Now The Cops Are Stealing Bikes?

  • Home
  • Now The Cops Are Stealing Bikes?
8 replies [Last post]
Anonymous's picture

"From todays paper....
(did they use a Bic?)

Police Sawed Through Locks And Seized Bikes, Riders Say
Published: September 26, 2004 (c) NEW YORK TIMES
Although about 1,000 bicyclists on a mass ride moved peacefully through Manhattan on Friday night with just a small number of arrests, riders complained yesterday that the police had seized about 40 bicycles at one location after sawing through locks securing them to sign posts and light poles.

Many of the bicycles had been locked on East 36th Street, near Fifth Avenue, by cyclists who said they became worried when the police arrested a few ride participants. But others may have belonged to people who had nothing to do with the ride, they said.

The monthly ride, called Critical Mass, has been held in New York for the last several years to promote nonpolluting transportation. This was the first since more than 200 riders were arrested last month. That ride was billed as a protest against the Republican National Convention and drew thousands of cyclists.

Yesterday, the police said the bicycles seized on Friday night had been abandoned. The bicyclists disagreed, saying the fact that the bikes had been locked meant they had not been abandoned.

""There appears to be no legal predicate for seizing the bicycles,"" said Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who assisted bicyclists arrested during the convention. ""Consequently, the police appear to have engaged in unlawful activity.""

Mr. Siegel added that it might be necessary to get a court order to prevent the police from taking locked bicycles in the future.

When the riders gathered at Union Square on Friday night, police officers handed out fliers saying that those who broke traffic laws would be subject to arrest and the seizure of their bicycles. But the fliers said nothing about the possibility that locked bicycles might be seized.

The ride began congenially. Officers blocking cars waved the mass through red lights and were thanked by some cyclists. The riders paused twice on Park Avenue to allow ambulances to pass.

But confusion started at Broadway and 33rd Street when many riders thought they were being blocked by the police and fled east on 36th Street.

The police stopped riders at Fifth Avenue and arrested eight people on charges of disorderly conduct. Many riders locked their bicycles and dispersed on foot, only to find when they returned that their bicycles were being seized. Some said that they were able to retrieve their bikes yesterday at the Seventh Precinct station house at Delancey and Pitt Streets.

Bill DiPaola, the executive director of Times Up!, an environmental group that promotes the ride, said the police had acted in good faith most of the night until the seizures.

""The cycling community is very upset over what they consider theft of the bicycles,"" he said. ""We are hoping this is not a new policy.""


Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
Letter just sent to the NY Times

"""Police Sawed Through Locks And Seized Bikes, Riders Say"" (Sept. 26) reports police justified their breaking locks and removing bikes locked to poles by claiming the bikes had been abandoned. Surely it was merely coincidental they had been ridden earlier in a demonstration by an environmental group. Question: How many cars have been seized because their doors and steering wheels were locked?

Rosenthal Advertising
245 East 63rd Street
New York, NY 10021
T: (212) 371-4700
F: (212) 888-6088
E: [email protected]
W: (under construction)"

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Daily News editorial

"New York Daily News

Cops should ease up
on the bike rides
Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

Drivers don't get arrested for interfering with traffic. Some huge SUV may be blocking a bus or slowing an ambulance somewhere upstream, but no driver is ever expected to justify his presence in the road.

But let a bunch of bicycle riders show up together, filling a few blocks with nothing more lethal than their bells, yells and sweat, and the NYPD lunges into action. In August, a police dragnet at a mass bike ride through midtown landed 264 cyclists in jail. On a September ride, police turned their wrath on the bicycles themselves, sawing the chains from 40 and taking them into custody.

These Critical Mass rides, as they are known, have been happening once a month for the last five or six years in New York without this kind of interference. Now, however, the cops and Mayor Bloomberg, apparently galvanized by the security worries during the Republican convention, have decided that Critical Mass is an attack on law and order. The next ride is slated for a week from Friday, and it's a good bet there will be the same kind of overreaction.

But Critical Mass is not an organization, and its participants are there for all kinds of reasons. It is nothing more than a bunch of people on bikes, just as ""traffic"" is just a bunch of people in cars.

The rides originated with handfuls of bike commuters seeking camaraderie and safety on their evening ride home. As cyclists experienced the power of numbers, these initial happenings grew into monthly ""organized coincidences.""

Drivers want to be the only people on the road, but cyclists like having other cyclists around. For good reason: Bike-safety specialists have documented that cyclists are safer where there are more of them - their larger presence compels drivers to take notice of them.

There are no Critical Mass rides in Denmark or Germany, because they are not needed; in those countries, cyclists' right to the road is enshrined in law and behavior. In U.S. cities, Critical Mass rides are virtually the only time cyclists can relax in the safety created by their numbers.

Every hour of every day is a cars-and-trucks Critical Mass in New York. So why is a bicycle version such a threat?

I'm kidding, of course. Critical Mass is indeed subversion. But in a world filled with automotive pathologies, from oil wars to obesity, this is the kind of subversion we need.

Komanoff is an economist and a bicycle commuter.


Anonymous's picture
Richard Rosenthal (not verified)
Letter sent to the News in response to Komanoff's Op-ed

"Charles Komanoff's op-ed, ""Cops Should Ease Up on Bike Rides"" (Oct. 19), begs for this amplification.

Following the arrest and prolonged jailing of cyclists demonstrating against the GOP convention by riding their bikes (and, granted, in cases, going through red lights), Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne stated the cyclists ""endangered drivers."" Huh? How's that? By making them wait a few moments? The many deaths of cyclists hit by cars, buses, taxis, and trucks is well known. I'm unaware of a driver ever being killed or even injured, hell, even bruised, by a cyclist.

Mr. Komanoff speaks of the police breaking the chains and locks of locked bikes and confiscating them that (the police presumed) had been used earlier in a Critical Mass ride. The laughable pretext for this, a transparent lie, stated by the NYPD's public information office, was the police thought them abandoned bikes. Question: How many cars have police broken into and confiscated whose doors and steering wheels were locked in the belief they were abandoned cars?


Anonymous's picture
JedW (not verified)

"Ride On!


Riders Sue NYPD, City Over Seizure Of Bicycles During Protest
OCTOBER 20TH, 2004

A bicycle advocacy group announced Wednesday it is suing the city and the Police Department after officers seized nearly 40 bikes during a ""Critical Mass"" rally last month.

Civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel says amateur video shows officers deliberately cutting the locks on bikes that were chained up along 36th Street on September 24th, while the monthly rally was taking place.

The plaintiffs in the case say all of their bikes were taken that evening. They say their rights were violated, and they want an injunction to keep it from happening in the future.

“I was worried about being arrested so I locked up my bike to a parking meter and I left the area,” said Rebecca Bray, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “I came back 15 minutes later and was surprised to see police using a power saw on my lock.""

""On that night we allege that the Police Department ignored the rule of law,” said Siegel. “They took people’s property without any legal predicate. That should never happen and can never happen again.""

In a statement made after the rally last month, the NYPD said: ""Abandoning their bicycles is a tactic that won't work. People who break the law have to face the consequences - this is one of them.""

NY1 is trying to get a comment from the Police Department on the lawsuit."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Ride a bike? Get a permit first

"Cyclists whose bikes were confiscated at the September 24 Critical Mass filed suit against the police department this week. The city has countersued and filed for an injunction against future Critical Masses without a (sure-to-be-denied) parade permit, alleging that the bike rides constitute a ""criminal offense"":

"" is a violation of law for bicycle riders to proceed through the streets en masse, to disrupt pedestrian and vehicular traffic, and to disobey traffic restrictions.""

But of course it's okay for automobiles to do this on a daily basis. And never mind the jaywalkers.

The outcome of these cases will affect every cyclist's diminishing right to safely use the streets in New York City. Even the Parks Dept. cops are already baring their teeth.

Details at

From the site: ""In their countersuit, the city denies the allegations in the original lawsuit. It's an incredibly interesting suit, and they have recourse to a lot of prior cases that involve many salient issues but few related to bicycles. The judge's ruling on this injunction is important well beyond the confines of NYC, because it is a federal case.

There are some powerful issues at stake about the rights of cyclists. This case, which started out as a very narrow demand that the city not steal bicycles may turn out to set dramatic precidents about cyclists' rights. Is it legal to require a permit for riding more than two abreast? What constitutes a parade? These questions have been answered with respect to pedestrians, but cyclists have a right to ride in city streets, and it isn't at all clear that they can be subjected to the same kinds of restrictions as pedestrians. And if they can, what of cars? Can the NYPD arrest drivers who drive in a procession? Just how different is Critical Mass from rush hour in any city?""


Anonymous's picture
Peter Storey (not verified)

""The city has countersued and filed for an injunction against future Critical Masses without a (sure-to-be-denied) parade permit, alleging that the bike rides constitute a ""criminal offense""""

Why is a permit sure to be denied?

Peter Storey"

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)

That is my contention. However, anyone who sees in this conflict proof that the police brass (I'm not saying rank and file) is pressing to protect or expand cyclists' rights is free to follow their conscience.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Judge Pauley rules...

"...literally and figuratively!

Read his decision at

As excerpted by Danny Lieberman:

Judge William Pauley ruled in the cyclists favor on both matters.

""Plaintiffs participation in Critical Mass bike ride constitutes Expressive Association entitled to First Amendment protection... This freedom protects the rights of individuals to associate for the purpose of participating in activities protected by the First Amendment, including speech, assembly, and religion....""

""Plaintiffs maintain that the Critical Mass rides are intended to promote the environmental and asethetic benefits of alternative modes of transportation... because they are meant to espouse a view on an issue of public import - namely, the environment - the Critical Mass bike rides fall within the expansive sweep of activities deemed ""expressive association.""

About the seizures:

""The notion that Secion 16-122 was the trigger for the bicycle seizures on 36th Street only surfaced on October 25th in the City's Answer with Counterclaim. Indeed the City's affidavits reveal that the Police Dept intended to issue notices of violation to Plaintiffs when they reclaimed their bicycles... As previously noted the Police Dept refrained from issuing citations to Plaintiffs because of its concern that notices of violation would spawn retaliation claims.... Accordingly a preliminary injunction is warranted to prevent a recurrence of bicyle seizures as they occurred on September 24.""

from the conclusion:

""Both sides in this litigation need to overcome their preoccupation with the formalism of the parade permit process. In the end, Critical Mass is people, not an event, and they need to take responsibility. Given the fluidity of this matter, the best way to ensure the safety of law-abiding Critical Mass participants is for cyclists and the police to agree each month on the route that the Friday evening bike ride will take.""

""the parties are directed to report in writing to the court by Nov 5, 2004 concerning any difficulties encountered in implementing this preliminary injunction in anticipation of a further Order in advance of the November 26, 2004 Critical Mass bike ride.""


cycling trips