Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak recently announced that the U.S. Census found that the city has the second most bicycle commuters in the nation, but a series of run-ins between police and bicyclists have left some wondering if law enforcement in the Twin Cities is equipped to deal with bicycle transit.
A Critical Mass ride Friday resulted in minor injuries after St. Paul police stopped the ride for questioning. According to ride participants, a parent and their five year old child were pushed off their two seat bike by police resulting in bruises and road rash.
Critical Mass is a loosely organized network of bicyclists who plan rides to raise awareness of bicyclists. Minneapolis rides have been occurring monthly for years sometimes with 100 riders, often taking up one lane of traffic, and occasionally ending in arrests. Participants say that the disruption in traffic is justified by dangers unaware drivers pose to bicyclists, and that all riders are instructed to follow bicycle traffic laws. Critical Mass first started rides monthly in May 2007.
The participants that were stopped in St. Paul were not ticketed by the seven officers present at the scene, and were allowed to continue the ride as long as they followed bicycle traffic laws. Several were upset by the detention and what they saw as excessive violence against the riders. They have taken badge numbers and intend to file a complaint.
The incident follows a much more violent arrest at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport where Stephan Orsak was “accosted, assaulted with battery, and tased at Minneapolis St Paul international airport, simply for leaving the airport by bicycle.” Police contend that signs at the airport prohibited bicycling, and the case has gone to court.
One Critical Mass participant who asked not to be identified said, “One thing that particularly frustrates me is that my five-year old son’s first experience with law enforcement was violent.”