NYPD Rule Would Wipe Out NYC’s Premier Bike Education Program

Free classes that teach adults to ride safely would be eliminated if NYPD decides that Bike New York, a registered non-profit, does not qualify as a charitable organization. Photo: Bike New York

A new fee imposed by NYPD could decimate free bike education programs that serve thousands of New Yorkers, and would jeopardize the education component of the city’s bike-share program.

Bike New York, organizer of the Five Boro Bike Tour, holds hundreds of cycling classes each year. Classes designed to teach kids and adults to ride safely are conducted by certified instructors — many of them volunteers — free of charge in schools, parks, and neighborhoods across the city. So far in 2012, these classes have served some 6,000 cyclists of varying ages and skill levels, according to group figures. In addition to its work with city agencies including DOT, the Parks Department, and the Department of Health, Bike New York has partnered with Alta to be the official education provider for Citi Bike.

With 30,000 participants, proceeds from the Five Boro Bike Tour constitute the entirety of Bike New York’s annual budget. Under new parade rules being considered by NYPD, the city would charge the group $930,000 for event traffic control, which would consume most of the $1.2M the event brings in.

Under the proposed rule amendment [PDF, page 1315], NYPD itself would determine what qualifies as a “charitable” parade, and therefore exempted from fees. Though Bike New York is a registered non-profit, the city has informed the group that, under the new rules, the bike tour would not be considered a charitable event.

On Wednesday, Bike New York president Ken Podziba and Alta president Alison Cohen were joined by bike class instructors at a hearing at 1 Police Plaza.

“Bike New York is a not-for-profit organization, and the proceeds from the Five Boro Bike Tour are used solely to enable it to carry out its charitable mission,” said Podziba. “It is clear that a bike tour whose proceeds go entirely to a non-profit organization should be considered a ‘Charitable Athletic’ event. There is nothing ‘uncharitable’ about charging an entry fee to cover event costs and otherwise raise funds for an organization’s mission.”

“If I was not told verbally by the City that we were included in the proposed amendment I would not think Bike New York would be impacted by it. Bike New York did not pay fees in 2012 and this amendment, based on the language, appears to be targeting just Bike New York.”

Streetsblog has asked NYPD how it was determined that the Five Boro Bike Tour would not qualify as a charitable event. We have not received a response as of this writing.

According to Bike New York, the parade fee would prevent the group from serving as the education partner for bike-share, and would hit the organization hard at a time when participation in bike classes is increasing, especially among adults who have taken up cycling to save money.

Said Podziba after yesterday’s hearing: “We’d have to eliminate our entire bike-education program.”

NYPD is expected to decide on the parade rule amendment in the next few months.

  • Grep

    when is this anti bike craziness going to end????

  • Grep: Ray Kelley hates Jeannette Sadik Khan. He goes, or she goes. Until then, the top brass of the NYPD will continue with this nonsense. 

    It’s unreal.

  • The NYPD is being ridiculous as usual. However, the solution is easy: raise the registration fee to $150. Sound ridiculous? Well, I thought 2011’s $85 fee was ridiculous, and it sold out in less than a day. The demand is overwhelming, and the fees are thus underpriced. They are leaving money on the table. It could make up for the bill that they get from the city.

    Another solution: scale up to 50,000 riders if this year’s traffic control methods were indeed an improvement over previous years’ Five Boro Bike Waits. At $90 they would sell that out easily. 

    Also: Are they charging the NY Marathon at least that much money, too? NYRR is basically the same kind of organization. That event is at least 3x as disruptive and yet few people seem to mind.

  • Anon

    How much do the classes cost to run?  Although the 5 Boro tour is a nice event if you can deal with the crowds, and bike classes are a good thing, is an event that costs the public $930,000 per year to subsidize the most efficient way to raise funds for the bike lessons?
    Why not just raise the 5 Boro Bike Tour rider fee?  If this results in fewer riders for the event, it would also mean less need for NYPD.

  • Conspiracy Theorist

    Call me crazy, but perhaps the NYPD brass believes that if it does these things — charge a fee to a worthy non-profit, require parade permits for small group rides, ticket people for minor infractions, have five squad cars escort ten Critical Mass riders, barely investigate cyclists’ deaths — then they will somehow stop the growth of cycling in New York City.  The “real” New York they used to know will return and we’ll all join hands as happy motorists, free to park on the sidewalk at a precinct near you.

    Memo to the NYPD: it isn’t working. It hasn’t worked. It won’t work. Even if DOT stopped building bike lanes right now you’d probably see only a small dent in cycling rates.  So it’s time to go with the flow and embrace cycling.  It actually will make the city safer, which is good for the NYPD, too.

  • Anonymous

    I’m curious, how many personnel does it take to control the traffic for the tour? At the quoted price of $930K, you could pay 2,000 people $465 each for their contribution. If you spaced them out evenly throughout the 40-mile route, and there would be one about every 100 feet. I know this is an overly simplistic calculation, but it helps me visualize what one could do with that amount of money.

    I agree that from a purely economic/capitalist standpoint, the obvious solution is to raise the entry fee, as there is clearly overwhelming demand at the current price point. But there is a socialist part of me that feels sad that, in a communal event such as this one, only the relatively rich would be able to participate. A lottery gets closer to giving everyone a fair chance.

  • CheapSkate

    Not only Is NYPD deciding who should pay their fee they also determine how much protection is needed. At this rate riding in the Five Boro Bike Tour will cost as much as running in the NYC Marathon.

    Still gotta wonder if the 5BBT has become a victim of its own success. With 30,000 riders paying $70 a piece It’s either too expensive or too congested for many city cyclists. Many of the participants come from outdide the city or outside the country. Maybe Bike New York needs to consider whether their goal is to fund bike education or just promote the country’s largest group ride.

  • Mark Walker

    New York needs at least one car-free day a week. Just clear the streets of them entirely. The Five Boro Bike Tour could be staged as often as once a week at no cost to the city, no overtime cost to the NYPD. Pedestrian deaths would plummet.

  • Jeff

    That parade of automobiles that I saw this morning going down Delancey St, presumably some kind of celebration of toll-free East River Bridges, seemed to require A LOT of NYPD personnel to wave them vigorously through traffic lights.  Does AAA pay this fee?  General Motors?  Exxon-Mobil?  I don’t get it.  Who’s picking up this tab?  Are the Clean-Air-Busters (a name I just came up with for these paraders) a charitable organization?  Please advise.

  • Rhubarbpie

    What I can’t understand is why the NYPD has any role in determining what is a charitable organization and what’s not. Is there some kind of expertise the department has developed recently that allows them to make this judgment? It’s similar to the control the department has over press passes, which shouldn’t be their responsibility either.

    The NYPD has enough trouble figuring out appropriate policing tactics (mace protesters: yes; crack down on speeders and investigate bicycle deaths: not so much). This decision just should be in its hands. 

  • Rhubarbpie

    Whoops…my last sentence should read: This decision just shouldn’t be in its hands. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    That’s a very good question about the marathon. Does NYRR pay huge fees for that event? I wonder.

  • Under the new regulation, 5BBT would qualify as a “Charitable Athletic Parade” if only an “administrative fee” was charged for participation in the event and “the proceeds of the event [are] donated to a not-forprofit/charitable organization.”  If the current registration is $60, split it up into a $5 “admin fee” and a $55 “donation” to the BNY education program.  I didn’t see anything in the reg to indicate that NYPD has exclusive discretion to determine  whether BNY/5BBT qualify as a “not-forprofit/charitable organization” and a “Charitable Athletic Parade.”  If BNY is worried about the uncertainty created by the rule, it should allow 5 riders only to pre-register right now for May 2013 using the admin fee/donation split scheme; those registrants will provide a basis for teeing up a suit for declaratory and injunctive relief with respect to the regulation as soon as it is duly promulgated.

  • PaulCJr

    Maybe it times for Ray Kelley to go?

  • CheapSkate

    NYRR recently raised the NYC Marathon fee, for members, from around $175 to $216 to cover new fee imposed by NYPD. NYRR is a much more monied NFP than Bike New York and has a large dues-paying membership. The NYC Marathon probably has considerably more corporate sponsorship than the 5 Boro Bike Tour and it’s only one of many events they promote.

    http://www.nycmarathon.org/entrantinfo/apply_instruct.htm

  • Joe R.

    Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think the auto companies are pulling the NYPD’s strings. It seems every time we hear cycling is up, the NYPD does something else to discourage cycling. We either have enforcement of petty infractions, or roadblocks to organized cycling events, or failure to properly investigate cyclist deaths. Not hard to figure out who stands the most to lose if cycling catches on here-the auto companies. If enough people see they can replace most of their car trips with bike trips, they’ll wonder why they should even bother owning a car. The younger generation has already figured this out.

    We’re even seeing this on a national level with the constant attacks on mass transit, bike, and ped funding. The goal here is to make all of these means of transit so difficult that people will just hold their nose and continue to drive, even as they realize it’s costing them a fortune. The good news is if we can get past this temporary hurdle, I feel cycling will eventually reach a point of no return. Once cyclists are a significant voting block, there will be public pressure to get rid of people like Ray Kelly.

  • Ian Turner

    It’s not clear why Bike New York feels that the rule change is directed specifically at them. The language would seem to apply equally to, say, the Marathon or the Avon Walk.

  • Ed Ravin

    The proposed regulations define “non-charitable athletic parades” as events that are “competitive and recognize the achievements of participants”.   This is a fancy way of saying “tournaments that award prizes to the winners”.  The Five Boro Bike Tour is non-competitive and AFAIK has no prizes other than raffles or or other contests that are unrelated to the “achievements” of the riders.  Even a prize given out to the biggest fundraiser (like on charity rides along the lines of MS or Tour de Cure) shouldn’t qualify an event under this language, as the fundraising “competition” and “achievement” took place entirely outside the context of the parade.  I find it peculiar that NYPD would tell BNY that they would be categorized as “non-charitable” – they are a 501(c)(3) and the Tour is a ride, not a race.

    I suspect what the NYPD really wanted to say was “if you make a lot of money from this event that requires a parade permit, then we want a cut”.

  • fdr

    Bloomberg loves Kelly (which is the way it’s spelled). Kelly isn’t going anywhere until this Mayor’s term is over. 

  • KillMoto

    STEP 1: Formally cancel the ride
    STEP 2: Set up a web site where people can contribute directly to Bike New York
    STEP 3: “Start a rumor” that the worlds biggest Critical Mass will be held on the first Sunday in Mat, commencing in the financial district of Manhattan
    STEP 4: When NYPD comes crawling back to you, demand they start enforcing traffic laws & investigate vehicular homicides as a condition of returning things to the May 2012 status quo.

  • KillMoto

    NYPD wants the kick back because their cost of doing business goes up with the price of gas.  Slash their budget, force them to mothball police cars as a means of meeting budget (a Wal-Mart bike is $100 plus bike maintenance, a Crown Vic is $25,000 plus gas plus automobile maintenance).  

    Budget balanced, problem solved.

    Corollary benefit: thousands of cops with a saddle perspective vice a windshield perspective!

  • Concerned…

    Play brinksmanship.  Cancel the ride for 2013. 

    I’ll bet hotels, restaurants, and taxis scream bloody murder over the loss of revenue.  NYPD would capitulate, and 2014 would be a banner year for 5BBT

  • Mfs

    Is the comment period still open on this? A glance at NYCrules implies it closed Wednesday. This seems to be a day too late.

  • JK

    Have we heard from the NYCLU on this? Also, the Marathon and NY Tri are competitive events in which pro athletes win prizes for their finish. They shouldn’t be compared to BikeNY or the TA Century Ride.

  • moocow

    Thanks Conspiracy Theorist, I think you are right on.