PRAGUE / NEW YORK – On Saturday, Aug. 27, World Carfree Network, an international organization with member groups in 29 countries, will launch a worldwide campaign to demand an immediate end to the arrests of cyclists in New York City, as well as the return of their unlawfully confiscated property and the withdrawal of lawsuits curbing the civil rights of cyclists.
The Network is responding to an on-going police crackdown on cyclists that began on Aug. 27, 2004, when the New York Police Department arrested 264 participants and bystanders at a community bicycle ride known as “Critical Mass", two days before the Republican National Convention. In total, in less than a year, over 500 cyclists have been arrested for participating in community rides, hundreds of bicycles have been seized by the NYPD, and the City of New York has aggressively pursued a lawsuit barring the environmental non-profit Time’s Up! from promoting or even discussing Critical Mass.
World Carfree Network has concluded that the arrests constitute a serious violation of internationally-recognized civil rights, including Articles 9 and 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The network's “Free NYC Cyclists” campaign will include letter writing to New York City officials, public awareness activities in dozens of countries, and if necessary the deployment of international legal observers to New York City.
“Wherever in the world the right to use non-automotive transportation is seriously infringed upon, we will apply international pressure to call attention to and stop the injustice,” says Randall Ghent, co-director of the Network’s International Coordination Centre. “We are confident that Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYPD will come to recognize that Critical Mass is a beneficial community event, supported by people all over the world.”
Group bicycle rides are not illegal. Under New York law, bikes are vehicles, so cyclists have the same rights and are subject to the same traffic laws as drivers of motorized vehicles. Moreover, in New York City, cyclists are permitted to ride more than two abreast, according to § 4-02(e) of NYC Traffic Rules. However, Assistant Chief Bruce H. Smolka, head of NYPD’s South Manhattan Borough Command, has declared before a court that he views any group of more than seven cyclists as a “procession” requiring a special permit. In addition, investigators have found that official police videos were edited in at least one case to exclude from court proceedings video evidence showing cyclists behaving peacefully and lawfully.
Critical Mass rides are held monthly in 400 cities around the world, involving cyclists of all ages. For eight years, the rides in New York City have been a popular community activity with a celebratory atmosphere often described as a “carnival on wheels.” There were no serious incidents or disagreements between cyclists and police before Aug. 27, 2004 and the monthly rides attracted thousands of participants. To this date, many cyclists continue with Critical Mass in New York City, despite the police crackdown, but rough treatment by the police has made the rides too dangerous for families with children.
The “Free NYC Cyclists” campaign follows a successful network campaign that reversed the World Bank's policy of promoting the exclusion of cycle rickshaw traffic from the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
World Carfree Network media contacts:
Prague: Arianna Farnam at +011(420) 608-819-276 and firstname.lastname@example.org
New York City: Sara Stout at +1(718) 344-8154 and email@example.com