The patrol guidelines for the New York City Police Department strongly urge officers to be careful when chasing suspects with cars, says the New York Times. National studies show that accidents involving police vehicles result in one death nearly every day. Yet since August 2004, police have regularly conducted aggressive pursuits in the heart of a crowded city. Police vehicles have driven the wrong way down busy Midtown streets and have cut at sharp, brake-screeching angles across Greenwich Village avenues, videotapes show. They have climbed onto sidewalks to skirt traffic jams near Grand Central Terminal.
On all these occasions, the officers have been chasing bicycle riders who throng the streets on the last Friday of every month in a group ride known as Critical Mass. The dispute over the terms of the ride has swelled into bitter court fights and startling street chases. The police and the city say public safety is at stake because the bicycles block traffic and the riders will not agree to a route. Riders say the stakes are free movement on public streets for people who should not have to get police permission simply because they are not in cars.