2006-11-28 Protest police rules - MetroNY

Metro New York
By Amy Zimmer
NOV 28, 2006

POLICE PLAZA — In the spirit of the monthly Critical Mass bike rides, Chris Ryan, 37, rode his bicycle here from Union Square with roughly 25 other cyclists.

Ryan, like many other riders, was wearing homemade sheep’s ears over his helmet to protest proposed changes to the NYPD’s parade rules that would require a permit for 10 or more pedestrians, bicycles, vehicles or other human-powered devices, or herded animals “proceeding together” more than two blocks and not following traffic rules. Ditto for a group of 30 or more bicycles or vehicles obeying traffic laws. Without a permit, those joining these gatherings could be arrested.

“We think these proposed changes are inspired by [the NYPD’s] reaction to Critical Mass,” Ryan said. “There were almost as many cops on scooters and in SUVs as there were bicycle riders [yesterday].”

Ryan, who works as a lighting designer for film and TV productions, has been arrested twice on Critical Mass rides. He’s had to appear in court 16 times.

“I go from the court set of ‘Law & Order’ to the real courtroom,” Ryan said.

“The NYPD is attempting to define ‘parade’ and the circumstances under which New Yorkers need to obtain a permit simply to ‘get’ Critical Mass,” said Norman Siegal, a civil rights lawyer who represented some cyclists. “What is most likely to occur is the rules will be selectively enforced. Favored groups that engage in favored activities would be subject to minimal enforcement. But for the disfavored ... like the Critical Mass bike riders, the new rules will stifle, or seriously impair, their activities.”

According to a statement released by the NYPD, it “proposed reasonable language for parade permits after the courts indicated that we needed specific definitions.”

Money well spent?

• According to the Times Up! bike group, since 2004 the city has spent $1.32 million to clamp down on Critical Mass.