Archive for February, 2010

Judge Rules Against NYC Critical Mass

February 16th, 2010 by hughillustration

Critical Mass, NYC

The NYC Critical Mass has been besieged for years by a police crackdown, well documented in the film Still We Ride. In response to the massive ride that took place during the 2004 Republican Convention, the cops tried to impose a rule that required groups of 50 or more cyclists to acquire a parade permit. That rule was challenged in court in 2007, and today the judge in that case delivered his decision:

A federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday ruled that the City of New York did not violate the constitutional rights of cyclists by requiring them to file for parade permits when they rode in groups of 50 or more. The ruling is a blow to organizers of the Critical Mass bike protests in Manhattan.

The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of the Southern District of New York, said that he was sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ concerns and acknowledged their inconvenience. However, Judge Kaplan said the parade regulations and their enforcement by the New York Police Department did not violate the Constitution.

As an example of how stupid this ruling is, imagine trying to enforce a 50 rider limit in Amsterdam — or anywhere in China and most of Asia, for that matter. It would be impossible, since there are thousands of cyclists on the road at any given time. Or how about Bike to Work day? Will the cops enforce a 50 rider limit that day as well?

What’s happening on the last Friday of the month around the world is not a really a parade — it’s the eruption of Amsterdam-like traffic patterns onto streets that were once the exclusive domain of motorized traffic. The angry motorists, the police crackdowns, the faulty judicial rulings — these are all just birth pangs of a new kind of city, coming into existence right before our very eyes.

One day a judge will rule that motorists need a parade permit to block traffic with their disruptive “traffic jams.” Until then, there will continue to be popular movements that challenge the illogic of city planning in our time — and those movements will continue to be leaderless, permitless, spontaneous, celebratory and uncontainable. Welcome to the future!

Bike Video: All You Haters

February 11th, 2010 by hughillustration

I found this on the awesome Girl On Bike blog. Not sure I get the satire, but here goes:

That ol’ Culture War…

February 10th, 2010 by ccarlsson

This is an excerpt from a longer piece over at

Police repression, when it comes, is part of a larger culture war between those who think the American Way of Life is fundamentally about cars, business, and private property (almost always a strong bias of individual police) and the growing movement to shift into a new way of organizing our lives, based on ecological principles, reduced resource use, and a more convivial, publicly-oriented cityscape. Most of us riding in Critical Mass are not out to break the law or antagonize anyone, but we do feel strongly that we have to demonstrate firmly and directly a different way of life. To those of us committed to a life with a greater sense of conviviality and a commitment to a public sphere, the childish and antagonistic behavior that a few cyclists bring to the ride has been dismaying.

Unfortunately, the old xerocracy mostly died out (with the notable exception of the 10th anniversary ride in 2002–four different beautiful posters were made and put all around town, dozens of stickers and flyers were distributed at the ride, a book was published). Once or twice a year someone shows up with a flyer addressing the culture of the ride, or prepares a suggested route, but in general, cultural production, once so essential to the experience, went into hibernation. After more than a decade the transmission of the culture from oldtimers to newbies has broken down. People riding in Critical Mass these days might have been infants when we started it 18 years ago!

Sadly, some people show up because they believe all the media lies about this big anarchistic confrontational experience, though they are tiny in number. Still, when they behave badly they get an inordinate amount of attention, not just in the media when it deigns to address this ongoing cultural phenomenon, but weirdly, from other cyclists. There’s a mentality that has been shaped by our profit-driven media: when it bleeds, it leads. I’m afraid all too many people on all sides of Critical Mass tend to fall into this same mental trap, focusing their attention on the tiny few who behave like jerks, rather than the overwhelming thousands (and not just here, but across the planet in over 300 cities worldwide) who manage things well, extend courtesy and kindness to bystanders, have joyful interchanges with people briefly stuck in buses and cars, and are greeted exuberantly from neighbors in their windows as we roll through central city neighborhoods.