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We Are Expressive Traffic

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  • Jym Dyer
    =v= To folks outside of the U.S., I m going to describe what s below in terms of my country s Bill of Rights, etc., but the civil rights issues are global
    Message 1 of 6 , Jul 4, 2005
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      =v= To folks outside of the U.S., I'm going to describe what's
      below in terms of my country's Bill of Rights, etc., but the
      civil rights issues are global ones. We haven't been so good
      about this lately, but not so long ago our movements for civil
      rights have been a beacon for the world. Today I see Critical
      Mass, a worldwide movement, right in the center of some of the
      most important civil rights struggles going on today.

      =v= This is serious stuff, so I'm taking some time out from
      enjoying this sunny July 4th to try to spread the word.

      > Ummm... Isnt that in direct contradiction to the US
      > Constitution? ie: "the right of the people peaceably to
      > assemble"

      =v= Indeed, it contradicts what this country's Founders wisely
      made #1 on the Bill of Rights:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of
      religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
      abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
      right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition
      the government for a redress of grievances.

      It's noteworthy that the City of New York's lawsuit also wants
      to enforce an unConstitutional policy against free speech, to
      prevent us from *publicizing* Critical Mass; and that this whole
      thing sprung out of the City's unConstitutional attack on our
      petitioning the government for a redress of grievances during
      the Republican National Convention last August.

      =v= While "no law ... abridging" seems extremely clear to me,
      thousands of such laws, policies, and rules have been written,
      enforced, and prosecuted. Worst of all is when these things
      are made vague and unclear and give the police wide discretion
      to use force; the more there is of this, in particular, the
      more society resembles what is called a police state. Civil
      rights struggles are often a matter of beating back those
      efforts, away from the police state and towards freedom.

      =v= Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, police at
      all levels of government have made a power grab (and in the
      case of corrupt NYPD honcho Bernard Kerik and his ilk, made a
      lot of money in the process). In New York and elsewhere, some
      of this has taken the form of vague and unclear policies with
      the force of law, or at least *enforcement* as if it's law,
      and restrictions on public space.

      =v= These are trends on a collision course with Critical Mass.

      =v= Critical Mass is freedom of expression. In a Federal case
      last October, judge William H. Pauley ruled, "Participation in
      the Critical Mass bike ride constitutes expressive association
      entitled to First Amendment protection." This protection, as it
      currently stands in the U.S., means it's allowable to the extent
      that it doesn't create unsafe situations or disorder. These are
      in themselves pretty vague criteria, but the City of New York
      did fail to prove them in that Federal case!

      =v= One arena where "unsafe" and "disorder" tends to sway judges
      (and, for that matter, the public) is disruption of traffic.
      But ... Critical Mass *is* traffic! Traffic experts have even
      shown that we're less disruptive than other common parts of
      traffic, including some things that are illegal yet go on with
      impunity. Usually limits on expressive association are geared
      towards rallies, marches, and parades, but not towards bicycles
      as traffic. Which is frustrating to police trying to limit
      Critical Mass.

      =v= And so they must try to use whatever pretext they've got to
      impose wide discretion to use force. In the case of the City of
      New York, there are legal definitions of demonstrations and laws
      applying to them, but the NYPD points to a policy definition of
      "parade or processing" that was written by the NYPD itself, and
      which purports to apply to any group. Any group at all! at the
      complete and unbridled discretion of Asst. Chief Bruce Smolka
      (as he himself asserted in testimony in that Federal case).

      =v= Folks who remember the civil rights struggles of the 1960s
      might hear an echo of the white supremacist police chief Bull
      Connor's claim that the law is what *he* says it is, as he
      attacked peaceful protesters with firehoses and police dogs.

      =v= So this is where Critical Mass stands at this point in
      history: a free use of public space that they haven't been
      able to outlaw, yet, but are doing their best to stop. We who
      believe in the First Amendment and/or humans rights worldwide
      are here to keep our freedoms.
      Still We Ride,
      <_Jym_>
    • Wayne Huang
      Jym, Thank you for these thoughtful words. I would like to express one concern I have been having about Critical Mass rides. Now, I absolutely agree that we
      Message 2 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
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        Jym,

        Thank you for these thoughtful words. I would like to
        express one concern I have been having about Critical
        Mass rides.

        Now, I absolutely agree that we are indeed traffic, no
        different than car traffic. However, on the last two
        and only rides I participated in, and from my
        understanding of it, the the mass does not observe
        traffic signals. There is even the practice of a few
        riders blocking the traffic at intersections in order
        to let the riders pass. My question to you is, if we
        are traffic, then would it not stand that we must also
        observe the laws of traffic? What is the arguement for
        our conscious disregard for traffic signals? If we
        observe them as individual riders, why would we not
        observe them as a group?

        My concern arises out of that emergency vehicles such
        as ambulances, which we have had the luck of not
        intersecting yet, could be delayed from crossing. I am
        curious to see how the riders would react to an
        ambulance in their midst, would they stop for it or go
        on riding? On an average it takes about 4-5 minutes
        for about 400 riders to cross an intersection and this
        is vital time for say, a 3rd degree burn victim in the
        back of an ambulance.

        Worse case scenario, a man dies on the way to the
        hospital, where the ambulance had intersected with CM,
        the city blames the riders (regardless if they
        actually delayed the ambulance or not), gain a new
        arguement to ban CM, you get the rest.

        Your thoughts?

        WH



        --- Jym Dyer <jym@...> wrote:

        > =v= To folks outside of the U.S., I'm going to
        > describe what's
        > below in terms of my country's Bill of Rights, etc.,
        > but the
        > civil rights issues are global ones. We haven't
        > been so good
        > about this lately, but not so long ago our movements
        > for civil
        > rights have been a beacon for the world. Today I
        > see Critical
        > Mass, a worldwide movement, right in the center of
        > some of the
        > most important civil rights struggles going on
        > today.
        >
        > =v= This is serious stuff, so I'm taking some time
        > out from
        > enjoying this sunny July 4th to try to spread the
        > word.
        >
        > > Ummm... Isnt that in direct contradiction to the
        > US
        > > Constitution? ie: "the right of the people
        > peaceably to
        > > assemble"
        >
        > =v= Indeed, it contradicts what this country's
        > Founders wisely
        > made #1 on the Bill of Rights:
        >
        > Congress shall make no law respecting an
        > establishment of
        > religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
        > thereof; or
        > abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press;
        > or the
        > right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
        > petition
        > the government for a redress of grievances.
        >
        > It's noteworthy that the City of New York's lawsuit
        > also wants
        > to enforce an unConstitutional policy against free
        > speech, to
        > prevent us from *publicizing* Critical Mass; and
        > that this whole
        > thing sprung out of the City's unConstitutional
        > attack on our
        > petitioning the government for a redress of
        > grievances during
        > the Republican National Convention last August.
        >
        > =v= While "no law ... abridging" seems extremely
        > clear to me,
        > thousands of such laws, policies, and rules have
        > been written,
        > enforced, and prosecuted. Worst of all is when
        > these things
        > are made vague and unclear and give the police wide
        > discretion
        > to use force; the more there is of this, in
        > particular, the
        > more society resembles what is called a police
        > state. Civil
        > rights struggles are often a matter of beating back
        > those
        > efforts, away from the police state and towards
        > freedom.
        >
        > =v= Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,
        > police at
        > all levels of government have made a power grab (and
        > in the
        > case of corrupt NYPD honcho Bernard Kerik and his
        > ilk, made a
        > lot of money in the process). In New York and
        > elsewhere, some
        > of this has taken the form of vague and unclear
        > policies with
        > the force of law, or at least *enforcement* as if
        > it's law,
        > and restrictions on public space.
        >
        > =v= These are trends on a collision course with
        > Critical Mass.
        >
        > =v= Critical Mass is freedom of expression. In a
        > Federal case
        > last October, judge William H. Pauley ruled,
        > "Participation in
        > the Critical Mass bike ride constitutes expressive
        > association
        > entitled to First Amendment protection." This
        > protection, as it
        > currently stands in the U.S., means it's allowable
        > to the extent
        > that it doesn't create unsafe situations or
        > disorder. These are
        > in themselves pretty vague criteria, but the City of
        > New York
        > did fail to prove them in that Federal case!
        >
        > =v= One arena where "unsafe" and "disorder" tends to
        > sway judges
        > (and, for that matter, the public) is disruption of
        > traffic.
        > But ... Critical Mass *is* traffic! Traffic experts
        > have even
        > shown that we're less disruptive than other common
        > parts of
        > traffic, including some things that are illegal yet
        > go on with
        > impunity. Usually limits on expressive association
        > are geared
        > towards rallies, marches, and parades, but not
        > towards bicycles
        > as traffic. Which is frustrating to police trying
        > to limit
        > Critical Mass.
        >
        > =v= And so they must try to use whatever pretext
        > they've got to
        > impose wide discretion to use force. In the case of
        > the City of
        > New York, there are legal definitions of
        > demonstrations and laws
        > applying to them, but the NYPD points to a policy
        > definition of
        > "parade or processing" that was written by the NYPD
        > itself, and
        > which purports to apply to any group. Any group at
        > all! at the
        > complete and unbridled discretion of Asst. Chief
        > Bruce Smolka
        > (as he himself asserted in testimony in that Federal
        > case).
        >
        > =v= Folks who remember the civil rights struggles of
        > the 1960s
        > might hear an echo of the white supremacist police
        > chief Bull
        > Connor's claim that the law is what *he* says it is,
        > as he
        > attacked peaceful protesters with firehoses and
        > police dogs.
        >
        > =v= So this is where Critical Mass stands at this
        > point in
        > history: a free use of public space that they
        > haven't been
        > able to outlaw, yet, but are doing their best to
        > stop. We who
        > believe in the First Amendment and/or humans rights
        > worldwide
        > are here to keep our freedoms.
        > Still We Ride,
        > <_Jym_>
        >




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      • Amigiac [London, UK]
        On CM London we cross traffic lights as a mass, together so cars do not get stuck in mid-mass, the police here actually stop side traffic at junctions to try
        Message 3 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
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          On CM London we cross traffic lights as a mass, together so cars do not
          get stuck in mid-mass, the police here actually stop side traffic at
          junctions to try to get us through as fast as possible, we do however
          stick to a speed of around 4mph.

          We often have to pull the whole mass over to the side to allow police,
          ambulance and fire vehicles to pass, this has never been a problem here,
          when spotted people shout "Blue Lights" this gets passed down the mass
          and everyone moves, this allows faster passage than cars being in the
          road, bikes after all can be placed on the pavement or riders can move
          together to allow more space.

          Wayne Huang wrote:

          >Jym,
          >
          >Thank you for these thoughtful words. I would like to
          >express one concern I have been having about Critical
          >Mass rides.
          >
          >Now, I absolutely agree that we are indeed traffic, no
          >different than car traffic. However, on the last two
          >and only rides I participated in, and from my
          >understanding of it, the the mass does not observe
          >traffic signals. There is even the practice of a few
          >riders blocking the traffic at intersections in order
          >to let the riders pass. My question to you is, if we
          >are traffic, then would it not stand that we must also
          >observe the laws of traffic? What is the arguement for
          >our conscious disregard for traffic signals? If we
          >observe them as individual riders, why would we not
          >observe them as a group?
          >
          >My concern arises out of that emergency vehicles such
          >as ambulances, which we have had the luck of not
          >intersecting yet, could be delayed from crossing. I am
          >curious to see how the riders would react to an
          >ambulance in their midst, would they stop for it or go
          >on riding? On an average it takes about 4-5 minutes
          >for about 400 riders to cross an intersection and this
          >is vital time for say, a 3rd degree burn victim in the
          >back of an ambulance.
          >
          >Worse case scenario, a man dies on the way to the
          >hospital, where the ambulance had intersected with CM,
          >the city blames the riders (regardless if they
          >actually delayed the ambulance or not), gain a new
          >arguement to ban CM, you get the rest.
          >
          >Your thoughts?
          >
          >WH
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
        • Jared Dunne
          Wayne- My comments below. Perhaps Jym can chime in as well. Now, I absolutely agree that we are indeed traffic, no ... This is a commonly asked question. I can
          Message 4 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
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            Wayne-

            My comments below. Perhaps Jym can chime in as well.

            Now, I absolutely agree that we are indeed traffic, no
            different than car traffic. However, on the last two
            and only rides I participated in, and from my
            understanding of it, the the mass does not observe
            traffic signals. There is even the practice of a few
            riders blocking the traffic at intersections in order
            to let the riders pass. My question to you is, if we
            are traffic, then would it not stand that we must also
            observe the laws of traffic? What is the arguement for
            our conscious disregard for traffic signals? If we
            observe them as individual riders, why would we not
            observe them as a group?


            This is a commonly asked question. I can only speak for the Chicago Critical Mass rides that I have personally attended. But the mentality with regards to intersections that I have observed/praticed are:

            1) If the front of the mass hits a red light, the mass stops.
            2) Once the mass has passed into an intersection, the mass continues through until the last rider clears that intersection, regardless of light color.  I look at this as the mass being one collective entity.  There are lots of good reasons to do this. I see safety as being the primary one. If the mass gets split up and cars are "part" of the mass, things can get a little dangerous. Unless it's a really narrow street and a super long mass, the cars will usually only have to wait for another rotation of the lights to go.
            3) Corking: This is the blocking of cars by cyclists you point out. This is again for safety related to #2.  I only "cork" intersections when there is either a small gap in the mass (again to prevent cars from entering the mass or trying to race through), or if the there is a driver trying to "push" his way through... If some one has already corked an intersection and one cager seems to be irately honking and inching forward toward the corker, I will bike over to the driver side window and begin talkign to the driver.  I usually say something like "sorry for the inconveinence, we will be clear of the intersection in a moment, thanks for your patience, etc" and usually this turns into a positive encounter instead of a posibly dangerous one.
             

            My concern arises out of that emergency vehicles such
            as ambulances, which we have had the luck of not
            intersecting yet, could be delayed from crossing. I am
            curious to see how the riders would react to an
            ambulance in their midst, would they stop for it or go
            on riding? On an average it takes about 4-5 minutes
            for about 400 riders to cross an intersection and this
            is vital time for say, a 3rd degree burn victim in the
            back of an ambulance.


            This is another good question. This is something very important that any CM riders should think about.  This has happened twice to me and both times CM riders reacted beautifully:
            First time: An ambulance was coming up from behind the Mass, lots of riders began shouting and herding everyone to the right most lane/side of street and the ambulance was able to pass with no more delay than had it been rush hour car car traffic (probably faster). This was actually on San Francisco CM, a few Decembers ago.
            Second time: An emergency vehicle was driving perpendicular to the mass and was behind a wall of cars which the mass had delayed from entering the intersection... Some riders in the intersection turned and signalled the remainder of the mass to stop, after which the cyclists allowed the cars to move through the intersection and to the right side fo the street so the emergency vehicle could pass.

            Interestingly enough, you will often see CM-riders treating public transit the same way (buses, muni, etc).. I think this should be a more common part of CM activity...

            jared-


          • Jym Dyer
            ... =v= Of course we think about it. There s no cause for concern. If you stop to think about it, a street filled with bikes is inherently going to be able to
            Message 5 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
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              >> My concern arises out of that emergency vehicles such as
              >> ambulances, ...
              > This is another good question. This is something very
              > important that any CM riders should think about.

              =v= Of course we think about it. There's no cause for concern.
              If you stop to think about it, a street filled with bikes is
              inherently going to be able to get out of an ambulance's way
              much faster than a street filled with bikes. And we do. We
              part like the Red Sea for emergency vehicles.

              =v= There have been incidents around the U.S. in which officials
              claimed that Critical Mass impeded emergency vehicles, but they
              have all been proven false. Indeed, as part of its attack on
              CM last year, the NYPD actually arranged to have fire engines
              run through the ride while officers stood at the ready with
              videocameras, but it turned out the bicyclists got out of the
              way very quickly, leaving them no evidence to use against us
              for their very stupid, dangerous, and expensive efforts.
              <_Jym_>
            • Wayne Huang
              Jym, I was not aware of this incident and the NYPD using such tactics. My concerns have been put at ease. I m new to CM and I believe in the movement, just
              Message 6 of 6 , Jul 5, 2005
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                Jym,

                I was not aware of this incident and the NYPD using
                such tactics. My concerns have been put at ease. I'm
                new to CM and I believe in the movement, just needed
                some assurance that such trivial matters would not be
                it's downfall.

                Best Regards,

                Wayne Huang

                --- Jym Dyer <jym@...> wrote:

                > >> My concern arises out of that emergency vehicles
                > such as
                > >> ambulances, ...
                > > This is another good question. This is something
                > very
                > > important that any CM riders should think about.
                >
                > =v= Of course we think about it. There's no cause
                > for concern.
                > If you stop to think about it, a street filled with
                > bikes is
                > inherently going to be able to get out of an
                > ambulance's way
                > much faster than a street filled with bikes. And we
                > do. We
                > part like the Red Sea for emergency vehicles.
                >
                > =v= There have been incidents around the U.S. in
                > which officials
                > claimed that Critical Mass impeded emergency
                > vehicles, but they
                > have all been proven false. Indeed, as part of its
                > attack on
                > CM last year, the NYPD actually arranged to have
                > fire engines
                > run through the ride while officers stood at the
                > ready with
                > videocameras, but it turned out the bicyclists got
                > out of the
                > way very quickly, leaving them no evidence to use
                > against us
                > for their very stupid, dangerous, and expensive
                > efforts.
                > <_Jym_>
                >


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