Cop Assaults Critical Mass Rider. Charges Filed Against Cyclist.

Words fail when watching this clip of an NYPD officer forcibly knocking a Critical Mass rider to the pavement last Friday. The assault was caught on video by a bystander in Times Square. Compounding the injustice, reports Gothamist, is what happened next:

A representative for TIMES UP! tells us that the cyclist in this video was arrested, held for 26 hours, and charged with attempted assault and resisting arrest.

Mark Taylor, an attorney with the firm representing the cyclist, says he is hopeful the charges will be dropped in light of the video evidence. Asked whether the NYPD plans to go ahead with the charges, a department spokesman said the matter is being investigated. Since the video surfaced, the officer has been put on desk duty.

  • Personally I haven’t ridden in Critical Mass because (as a former police officer) I don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law. But I support Critical Mass. And this incident may get me to the next Mass.

    I don’t understand the argument from Critical Mass haters that Critical Mass is bad because “it makes bicyclists look bad.”

    So what? Do you really think that if only bicyclists “looked good”–if we all smiled and stopped at red lights–then drivers would suddenly lose their road rage and dedicated bike lanes would magically appear?

    Bicyclists and pedestrians need to take back the streets from cars because cars won’t give bikes anything… no matter how well behaved bicyclists are.

    We need Critical Mass just as much as we need Transportation Alternatives.

  • Larry Littlefield

    There is the cop you get for $25K.

    And a $25K cop is what you get when you have the highest state and local tax burden in the country and all the money goes to the retired.

  • spikex

    The NYPD has been out of control for a long time now. If the bicyclist had been black, the cop probably would have shot him. We have need a new police chief from outside of the NYPD to bring a new more civil attitude to NYPD and new police methods to better protect the police from themselves and the public. Watch a news conference with Kelly. He is completely surrounded by clones of himself- it is still the old irish and italian police force of 50 yrs ago. We need a police force management that better represents the diversity of NYC. The police feel completely free to lie on police reports to protect themselves and other officers from punishment when they cross the line. The recent killing in a road rage incident on the FDR, the Shawn Bell case, etc. etc. etc are utterly unexcusable. We should pay officers more, so we get a better police force and shrink the bloated force by removing the incompetent and lazy.

  • john the bicyclist

    That video was sickening. The NYPD has some serious problems. We cyclists, we New Yorkers, need to avoid them as much as possible. Do you know why the cops starting wearing black uniforms as opposed to blue uniforms? Studies have shown that people avoid people who wear black. The cops just don’t want to be bothered with people at all. They are part of a fraternity, a union, where they view the people of this city as such a nuisance.

  • do you smell bacon?

    In reply to Doc Barnett #32:

    Two wrongs don’t make a right. In my opinion this incident (and critical mass generally) should ABSOLUTELY NOT be used as a springboard for cycling advocacy. Civil disobedience is powerful and best left for those righteous causes that stand a rigorous moral test, are explicitly outlawed and for which legitimate means of correction have been exhausted. Emancipation, universal suffrage and desegregation come to mind. There are laws that allow you to ride in the city and there are laws that allow you to assemble (that have withstood judicial challenges). As self righteous a cyclist as I am, paradoxically disobeying the rules by riding with critical mass to make it easier to ride from A to B everyday on a bike doesn’t make any sense.

    This incident is better thought of as an example of outrageous police behavior that was caught. It illustrates how the police as an institution are culturally and procedurally unprepared to deal with or prevent their own abuses, let alone enforce the existing laws. The lazy attitude reflected in red light roll throughs, inconsistent ticketing, inappropriate language, &c. are barely tolerable, but are similar indicators of how badly the department understands its own purpose or professionalism generally. That this assault made the lead on the 11 o’clock TV new indicates that it has universal interest outside the community of cyclists (and killer footage). The involvement of critical mass should be considered incidental.

    I have strong feelings about 2004 where civil liberties was an issue, but I think the mayor has heard cyclists. You might even say he understands the impulse that makes critical mass appealing to so many. On August 9th, 16th and 23rd Park, 4th and Lafayette will be closed (by the police) to traffic from 72nd to Centre for pedestrians and cyclists. Real cycle advocates made that happen. It doesn’t really address my concerns about negotiating traffic on a bicycle, but I nevertheless intend to show my appreciation by tackling every cyclist I see to the ground. I suspect that will advance the cause at least as effectively as critical mass.

  • Peter Moskos, if you do ride in the next Critical Mass, you don’t HAVE to be on the wrong side of the law:

    The last one I rode in (years ago–I quit cause I didn’t like the mob mentality), I DID stop at all red lights and waited for greens. (In fact I had a banner inviting other cyclists to do the same.)

    Maybe the next Critical Mass will be the one that finally draws lots of people who want to participate legally.

    (I do not pretend to follow the letter of the law on my daily commute.)

    I’m very conflicted about re-associating myself with CM, but maybe I too will go to the next one just in response to this incident, and ride totally legally the whole time. (Doesn’t mean I can’t get improperly arrested, of course!)

  • And to vacillate even more: “do you smell bacon” you are totally right.

    This incident is about things much broader than Critical Mass or even bicycling; Critical Mass’s involvement in it is incidental.

    Indeed, I hope that as a story it lives on beyond the cycling community.

    So no, I DON’T think I’ll do the next Critical Mass in response.

  • “(I do not pretend to follow the letter of the law on my daily commute.)”

    I do, and I think I’m the only one…. It’s no surprise that the motorists hate us. Just have a look at the bilious rantings of Andrea Peyser in today’s NY Post ( Of course, Peyser is right in being outraged that 2 pedestrians died as a result of being hit by bicycles last year, but her outrage makes her mind too foggy to thing about what caused the other 137 pedestrian deaths…

    I urge ALL cyclists out there to slow down, obey the law, ride with a smile, and enjoy the ride. Oh and ride on the right side of the road as well!!

  • John Deere

    Critical Mass and NYPD: A perfect storm of lawlessness. Both sides think they are above the law. CM’ers don’t think they need to obey traffic law or get a parade permit for police-escorted rides or behaviors that block intersections. NYPD seems unfamiliar with the concept of civil rights.

    For those who like the Brooklyn Model of CM: if it needs a police escort, is it really “traffic” (as lots of the CM’ers like to claim)?

    There are some critics of NYPD’s tactics who want them to stop and ticket cyclists. But I’ve heard that CM cyclists frequently refuse to stop. If you don’t want over-reactive, heavy handed police tactics, either get a parade permit, respect traffic laws, or stop when ordered.

  • Andy Trafford, bicyclists’ failure to obey laws is not the reason motorists hate cyclists. Motorists who hate cyclists hate them because they perceive that cyclists are in their way or slowing them down (which on city streets is, of course, untrue).

    As others have pointed said, do you think motorists would be nice to bicyclists if we all followed all the laws? No way.

  • I highly recommend taking a look at the NYPD Rant thread on this incident. It’s… I don’t know the right word.

  • We can’t expect motorists to respect our right to use the road if we don’t respect the rules of the road. And while you’re right in saying that obeying the law won’t make us universally loved, you can’t take the position that, since they’re going to hate us anyway, we may as well behave like lawless hooligans. Anything we can do to soften motorists’ opinions of us, be it entertaining them with our sublime trackstanding skills at red lights, or letting them pull out in front of us (they’re going to anyway, so why not smile while they do it?), has to be a good thing. Stopping at red lights might slow us down a bit, but I think that’s a small price to pay. I’m usually not in a hurry anyway – my commute is the best part of my day so I’m more than happy to prolong it.

  • Max Rockatansky

    Josh – The NYPD rant is pretty freaky stuff. Put a link and a few quotes under the Today’s Headlines section. But now that I think about it I’ve got another – kind of surprising – take. Isn’t it funny how these tough law and order, macho, get the job done, tough guys are threatened by bicyclists? Seriously, people riding bikes in the street are a real threat to their authority. That’s really kind of amazing.

  • “you can’t take the position that, since they’re (motorists) going to hate us anyway, we may as well behave like lawless hooligans.”

    Andy, I didn’t.

    No, I don’t pretend to follow the letter of the law. But I’m no hooligan.

    What I guess I should have added is that many motorists express their hatred for cyclists in dangerous, disgusting ways, and I am not going to change the very safe way I ride (safe to me AND everyone else) to appease those sick animals.

    I try not to antagonize motorists, even when they do dangerous things in front of me (because they often don’t realize how dangerous they’re being), but beyond riding the safe way that I do, I feel absolutely no obligation to try to make motorists like us more.

  • You’re right. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you are a hooligan.

    We’re both just trying to go about our business without getting run down. I do get very frustrated when I see cyclists blowing through red lights without even slowing down, but I need to stop stressing out over what other people are doing and just concentrate on getting my own fat a$$ home in one piece…

    Stay safe out there….

  • “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

    You seem to have me confused with a critical mass supporter, bacon. I haven’t advocated one or two wrongs. I’m just observing that the ride highlights general, longstanding PD problems. Even if I don’t approve of the Manhattan ride, I do approve of doing something about police abuse when the opportunity presents itself with compelling documentation. Characterizing the incident as “an example of outrageous police behavior that was caught” is not incompatible with my opinion—it is my opinion! I have regarded this exactly as if critical mass were incidental.

    On the other hand, I would argue against the idea that civil liberties have only been “an issue” during the political convention. Civil liberties are a quotidian issue. But I do understand that some groups are far more put upon by police than cyclists. I’m just not satisfied with the position this administration has dug into on all such fronts (subway searches?). When you have a chance to progress on any of them, you take it.

    I think we disagree mostly on priorities. Cheers!

  • Ganuff Ovthet

    The complete decline of American civilization. The rise of the Thug State. The pigcop should be fired, charged, sued and jailed. But probably he’ll be promoted.

  • MMcCurry

    This video shows just one small view – not the whole view from the cops perspective nor have you included the cops stories. You have NO FACTS. It is clear watching this video as the TWO cops let bikers by while watching in one direction that they are after this particular guy. And testimony of why was not included in your article. I used to respect bicyclists-would drive carefully when around them and try to show them courtesy and consideration. That was before I encountered Critical Mass in San Francisco. I was working as a hospice nurse and trying to get from one patient to another when I got trapped by Critical Mass. They trapped me in an intersection and kept circling around me, not letting me thru. They shouted epithets at me for using my horn. I call the police from cell phone and was told they couldn’t couldn’t do a thing. They trapped me for over an hour. When I finally got thru I made my way to a another intersection at Castro and Market only to find the same thing. This time beside trapping me and circling my car they jumped up on the hood while others started to rock the vehicle back and forth. I called police again and dispatcher was more sympathetic but when the one lone cop on a bike showed up all he could say is they are exercising the first amendments rights.
    From then on I have HAVE LOOKED FORWARD TO SEEING YOUR GUTS SPLASHED ON THE ROAD. The cops should get hazardous duty pay just to be around you SKUM BAGS! Critical Mass in just a bunch of ARNARCHIST that we’ve put up with too many years. When you all got rounded up and had your toys confiscated during the RNC in 2004 I cheered. When you all rot in jail I will be cheering again. Three cheers for the NYPD and I hope this cop gets a medal for his actions.

  • Without getting into a huge discussion about the various ways different Critical Mass groups ensure the safety of their riders, cyclists have the right to use roads and the responsibility to act in as lawful manner as possible.

    Not being familiar with this particular New York CM group, I don’t know whether they’re the kind to run red lights just for the hell of it or swerve in and out of traffic. Even so, violence is not the way for the police to get their message across. As has been pointed out above, the police should be acting to facilitate the Critical Mass riders and ensuring that the group has an understanding of how they should ride if they don’t want to be arrested. I’ve read on Wikipedia about foreign CM groups having police protect cyclists from cars by setting up roadblocks to “cork”. Now, imagine if NYPD could do this rather than shoulder charging a vehicle moving at speed.

  • Broken

    MMcCurry: The amount I feel bad for your inconvenience: not at all. Critical Mass SF has been going on for 12 years, every last Friday of the month without fail. The fact that you chose that time to get on the road, despite 12 years of knowing what was going to happen, hardly makes me sympathetic. For that matter, there is NO WAY that people did that to you unless you were trying to go through an intersection full of bikers.

    Also, I love that your minor inconvenience has resulted into you wishing that all bike riders should be killed, in a horrific fashion. At least that’s not overstated or genocidal.

  • CM

    I used to participate in NYC Critical Mass. The last few times I went in 2006, there was a marked effort by the group of riders I went with to obey all traffic laws. Most everyone had lights and bells. As a whole we stopped at red lights and rode on the right side of the road. In spite of this, I still saw several cyclists grabbed and arrested while stopped at red lights or riding mid-block. I couldn’t understand what they had done wrong. I saw police interceptors run red light and cut off bicyclists as they went through green lights. I saw bicyclists run off the road by the interceptors.

    I agree that there are some obnoxious cyclists in all CM events. However, they are usually overwhelmed by the mostly moderate mass of people. Since 2004, however, the police have been instructed or allowed to intimidate Critical Mass riders, regardless of how well behaved they are. Like me, the majority of people are not willing to spend the night in jail or in the hospital, so they stopped going to CM. The remaining participants, however, are very very confrontational and are willing to go to jail or the hospital. The police say that the ride was taken over by anarchists. In reality, the normal people have been intimidated out of the ride, and the radicals are all that’s left. Of course they’re going to be obnoxious and confrontational. That’s what radicals do to make their point.

    If the police want to complain about the ride being co-opted by radicals, they should stop scaring away non-radicals and creating more confrontation. Enforce laws fairly and the ride will become tame again. Intimidate all riders and the radicals will just become more radical. I think there’s a huge crowd willing to start a courteous mass that obeys traffic lights and creates a safe and fun way for people to bike in this crazy city. That’s what Critical Mass is all about.

  • CM, I disagree, unfortunately.

    I used to ride in CM when it was huge, in 2003 and 04–there were sometimes almost 5,000 riders.

    When the group gets that big, they are NOT courteous, because–no judgments, we’re just human–a mob mentality takes over.

    And so everyone DOES run red lights, which, with a group that size, SCREWS PEDESTRIANS really badly. Pedestrians wait a half hour to cross a street. Totally, totally unacceptable. One of the many reasons I quit riding. I am quite non-radical, but police abuse has never made me stop participated. On the contrary, it makes me more interested in doing CM. It was the mob mentality–the absolute REFUSAL to wait for green lights, because keeping moving is more FUN–and the resulting abuse of other street users (peds, mainly–that made me quit.


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