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Old 10-25-04, 11:09 PM   #1
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NYC Files Lawsuit to Stop Critical Mass

Reposted from New York City Independent Media Center:
New York City filed a lawsuit today in an effort to stop the monthly critical mass ride. They are asking a judge to grant them an injunction enjoining "all other participants in Critical Mass bicycle rides form engaging in conduct that requires a permit without having first obtained such a permit."

This of course begs the question: does riding a bike require a permit? Critical Mass has been a feature in New York City for nearly a decade, but over the last three months the city's commitment to stopping the ride has deepened since they set their sights on riders at the August Critical Mass which coincided with the start of the Republican National Convention.
While the original suit, filed by five plaintiffs whose locs were cut and bicycles seized by the NYPD during September's Critical Mass focused very narrowly on the question of their rights to due process. They claim in their federal suit that the NYPD is violating their fifth amendment right to due process by seizing their property without charging them with any crime.

The City countered the cyclists' lawsuit with a counter suit that includes a request for an injunction to stop the ride from happening this Friday, October 29. If the judge grants the injunction, anyone who participates in Critical Mass could be found in contempt of federal court.

In their countersuit, the city denies the allegations in the original lawsuit. It's an incredibly interesting suit, and they have recourse to a lot of prior cases that involve many salient issues but few related to bicycles. The judge's ruling on this injunction is important well beyond the confines of NYC, because it is a federal case.

There are some powerful issues at stake about the rights of cyclists. This case, which started out as a very narrow demand that the city not steal bicycles may turn out to set dramatic precidents about cyclists' rights. Is it legal to require a permit for riding more than two abreast? What constitutes a parade? These questions have been answered with respect to pedestrians, but cyclists have a right to ride in city streets, and it isn't at all clear that we can be subjected to the same kinds of restrictions as pedestrians. And if we can, what of cars? Can the NYPD arrest drivers who drive in a procession? Just how different is Critical Mass from rush hour in any city?

There will be a public hearing on Wednesday, time and place to be determined. Watch this space for updates.
(See comments re: the article here: http://nyc.indymedia.org/feature/dis...8206/index.php )

The full text of all filings is at http://info.interactivist.net.
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Old 10-26-04, 12:50 AM   #2
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If they can stop bikes from riding in a group, can they finally get those Harley gangs off the streets as well?
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Old 10-26-04, 02:01 AM   #3
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IANAL (I am not a lawyer) nor do I play one on television. However, if I were the judge and heard the fact that the Critical Mass ride has been happening nearly monthly for almost ten years, and the city was just *now* getting upset about it, I'd throw the case out because of the length of time it's been going on. Especially if NYPD has known about it and mayhaps even the city has promoted it. Just my take on it - then again, I may be reading too much GROKLAW lately.
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Old 10-26-04, 03:04 AM   #4
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Yeah, but things escalated (on both sides) during the convention. Some CM regulars have complained on this forum that people with non-cyclist issues have hijacked the rides. This is largely CM's fault. The "organization" prides itself on a lack of organization and leadership, which makes it easy prey for trouble-makers with other issues.

I hope the judge finds a way to let the rides continue, but if CM is to continue in NY, I think it's going to need to start showing some discipline.

Edited to make sense (hopefully)

Last edited by Daily Commute; 10-26-04 at 06:39 AM.
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Old 10-26-04, 03:30 AM   #5
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I'm really curious... who exactly are they going to serve this lawsuit to? Who's the party being named? It's not like there's some kind of Critical Mass office or something? CM as I understand it is purely a gathering. There's no central organising body.
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Old 10-26-04, 03:50 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by khuon
I'm really curious... who exactly are they going to serve this lawsuit to? Who's the party being named? It's not like there's some kind of Critical Mass office or something? CM as I understand it is purely a gathering. There's no central organising body.
Legally, they probably can't sue anyone as such if the ride is an "organised co-incidence" as we're often told it is. On the other hand, they might be seeking an injunction, which would simply mean that it's not allowed to proceed as normal. Given some of the complaints CM riders have had about police behaviour in the past, it could open up a legal loophole for the police to arrest and detain the participants, which could be all the city is seeking.

I tend to think CM needs a little refinement to be truly effective. To ride in one great big mass really doesn't help all that much because most people can see it for what it is (i.e. a protest). I think what CM needs to do is break up into smaller groups, and instead of reclaiming one street at a time, reclaim several. This has the added advantage of being visible to more people, and being able to slide through traffic faster than the cars are moving (the real advantage of using a bicycle as transport). Of course, it would also set this legal action right back to square one.
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Old 10-26-04, 05:56 AM   #7
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CM's.... are bad.
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Old 10-26-04, 06:37 AM   #8
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The CM people way over-did-it.
They will have to find other ways to get their point across.
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Old 10-26-04, 07:32 AM   #9
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how about reclaim the streets as in:

http://www.reclaimthestreets.net/
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Old 10-26-04, 08:03 AM   #10
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Are they also going to file an injunction to stop the Republican party from holding further conventions there?
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Old 10-26-04, 08:06 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris L

...
I tend to think CM needs a little refinement to be truly effective. To ride in one great big mass really doesn't help all that much because most people can see it for what it is (i.e. a protest). I think what CM needs to do is break up into smaller groups, and instead of reclaiming one street at a time, reclaim several. This has the added advantage of being visible to more people, and being able to slide through traffic faster than the cars are moving
...

Exactly.
Instead of making motorists red-hot angry, the goals of CM would be better served if it was done in such a way that motorists want to _join_ the cyclists, either because it is easier to travel that way or because it is attractive.
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Old 10-26-04, 09:04 AM   #12
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Unlike CM in other cities, the New York Critical Mass are in fact organized and an group called Time's Up pretty much controls (or has hijacked) the NYC Critical Mass.

www.times-up.org
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Old 10-26-04, 09:05 AM   #13
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The NewYork CM break up was politicaly motivated they were aressting people whom were not in the CM ride at all from the same area any howww ,, there are some who will fight for the freedom and the right to ride a bike and stand up and there are others whom won't and complain about CM's and will B***tch about bad drivers and unsafe roads ,,, remember it was alot people from CM that fought for bike lanes in this City (toronto) and other citys and for more rights for us bike riders and groups that have lawyers for bike riders to fight these nasty drivers and give us support ( CM is more than riding just riding one day a month in a group ) ...Steeker
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Old 10-26-04, 09:12 AM   #14
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Sort of off-topic:

If the proponents of CM rides would organize 20k or 30k road races or if that requires to much time or official sanction, then informal road rallys, I believe that would be a better way to get cagers to coexist with cyclists.

Even rallys of a few hundred people or less, if held regularly enough would make the point. Drivers would get used to seeing them on the road and over time would learn to accept cyclists as legitimate road users. Poker runs or rally races for charity are not bad marketing devices.

On the topic at hand, if someone wants to stop a CM then they will have to shut down the road completely. There is no official CM organization, and it seems silly to have a judge hold someone riding their bicycle on a Friday afternoon on a public street in contempt. Silly as it seems, if they manage to pull it off, it still accomplishes nothing. The CM would just reform somewhere else and eventually force the judge to ban public assemblies on bicycles everywhere in the city.

I think the cure is worse than the disease.

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Old 10-26-04, 09:19 AM   #15
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CM'S are good
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Old 10-26-04, 09:21 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by STEEKER
The NewYork CM break up was politicaly motivated . . . .remember it was alot people from CM that fought for bike lanes in this City (toronto) and other citys and for more rights for us bike riders ...Steeker
If CM fights for bike lanes (and other forms of bike ghettos), I hope they fail. Cyclists need fair access to the roads, not "special" facilities for insecure cyclists. Bike lanes are a traffic engineer's means of getting cyclists off the part of the road cars use.
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Old 10-26-04, 09:28 AM   #17
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Apparently, all other crime has been stopped in NYC. Now if they can just get rid of those damn bicycles, the city will be pure utopia. I can certainly see why manpower, and tax dollars are being wasted, erh ah, I mean “wisely spent” on such an obviously critical (no pun intended) issue in NYC.
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Old 10-26-04, 09:50 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daily Commute
If CM fights for bike lanes (and other forms of bike ghettos), I hope they fail. Cyclists need fair access to the roads, not "special" facilities for insecure cyclists. Bike lanes are a traffic engineer's means of getting cyclists off the part of the road cars use.
Uhmmmmmm insecure cyclists well yaa some times you have to be insecure ,,, drivers kill bike riders all the time with VERY few drivers being charged ,paint ball guns shot at bike riders , bottles thrown at them , run off the road on purpose by drivers. KILLED!!> and it has happened on purpose with charges droped against the driver,, dam even Lace Armstrong was run off the road in Texas, so yaa being a little bit insecure keeps you alert on the road about the nutbag cagers ( besides bike riders were on the road before cars came along and with the gas crisas comming there'll be less off them .Steeker
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Old 10-26-04, 09:58 AM   #19
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well, they've been sucking all the fun out of the city for a decade or more now, why not take a shot at this.
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Old 10-26-04, 10:15 AM   #20
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Steeker,
Being careful is important, but being insecure can be dangerous. Bike lanes wouldn't have kept the Texas rednecks from running Lance Armstrong into a ditch. Road paint won't stop a maniac. And remember, mandatory sidepath laws often force cyclists to use bike lanes, effectively kicking us off of the road.

I always thought CM fought to get cyclists the right to use the road. I never thought CM would fight to get us confined to bike ghettos. Apparently, I was wrong.

The more I learn about CM, the less I like. They appear to be a lot of self-indulgent children (regardless of their real age) who throw traffic temper tantrums in the hopes of getting some kind of validation from motorists.
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Old 10-26-04, 10:16 AM   #21
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last month i was in prospect park on a friday (for those who don't know new york - that's brooklyn's version of central park) night while the brooklyn cm was going on. there were about 40 cyclists all riding through the park peacefully. surrounding them where an equal number of motorcycle cops - behind, in front, all around. lights flashing, etc... there were also police vans and busses in case of arrests. all this for a relatively small group of cyclists riding through THE PARK on a friday evening. it was absurd. just like a police state. i want my city back!
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Old 10-26-04, 10:32 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by timmhaan
last month i was in prospect park on a friday (for those who don't know new york - that's brooklyn's version of central park) night while the brooklyn cm was going on. there were about 40 cyclists all riding through the park peacefully. surrounding them where an equal number of motorcycle cops - behind, in front, all around. lights flashing, etc... there were also police vans and busses in case of arrests. all this for a relatively small group of cyclists riding through THE PARK on a friday evening. it was absurd. just like a police state. i want my city back!
Unlike other cities, they will never get CM off the streets of New York. I remember the day after hundreds of CM cyclists were arrested, they were back on the streets 24 hours later holding ANOTHER ride right through New York City streets. There are laws against what CM does in almost every state but each one is disregarded because it costs THOUSANDS in police overtime pay each month to arrest all those cyclists.
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Old 10-26-04, 10:50 AM   #23
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I haven't read all the responses but I think their angle is that CM is a protest not a group ride and most cities require permits for such a thing.
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Old 10-26-04, 10:54 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by timmhaan
last month i was in prospect park on a friday (for those who don't know new york - that's brooklyn's version of central park) night while the brooklyn cm was going on. there were about 40 cyclists all riding through the park peacefully. surrounding them where an equal number of motorcycle cops - behind, in front, all around. lights flashing, etc... there were also police vans and busses in case of arrests. all this for a relatively small group of cyclists riding through THE PARK on a friday evening. it was absurd. just like a police state. i want my city back!


are you serious??? that loop is so removed from everything it would seem pointless for the police to be there. It's more a track than a route through residential/commercial areas; there's no traffic to be interfered with, and no bystanders to witness any sort of spectacle...I've seen that many riders there on a good day.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in that same park, people are getting hassled/mugged etc. etc...
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Old 10-26-04, 10:56 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
Unlike other cities, they will never get CM off the streets of New York. I remember the day after hundreds of CM cyclists were arrested, they were back on the streets 24 hours later holding ANOTHER ride right through New York City streets. There are laws against what CM does in almost every state but each one is disregarded because it costs THOUSANDS in police overtime pay each month to arrest all those cyclists.
But have they used federal court orders in the other states? Even if (big if) some sort of notice argument stops the city from enforcing an injunction on the first ride, it can probably serve the order on everyone it arrests for violating laws during that ride. Then, if the people violate the order on the next ride, the riders could find themselves in contempt.

Once you start getting held in contempt, significant fines and jail time become a real possibility. And since it is a federal court, it is much easier to track down assets nationwide. Some of the riders may not think being held in contempt is a big deal now. But a federal contempt citation and asset collection can dog you once you enter the "real world," if not before.

Remember, even Martin Luther King never violated a federal injunction. Is CM better than MLK? I don't think so.
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