Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Court Upholds City Parade Rules

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 media@law.nyc.gov or (212) 788-0400.

So far no comment from the 5BBC. To be updated later tonight.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Florida Cyclist Gets Charged with Homicide

April 16, 2007
A cyclist involved in an accident--that set off a chain of events, leading to the death of a motorist, was charged with homicide in Florida last week.

"Ronald Dale, 18, of Waycross has been charged with second-degree vehicular homicide and failure to obey a stop sign resulting in the 6:14 p.m. collision that killed 33-year-old Sarah Elaine Cribb Poss, said Waycross police Chief Tony Tanner," reported Jacksonville.com.

Amazingly, this rarely happens when a cyclist is killed by a motorist. In fact, most motorists who hit cyclists directly, are not even charged and the death of the cyclist is considered an "accident."

Dale's big mistake is that he went through a stop sign, causing the motorist to swerve and hit a tractor-trailer. But we can't even count the number of times motorists have been speeding, took right hand turns or broke countless other traffic laws and killed, hit, and maimed cyclists without receiving so much as a ticket.

What makes the lack of consistent application of the law--on behalf of cyclists--ten times more injurious, is that we don't even have a rightful space on the road. Can we forget about the jeers we get from motorists who expect to use the whole road, and after teaching us a lesson by buzzing us, lean out the window and tell us, "Idiot, get off the f--ing road"?

Or is it simply the ingrained institutional and governmental neglect implicit in the lack of funding, and the lack of implementation of bike routes, bikeways, and other road investments for cyclists that turns us into meek sheep unable to stand up for ourselves? Compared to most countries in Europe, our roads are thousands of years behind in providing safe passage to cyclists.

It is incumbent on you, dear reader, to start making a change today. If you do believe that consistent application of the law should be implemented today, without any further delay, you must drop what you are doing, and write to your state legislators.

You can start by emailing Governor Eliot Spitzer. You'll need to tell Gov. Spitzer that if cyclists are expected to obey traffic laws, then they should be afforded the same rights--and space on the road--as motorists. And that means now, not ten years from now, or 20 or 30 or 50.

That means lanes for us on every single road in New York State, and full prosecution of drivers who kill and are at fault, that is, broke traffic laws, like going through a stop sign--for manslaughter. You should also ask that all such accidents be deemed "incidents" and that drivers be detained and incarcerated--when a cyclist or pedestrian is killed or has life-threatening damage from the accident.

I'd give you Governor Corzine's email address, but at this point, after having an accident caused by a motorist--who by the way was found, but not charged for swerving onto the road--is in the hospital and likely no one will answer your mail.

Please, do your part, and email the governor. If we don't start now, it will never get done.