[*BCM*] Critical Mass and Civil Disobedience
trevay at rcn.com
Wed Mar 9 11:54:49 EST 2005
On 3/9/2005 at 11:17 AM Robert Arnold wrote:
>Is there anybody lobbying the city to change this particular law?
>Talking amongst ourselves is fine and all, but isn't change what we're
>ultimately striving for?
As Paul Schimek said yesterday, MassBike has for several years been trying to change this particular law at the state level (because it's a state law).
You can read about the Bicyclist's Bill of Rights and Responsibilities at
http://www.massbike.org/bikelaw/indexl.htm , which contains this modification. (The page hasn't yet been updated for the current legislative session, but the bill is substantially the same.)
As an aside, that we have not yet succeeded has been presented in this forum as a reason why we should not try, or seek cyclists' support in trying. (I disagree with this opinion, of course.)
In my experience, I rarely manage to ride double file with anyone. Either I tend to be going faster after a minute or so, or my co-rider does. So at one time or another, we're always passing.
Since it's legal to pass someone, so long as you're always passing or being passed, you're not violating the law. And thus, double rotating pace lines appear (to me) to be legal. That loophole doesn't make the law any less stupid, of course.
Also, just so we're clear on the Rowinsky issue, the judge correctly explained to the jury that the plaintiff has the right to cycle on Memorial Drive. At
http://www.massbike.org/bikelaw/mass.htm , you'll find MGL ch. 85 sec. 11B, which states,
Every person operating a bicycle upon a way, as defined in section one of chapter ninety, shall have the right to use all public ways in the Commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bicycles have been posted, and shall be subject to the traffic laws and regulations of the Commonwealth and the special regulations contained in the section, except that: (1) the bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way, (2) the bicycle operator shall signal by either hand his intention to stop or turn, and (3) bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks outside business districts when necessary in the interest of safety, unless otherwise directed by local ordinance. A person operating a bicycle on the sidewalk shall yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.
As I understand the law, Memorial Drive is not a limited access or express state highway, nor is any road that is undivided, or can be accessed directly by private ways e.g. driveways, or has grade-level intersections (as opposed to ramps connecting to roads on different grades).
Accordingly, the judge charged the jury by telling them that Rowinsky did indeed have the right to ride on Mem Drive. What he couldn't do is ride double file, which is what the defense attorney's case boiled down to once the rhetoric was set aside.
One wouldn't think that riding double file would be good cause to lock someone up for a night and confiscate one's vehicle. But the rhetoric of the defense was powerful in justifying this. As Attorney Fischer wrote,
"... the defense lawyer portrayed Peter, one of the most decent people I know and one of the best clients I have had, asone of those hooligans known as Critical Mass. Defense counsel took every opportunity to depict how critical mass takes up the whole road and rides slowly on purpose in order to disrupt traffic and interfere with motorists "like you fine ladies and gentlemen of the jury" and disrupt traffic. This, together with sympathy for a grandfatherly appearing now retired police officer, was too much to overcome."
Anyway, on the other side of the river, Storrow Drive meets the requirements for being a limited access, express state highway from which bicycles can be banned. But they're not, at the last I have heard. That's because the DCR who oversee this road hasn't posted the required prohibiting signs -- at the last I have heard.
And so that we all understand (because, Lord forbid, I would hate to have someone lambaste me on a private website where I have no opportunity to respond due to a misunderstanding!), I'm not saying that you should ride, or even that it is a good idea to ride on either of these roads. What I am saying is, it is legal to do so -- by intent, on Memorial Drive, and by lackadaisical maintenance on Storrow. So if you're otherwise obeying the law, you shouldn't be arrested for riding on these roads.
Even though, clearly, you can be ...
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