Sunday, January 28, 2007

Police Department Confirms New 50 Rule

January 26, 2007--The city's police department confirmed that they have passed new rules governing the definition of parade, and when New Yorkers will be required to obtain a permit to hold one--when they consist of 50 or more people traveling together on the street.

That new rule clearly will now apply to Critical Mass, the monthly bicycle ride that often starts at Union Square and 17th St., and travels around the city. The CM is an effort by cyclists to show physically that they are traffic.

Happier Times, Oct. 2004

The new rule also was endorsed by City Council head Christine Quinn who is now getting the thumbs down from many cyclists in the city as out of touch and succumbing to police demands. Some are hypothesizing that she is being given the good old "this is good for security speech" by the NYPD.

That argument always seems to scare the daylights out of city officials no matter how illogical or irrational (cyclists can't get out of the way of traffic faster than a traffic jam of cars? Yup, that's what they say, word for word). It scares them because if, IF, something were to go wrong "like 9/11", the unimagineably horrible, then it would be YOUR fault Christine Quinn!

A review of the new rules are as follows:
"A 'parade (or procession)' is any (march, motorcade, caravan, promenade, foot, or bicycle race, or similar event of any kind,) procession or race which consists of a recognizable group of 50 or more pedestrians, vehicles, bicycles, or other devices move by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway."

Handing out regs at CM in 2004

Outrage has been heard on all the familiar channels, including Transportation Alternatives, the New York section of the Civil Liberties Union, TimesUP!, and onNYTurf, a blog about city politics.

Said at onNYTurf: "the phrase public street is much broader, this phrase would be subject to interpretation by a court and thus puts public gatherings of all types at great risk. According to onNYTurf's legal advisors, public street easily could be interpreted to include the sidewalks."

This is another overreaction by liberals, though who could blame them? It seems any law can be passed by any city agency at any time, and this one clearly does not strike a balance, even though it is less draconian than the first two passes.

Although the outrage being expressed on the private email exchange, ebikes run by Danny Lieberman, was not as loud, it did express a great deal of worry that the new rules would also apply to organized bike rides heading out of the city, or through neighborhoods, like the ones often run by the Five Borough Bike Club (

But as Steve Stollman, host to many of the CM parties at his storefront on Houston St. has often said, instead of concentrating on the problem--car traffic--this administration keeps crippling the solution--cyclists.

On the Phone, CM, Halloween 2004

Although it is clear the new police rules are targeting Critical Mass, it is not clear that organized bike rides intended for recreation and heading out of the city, stopping at red lights, and riding two by two will be affected. Clearly "parades" by their nature tend to take the entire street, which is entirely why the police are attacking CM.

Whatever the final effect, it looks like either the party is over, or CM is about to get ugly: will participants now up the ante, and spoil for a fight? We'll see after the new rules go into effect, in time for the next Critical Mass, Friday February 23rd.

Everyone, get your cameras ready!

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