New York cops: “Drop that bike!”

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New York City is continuing its crackdown on cyclists who ride en masse through the streets on the last Friday of the month. At the latest critical mass rally, Associated Press reports, police in the Big Apple arrested 37 bike riders and confiscated at least 50 bikes.

Critical mass is aimed at drawing attention to bicyclists' rights to the road and the use of the bicycle as an environmentally friendly way to get around.

Critical mass started in San Francisco in 1992 and has grown to some 300 cities worldwide.  The events in some cities are not without conflict with motorists, however, as riders claim their right to traffic lanes and roll through red lights and stop signs to keep the group together.

New York City has had a bone to pick with the cyclists ever since last summer when they blocked traffic around the Republican National Convention; 400 cyclists were arrested during that period. A silly and sad commentary on the situation can be seen in the documentary, “Still We Ride”, when a bicyclist tells how an NYPD officer tells her, “Drop that bike!”

The public affairs show Democracy Now! reports that NYC has filed a lawsuit to stop members of an activist group from publicizing events that the city deems to be illegal — such as the critical mass ride because it doesn't have a parade permit. So New York City has gone beyond limiting the rights of bicyclists to ride, it is limiting their freedom of speech as well.

A 15-minute segment of Democracy Now! on critical mass, with interviews with activist Matt Roth and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, is available online at the website for the March 28, 2005, show.

The web weighs in:

The author of BikeBlog in New York City says his bicycle was confiscated by police and is a political prisoner; here's another eyewitness account from Dark Days Ahead.

Pictures from the event, like the bicycle paddy wagon above, are available at Fred Askew photography.

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