By Joe Maniscalco
Supporters of controversial Critical Mass bike rides both here and in Manhattan are celebrating a victory this week after a New York Supreme Court Judge denied the city’s bid to stop the cycling tours from taking place. On Valentine’s Day Justice Michael D. Stallman ruled against the city’s motion seeking a preliminary injunction to stop Critical Mass rides without a permit. Begun in San Francisco in the early 90's, Critical Mass rides in which large groups of cyclists meet and then tour city streets for about two hours, have spread across the country and even around the world. Here in Brooklyn Critical Mass rides began popping up in 2004. Riders meet on the second Friday of each month at 7 p.m. outside Grand Army Plaza. While participants view the rides as a way to celebrate cycling as the best means of urban transportation and sharing the road, local government has grown increasingly hostile to the gatherings resulting in several clashes with police in which many cyclists were arrested and their bicycles confiscated. Tensions came to a boil during the Republican National Convention when police decided to crackdown on the rides. In his ruling Justice Stallman said that the city had “not met the three part test for a preliminary injunction with respect to the pre-ride gatherings for the Critical Mass rides, advertising of the rides, or the rides themselves.” Bill DiPaola, executive director of Time’s Up!, one of the defendants named in the case welcomed the justice’s decision. “We are extremely happy with the judge’s decision,” he said. “It’s not only a big victory for free expression and the right to assemble, but also supports bicyclists’ right to continue riding in groups for safety.” Time’s Up! held a press conference earlier this week outside 49 East Houston Street to announce Justice Stallman’s decision. Activist attorney and former candidate for Public Advocate Norman Siegel was on the team that argued the case on behalf of Time’s Up! and other defendants. “The city’s attempt to stop the Critical Mass bicycle rides was soundly rejected by Justice Michael D. Stallman of the New York Supreme Court,” he said. “We are, of course, pleased by the decision. Hopefully, New Yorkers will be able to continue to ride their bicycles in the streets free of arrests, harassment and hostility in ways that guarantee public safety for all New Yorkers.” McLaughlin & Stern, LLP attorney Steven Hyman, another attorney for the defendants called on the city to change its approach to Critical Mass rides. “It is time that New York City, as it did once before, work with and cooperate with Critical Mass to resume the friendly and uneventful rides that preceded the Republican National convention of August 2004,” he said. Proponents of the rides shouldn’t expect that to happen anytime soon judging from the city’s response to Justice Stallman’s ruling. Gabriel Taussig, chief, of the Administrative Law Division, New York City Law Department, said that the city would in fact challenge the judge’s ruling. “We intend to appeal this ruling, because we do not believe that public safety, the law or common sense have been well served by the Court's denial of our request for a preliminary injunction,” he said.