NolaAnarcha

Sunday, June 12, 2011

NOPD Targets Cyclists: Will They Fight Back?

There are plenty of excellent reasons to support bicycling as a form of transportation: from the oil it takes to run a car and the wars needed to secure it, to health benefits, to ending the epidemic of car-related traffic fatalities killing pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. There are many local organizations trying to promote cycling, respect for bikes, and room for bicyclists on the roads: Metro Bicycle Coalition, Plan B, and RUBARB just to name a few.
At the same time the city is finally listening to these groups and installing a minimal amount of bike lanes and promoting bicycling, the NOPD has decided to issue tickets to bicyclists in the French Quarter. Sometimes our city has no policy coherency at all. This can be a good thing for those looking to escape this system and find zones of autonomy and opacity, but it also means the apparatus of control can be more capricious, arbitrary, and more catered to the service of the powerful minority. Which is why, when the rich, powerful Vieux Carre Property Owners Association (note: not a neighborhood association, a group specifically for owners of the most expensive property in the city) complained to the city about bicyclists running into them on the sidewalk as they exit their million dollar mansions (likely on a cell phone, carrying some shopping bags, expecting everyone to cater to their comfort and care like their servants do), the NOPD jumped into action, issuing $110 tickets to people riding bikes in the Quarter. Bikes that may have cost less than that to buy altogether.

What's next, ticketing the joggers that run into the oblivious rich trash stepping out of their mansions into public space with the arrogance to lay claim to the public areas of the French Quarter and demand they be treated like an extension of their private property? This is yet another glaring example of how the police protect and serve only the rich at the expense of others.

So what are bike riders to do? Will our local pro-cycling organizations step it up and organize bicyclists to oppose this unjustified, classist targeting by NOPD? Or will they leave the people they are advocating for out to dry in order to avoid conflict with the city and the cops? Perhaps they need to hear from bicyclists asking that they organize protests.

Critical Mass style protest rides downtown, perhaps weekly, until the ticketing ends could work. Perhaps rides where bikers borrow a labor struggle tactic and "ride-to-rule," meaning follow all traffic laws meticulously while riding slowly en masse, to show how many traffic problems it would cause, would work? Especially right around, say, City Hall at rush hour, maybe?

If bicyclists did not ignore the laws, which is something they must do in order to maintain their personal safety while riding on streets where cars are more likely to hit them if they ride legally, as well as to get anywhere in a timely manner, car traffic would be slowed to a crawl.

The targeting of cyclists by NOPD is an insult to the dozens of my friends who have been seriously injured by cars, often in hit-and-run collisions, despite NOPD's claim to be able to provide for the protection and safety of all. We all know from plenty of interactions with the NOPD that they could care less about cyclists being hit by cars. One friend who had been run over by a taxi and gotten his pelvis broken was even still in the hospital, sedated on painkillers, when a cop came in and made him sign a paper saying it was his fault when it wasn't!  

But, if rich people have to look both ways before walking out of a doorway, NOPD is on the case and ticketing cyclists! Totally pathetic and sadly typical.

14 comments:

  1. This "crackdown" has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with keeping what the VC Property Owners consider an undesirable element out of the Quarter. It's class war, plain and simple.

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  2. They are pushing bicyclists to anything-goes-Decatur St. The bicycle advocacy groups should be advocating for Royal to be a pedestrian AND bicycle mall. The real issue in the quarter is tourists that walk in front of bicycles and cars. If it's not time for Critical Mass people to show a major presence, then it may as well disband.

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  3. This is total bs. Despite all the huffing and puffing about bad bicyclists, all of the bicyclists put together don't have the sheer tonnage of one car who runs a stop sign or makes an abrupt turn and slams into a bicyclist. We bicyclists are the ones that get put in the hospital, we don't put people there. This is not about public safety, it's about the VCPORA old women leaning on the cops. The VCPORA has been laying low ever since their anti-street musician push looked bad and so this is what they've been waiting to spring on us.

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  4. Look what the city council snuck in this week. The ordinance was written about as solely the signs in neutral grounds, but the article also says:

    "The law also continues a provision banning "advertisements of any kind" on utility poles, street signs, parking meters and trees in the public right of way."

    This means fliers are going to be next. Get ready.
    http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2011/06/new_orleans_city_council_passe_1.html

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  5. the blog Library Chronicles has a good post about the "bandit sign" thing with a bunch of nice photos: http://librarychronicles.blogspot.com/

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  6. This is a nuanced issue. Bicycle riders need to follow the rules of the road. Drivers need to respect bicycles on the road by giving them 3 feet and not driving distracted (e.g. texting, etc). Police need to educate and enforce. We're working on getting a meeting with the 8th Dist Commander to talk about deploying bicycle cops and writing warnings instead of tickets.

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  7. It is and it isn't a nuanced issue. Sure, there's blame to go to bicyclists who ride like they've got a death wish, but why the lopided disproportionate crackdown on bicyclists and nothing else in the quarter? Also why only bicyclists getting ticketed on Royal St. and Jackson Square?

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  8. Jamie,
    The rules of the road are not set up for bicyclists. If we follow them, we are more likely to get hit, and more likely to take so long to get to where we are going it isn't worth it to bike.
    Drivers certainly don't follow the rules pertaining to sharing the road with bicyclists, and until they do, or until there is sufficient space on the roads for bicyclists, I think it is unfair to try and force bikers to follow the rules of the road.

    I think the solution is the opposite of what you are saying: we do not need the police to enforce anything. We need to take and demand space for ourselves as cyclists in the streets, and we need street design that allows more space for cyclists and prioritizes our movement as much as it does for cars. Right now everything is built to facilitate the movement of cars at the expense of bikes and walkers. That's what needs to change.

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  9. Jamie,
    First of all, bikes are two fast to give to cops, keep them on segways, easier to run from. The eighth district is an especially violent group. Don't, I repeat don't work with these people if you wouldn't negotiate with the kkk, its the same thing. Maybe worse. They arrest people for being black in the quarter all the time. I know this from friends in the public defenders office. They target the queer people of color community in the quarter as well, arresting black trans women for prostitution ( often when people are just walking down the street) and harrass queer establishments. Check out the DOJ report, or look up women with a vision for documentation of the eighth districts specific crimes against the people. Than go look them in the eye and reason with them. Look to them to be educators. Or get out there and assert yourself at critical mass, its much more realistic and you won't be negotiating with racist homophobic foot soldiers of the prison industrial complex.

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  10. Peter, you obviously haven't read the news. NOPD already has at least ten bikes for bike cops.

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  11. Excuse? Have you seen any other groups getting cracked down on? Target? Yes, when cars hit us and put us in the hospital or worse, what happens to the drivers as compared to when a car hits another car. USA biking laws are seriously fucked up. We're expected to comply as if we're cars to rules that (as someone mentioned earlier) make us more vulnerable.

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  12. THE NEXT CRITICAL MASS BIKE RIDE IS FRIDAY, JUNE 24TH AT 6PM AT JACKSON SQUARE. COME OUT TO PROTEST THE TICKETS!

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  13. I don't ride a bike personally, but I will say that this ticketing isn't fair. It could be a nuisance issue, but only after they created the space on the New Orleans Streets for the cyclists & cars to both drive/ride safely. If they don't widen the streets/create cyclists lanes then the cyclists should be allowed to used the sidewalks. Personally, as a driver, I would rather you guys be there than on the road with me-- If you fall on the sidewalk you're banged up. If you happen to fall on the road in front on my car you could end up dead. Easy to do with all the cracks & pot holes. There have been so many times that I've been stuck behind a cyclist on Prytania because to pass them would violate the 3ft I'm supposed to give them, and the entire time I'm worried about what if these people ever hit a crack wrong.

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  14. I never stop for a cop when I'm on a bike. Why bother, nothing good can come from it. The fear is a great motivator and funny enough, I've never flinched or changed cadence when I heard ,"Hey you, stop!". I don't look in that direction and only accelerate if I think they're actually going to give chase. Good luck to them too. Hell I'm a big guy, but I can get my bike rolling in the FQ. Zigzaggin' like urban combat, they've never caught me yet. I do tend to ride chill through the pedestrian mall and the Jackson Squarea. The most I've gotten is a somewhat polite request to walk my bike... no problem. But good luck trying to effect change, the whole protest, critical mass thing has been tried. As always, it will return to every cyclist for themselves, organizing them has proven futile so far. The best technique is deflection... get them to pay attention to something else. The more noise you make, the more likely they will try to step on you. Bike lanes don't make me feel safe, rather I feel contained. The best advocate cyclists ever had in NOLA, gave up and is touring SE Asia right now. Thanks Frank! -NolaBikeNinja

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