Judge Lewis Kaplan Rules on NYC Critical Mass Laws Feb 17, 2010

When I read about this yesterday, I was disappointed but not surprised. It was a tough decision to not post about it but that’s mostly because I didn’t really know how to put it all into perspective for readers of this blog. What I will say is that Critical Mass is a touchy subject. I personally don’t ride in it and I’ll keep my opinions to myself. Still though, ruling that an arbitrary number of 50 cyclists requires a permit is a bit, well, unconstitutional in my opinion.

Streetsblog presents an interesting argument
on Judge Lewis Kaplan’s 56-page ruling citing the following excerpt:

Read on below.

Large groups of cyclists may well be more visible than individual cyclists and may take up less space than large groups of vehicles, but countervailing factors such as their lack of predictability and their tendency to try to stay together in a moving column, even if this means going through a red light, nevertheless endanger other travelers and disrupt orderly traffic flow. Their presence may add traffic volume that otherwise would be absent.

This reality was borne out by a video clip of the September 2007 Manhattan Critical Mass ride shown… at trial. As the Court noted at the time, the clip shows a cyclist engaging in dangerous behavior by pulling out and to the right of a motor vehicle that itself was in the process of pulling out of the bike lane to its right. The biker comes up from the motor vehicle driver’s blind spot and passes the motor vehicle on the right just as the motor vehicle begins to pull to the right and out of the bike lane. I find that the video demonstrates the danger of the cyclist’s actions.

The video he is referencing is above (at the :37 second mark). So I get it now, a car is parked in the bike lane and the result is the cyclist’s “unpredictable” action (riding around the car), leading to a ticket? Please pull your head out of your ass Judge Kaplan.

Again, I’m not arguing for or against Critical Mass. I just find Judge Lewis Kaplan’s thesis statement a bit weak and misinformed. Maybe if he spent more time on a bike in this city he’d be a bit more sympathetic. Like that will ever happen.

Read the rest of the Streetsblog entry here.

  • radam

    cincinnati OH

    i used to not stop for cops on foot. but i figured that it could lead to something .. well “bad” so now i always stop, and I rather enjoy arguing my position with them. half of them seem to get it half dont. just depends on who you run into and how you handle the situation. I’ve found that a little bit of communication and respect can go a long way.

  • sau

    everyone whom commutes daily on a bicycle knows has been pulled over by a police officer at some point. its inevitable.

    as the video demonstrates, sometimes the jakes really have nothing better to do.

    when the cop yelled at the cyclist to stop, the cyclist had to turn around in oncoming traffic. that action was far more dangerous then just letting the cyclists continue.

    my friend recently had her bicycle chained in on a pole by campus police. when we inquired what the charges were they said that “the bicycle was blocking the sidewalk…a violation.” but by chaining it down the bicycle could not move from the sidewalk until their steep fifty dollar fine was paid for.

    what the fudge.

  • tpearl

    Come on prolly; I think the least you can do is provide your opinions on CM since you posted this and alluded to all of us, twice, that you’ve got some pretty strong feelings about the rides. Isn’t this your blog?

    Indulge us.

  • Ok. My thoughts are:

    We already HAD rights as cyclists. We HAVE a presence on the street and a right to be there. Getting in HUGE groups of riders and taking over the streets doesn’t do anything but instigate altercations. Sure, some of the altercations ARE illegal and like that Cop (aka asshole) who body-checked the cyclist in Times Square, we DO see justice. But justice for an altercation that wouldn’t have happened in the first place if it wasn’t for CM.

    Take this scenario: some driver gets stuck behind a CM ride. He’s in a good mood, so he takes it with a grain of salt and allows them to proceed without honking. He then turns off at the next block patiently.

    Then, maybe the next week, he’s driving down the street, in a bad mood (for whatever reason, it IS New York City – people are running hot most the time) and gets caught behind a single cyclist exercising their right to take the lane. What does he do? Flashes back to CM ride, gets pissed and runs the cyclist off the road.

    By the “law” he didn’t do anything wrong because the “I didn’t see them” clause seems to get everyone off the hook in NYC. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been hit or run off the road to have the driver pull that line to the cops and get off free. Then you have to take your time to go to the Police Station and get a police report because the cops just don’t care about “preachy cyclists”.

    That’s the main issue here. Drivers have a sense of self-entitlement that cyclists hate and the rest of the city gets frustrated with the cyclist’s sense of entitlement. Can I tell you how many times people roll their eyes and say “You one of those critical mass people?” when I say something as reasonable as “some car ran me off the road last weekend”.

    So, something “innocent” like CM causes confrontation. It makes people group ALL cyclists into some confrontational hippies looking to sue the City or fuck up cars. It’s something that I don’t care to take place in.

    Bike Snob made a GREAT FUCKING POINT today. Before Critical Mass, we didn’t NEED a permit to ride. Now, due to this Court hearing, we do (in groups of 50 or more).

    50 is such an arbitrary number too. It’ll get thinned down to 25 (probably), then 5 and before you know it, we’re REQUIRED to have a permit to be ON the street.

    This is ALL THE FIREPOWER THE NYPD NEEDS. We had rights before this shit and now they’re being taken away.

    What good did all this shit do?

    Just my 2 cents…

  • Fixed_hesh

    Well put Prolly, agreed. CM does more harm than good when it comes to bicycle advocacy.

  • kale

    As we all know, Cm is pretty entry-level and pointless as far as bike ‘advocacy’ goes, but this isn’t the time for destroying the solidarity we have as cyclists via blaming them for it. Hand it to the city attorneys (who probably drive to work and hate cyclists) for using their brains to finally get their druthers.

    From my armchair knowledge of laws, we’d have to have a case where 50 of us cyclists get ticketed in a constitutionally allowed situation for to take it to appeals, and probably the state supreme court, or something. And it’s probably not going to happen, since we’re riding bikes and don’t have the resources to fight it that hard.

  • “Bike Snob made a GREAT FUCKING POINT today. Before Critical Mass, we didn’t NEED a permit to ride. Now, due to this Court hearing, we do (in groups of 50 or more).”

    To be fair, you don’t really NEED a permit to have a 50 plus ride, just like you don’t really NEED brakes or a bell to ride (even though the law is in the books).

    The permit rules were built around targeting CM, and while they can be used to cause problems for other rides, I can’t think of any documented cases where they have been successful in denying a permit AND targeting the ride itself. Even CM continued to go off almost monthly since 2007 when the permit rule went into effect, and the tickets are for the same things they have always been for.

    See my point? It means something, maybe down the road, maybe not. I think we should still reserve our outrage and frustration for those who are the real source of conflict in the streets.