Celebratory Critical Mass Ends in Arrests
About 200 cyclists, bladers, skateboarders and one bouncy guy (on spring-loaded shoes) channeled their respective energies to take back the streets of Manhattan from noisome cars in the annual Earth Day Bike Action on April 22. Riders and skaters from T.A., Time's Up and the Empire Skate Club were accompanied by a large force of police on bikes and scooters, but made it from Astor Place to Central Park without incident.
Crowds of Midtown office workers looked on - many cheering and waving back to the revelers who created a joyous din of bike bells, party horns, whistles, and shouts of "Happy Earth Day!" One sidewalk watcher rushed up to a group of cyclists and gushed, "Good for you! Good for you!" NYC tourists seemed less surprised than natives, perhaps because bicycles are more welcome in their native lands.
Once away from the hordes of pedestrians and inside Central Park, NYPD and Park Rangers were ready to crack down - dozens of officers in riot gear waited on the lower loop behind barricades placed across the park drive. In their zeal to prevent the Earth Day celebrants from actually riding on the park's loop drive, police blocked cars on the drive for more then 45 minutes. This despite knowing beforehand that the Earth Day riders did not intend to stop or block traffic.
After receiving contradictory instructions from police commanders (all caught on videotape) about how to proceed, nine cyclists were arrested. Eventually, after some heated discussion and citation of the law, the NYPD acquiesced, allowing the balance of the riders free passage through the park. A few hours later, the arrestees were released; police officials told T.A. that their summonses for disorderly conduct would not hold up in court.