Hundreds of bicyclists took to the roadways on Saturday for the annual Long Island-wide Ride to Montauk, which had nearly been canceled this year because organizers failed to secure the proper permits.
East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo said the event went “fairly well,” all things considered.
Bicycle Shows U.S., which organizes the event, didn’t file for East Hampton town and village mass gathering permits 30 days prior to the event, which didn’t give officials time to review the requests and work out the details.
Two days before the event, East Hampton Town officials attempted to secure a temporary restraining order in State Supreme Court to stop the bicycle ride, because they were concerned that the event would go on as planned without permits. After a settlement in court, the town withdrew its request for a temporary restraining order, but with stipulations: only 1,500 bicyclists could participate within East Hampton—original estimates had the number of bicyclists at more than 3,000—and the East Hampton starting points had to be removed from the route, according to East Hampton Town Attorney Elizabeth Vail.
Bicycle Shows U.S. agreed to stick to police-approved routes within the village and town, and agreed to reimburse both municipalities for police enforcement and overtime costs related to the event, Ms. Vail said.
The Ride to Montauk, which stretched from Manhattan to Montauk, had different start locations across Long Island—in Babylon, Mastic-Shirley and East Hampton—and ended in Montauk, where there was a free portable shower at the finish line, and free massages.
It is not a fundraising event, according to Ms. Brennan, but according to Ride to Montauk’s website, the company donates to the Lynbrook Fire Department, the Westhampton Presbyterian Church, the Amagansett Presbyterian Church, the National Heritage Trust, Leukemia Team in Training, and the BULA Project, which sends necessities to Fiji.
The bike riders do need to raise money for charity to participate, the website says, but just pay the ride fee—$100 to $300, depending on which route the bikers choose.
Town officials said that Bicycle Shows U.S. filed a mass gathering permit application for 5,000 participants on May 12 but should have filed a commercial gathering permit instead, since the organization is not a not-for-profit. The firm did so on May 15 but didn’t have the necessary documents, and wrote that only 3,400 participants would be biking through, according to Town Clerk Carole Brennan.
Assistant Town Attorney Michael Sendlenski told the board that a mass gathering permit must be submitted at least 30 days prior to an event to be reviewed. Since that was not the case, the permit was not reviewed in time and therefore not granted to Bicycle Shows U.S.
Mr. Goldstein had secured a permit from Southampton Town, which also limited the number of participants to 1,500, but it wasn’t without incident.
According to Southampton Town Clerk Sundy Schermeyer, Glen Goldstein, one of the event organizers, had met with town officials late last year to understand the parameters and the best dates that would work for both parties. Despite that, the application was for May 31, which was a date that town officials said would not be approved given the number of participants.
Mr. Goldstein appealed the decision, and both parties came to a settlement that would allow the ride to come through Southampton as long as the participants were limited to 1,500. Ms. Schermeyer said Southampton Town Police had been concerned with road safety since the end of May means heavy traffic in the Hamptons.
In East Hampton, Chief Sarlo said, the department was concerned this year because Ride to Montauk had become much bigger than a simple ride-through, since many routes in Southampton had been taken off the map.
“Once they got denied in Southampton, they came up with creative ways to get routes within East Hampton Town,” he said. “The route changes made this mostly a ride ‘throughout’ the town on many, many rural roads.”
Even though a settlement was reached and fewer participants rode their bikes through East Hampton, the underlying complaint is still before State Supreme Court, according to Ms. Vail.
When reached on Friday afternoon, Mr. Goldstein said the whole scenario had him perplexed. “I’m not sure what happened, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I don’t understand what happened. They were concerned there wasn’t enough time … I am baffled. I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and the ride has been around for 50 years.”
The Narrowsburg native said 2,000 participants were expected to bike on Saturday, but approximately 700 of those bicyclists signed up for the East Hampton leg of the route.
“I’m pretty frazzled. All we want to do is ride bikes. We have no political message, we are not protesters. I didn’t realize it’d be so complicated,” he said. “ I cannot say today is the worst day of my life, but it’s certainly fighting for that title.”