Critical Mass

"Conflicts involving Critical Mass (English Wikipedia article)" is a one-to-one copy of the English Wikipedia article "Conflicts involving Critical Mass", released under the GNU Free Documentation License (see also at the bottom of the page for attribution), which was in the past part of the article "Critcial Mass". The aim to host a copy of the Wikipedia article in the Critical Mass wiki is to have a master copy of the text to translate it into other languages, see below for available translations. Only some very special Wikipedia templates are excluded from this page.

Other languages: +/-
De1 Deutsch  •  Gb1 English  • 

There have been many conflicts during Critical Mass bicycling events. Some have required police presence. Critics claim that Critical Mass, a bicycling advocacy event held primarily in large metropolitan cities, is a deliberate attempt to obstruct traffic and disrupt normal city functions, asserting that individuals taking part refuse to obey traffic laws.[1]

Berkeley, California[]

On May 11, 2007 an incident occurred in Berkeley, California when a motorist met an intersection with dozens of bicycles crossing.[2] Bicycle advocates claim that the driver shouted, "I'm sick of you people," while bicyclists were in the intersection. It is not clear who had the right of way.[3] The driver attempted to strike the cyclists and drive through the ride.[2] The motorist and his wife, two witnesses, and the police alleged the bikers threw their bicycles under the vehicle. This is disputed by other witnesses.[2][4][3] Critical Mass participants then rocked the vehicle, pounded the hood, and broke its windshield.[5] $3000 worth of damage was done to the bicycles. Berkeley police did not make any arrests in the incident.[2]

New York City[]

Police in New York claimed that Critical Mass bicyclists corking intersections to allow bikes to pass may delay emergency vehicles in the gridlock.[6] On July 25, 2008 Christopher Long was arrested and charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. A video, which later became popular on YouTube, showed NYPD officer Patrick Pogan shoving the bicyclist to the ground,[7] raising doubts about the the arrest report that the rider "drove his bike into the officer's body, knocking him to the ground and causing cuts."[8] although the video clearly shows that the officer never falls to the ground.[9][10] The officer was stripped of his badge and weapon and placed on desk duty pending an investigation.[11][12][13][14] On December 15, 2008, Pogan was indicted[15], and in 2010 he was convicted[16] but received a conditional discharge with no conditions, so there was no punishment.[17]

2004 RNC Convention, New York City[]

During the US 2004 Republican National Convention police arrested 250 riders after the ride caused "massive disruptions" in the city.[18] Many court cases resulted regarding the legality of the ride, whether police have the right to arrest cyclists and seize bicycles, and whether the event needs a permit. In December 2004, a federal judge dismissed New York City's injunction against Critical Mass as a "political event."[19] On March 23, 2005, the city filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent Time's Up!, a direct action, environmental group promoting or advertising Critical Mass rides. The lawsuit also stated Time's Up! and the public could not ride or gather at a Critical Mass bike ride, claiming a permit was required. A documentary film, Still We Ride shows these bike rides before and after the police took notice.[20][21]

San Francisco, California[]

San Francisco Police Department has addressed rides with a variety of tactics in 16 years. Attempts to direct rides and crack down on riders with arrests have failed.[22] San Francisco Police Department gets calls every month from departments around the country trying to respond to Critical Mass Rides. An lieutenant advised he is willing to share San Francisco Police Department tactics with anyone who asks.[22]

July 1997 San Francisco[]

On the night of the July 25, 1997 ride 5000 riders participated in the ride which resulted in congested traffic, confrontations with motorists, and arrests.

Interest and tension had been growing for several weeks due to increased rhetoric from the Mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown, in regards to cracking down on the event. The local newspapers published a city-approved route after the mayor withdrew his threat to have bicyclists arrested for not obtaining a parade permit. Most of the participants ignored the route and separated into separate groups. There were verbal and physical altercations between motorists and bicyclists. There were also altercations between riders and police. Two officers reported injuries in confrontations with bike riders. There was no tally of injuries to cyclists. Original local media reported "about 250" bicyclists being arrested for moving violations, being drunk in public, battery, and outstanding warrants.[23][24]

Bennett Hall, a photographer, witnessed a police officer writing a citation for a bicyclist he claimed had committed no offense. Hall alleged that while he was photographing the event a police officer arrested him and seized his camera. Another pedestrian attempted to take the camera to bring it to the San Francisco Chronicle, but was also arrested.[25][26][27]

March 2007 San Francisco, California[]

On the March 2007 ride in San Francisco, a rider was arrested on felony (later reduced to misdemeanor) charges in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood for denting a limousine using a bicycle lock. The driver told police he got out of his car to talk to two cyclists who allegedly blocked his path. After exchanging words with one, the driver said he grabbed one of the bikes and tried to pull it out of the way. He then got back into his limo to go round the riders. Before he could move, he said, another cyclist smacked into the side of his car, then punched the hood with a U-shaped lock. The cyclist told police he only hit the limousine after the driver gunned his engine. During the incident, one of its tires was slashed and the driver's keys stolen.[28]

Near the end of the ride, near the Japan Center and Western Addition neighborhoods, a resident of Redwood City, California tried to drive through the mass of riders. A witness claimed to have observed the driver strike a cyclist and flee before cyclists chased and surrounded her vehicle.[29][30] The driver denied striking a cyclist and alleged that hundreds of cyclists surrounded her minivan while she and her 11- and 13-year-old daughters were inside, banged on her car, scratched the paint, and threw a bicycle through the rear window of the vehicle, causing $5,300 in damage.[31]

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, in April 2007, requested that Critical Mass riders police themselves. "It does the bicycle-advocacy community no good to have people that are aggressive and dispirit the entire movement," Newsom said. "I would encourage the bicycle coalition to say, 'Look, we don't put up with this, enough is enough.'"[32][33]



Metropolitan Police officers with their cycles awaiting the start of Critical Mass London, April 2006.

In September 2005, Metropolitan Police required the organisers to provide a route six days before the event. In addition, the Mass may be restricted and arrests result if their orders were not followed. The threat was retracted when politicians and cyclist groups objected. The following ride, October 2005, had close to 1200 participants. There was a long stop in Parliament Square, part of the Government's exclusion area in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. However, this led to a slow and cumbersome ride which brought debate from London cycling groups.

One participant sought a declaration from the High Court of England and Wales that police need not be notified about the rides, in a "friendly action" in which neither side sought damages. The ruling[34] agreed, exempting Critical Mass from notification under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986. The ruling was reversed on appeal.[35] In 2008 Friends of the Earth, who supported the legal action, said the case would be appealed to England's highest legal authority, the House of Lords, on the grounds that, after 11 years, Critical Mass is "commonly or customarily held". The case was due for hearing in late October 2008.[36]

Seattle, Washington[]

June 2006 Seattle[]

Two riders were arrested during the June 2006 ride in Seattle, Washington after a fight with two undercover detectives whom the bikers confused for gang members.[37] Witnesses dispute the Sheriff's Office claim that the detectives identified themselves.[38]

July 2008 Seattle[]

On July 25, 2008 Critical Mass prevented a motorist from driving from a curbside parking space into cyclists[39] in Seattle's Critical Mass on East Aloha. The motorist made statements to Seattle Police that he drove away, hitting riders and bicycles,[40][41] and told the press that he "freaked out and overreacted" when bicyclists threatened to tip his vehicle.[42] According to some witnesses, the motorist drove into at least two cyclists and tried to flee.[43]

A group of riders caught the vehicle, broke its rear windshield, and assaulted the motorist when he got out. At least one cyclist slashed the tires. Damage to the car was estimated at $1500.[40][43] The motorist was struck in the back of his head by a bike lock after being pulled from his vehicle.[42] The motorist was taken to hospital.[44] Two cyclists were arrested for vandalism to the car. Seattle Police are not considering the motorist to have committed a crime.[45]

Vilnius, Lithuania[]

On July 27, 2007 in Vilnius, Lithuania, police took five participants into custody, including two minors, for not following orders to disband. At least two reported to have been beaten and injured by police.


On the August 31, 2007 ride in Minneapolis, a confrontation occurred between cyclists and the police. The police presence included undercover officers, three marked squad cars, a state patrol helicopter, and unmarked vehicles. It became known that the Ramsey County Sheriff's department had briefed the police about the supposed plans of Republican National Convention protesters participating in the mass and told them to expect violence and destruction. After the arrest of a cyclist for "riding in a snake-like manner," cyclists began chanting "let him go" and "what's the charge?" The police called for help, and dozens of police officers responded, using chemical irritant, Tasers, and intimidation. Minneapolis police arrested 19 participants, including three minors. The adults were reported to have been arrested on suspicion of rioting, a gross misdemeanor. Cases have gone to trial in 2008, and money is being raised for the defense.[46][47]

Chicago, Illinois[]

Chicago june 27 2008 critical mass arrest in Bridgeport

A cyclist at the June 27, 2008 Chicago Critical Mass is arrested for public drinking.

Police in Chicago are often seen riding with the Critical Mass and squad cars block intersections to provide safe passage. However, on August 31, 2007, seven riders were arrested on charges of obstructing traffic and disobeying police. The seven were held overnight. According to some of those arrested, they were released at late night/early morning.

Oakland, California[]

In July, 2007 Oakland, California officers detained a rider for violating a noise ordinance for having a bicycle sound system.

Eugene, Oregon[]

Police in Oregon have voiced concerns that Critical Mass may delay emergency vehicles due to traffic disruption.[48]

Honolulu, Hawaii[]

At dusk on March 28, 2008 police tackled a young woman on a bike during a ride with other cyclists. The officer's tackle led her to fall and hit her head on the ground. She was hospitalized. No arrests were made. The incident occurred in front of the Honolulu Police main station.

Buffalo, NY[]

On May 30, 2003 an incident known locally as "Critical Massacre" occurred in Buffalo, NY. Police stopped two cyclists for "failure to yield to an emergency vehicle." This led to an incident in which several people were allegedly attacked by police, and resulted in nine arrests of cyclists, three convictions, including that of a local journalist.[49]


  1. Gord MacFarlane. "Critical Mass protesters too critical", Winnipeg Sun, August 7, 2006. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Lee, Henry K.. "Cyclist, motorists clash in Berkeley Critical Mass", San Francisco Chronicle, May 12, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-02. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jones, Carolyn. "Accounts clash on Friday's row with bikes", San Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 2007. 
  4. Cisneros, Noel. "Elderly Couple Tangles With Cyclists", KGO-TV, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, May 12, 2007. 
  5. Lee, Henry K.. "Elderly couple caught up in altercation with Critical Mass bicyclists", San Francisco Chronicle, May 13, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-02. 
  6. Martha T. Moore. "Big pack of bikes piques police", USA Today, November 15, 2004. 
  7. Weiss, Murray; Laura Italiano, Lukas I. Alpert. "Cop union's spon on bike tackler: defends blow vs. 'reckless' rider", New York Post, July 30, 2008. Retrieved on 2008-08-15. 
  8. Amateur videos capture controversial NYPD actions. The Associated Press (August 2, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-08-02.
  9. Amateur videos capture controversial NYPD actions. The Associated Press (August 2, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-08-02.
  10. NYPD Bruise. The Smoking Gun (July 29, 2008). Retrieved on 2008-07-30.
  11. Colleen Long (July 28, 2008). YouTube video shows NYC officer shoving cyclist. Associated Press. Retrieved on 2008-07-28.
  12. Tamer El-Ghobashy (July 25, 2008). Video shows NYPD cop assaulting cyclist. NY Daily News.
  13. John Del Signore (July 28, 2008). Video of Cop Assaulting Cyclist at Critical Mass Ride. Gothamist.
  14. Jim Dwyer (July 30, 2008). When Official Truth Collides With Cheap Digital Technology. New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-07-30.
  15. JOHN ELIGON and COLIN MOYNIHAN (December 15, 2008). Police Officer Seen on Tape Shoving a Bicyclist Is Indicted. New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-01-05.
  18. Jonathan Wald. "264 arrested in NYC bicycle protest", CNN, August 29, 2004. Retrieved on 2008-02-23. 
  19. Bray v. City of New York, 04 Civ 8255 (WHP) (USDC, SD NY, 2004 (PDF).
  20. Still We Ride. In Tandem Production.
  21. "NYPD Attempts To Criminalize Bike Riders Taking Part in Critical Mass", Democracy Now, March 28, 2005. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Susan Palmer (May 20, 2006). Rolling protests hit bump. The Eugene Register-Guard.
  23. Glen Martin. S.F. Bike Chaos -- 250 Arrests: 5,000 bikers snarl commute. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved on 2009-01-22.
  24. Mark Motyka. Critical Mass, San Francisco July 25, 1997. Mark Motyka. Retrieved on 2009-01-22.
  25. Assaults on pedestrians.
  26. Unknown. Peace in the Streets. Retrieved on 1997-07-26.
  27. Jim Herron Zamora. Brown: Take bikes of busted cyclists. San Francisco Chronicle.
  28. Phillip Matier, Andrew Ross. "Another run-in with Critical Mass:Shattered window of family car wasn't only encounter -- limo had harrowing clash, too", April 8, 2007. 
  29. Gonzalez, Richard. "Bicyclists, Motorist Clash in San Francisco", National Public Radio, April, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-02. 
  30. Lee, Henry, K.. "Elderly couple caught up in altercation with Critical Mass bicyclists", San Francisco Chronicle, May 13, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-02. 
  31. Rubenstein, Steve; Lee, Henry K; Zamora, Jim. "Critical Mass pedals politely through S.F.", San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-02. 
  32. Newsom to Critical Mass: Police yourself -
  33. Cecilia Vega. "Mayor vows 'a good look' at Critical Mass: Redwood City family's van damaged after being caught up in ride", San Francisco Chronicle, April 4, 2007. 
  34. Kay v. the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis, EWHC 1536 (Admin). Royal Courts of Justice (June 27, 2006).
  35. Kay v. the Commissioner of the Police of the Metropolis (appeal). Royal Courts of Justice (May 21, 2007).
  36. When is a demo not a demo? Clive Coleman, BBC, Monday 13th October 2008
  37. Josh Feit and Sarah Mirk. "Mass Attack:Undercover County Cops Disrupt Monthly Bike Ride, Arrest Two", The Stranger. Retrieved on 2008-02-23. 
  38. "Critical Mass Incident Update", July 11, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-02-23. 
  39. "Critical Mass riders injure driver in Capitol Hill altercation", The Seattle Times Company, July 26, 2008. 
  40. 40.0 40.1 Castro, Hector. "Motorist clashes with bicycle protesters", King 5 News (KONG), July 26, 2008. 
  41. Braun, Tom. "Photo of Tom Braun's crushed bicycle", Seattle Times, July 27, 2008. 
  42. 42.0 42.1 Green, Sarah Jean. "Driver says he was provoked, but overreacted in Critical Mass incident", Seattle Times, July 28, 2008. 
  43. 43.0 43.1 Hahn, Elisa. "Bicycle Demonstration Turns Violent", King 5 News (KONG), April 5, 2007. 
  44. Castro, Hector. "Monthly bicycle protest marred by violence", Seattle Post Intelligencer, July 27, 2008. 
  45. Spangenthal-Lee, Jonah. "Critical Error", The Stranger, July 29, 2008. 
  46. Sept. 1: 19 bicyclists arrested after rally turns into melee
  47. Minneapolis Critical Mass Arrestee Support
  48. Susan Palmer. "Rolling protests hit bump", The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR), May 20, 2006. 


This article or parts of this article are based on the Wikipedia article Conflicts_involving_Critical_Mass (Version from January 27, 2009) licensed under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2 or later. A list of the authors can be found here: [1]. You can help to improve the article.