike Ride - NY1 News, Aug. 27, 2005
- NYC Critical Mass to Bloomberg: Join us! - World War Four Report, Aug. 29, 2005
- Riding to the Rescue: Sympathetic European cycling activists jump into critical mess to say, 'Free NYC cyclists' - Village Voice, Aug. 29, 2005
- Car-Free Protest Heats Up In New York City - Scoop Independent News, Aug. 30, 2005
Critical Mass is a worldwide event held in hundreds of cities to
celebrate bicycling as an environmentally sound, clean, and above all fun form of transportation. From its beginnings in San Francisco in 1992, the idea of a spontaneous bicycle ride - an "organized coincidence" - spread to all corners of the world. The basic message of the rides is "We're not blocking traffic. We are traffic."
In New York City, the rides went peacefully for years. Dozens or even
hundreds of cyclists gathered, rode through city streets briefly annoying
but also frequently enchanting motorists, then went home. This all changed
on August 27, 2004. The ride took place a few days before the Republican
National Convention (where the Republican party would selecte George W.
Bush to stand for president again) and an estimated 5,000 riders took
part. The police, fearful of any political protest, cracked down hard,
arresting 260 riders and bystanders. Many were not released for more than
24 hours and it took weeks for them to regain posession of their
The police crackdown on Critical Mass, however, continued even after
the Republicans left town. Over the next months, there were arrests at
every single Critical Mass ride. The police even sawed through the locks
of bicycles attached to posts and poles, a violation of the fourth
amendment to the United States Constitution promising due process before
seizure of property.
World Carfree Network calls on the police and public authorities to
recognize bicycling as a legitimate form of transportation and to halt
their punitive tactics towards what is a legitimate form of public
expression. Rather than punishing bike riders, New York City should join
the world in recognizing that cycling contributes to a sustainable quality
of life for all. It is time that New York take its place among world-class
cities by promoting sustainable transport, safe bicycle lanes and more