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 regulation.

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 Critical Mass.

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 .

Getting involved:

The WCN legal observer team
(Liane Nikitovich, Mark Taylor, Elizabeth Press, Caroline Samponaro)

Press Releases:

Press Coverage:

Further information:
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 confiscated bicyles.

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 pedestrian areas.

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 This page was last updated 14 September 2011