2006-02-16 Critical Mass Legal Victory – Metro

Critical Mass victory:

Judge: Bike rides not parades



February 16, 2006

By Amy Zimmer

MANHATTAN — The state Supreme Court yesterday ruled against the city in its fight to shut down the monthly Critical Mass bike rides.

The city filed a lawsuit against four volunteers from Times Up! — a pro-bicycle advocacy group — for publicizing and participating in the rides, which occur the last Friday of every month, without a permit. In a ruling made public yesterday, Judge Michael Stallman denied the injunction, saying the city had not proven that the rides that culminate at Union Square Park meet the Parks Dept.’s definition of a parade or a gathering requiring a permit.

“Plainpngs offer no support for the questionable proposition that remaining in a park for as much as half an hour cannot be casual use,” Judge Stallman wrote in the ruling. “Plainpngs’ argument … implicitly assumes that Critical Mass riders are both distinct from other users of the park and a cohesive group, but the city has not articulated an objective test for distinguishing these people, aside from the fact that they have bicycles, which is not any reliable indicator of whether an individual will even participate in a Critical Mass ride. Plainpngs’ assumption is simply guilt by association.

“Defendants’ First Amendment freedoms would be affected if an injunction were granted against them,” he continued.

Matthew Roth, one of the defendants, called the ruling encouraging, saying, “It clearly indicates that the measures the city has been taking to persecute the Critical Mass ride are unacceptable according to legal standards.”

Gideon Oliver, one of the attorneys in the Times Up! case who has represented hundreds of others arrested in Critical Mass, has requested that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office drop all charges of Parading Without a Permit now pending against riders.

“We’ve been saying this all along,” David Rankin, an arrestee who helped found a bike legal defense fund, said. “The city can’t arrest people just for cycling with other cyclists.”

Copyright 2006, Metro