Volume 75, Number 46 | April 5 - 11 2006

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Left, before the ride’s start, Louise Levi of the Lower East Side looked springlike on a pleasant Friday night that attracted 500 riders. Right, after pedaling out of Union Square near the front of the Critical Mass ride, Julie Benedetto of Bedford-Stuyvesant was grabbed by police, issued a ticket for going through a red light and released.

Critical Mass doesn’t beware ride of March; only 4 arrests

By Jefferson Siegel

Last Friday’s Critical Mass had a spring in its pedal as cyclists gathered in Union Square for the monthly bicycle ride on a mild evening. Gone were the bulky coats, hoods and much of the tension, replaced by an almost triumphant spirit following February’s ruling by a state court that denied the city’s request for an injunction to halt the rides if they don’t have a permit. Despite four arrests and 37 tickets issued for various traffic infractions throughout the night, cyclists were generally upbeat.

About 500 cyclists rode out of the square, chanting, “Whose streets?” and replying, even louder, “Our streets!”

Just outside the square, however, police began ticketing riders. Cyclist Julie Benedetto of Brooklyn was the first rider to be grabbed and issued a ticket for going through a red light.

As the ride proceeded up Park Ave. S., Michael Turner of Washington, D.C., was stopped on 18th St.

“I felt something rub me on the left,” Turner said while waiting to receive a ticket. “It was a [police] moped.” He was told to move to the right and slow down. “My bag was grabbed and I was forced to stop,” Turner continued, adding when the officer said he was told to stop, Turner said he replied, “No, you told me to move to the right.” Turner was concerned about the three points that would be lodged against his driver’s license.

A block away, at 19th St., Union Square-area resident Izhi Kuremoto was also stopped and ticketed for running a red light.

The ride proceeded north through the Park Ave. underpass, where police

waited to ticket more riders. Another group headed up Sixth Ave. They arrived at Herald Square to find 34th St. blocked by police, and more summonses were issued. Most turned and headed back down Broadway. Another group got as far as the West Side Highway at 57th St.

Shortly before 9 p.m. the various groups slowly made their way to Washington Sq. Park. Police had blocked off Wash. Sq. N., so riders assembled inside the park. When their numbers swelled to several hundred, they walked out of the south end of the park and down one block on Thompson St. where they rode west and then headed back Uptown on Sixth Ave.

Turning west on 23rd St., the cyclists found police waiting at the intersection of Seventh Ave. Several more riders were ticketed, and the Mass split in two, with half continuing west on 23rd St. and the rest turning south on Seventh Ave.

Later that night at the ride’s after-party on E. Houston St., Bill DiPaola, founder of

Time’s Up!, the East Village-based grassroots environmental group, stood watching as groups of cyclists arrived.

“Cycling is up in New York City,” DiPaola said, “and group rides are one of the reasons why. The riders are looking for a peaceful event and the city must lead the way.”

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