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Friday Ride Yields Mass Police, Media Coverage

2:58 PM EDT on April 2, 2007

Up to 200 cyclists gathered Friday evening for the first Critical Mass since the city law took effect limiting unpermitted bike rides and other public events to fewer than 50 people. With all the professional and citizen journalists on-hand to witness the "showdown" between cyclists and the NYPD, one wonders if the restriction might be extended to the media.

Though arrests were few, by all accounts the ride was significantly disrupted. WNYC reported the number of cyclists as "about 200," and said "many riders only got a block" before running into an NYPD barricade on Park Avenue.

Newsday says three cyclists were arrested and 47 were issued summonses or violations. The NYPD told the paper that two of those arrested were charged with disordlerly conduct and obstructing governmental administration, while charges were pending against the third. Bikeblog (via Gothamist) said summonses were handed out "to people who did not have a bell or a light or some other law on the books that is enforced about as frequent as someone driving on a cell phone."

Despite incorrectly referring to Critical Mass as an "organization," CW11 filed a favorable story, which included an interview with this woman before her arrest. Said reporter Arthur Chi'en: "We did not get the impression she was a rabble-rouser."

Will at onNYTurf says "Freewheels, which provides legal assistance to arrested cyclists, speculated that arrests were likely low as mass arrests might jeopardise the City's defense in the 5 Borough Bike Club case ... Mass arrests could make the NYPD look unreasonable." Will notes that City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, who rode along in a pedicab, "was not touched by the NYPD" -- a "good move on their part."

The Village Voice pointed out that "[F]or all of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's bluster about there being a new law in town, none of the Critical Mass riders were actually ticketed for parading without a permit. "Rather," the Voice continued, "the cops hit people up for a host of minor traffic violations like failing to keep to the right, not having a headlight, or not riding in the bike lane -- even though there is no bike lane on Park Avenue."

Photo: Seth W. via Flickr

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