Monday, February 22, 2010

New York Critical Mass loses in court

It was an implausible---even outrageous---argument on the face of it, that requiring Critical Mass demonstrators to get a parade permit somehow violated their First Amendment rights.The judge surely made the right decision (story below). Even here in Progressive Land, the birthplace of Critical Mass, I've never heard anyone argue that the monthly demo is legal. It's fair to say that, for its infantile participants, it's primary charm is that Critical Mass is a mass flouting of the law.

The Examiner quotes Newsom's office on the decision:
The Mayor’s Office “hasn’t had a chance to review the [New York City] ruling to decide if it would apply here or whether we would even want it to,” Newsom press secretary Tony Winnicker said Tuesday.
Of course the mayor, not to mention the Board of Supervisors, doesn't want the decision to apply to San Francisco. Mayor Newsom has no stomach for doing anything that might be unpopular with city progressives, especially the bike people, who he has courted slavishly over the years, even though they seem to have nothng but contempt for him. With the important exception of Care Not Cash and the homeless issue, Newsom has always been safely within the SF political consensus. The gay marriage initiative was always a safe bet, since it was sure to popular here, though not necessarily in the state's hinterland. One of the things that will be interesting to see if Newsom runs for lieutenant governor is how that issue plays in the rest of the state.

Interesting that Police Chief Gascon saw fit to criticize Critical Mass in public, the only city leader since Willie Brown to do so. I suspect that Gascon is a little shocked at how San Francisco's political leadershlip has allowed it to go on for so many years.

Judge Rules Bike Groups Must Get Parade Permits
by Michael S. Schmidt
Feb. 16, 2010

A federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday dealt a blow to organizers of group bicycle protests, ruling that the City of New York did not violate the constitutional rights of cyclists by requiring them to get parade permits.

The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan, said he was sympathetic to the cyclists. However, Judge Kaplan said, parade regulations and their enforcement by the New York Police Department did not violate their constitutional rights, in particular their freedom of speech.

The ruling will affect protests known as Critical Mass, in which large groups of cyclists congregate in the city and take random paths through the streets. It will also affect the Five Borough Bike Club, which filed a lawsuit against the city in 2007 after the Police Department amended its parade rules, saying it would ticket or arrest any group of 50 cyclists or more that did not have a parade permit.

Before the Republican National Convention in 2004, more than 100 cyclists were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after a group of about 5,000 rode past Madison Square Garden, protesting President Bush.

Mark Muschenheim, the senior counsel of the city’s Administrative Law Division, said, “We are pleased with today’s decision.”

“The court,” he added, “recognized that the policing of Critical Mass rides was not based on any attempt to infringe First Amendment rights, but rather stemmed from Critical Mass bicyclists’ lawless behavior, which included intentionally blocking traffic, riding through red lights, and cycling the wrong way on both one-way and two-way streets.”

The Five Borough Bike Club said in a statement on its Web site that the group was “disappointed by Judge Kaplan’s 54-page decision and will respond further after we and the other plaintiffs have had a chance to study it.”


NextBus: best thing Muni has ever done

I first used the city's Muni system way back in 1961, and the installation of NextBus ( the GPS-based system that tells us when the next bus is coming---is the most important Muni innovation ever, especially now when service is being cut. Now we can look at NextBus and decide whether to wait, walk, or take a cab. It removes a lot of free-floating doubt and potential anger for those of us who regularly use Muni. And here in District 5 we really need it on the #5 inbound bus stop at McAllister and Central, a stop that's handicapped by two turns in the route, where the bus jogs over from Fulton to McAllister.