Five cyclists who filed a lawsuit claiming that they were wrongfully detained and arrested during a Critical Mass Ride in New York City, including one who was filmed being pushed off his bike by a police officer who gave a rather different account of events during oral testimony, have been awarded a total of $98,000 in compensation.
The City of New York agreed to pay the amount, which sees the individual riders receive between $500 and $30,000 each, with their lawyers getting $35,000 in legal fees, as a result of the incidents that took place in the March 2007 ride.
In a video posted on YouTube, 55-year-old Critical Mass participant Richard Vazquez was shown being pushed off his bike by a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer in Times Square. The officer, Sgt Timothy Horohoe, who insisted that Vazquez had got off his bike voluntarily, was later reprimanded, according to The New York Times.
In a statement, Mr Vazquez said: “While I’m pleased with the monetary victory for myself and the other plaintiffs, there will be no real justice until the higher-ups in the NYPD are held accountable for their actions, and it is not just the low ranking officers who are punished.”
The relationship between New York Critical Mass riders and the NYPD has been a fraught one for a number of years. In 2004, shortly before the Republican Party National Convention which took place in the city, hundreds of riders were arrested for parading without a permit.
Last month, we reported how an officer had been fired after pushing a Critical Mass rider off his bike and then lying about his actions, something that has a familiar ring about it given the circumstances of the case that has just been settled.
The New York Times reported that in this instance, the city’s Law Department maintained that the riders arrested had not been stopped because they were taking part in Critical Mass, saying that the arrests “had nothing to do with the fact that the large group of bikers was riding together, but rather the unique behavior of each individual arrested,” adding that Mr. Vazquez had been stopped for rising through a red traffic signal on Times Square.
However, Michael Gertzer, the lawyer who represented the city in the case, added that reaching a settlement “was in the interest of the involved parties and appropriately resolves this litigation.”
The newspaper added that Barbara Ross, a spokeswoman for Time’s Up, an organization that promotes Critical Mass, had hailed the settlement “a victory for cyclists, and for anybody participating in the Critical Mass ride.”
Ms Ross said that although Critical Mass rides had in the past attracted hundreds, even thousands of riders, nowadays only a few dozen take part, which meant no police presence was needed – although you do have to wonder whether it is the very prospect of being shoved off their bikes by one of New York’s finest that has deterred would-be participants in the first place.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.