Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Critical Mass Rides Again, BBB Archive 2/24/06

Feb. 24, 2006-- Cyclists will gather at Union Square tonight for their monthly Critical Mass ride through the streets of New York. And this time they will have the implicit okay from the city courts, as well as a groundswell of public opinion that appears to be blooming in their favor.
For one, the usually careful New York Times reported today in the front page of the Metro section today entitled "Aggressiveness of Bike Chases Stirs Questions for the Police," an article by Jym Dwyer that points to the aggressive and often dangerous police chases that have taken place since August 2004.
The event is to be followed by a "Victory Dance" according to the TimesUp! website which will celebrate the legal conclusion of a long, drawn-out court case between city lawyers seeking an injunction against cyclists from taking to the streets en masse without a parade permit.
The State Supreme Court case against TimesUp! leader Bill DiPaolo and Matthew Roth, among others, was decided on Valentine's Day (Feb. 14) and had sought but failed to curtail the monthly ride.
According to police officials speaking off the record, the ride posed security and planning problems, such that in case of an emergency, traffic flow would be impeded by cyclists holding their monthly event. City officials have often also voiced concerns behind closed doors that outside elements that they fear are terrorist-related have infiltrated the group and will use the group and the unstructured chaos of the rides as a means to foment their devious plans. The city also privately voiced the opinion that the cyclists lack a realistic assessment of just how dangerous the situation could become if terrorists were to implode at one of their events.
Both notions were rejected by Roth and DiPaolo who have stated repeatedly that if such a terrorist or other emergency were to take place, cyclists could dissipate in a matter of seconds, adding that motorist traffic would certainly be much more of a problem for the city.
They also deny that any outsiders with terrorist plans have joined the group, and maintain that if they bowed to the city's demands to obtain a permit, they would be implicitly agreeing that cyclists have less of a right to be on the road than motorists, a notion that they soundly reject.
But the city has ignored previous decisions by the courts to allow cyclists to ride in the monthly event without being arrested. In October 2005, Judge Pauley of the Federal Courts turned down the city's request for an injunction against the group, but several arrests have been made since that time.
The entire stand-off is unfortunate for the cycling community, since before the Republican National Convention in 2004, NYC police officers routinely rode alongside the group peacefully on their monthly rides, often providing protection from motorists who were irritated that their roadway had been impeded momentarily by bike riders.
For a full copy of the court decision click here.

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