So the NYPD, is very concerned about our safety. This is why when 21 cyclists were killed in NYC by cars, who often times didn’t even know they had hit anyone, the police took action. Did they investigate each accident and try and discover problems with roadways and lack of infustructure for bicycles? Nope, they let drivers go, refused to release information of 8 of the cyclists deaths and went on a ticketing blitz of cyclists so aggressive that they wrote summons outside of bike shops. Their tactics included not just giving traffic violations that could be paid easily, but rather enforced that cyclists had to appear in court. Some bike messengers, who make their living on a bicycle delivering your shit, got up to two tickets in one day for ridiculous things like no warning devise or a “not riding in the bike lane.” Ask any cyclist in New York City about bike lanes and they will probably tell you thats the place for delivery trucks to idle and traffic cops to park their vehiles. Meanwhile the police have been fighting cyclist who gather monthly on the critical mass bike ride. After August 2004, the ride which surged in numbers to 5000 participants, the police have been trying to shut down the ride by any means possible…why? Because they are concerned about our safety. When we kept on riding, they’d make arrests. When we stoped and locked up our bikes they cut our locks and confiscated our bikes. When a federal judge told them this was illegal, they did it anyway and launced a tit-for-tat lawsuit sueing 4 members of Time’s up, calling them leaders, just cause their names were in the papers as media liason volunteers. So still we ride, why? Cause bike riding in a group is not illegal, gathering in Union square without a permit is not illegal and advertising the ride is not illegal. How do we know this, because a State judge told us so in a 20 page ruling. Meanwhile, the police use every physicall tactic under the sun to stop the ride. Crashing into bikes with their mopeds, driving SUV’s on bikepaths and the sidewalk, skiding to stops on the roadways in front of the cyclists…all in the name of our safety. With that kind of protection, id rather take my chances on the streets with no helmet with the garbage trucks that don’t see you when they dart across four lanes. But don’t take my rantings to heart…it’s all been documented on video by volunteers and put together in a nice piece in the NY Times. So as we go out tonight on critical mass, let us remember, that scooter cop next to you that used to ride with us for ten years is now going to slam his moped into you…because he is concerned about your safety.
Article in NY Times Regional section by:
By JIM DWYER
Published: February 24, 2006
Title of Times Artice:
Aggressiveness of Bike Chases Stirs Questions for the Police
The patrol guidelines for the Police Department strongly urge officers to be careful when chasing suspects with cars, and national studies show that accidents involving police vehicles result in one death nearly every day.
Yet since August 2004, the New York police have regularly conducted aggressive pursuits in the heart of the most crowded city in the country.
Police vehicles have driven the wrong way down busy Midtown streets and have cut at sharp, brake-screeching angles across Greenwich Village avenues, videotapes show. They have climbed onto sidewalks to skirt traffic jams near Grand Central Terminal, according to witnesses. Officers have been filmed driving a large sport utility vehicle along the Hudson River bicycle and jogging path.
On all these occasions, police officers in vehicles have been chasing bicycle riders who throng the streets on the last Friday of every month in a group ride known as Critical Mass. The dispute over the terms of the ride has swelled into bitter court fights and what have been, by New York standards, street chases of startling character.
The police and the city say public safety is at stake because the bicycles block traffic and the riders will not agree to a route. Many riders say the stakes are free movement on public streets for people who should not have to get police permission simply because they are not in cars.
Earlier this month, a state judge rejected the city’s request to shut down the event and counseled “mutual de-escalation of rhetoric and conduct.”
At last month’s ride, two police officers on lightweight motorcycles were injured as they maneuvered into position to cut off the bicycle riders on Third Avenue.
“One of the motorcycles made an abrupt 90-degree turn, and the one behind just T-boned him â€” hit him perpendicularly,” said Luke Son, a bicycle rider who said he saw the crash happening from a few feet away. “A really violent collision. The officer in front went flying.”
Mr. Son, 23, a student at Columbia University and an emergency medical technician, began treatment of one of the officers.
Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman, said that the officers were not seriously hurt and that the accident was provoked by bicycle riders who were breaking the law. It “would not have occurred if Critical Mass participants observed the law,” Mr. Browne said.
A number of riders said the crash touched off an especially forceful effort by the police to round up cyclists. Later that night, witnesses say, police officers in two black sport utility vehicles chased 12 to 20 riders near Grand Central Terminal. One of them, Mark W. Read, said that the police drove against traffic on a one-way street, most likely Vanderbilt Avenue, and that as bicycles moved west along 45th Street, one S.U.V. followed them.
“The S.U.V. went up onto the sidewalk and drove on the sidewalk for 15 or 20 feet, then dropped back onto the street,” said Mr. Read, 38, a filmmaker and adjunct instructor at New York University, whose account was first reported in The Village Voice. “It was unbelievable â€” a high-speed chase, something you think would be reserved for serious criminals, for people fleeing a murder scene or bank robbery.” Mr. Read was later arrested on 43rd Street and Broadway and charged with parading without a permit.
Mr. Browne declined to comment on any specific chase, saying in general that the descriptions “are the exaggerated, self-serving statements of individuals engaged in breaking the law or opposed to police enforcement of it.” Asked about videotapes that show the chases, he said that he stood by his comments.
The department’s guidelines say that before starting a pursuit, officers should consider the nature of the offense and how crowded the area is. The guidelines also include an instruction, highlighted in bold type, that says, “Department policy requires that a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if suspect is not immediately apprehended.”
One police spokesman said that applies to the pursuit of motor vehicles, not to bicycles; Mr. Browne would not comment on that interpretation. The bicycle riders generally are charged with offenses like parading without a permit that are violations of the city’s administrative code, which are not included in the state’s penal code of felonies and misdemeanors.
At a Critical Mass ride on Sept. 30, bikers rode up Second Avenue, and turned east onto 14th Street, followed by two police S.U.V.’s. On a videotape, some of the bikers can be seen riding east in the westbound lanes, against oncoming traffic; the two police S.U.V.’s also can be seen driving in that lane, for part of 14th Street between Second and First Avenues.
John Hamilton, an in-line skater who videotaped the chase, said the sight of the S.U.V.’s driving the wrong way down 14th Street was vivid. “It was a very dangerous situation, and I certainly felt it,” Mr. Hamilton said.
Mr. Hamilton also filmed a chase on March 25, 2005, in which a police S.U.V. drove across a pedestrian island on West Street and followed the cyclists onto the Hudson River bicycle path for about a mile. “The S.U.V. ultimately had to stop because there were metal posts or cones on the path,” he said.
Shortly after the motorcycle collision, on Jan. 27, Rebecca Heinegg, 23, arrived and recognized one of the injured officers. “He was my arresting officer last February, and was as nice as someone arresting you can be,” said Ms. Heinegg, a law student. “This incident is really sad, an entirely predictable result of the unsafe maneuvers.”
Mr. Browne said the Police Department had tried to make the ride safe. “If they provide their route in advance and want our assistance in expediting the ride each month, the Police Department will be happy to assist,” he said.