November 27, 2006--Public hearings will be held on the controversial new parade rules being proposed by the city's police department that seeks to bar cyclists from partaking in the monthly critical mass rides.
The new rules aim to limit any group of 10 cyclists that do not follow traffic rules, or any group of 30 cyclists that do follow traffic rules, from engaging in a group activity. The police department has long maintained that they do not feel they would have control over the safety of New Yorkers should a critical mass event block city streets when an emergency situation--such as a 9/11 or other terrorist event--take place.
The hearings will take place at One Police Plaza, just a few blocks east of the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge on the Manhattan side. Neither Times Up!, Transportation Alternatives, nor Assembly for Rights NYC, the ad hoc group assembled to fight this measure, have told cyclists where they can park their parks, nor have they organized bike parking for the event. Directions to the event are also notably absent from these sites.
Cyclists have long maintained, and justifiably so, that cars and car traffic pose a far greater danger for blocking the proper response to an emergency than do cyclists, who can disburse on foot at a moment's notice.
Indeed, in a great emergency, experts have often commented that the city--and neighboring areas such as Long Island and New Jersey would become instant parking lots.
Top ranking police officers have also told Benepe's Bike Blog off the record that since arrests made during the Republican National Convention they have information that there are unknown "anarchists" who were not part of the original critical mass group, who are possibly terrorists and who do not have the best interests of the city in mind who have infiltrated the world of critical mass and the groups that support the event, including Times Up!
While it is impossible to verify whether terrorists have really infiltrated the cyclists' milieu, it is reasonable to assume that they could much more easily assume the shape of a normal citizen in a fleet of taxis or a group of trucks, and those motorists could also more easily set off traps, block roadways, or create chaos at a moment's notice, say cyclists.
The New York Bar Association came out against the newest proposal saying in their testimony submitted for today's hearing that the department's new definition of a parade that requires a permit is a serious and unwarranted infringement on associational freedom. The Bar's comments side with the proposal put out by Assembly for Rights NYC, that asks that the City Council approve parade permits, and not the police department.
The ad hoc group, whose member identities are not disclosed on their website, and who do not advertise a contact name or phone number, lack the very transparency that they hope to find in this public forum. They also note on their site that police already have the right to arrest cyclists under other laws.
But every series of arrests have been more or less successfully overturned in New York City courts with legal assistance.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn has commented publicly that this new police proposal is less draconian than the first proposal which was met by a great hue and cry from the cyclist community and civil rights groups.
However, she has not said publicly whether she thinks this new proposal is fair or appropriate. It could be that the police have been sharing their own private concerns about public safety--concerns that if aired publicly would have a greater chance of being weighed on the merits rather than on an emotional basis.
Another event involving New York police, the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Sean Bell in Queens yesterday, may vy for media attention today, depriving rights' activists and the issue, their day in the sun.
For more details:
According to a summary posted at http://www.assembleforrightsnyc.org/node/14, the new proposed rules are as follows:
A "parade [or procession]" is: 1) any [march, motorcade, caravan, promenade, foot or bicycle race, or similar event of any kind,] procession or race which consists of a group of ten or more pedestrians, vehicles, bicycles or other devices moved by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway for more than two city blocks in a manner that does not comply with all applicable traffic laws, rules and regulations; or 2) any procession or race which consists of a recongnizable group of 30 or more vehicles, bicycles or other devices moved by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway
This is an amendment to Section 1. Subdivision (a) of section 19-02 of Title 38 of the Official Compilation of the Rules of the City of New York.
Put more simply here is what the new rule are:
1) Groups of 10 or more bicyclists or pedestrians who plan to travel more than two city blocks without complying with traffic laws will require a permit or be subject to arrest.
2) Groups of 30 or more bicyclists or vehicles which obey traffic laws will also require a permit or be subject to arrest