They Are Playing Re-Runs of the GOP Primary on ChainLink

Summary

Despite their best intentions the GOP has devolved into a circle of Legalistic Tea Party types who have managed to elevate the art of being a Buzz Kill to an all time high. Not to be outdone the ChainLink Forum has taken up two major initiatives:

  • Getting John Kass to cease and desist in his complaints about scofflaw cyclists
  • Persisting where possible in the photo capture of scofflaw motorists with an emphasis on those parking in the bike lane

One wonders why the Double Standard on the part of the ChainLink Forum, but it is a reflection of the state of the Cycling Movement just now. We are the American Taliban where Urban Transportation is concerned. Remember this video clip?

We have become all about trying to inflict the greatest possible pain from motorists who park in the bike lane while being unwilling to have anyone write about cyclists who run red lights or blow stop signs on the grounds that such rhetoric is anti-cycling. And if you really want to piss off a group of Taliban Cyclists just utter the words registration, licensing or roadway tolls and you will find yourself banished to Cycling Hell.

After all raising tax rates on anyone is a no-no for the Tea Party and by extension the same idea is true for the Cycling Taliban.

But on the question of legality is very high in the pantheon of concerns displayed by these Legalists:

Photographing drivers – legal?
Posted by Andrew Bedno on January 2, 2013

Some of you likely noticed that mybikelane.com has shut down*, stating “This has always been a side project, and unfortunately I do not have time to properly maintain the site or the service.” There’s a TCL thread about it here.
But I still regularly hear need for such functionality. People are muddling through using Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr. But I could easily render it with massup.us** so I want to explore the issue.
This is probably contentious, so let’s stay focused:
Is it legal? LAWYERS please: No public expectation of privacy versus publishing license plate numbers? You tell me.

Is there already a good place/way to post such photos?
* You can still see what MyBikeLane.com looked like in the internet archives here.
** MassUp.us can automatically post emailed photos with geolocation. It’d work exactly like the abandoned bikes reporting here: http://massup.us/llbb/c
If it’s legal and not already well done, I’d add an address like douche@massup.us – just need a better name, and to be sure it’s not a terrible idea.
And CONGRATS JULIE!!!!!!

Ice Mountain Trucker

Ice Mountain Trucker

You can translate all this mumbo-jumbo into four simple words, “can I be sued?” Last week we saw a minor fracas erupt when an Ice Mountain truck unloading water bottles was documented. The photo at the right is clear evidence that motorists are the Spawn of Satan. Photographing one of them and posting that image somewhere public is part of a religious rite practiced by those in the Church of Urban Cycling.

Cycling Taliban Cruiser to the Rescue

Cycling Taliban Cruiser to the Rescue

The reason for this exorcism is because of the inherently dangerous nature of automobiles. They kill and everything in our power must be done to take them off the streets. Cyclists on the other hand are peace loving people who only want to be left alone. Top that end another image was posted in which it was demonstrated how best to handle offending motorists parked in the bike lane.

The logic being offered up here is akin to a group of Pro-Life Activists who in defense of human life assassinate an abortion doctor inside a church as has already been done or bomb its reception office while patients and staff are present.

But the ChainLink discussion alluded to above had some interesting twists:

Reply by Juan Primo yesterday
I’m not a lawyer so what is my opinion worth?
But… plenty of street photographs are made and published all the time. Think of all the crowd shots you see on Facebook, the newspaper, youtube, regular TV etc. If person is out in public I think they are fair game to be photographed.
License plates are even less identifying than a face as well.
I think the point of MyBikeLane was to publicly shame anyhow. How lame would it be if we had to publicly shame yet have to blur out faces and license plates?

Reply by Steven Vance yesterday
What has this functionality* ever achieved?
*To post photos in a very public way of drivers, or their cars, parked in bike lanes.

Reply by Just Will yesterday
If you can be seen by someone in a public location, there’s no expectation of privacy. One such example that’s taken for granted by paparazzi is: if you’re at home with a see through window, any photographers on the street/sidewalk may take your photograph. When someone on the outside can see you inside your house, you have no expectation of privacy. Let alone on public street.
Be that as it may, Chicago is a little different in handling public photography of LEOs. They may at anytime arrest you for wire taping law. That is the biggest issue currently being fought by ACLU and PPA, right now.

Reply by Steven Vance yesterday
I posted many photos to the MyBikeLane website, probably 25 or more. For a while I encouraged others to do the same. When I was asked at CDOT to suggest locations at which police or Revenue staffers could enforce the “no parking in bike lane” law, I recommended that the person look on MyBikeLane for the most reported locations. The most reported locations tended to be those on the commute route of the few people who used the website.
I used to call 911 often, to report drivers parking their cars in bike lanes. I still take photographs of people, to this day, who’ve parked their cars in bike lanes. None of this has gotten anywhere. The only time my photographing of drivers parked in bike lanes made any positive impact was when I raised a stink at a CAPS meeting in Pilsen in 2006 and the police started ticketing those drivers. The drivers raised their own stink to the alderman and eventually the bike lane was modified so that it couldn’t be parked in (it was against the curb and then moved from the curb although parking there remained illegal). I should tell that story in more detail at some point…
As for privacy, it’s well-established, by the U.S. Supreme Court, that a person visible from the public way has no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Reply by h’ 1.0 yesterday
I agree. There’s something fundamentally feeble-minded IMO about thinking that photographing badly behaving drivers and putting their pictures on the internet is going to have any real-world effect. At best it lets the ‘victimized’ cyclist quasi-vent, which can be beneficial for some, but personally I’d rather vent by pursuing action as Steven laid out.

Reply by Andrew Bedno yesterday
D,H, negative and ad-hominem as always. Please stay off my threads.
Camera as among the best of cyclist defense tools is well established.
If legal, why then does Google street view blur them? I’ll wait for a lawyer to chime in.

A nerve was struck and the original poster (OP) strikes back. Now comes the first attempt at a coup de grâce:

Reply by notoriousDUG yesterday
Apparently Andrew you are not aware of that fact that the internet, and this forum, are venues of free expression. You do not have the right to tell either Howard or myself where we can, or cannot, post on a public forum such as this.
I think a better plan of action than he and I not posting to things you say would be for you to stop posting things to a public forum if you cannot handle the fact that not everyone agrees with you. If you put ideas out there in public there is always a chance people will disagree with them.
I cannot speak for Howard but my feelings on this are not negative or based on you personally but the opinion that I have that posting pictures of people driving poorly to the internet does NOTHING to quell the problem of bad drivers or the whole adversarial relationship between drivers and cyclists. In fact I think it does the opposite; it helps to fuel the fires of the conflict.
I will agree that having a camera is a great defense for some things for cyclists. I have used my own to snap pictures of plates and vehicle numbers of poor drivers so I could make a complaint. I have taken pictures of the scene of an accident to preserve the scene and I think that video cameras can be a great source of evidence both for and against a cyclist in the event of an accident. However, in the case of cars parked in the bike line I think taking pictures does very little to solve the problem and I also feel that the ‘offense’ is very minor; cars double park all the time, it is a part of life in the city. If you were a driver would you take pictures of every double parked car and delivery vehicle that made you have to encroach on the oncoming lane? I work in Wicker Park and where do you suggest all of the trucks delivering to local business there park to deliver their wares if they cannot double park?
Also, if Howard and I are so ‘negative’ and wrong can you please express your opinion or thoughts on why you think posting pictures, that the driver will probably NEVER see, (why would a driver be on a website for cyclists?) does to help the situation? Both of us have raised valid and rational points about this and your only response has been to call us negative and accuse us of picking on you; how about you actually come up with a defense?

Now evidently notoriousDUG is not aware that Andrew Bedno and others of like (e.g. Gabe) can effectively get them both kicked off the forum. I know this firsthand. In fact the Cycling Taliban does indeed:

have the right to tell either Howard or myself where we can, or cannot, post on a public forum such as this

You two guys had better watch your steps. Next thing you know you will no longer be invited to the pub to drink alongside the minyan. Now another respondent said something remarkable:

Reply by Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) 2 hours ago
I am not a lawyer. They are driving on public roads, so it should be legal to take a photograph of them. That being said, it’s unlikely that the offending motorists care in the least that their photo is being uploaded to the internet for all to see. Posting photos of illegally parked cars really only benefits the photographer, as it make him/her feel better about him/herself.

Really? So this blather about catching motorists in the act of breaking the law has little to do with safety or justice but at its core is about self-esteem for cyclists? Now that is indeed food for thought.

And the OP tries to sum up this effort at raising his self-esteem as follows:

Reply by Andrew Bedno 1 hour ago
I guess I shoulda known this would turn into nay saying and arguments of ethics and efficacy, when all I sought was feedback on legality and options. Oh well.

Personally, I think it has at least an aggregate effect, increasing awareness of the problem. And record keeping and defensive functions (as in when Critical Mass photographs angry cagers in case / to prevent them doing anything). I’d never expect a driver to run across their own photo, and wasn’t limiting to the case of bike lane parkers.

I see examples of the topic regularly on the massup.us news feed, so there’s definitely interest. Such as this one from John Amdor yesterday: “GoPro video of stuff that irks me!” which includes laneparkers and bad cyclists.
Web searching a bit, the @thisisabikelane Twitter user seems to have collected a few locally.
I found no relevant hashtags in common use. I recommend #mybikelane (as opposed to cluttering #bikechi)
There’s also IBlockTheBikeLane.com which seems local, but maybe inactive. Not a photo destination, they give away stickers (for donation), which cyclist can put on offending cars, leading drivers back to the site for info about the risk they’ve put cyclists in. But I can’t be bothered to carry stickers.
So bottom lines:

  1. Seems legal enough, at least on personal scale.
  2. There is no existing system for it I could find.
  3. Tweeting such photos with @thisisabikelane and/or #mybikelane is a workable solution worth using and promulgating.

A Note To John Kass

Two can play at this game. You have dozens of photographers who could man the busier intersections where cyclists run red lights most often and record their efforts. Be sure to get frontal pictures and if possible video clips. No need to ticket the poor souls, just raise as much self-esteem as you can for motorists around the city.

You could probably raise say $15,000 (just to pick a random number out of a hat) to help keep these photographers in drinking money. And afterwards post these images for all to see. And do not forget to come up with a sleazy enough hashtag for your posts to Twitter.

Send Andrew my regards when you do.

Better Yet

Set up a photo gallery where the general public can contribute iPhone movies and snapshots of cyclists breaking the law. Now that would be worth paying to see!