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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

NYPD Still harassing Critical Mass Riders

by Larry Lagarde

This weekend, more cyclists were arrested or ticketed by the NYPD for riding in NYC during a Critical Mass bike ride. Though the intimidation is unfortunate for the individual cyclists that were picked upon, the unjust hassling of bicyclists has led to millions of dollars worth of free publicity for bicycling advocacy.

Critical Mass is a non-commercial, peaceful, bike ride that takes place in cities around the world on the last Friday of every month after rush hour. In some cities, Critical Mass rides attract a handful of riders; in others, thousands of cyclists can turn out.

Since bicycles are legally considered vehicles, cyclists have the right to ride on roadways; however, most streets are typically too dangerous for a cyclist to ride alone due to traffic from motor vehicles. Thus, Critical Mass rides present an opportunity for cyclists to ride safely. Unfortunately, some governmental leaders either fail to grasp the law or view the law as irrelevant, leading to situations like the arrests of hundreds in New York and San Francisco just for riding their bikes in or near a Critical Mass ride.

In a free society with free press, unfounded arrests, ticketing and confiscations of private property (bicycles in this case) cannot help but make the news. The harder authorities clamp down, the more publicity the cause receives. For example, years of harassment by the NYPD of Critical Mass riders have led to ongoing headline coverage of the story in major print and video media far beyond the confines of NYC. Had the same authorities allowed the Critical Mass rides to take place unimpeded by police bedeviling riders, the rides would be far less newsworthy.

Though members of the cycling community hold differing opinions regarding the value of Critical Mass, the rides have focused mainstream attention on a legitimate, useful form of transportation that is quiet, affordable and pollution free. Law abiding cyclists everywhere are in debt to riders that have been intimidated for doing nothing more than legally riding their bicycles during a Critical Mass.

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