NY Times editorial supports Critical Mass--and cycling

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Anonymous's picture

"Anothing court hearing is taking place on Wednesday--apparently the city seeks to ban all bike ""processions"" henceforth (I don't know the details)

From THE CITY section

A Critical Mess
Published: December 5, 2004


There is no law keeping bikes off the streets. The sudden appearance of thousands of riders obviously poses a challenge, but need not inconvenience others if riders do their part and obey traffic laws as they should. There are no doubt scofflaws among Critical Mass bikers, just as there are among car drivers. But the problem now is that instead of issuing summonses, the police have been arresting the cyclists, handcuffing and taking them away. That is not the best use of New York's finest.

In a city like New York, with heavy traffic congestion and overburdened mass transit, bicycles offer an alternative that ought to be encouraged. Bicycles do not create dangerous air emissions. They offer health benefits to the riders. And they're easier on the city's aging roads.

...As a way to promote cycling, Critical Mass has legs, in more ways than one. The city should work with riders to defuse their disagreement so the monthly rides can go on, in an orderly, lawful and safe way. ""


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
And check out Aaron Naparstek's new column
Anonymous's picture
jay (not verified)
a note

hi carol,
perhaps your friends in the bicycle world have some suggestions to my problem concerning a bicycle confiscated by nyc officers while it was locked to a post at a park. it is not directly related to your nice note in praise of the critical mass group, however it does relate in that i have been given the impression that nyc officers give little respect to bikes parked on parks and on some traffic signs. i have posted a thread with a more details to my problem.
thanks in advance for any pointers.

Anonymous's picture
fixed (not verified)
I read in the Times

awhile ago, that it is legal for the police to confiscate bicycles they feel are impeding the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Hearing date WEDNESDAY 12/8

> Subject: REMINDER: CM Evidentiary Hearing, 12/8, 10:00 am
> Hi folks,
> The next (and hopefully final) hearing on Critical
> Mass before Judge Pauley is tomorrow morning at 10:00
> am. This is an evidentiary hearing, meaning that
> witnesses will be called to the stand, examined,
> cross-examined, berated and chastised, etc.
> After this hearing, Judge Pauley is expected to make
> several rulings: a judgment on the damages that the
> cyclist plaintiffs in the original case could receive,
> a judgment on the merits of the city's injunction to
> stop the rides, or a judgment on whether this is not
> better handled in a State Court.
> He likely won't want to drag this on any farther, so a
> decision should come down in the next couple of weeks.
> Please spread the word far and wide, as a packed
> courthouse is a good courthouse. The hearing may go
> on for a good portion of the day, with lunch recess
> and an afternoon segment.
> U.S. District Court
> 500 Pearl St. (just West of Foley square, btw. Pearl
> and Worth streets)
> 11th Floor
> Wednesday, December 8th
> 10:00 am

Anonymous's picture
debbie (not verified)
so what happened? (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Two reports

"One report I have heard from this morning has it that NYPD Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka essentially testified that bikes should be treated differently than automobiles (as traffic) because the city streets are designed for cars.

Here is what I saw in the afternoon:

Saw about an hour of the court proceedings this afternoon. Steve Faust was testifying when I entered around 3pm. He was being asked to compare Critical Mass to other big bike rides that require permits, like the Five Borough and the MS ride. Steve countered that the main reason for which permits were needed there was because the rides went onto roadways where bikes normally did not go, such as bridges and expressways. However, huge numbers of cyclists get to and from the start point without police escort, he pointed out.

The court adjourned at five to four, just as Matthew Roth was being examined by the city. Basically, the city's attorney spent most of her time trying to get Matthew (and the guy who preceded him, don' know his name) to ""admit"" that they broke traffic rules during Critical Mass. However, our witnesses cagily evaded the trap, referring to the precedents set during previous rides in which police encouraged corking, etc.

Reconvening tomorrow at 10am.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
AP article in Newsday


""Smolka testified that the rides had become such a problem that they must be policed by hundreds of officers, forcing the department to reassign officers who otherwise 'could be resolving homicides and other things.' ""

This is funny. He swears in court that Critical Mass is a problem that exceeds homicide in severity. What would the police do if the Massers actually hurt someone--shoot them? (Don't answer that.) At some point, reality is going to have to check in. Where is the evidence of tremendous harm?

It's a syndrome I frequently encounter in my union shop steward duties. People (managers) who wield a little authority confuse their own beliefs and sense of power with the interests of the hierarchy they supposedly represent. So anything they cannot control and subdue threatens, in their minds, the entire system and must be obliterated."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Expert witness

"This account is by Steve Faust, a transportation expert who served as an expert witness in the case.


The federal court sessions ended about noon this morning. The city and the CM lawyers wrapped up - answering a lot of direct questions form the judge.

Quick opinion - the city will lose. The question is HOW they will lose - a slap on the wrist or a 2 x 4 upside the head.

However, if the city remains totally stubborn they will carry this on in state court - it ain't over 'till it's over.

Yesterday - Chief Smolka - Assistant Chief Bruce Smolka, Commanding Officer of Patrol Borough Manhattan South

This is The Man in control of the CM police response since April 2004. BLAME: put 75 percent of the blame on the Mayor's orders to clean up the city for the RNC put 99 percent on Chief Smolka's approach to carrying out that order. Adds up to more than 100 percent? There is more than that much blame to go around.

Smolka made the most outrageous series of statements about how bikes don't belong on the streets. When asked what constitutes a parade or procession, it boiled down to: Whatever I decide it is. How many bike constitute a procession - 7 could well be a procession, but 7 cars would never be.

it went on like this for over an hour.....

I am reasonably convinced that Smolka is channeling the spirit of Vlad the Impailer, or else he has been sent here on an international police exchange - we sent a NY cop to Baghdad and we got back Smolka from Sadam's police force in exchange. Alternate location - Smolka was in the Serbian secret police on an exchange....

My Testimony Yesterday -

Had no problem covering the Madison Square - 23rd Street Diversion. Smolka admitted in writing that the supervisor at Madison Sq ""misunderstood the orders"". Gee, if the cops can't get something like this right, what else did they screw up....? The photos of the barricade tape and the very calm turn onto West 23rd were bombproof.

City tried to hammer me about ""illegal riding"" like riding in the middle of an avenue or going thru red lights. Did a good cover over why bike lanes are to keep cars out and not keep bikes in - substandard and we knew it when we (I was there in sausage factory) drafted the law. Lots of good reasons for cycling away from far left or right sides of roads, and why a cyclist would be in the middle of the roadway. Punches holes in the fact the CM (and other) riders don't hug the edges of the roadways.

Red lights got covered per CM - the police started the Oct ride like a RR Train - rolling through all intersections at police direction - once the train was started it's very hard to change the mode of operation - even after the police drop off - as they did after the 23rd St diversion. I also noted that on other rides I lead, I always instruct riders to obey all lights - but at least always treat the red light as a stop sign. Not perfectly legal, but it appeared that the judge was happy with that as a safe approach. Can't lie on the stand - tell the truth - in the best form you can. City kept trying to hammer public safety issue - we are here to help you sh*t - but kept falling flat on their faces.

Long discussion of the world class rides in NYC that get parade permits - 5 Boro, MS Tour for example. Very easy to say they need permits to ride on highways normally closed to bikes - FDR and Henry Hudson for example - and because they close entire streets for hours, not minutes. These are very special events. But had a large bunch of fun with the tail end of the MS ride - the group that used the Lincoln Tunnel and up Jersey to NYState border. When the riders return via the GWB, I explained that they were riding on the NJ highways without police escort, and return down Riverside Drive etc on the city streets, as traffic, without needing the police - over a thousand riders doing this. Perhaps more fun when asked how the 30"

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Court report 12/9/04

"From NYCC member Peter Meitzler:

Judge William Pauley's preliminary remarks in opening second day of evidentiary hearing: injunctions are normally used to prevent irreparable harm. I believe he noted that the city still had not indicated how Critical Mass causes irreparable harm. City counsel would later say that causing a traffic tie-up is irreparable (as in motorists lose minutes they can never get back), but then later would argue that a permit is necessary because Critical Mass is a procession. One wonders why a permitted event that ties up traffic for a moment eliminates minutes lost in traffic??? You could see he was very wary of a federal ruling being used in a situation where State and city courts would be apparently sufficient. He was also concerned about the flood of lawsuits that the injunction would engender. Siegel would later note that in the case of a one-year prison sentence, a jury trial would be required.

Matt Roth - careful to describe his role in Time's Up!, about Critical Mass vs. Time's Up! organized rides (in particular, next Critical Mass vs. annual New Year's Eve ride organized by Time's Up!) under questioning by second City attorney. Matt was great, calm, collected, informative. Matt promised not to ever ride his bike again on the FDR as we was unaware, then, that it was not permitted; he noted there are no signs posted prohibiting such riding.

Steve Hyman - spoke about novelty of what city is asking for; claimed with adequate measures already available to it, the city, by seeking an injunction via a Federal court was turning Pauley's court into a super traffic court. The city's attorney would deny this later, simply saying that having in injunction would be helpful. Described how since Chief Smolka was paying attention to the ride and getting involved with it, that that is when the problems began; otherwise, before then, for years, there were no major problems.

Norman Siegel - brilliant! Read some portions of the Judge's prior decisions out loud (in support, of course). Really tried to explain how under 10-110, the code that describes what constitutes a procession, is really not applicable to Critical Mass. Under 10-110, the one thing that mentions bikes is ""bike race."" That was stunner as Critical Mass is no bike race. Even the City's attorneys were paying close attention. Went on to discuss also how need for a permit to gather momentarily in a city park is not applicable and that essentially Critical Mass gathering in Union Square does not displace other park users or would move itself if it occurred during a permitted park event (such permitted events having notable characteristics such as platforms, speakers, sound, cleanup bonds to be posted, etc., none of which is part of a Critical Mass). Mentioned that most likely use of permit process would be discretionary, not automatic, and that the Police Dept. would not be objective in reviewing requests. And that anyone applying for a permit would have to be an officer of an organization or risk filing a false statement on a form. Stated that two similar cases had been sent back to State Court from a Federal Court. A fine presentation. We should have had more people there listening.

Chris Dunn - former colleague of Siegel's, filed amicus brief (a brief in support of our side), saying that the named parties (all five who had bikes confiscated) were invisible parties, and that their relationship to Critical Mass participants was tenous. In addition, he said that the City had not produced any evidence that the owners of these 5 confiscated bikes had broken any laws.

City's Counsel, Robin Binder - began by saying that it would be helpful to have an injunction to eliminate Critical Mass altogether, ""to nip it in the bud."" Bad idea to say something like this in this courtroom. Further along in closing arguments, continued to say that Critical Mass is a procession, regardless of whether it stopp"

Anonymous's picture
hannah (not verified)
thanks for posting


Thanks for posting these to the board. Very good stuff, and even entertaining to boot. I can't access my personal e-mail during the day so would be out of the loop if not for these posts.

I'm beaming good vibes to the judge.


Anonymous's picture
Joe Average (not verified)
Bump (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Villager article

The Villager continues its close coverage of the issues surrounding Critical Mass. Thank you, Lincoln Anderson.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Naparstek on Pauley's ruling


New York Press vol. 18 issue 1
Aaron Naparstek

The NYPD has lost yet another round in its legal battle against the Critical Mass bike ride. On Thursday, December 23, U.S. District judge William H. Pauley denied the city's request for an injunction that would prevent Critical Mass cyclists from gathering and riding without city permits.

Judge Pauley's ruling was a victory for cyclists, but only a defensive one. It doesn't do anything to stop the NYPD's aggressive crackdown on cyclists. The real benefits of Bray vs. City of New York will likely be felt in the long-term. Attorney Norman Siegel's legal team is shedding public light on the irrationality of New York City's dysfunctional, car-oriented transportation policies and the NYPD's role in enforcing them.


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