As the 2004 event draws closer many folks planning to make the sojourn to Black Rock are asking lots of questions and seeking clarification around the myriad issues that make coming to the event both challenging and rewarding. One of the most repeated requests for clarification has to do with issues related to mutant vehicles (i.e. 'art cars') and the current policies regarding registration and approval of them. This single-subject missive is an attempt to clear up some of the confusion as well as to clarify current policies regarding [registration and operation of] vehicles at Burning Man this year.
In response to the growing number of safety problems of vehicles being operated in an unsafe manner during the event and the complaints generated as a result, the driving regulations this year will be strictly enforced. Note that these regulations do not reflect a mandate imposed by LEOs (law enforcement organizations). Nor do they represent collaboration with LEOs by the Black Rock Rangers. The decision to place a greater emphasis on long standing regulations is in response to the innumerable complaints expressed by participants both during the event as well as input submitted throughout the year around issues of safety. We're appealing to a higher instinct here folks. Simply put the rules for driving on the playa have not changed. The amount of emphasis being placed on those regulations has. It is about taking responsibility for ourselves when we need to.
In their purest form mutant vehicles serve as a form of mobile interaction with a great number of participants and contribute dramatically to the surreal experience which many of us experience each year during the event. They are, as DMV Manager Jewelz Cody notes "A thread that binds Black Rock City together. They are 'visual sculpture on wheels': radically, stunningly beautiful...and are core to the culture and community of Burning Man."
A corollary to what mutant vehicles represent to our event can be found in the annual Rose Bowl parade in California each New Year. The floats in the annual Rose Parade represent a year of work by teams of people dedicated to making this yearly promenade of beauty happen. While it's true that the folks riding on the floats start at one end of Colorado Boulevard and end up intact at the other, that's really not what the whole float thing is about: it's about artistic expression in a form that happens to move.
Likewise, that's the intent of having mutant vehicles in Black Rock City. They are ideally no less artful than the beautiful static sculptures we enjoy each year, but have the added benefit of being able to move about the playa, offering another dimension to their expression.
This year, vehicles on the playa will have a lot in common with floats in the Rose Bowl Parade. Just as you wouldn't expect to tie a carnation to your golf cart frame and pull in for your slot in the Rose Parade, so this year the DMV is carefully reviewing the proposed art vehicles for the playa. Mutant vehicles will have to be reviewed and approved for the playa in advance of the event. If your mutant vehicle hasn't been invited to the playa parade, it will not get in.
It would be great if folks would voluntarily leave non-mutant vehicles (mopeds, golf carts, ATVs, etc.) parked at home rather than arrive at the event only to have them turned away at the gate and placed in the holding area outside the event boundary. Unfortunately that's not been the case for the past several years. The past few events have seen a substantial rise in the number of non-altered vehicles being brought to the playa for no other purpose than a means to traverse the city for the sake of personal convenience. That's not to say that certain vehicles are automatically excluded. For instance, if a motorcycle is your primary vehicle to get to the playa, you will be allowed to drive it to your camp and park it. If you bring a cart or other means of alternative transport due to being physically challenged you'll be allowed to operate it but ONLY after showing appropriate documentation and necessary placard identifying you as being handicapped.
Remember, Black Rock City is first and foremost an alternative city where pedestrians and bicycles hold sway. Please remember, purchase of your ticket does NOT entitle you to operate non-approved vehicles within the event once you have set up camp.
In 2004, unauthorized vehicles (unmodified ones not registered with DMV) caught driving in Black Rock City may be fined by outside law enforcement agencies, removed by escort or towed by the Black Rock Rangers. Repeat offenders may be evicted. Further, unsafe operation of licensed mutant vehicles (speeding, recklessness, impaired driver, etc.) can result in revocation of your ability to operate your vehicle and will be subject to the same sanctions as outlined for non-approved vehicles.
For those still sitting on the fence about whether or not to bring a mutated vehicle to this year's event please remember that the DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION is 15 July 2004.
For further information on vehicle registration and driving protocols please see the following:
Department of Mutant Vehicles
Vehicles at Burning Man
Black Rock City Vehicle Protocols
Registration Form for Mutated Vehicles