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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 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.

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