Recent events have brought the intertwined issues of insurance and liability into the spotlight, like never before. First, the Temple plan for this year collapsed. The artist claimed the main reason was that he could not meet the insurance burden, which was shifted to him and not covered by the blanket policy BMOrg are required to have for the event.
Then we just had the tragic death of a Burner in Utah, who ran through the safety perimeter and leaped in the fire before anyone could stop him, exposing thousands to a horrific spectacle and raising the ugly specter of lawsuits once more. Some say “people trying to hurt themselves at burns is a growing problem and we should talk about it”, others say “it’s a coincidence not a trend, nothing to see here, move along”.
In the past, art cars have been involved with injuries and even death at Burning Man. If you own and operate an art car, your biggest concern must surely be someone falling off or getting run over. Followed a close second by your driver getting picked up by the many cops there for exceeding the speed limit of 5 MPH, or DUI.
Safety third is all very well and fun for Burners to say as a joke, but try telling it to a burner-hating local Judge. It really isn’t a joke. Safety should be first, and if someone gets injured by an art car, in the eyes of the authorities it will be.
The best way to keep an art car safe, would seem to be knowing who the people are that are riding on it. If someone looks wasted, or seems like a trouble-maker, you should have the right to refuse them entry or kick them off. Right?
WRONG. Art Car operators have been ordered by BMOrg that they have to give Burners rides, even if they don’t know them. Not “we would like you to behave this way” warned. That would be too polite and Burnerly. Instead, “you have signed a contract and you must do this” warned.
Don’t believe me? Think Burners.Me is spreading “disinformation” or “spin”, because the lovely and kind BMOrg would never do such a thing? Read for yourself, and spin it your own way:
Subject: [dmv-announce] RE-SENDING – DMV SparkPlug Volume 4, Issue #1: Welcome to Burning Man 2014
Sent: Thu, Jul 10, 2014 9:34:59 PM
|…DON’T SAY WE DIDN’T WARN YOU!
Failure to follow BRC’s driving protocol may result in any or
all of the following;
–* Revocation of your Mutant Vehicle license
* Impound of your vehicle
* Ejection from the event without refund
* Denial of future Mutant Vehicle Licensing
The decision whether or not to grant a license for a Mutant Vehicle to operate at Burning Man is within the sole discretion of the Black Rock City DMV, and it may revoke any issued license for any reason.You agreed to obey BRC driving rules when you originally applied for your license; you will sign the agreement again when you get your license…
YOUR VEHICLE AND THE COMMUNITY
One of the most disheartening things we’ve heard in the past is how someone would be walking deep out on the playa, see a Mutant Vehicle and ask for a ride and were told “sorry, this is a private party”, or something to that effect.PLEASE REMEMBER: part of the agreement you sign is the understanding that a registered Mutant Vehicle is considered to be a public conveyance. This means that when you get a license to drive in Black Rock City you agree that you will share that privilege with others and give rides to those that need or ask. This is also a great way to meet people and a wonderful show of our community. Proper etiquette should be followed; all participants are allowed to ride Mutant Vehicles so long as there are not an unsafe number of passengers aboard at any given time.
If you thought it would be cool to make an Art Car for you and your friends to ride around on at Burning Man, think again. You’ve made a bus, controlled by Burning Man, which you are contractually obliged to make available to any idiot who shows up without a bike. If you don’t pick them up, you can be fined and your vehicle impounded (update: according to Chef Juke from DMV, the threats of punishment made in the DMV-announce email are not true). What is considered an unsafe number of passengers? Do drivers and crew count? Who’s counting, and who’s judging? Maybe art cars should have a sign at the entry point “maximum number of people permitted”.
What if you want to raise funds for bringing this bus to put at BMOrg’s disposal, for the purposes of transporting randoms and the 40% virgins? Well, BMOrg will threaten to sue you if you say “Burning Man” or use photos of the vehicle at the event in your fundraising activities. They, on the other hand, are free to use it in $150,000 Vogue photoshoots, royalty-producing Oscar nominated movies, merchandise like calendars, advertising-riddled YouTube videos, and anything else they can think of to make money for
themselves the tax-free non-profit they control that pays them royalties.
I have to admit, I was pissed when the Disco Duck first showed up, and my friends and I couldn’t get onboard because we didn’t have the right wristbands. Now, having met some of the people who actually built the thing, I can understand that they had to do this because there was only so much weight it could safely manage. Too many people, and the structure could get damaged or even collapse. The best way to protect themselves as well as their passengers, was to employ someone compos mentis to be be a bouncer, counting capacity with a clicker. It still sucks to get turned away, like at any club, but there are plenty of other things to see and do.
Maybe every art car will have to have bouncers now, for “safety” and to watch the randoms. “Let us on, we promise we’re not on drugs or alcohol”. How can the bouncer know? This is Burning Man, after all. If they mess up in the club, they can be kicked out, but it’s more complicated to do that on a moving mutant vehicle. The driver, who may not even be able to see their passengers, has to stop whenever the randoms want to get on and off. If you have to go somewhere that wasn’t your original destination for these randoms (like the medical center), the gas costs are on you. The insurance? That’s on the art car owners too. Will it be a challenge, to insure a mutant vehicle that is not street legal for public use by people who are unknown to the driver and are likely to be intoxicated? One would think so.
We would love to hear comments and feedback from Art Car owners, and the rest of the community about these rules.
[Update 7/21/14 5:10pm]
As expected, this is generating a lot of comments on both sides of the argument. This is not a post about “all the art cars that didn’t give me a ride”, it’s a post about “more rules from BMOrg”. I don’t see any point in listing the former, unless someone absolutely cannot believe that there are art cars at Burning Man that are difficult to ride around on for randoms.
If you are running a crowd-funding campaign for your Art Car, it seems logical that “a ride on the Art Car” would be one of the prize items. BMOrg’s policy seems to be aimed squarely at stopping that.
One commenter has pointed out that the story is even worse than I have described it. The devil is in the details. They were told that BMOrg have a “3 strikes and you’re out” policy, if there is a complaint that your art car didn’t pick up someone who wanted a ride, they can and will give you a strike. BMOrg does not inform you if you get a strike. There seems to be no formality to this system. For example, is there some sort of appeal process? Can you find out who lodged a strike against you? Basically, it seems like you’ll be guilty unless you have a way to prove that you were innocent.
Is this policy friendly to Art Cars? Or making life hard for them? Discuss.