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NYC Files Lawsuit to Stop Critical Mass

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."
Reposted from NYC Indymedia. See article with comments here:  http://nyc.indymedia.org/feature/display/128206/index.php
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.

The full text of all filings is at  http://info.interactivist.net.
See also:
listening 26.Oct.2004 01:08


A key question may be whether individuals may use their mode of transportation as part of a tactic to convey the expression of a political point of view by using them to bar or impede the flow of transport for which streets and byways are intended. I think it could indeed be very interesting if effective representation is involved.

Except 26.Oct.2004 04:32

Mike stepbystpefarm <a> mtdata.com

In this case the "political point" is directly connected with the mode of transportation.

The point is that while SUPPOSEDLY the cyclists are allowed to ride in the streets, and in fact are required to ride in the streets as opposed to the sidewalks, they are not considered "allowed" by the operators of large motor powered vehicles.

Cyclists riding singly are driven from the streets. That's the whole point of "critical mass" -- that only when there are enough of them together are the cyclists able to do what they are supposedly allowed to do (and required to do).