New York City pays $965,000 to wrongfully arrested cyclists

Battle between police and Critical Mass goes on

New York City agreed to pay $965,000 to 83 cyclists who claimed they were wrongfully arrested during Critical Mass group rides dating from September 2004 to January 2006.

The civil rights lawsuit was ignited in 2007 by 83 cyclists arrested in Critical Mass rides over the 17 month period. According to Barbara Ross, press contact for the city’s long-time cycling advocacy and environmental group Times Up! there were more than 83 arrested but some chose not to be in the lawsuit for various reasons.

“I believe it was a fair amount for most of the plaintiffs, not all,” Ross told BikeRadar. “But the best outcome would have been going to court and exposing all the dangerous, costly, unconstitutional tactics by the NYPD during that time period which continue to this day.”

Bill DiPaola, director of Time’s Up! said: “This settlement is a victory for a wide-range of cyclists who realize the potential for a safer, more bicycle-friendly city and keep on riding in the face of years of unjustified harassment and arrests by the NYPD."

Participants in the lawsuit met on the Pearl Street steps outside the US Federal Court House to discuss the settlement on Monday. Among those present included plaintiffs, Critical Mass participants and their attorneys Gideon Oliver and David B. Rankin. 

Rankin told the New York Times that the awards to each plantiff range from $500 for those who received small infractions, to $35,000 for those arrested, detained and injured. Furthermore, it was reported that half the settlement will go toward legal fees incurred.

Barbara Ross was one of the cyclists wrongfully arrested in February of 2005. She was charged, along with seven other cyclists, for parading without a permit after which the city offered a $15,000 settlement.

Frictions between the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and Critical Mass cyclists has been growing since the 2004 Republican National Convention when officers arrested 264 cyclists during a Critical Mass demonstration where nearly 5,000 participated. However, the recent settlement does not include those involved in the mass arrest.

“The NYPD has a record of bad behavior going unpunished and then the tax payers pay the price when they settle,” Ross said. “A recent article read that the NYPD has paid over one billion dollars in settlements over the last decade.”

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