Mass thankful for only 3 arrests


By Jefferson Siegel

At the November Critical Mass ride, informally dubbed Cranksgiving, there was something to be thankful for, namely that police at least did not make as many arrests as usual. A total of just three cyclists were arrested, all near the start of the ride at Fifth Ave. near 13th St.

At the 7 p.m. starting time, only a handful of riders huddled in the bitter cold at the north end of Union Square, far outnumbered by a dozen police on motor scooters, several unmarked cars and a helicopter circling overhead. After waiting an extra hour for some more late arrivals, 75 cyclists left the square, heading west on 16th St. and down Fifth Ave.

As he watched the ride depart, attorney Norman Siegel — who is representing several cyclists arrested at previous Critical Mass rides — gave an update on recent bicycle-related legal developments. Earlier in the week, papers had been filed asking a judge to rule on the legality of the Critical Mass rides. At the October ride, for the first time in 14 months, there were no arrests. “For a year they’ve been arresting people and that [there were no arrests last month] shows that, in fact, you can have this ride without arrests,” he said.

“If the judge rules that it’s legal and they don’t need a permit, this should end the harassment and the targeting of Critical Mass,” Siegel said. A decision is expected early next year.

Just blocks away, police on scooters on Fifth Ave. culled three cyclists from the middle of the ride below 13th St. Amy Birtwistle, 23, stood in handcuffs, waiting as her bike was tagged and photographed. “People should be against the cars and not the bikers,” she said. “It’s just a shame.” They were taken to the First Police Precinct on Ericsson Pl. in Tribeca and released before midnight. Volunteers from the Freewheels group greeted them with loaner bikes for the ride home.