April 18, 2007--In a blow to New York cycling groups, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York late yesterday denied a request by a bicycle club and several individual cyclists to “preliminarily enjoin” the New York City Police Department from requiring bicycle groups of 50 or more to obtain parade permits before riding together on the public streets, according to a statement released late today by the city's legal counsel.
A federal lawsuit was initiated by the Five Borough Bike Club, a recreational cycling club, and six individuals who wish to ride in the monthly Critical Mass challenging the consititionality of the NYPD's new parade rules which the department instituted in February limiting the number of cyclists able to ride together without a permit to less than 50.
The cyclists asked the New York Court to prohibit enforcement of the requirement while the lawsuit is pending. That request – a preliminary injunction – was denied yesterday.
Cyclists from the 5BBC frequently ride together in groups greater than 20, and as the spring and summer approach, the groups will be traveling in greater numbers with more frequency through the city to bridges and roads that lead them out of the city, predominantly on the weekends.
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote that the Court was “not persuaded that plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their constitutional arguments” that the parade permit requirement violates their rights to travel, to freely associate, and to express themselves. Judge Kaplan recognized cyclists' concerns, that in certain circumstances the restrictions could limit the “plaintiffs' ability to bicycle through the streets of New York City with unfettered freedom.”
But the Court stressed that “the Constitution requires a balance to be struck between [the] plaintiffs' interests in riding when, and where, they want, and the City's interest in ensuring that all people and vehicles use its streets effectively and safely without overburdening scarce law enforcement resources."
One of the city's senior counsels, Sheryl Neufeld, who also worked on the case, said: “While it is important to allow bicycle processions to occur, the City also has a strong interest in promoting public safety. The new requirements seek to find the correct balance between these two needs.”
Copies of the Court’s 53-page opinion are available upon request by contacting the Law Department’s Media Office at email@example.com or (212) 788-0400.
So far no comment from the 5BBC. To be updated later tonight.