Volume 76, Number 1 | June 6 - 12, 2007

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Cyclists Erick Gregory, center, who just graduated Columbia University, and Tim Adams, a software engineer who lives in the East 30s, sat on the curb after being arrested right after leaving Union Square at the May 25 Critical Mass ride. They were charged with parading without a permit, issued tickets and released.

Mass cyclists are critical of new parade permit rule enforcement

By Jefferson Siegel

At last month’s Critical Mass ride, police enforced recently enacted regulations that require any group of 50 or more people to first obtain a permit before gathering.

More than 200 cyclists were immediately stopped on Union Square West at the ride’s start. Fifteen cyclists were arrested and handcuffed. After police officers and higher-ups on the scene consulted, a decision was made to release the cyclists with tickets. The majority of the tickets were for parading without a permit, a violation of the new regulation. The ride splintered as smaller groups made their way out of the area. Three other cyclists later received tickets on 15th St. at Third Ave.

Michael O’Neil, a spokesperson for Reverend Billy, the anti-consumerist performance-artist preacher, was one of the first apprehended.

“I think it’s silly and rather sinister to arrest a person for riding a bike on a city street,” O’Neil said. “New York City automobile traffic, on the other hand, is a blood sport. I see cars running red lights and double-parking in bike lanes every day, but the N.Y.P.D. sees fit to expend immense resources and manpower on bicyclists.”

As O’Neil sat handcuffed on the curb with others, Reverend Billy, who was participating in the Critical Mass ride, stood across the street and loudly intoned, “The right of peaceful assembly is why our forefathers died.”

Curiously, the Critical Mass ride was one of hundreds of events the public was invited to participate in during Bike Month NYC, the city’s yearly celebration of pedal-powered transportation. In a brochure issued by Transportation Alternatives and the city’s Department of Transportation, a listing for Critical Mass notes, “Bicyclists, rollerbladers, skateboarders and all muscle-poweredtransportation is [sic] welcome.”

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