Eyes on the Street: Central Park, Friday, June 23, 3:30 pm.

The following note just came across the Streetsblog transom, from Michael, a 29-year-old business-owner in Manhattan. Michael is a tri-athlete and trains daily in Central Park on his Softride bicycle. This is what happened to him on Friday:

I was riding my bike in Central Park. A ROAD BLOCK was set up in the bike lane by four police cars on the East Drive at about 98th Street. They were giving $200 tickets for bikers that were going through red lights in Central Park! 

As they were writing this ticket taxis were flying by at 40 mph almost clipping my bike wheel on the side of the road. 

THEN on my next loop I hit the road block again, the light was green and I didn’t come to a complete "STOP" as they commanded every rider to do (they are warning everyone now about riding), so they said they were going to give me another ticket for not having a BELL on my bike!!! WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?? 

THEY SAID THEY WERE GOING TO BE OUT EVERYDAY GIVING TICKETS TO BIKE RIDERS IN CENTRAL PARK!!?? IS THE SKY FALLING? WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?

Streetsblog would publish photographs of police officers pulling over and ticketing cyclists in Central Park. If you happen to be going for a ride in the park, bring a camera, take notes and get in touch with us if anything happens.

We spoke with Michael on the phone to verify the story and he added the following:

It was a dragnet…

It happened at about 3:15pm. The Park Drives were still closed to cars at the time the tickets were issued.

They had two cops at the light and eight more cops about 100 yards down the road stopping everyone. These were high ranking guys with all these buttons on their shirts. There were two of the cops with the white short sleeve shirts.

When I went around the second time the light was green. Totally green. I was probably going 15 to 20 mph. They were screaming "Stop, stop, stop!" .
I was so livid. I started yelling back at them, "The light was green. I’m not breaking the law. I’m 100% legal. If you’re not going to arrest me then just get out of my way." I stuck up my wrists in this guy’s face and said "I want you to arrest me." If I ever got arrested, I wanted it to be for this, for riding my bike in Central Park.

One sympathetic cop said, "Let him go," but I’d say six of out of the eight cops wanted to arrest me.

So, they gave me this letter about New York City bike laws. It says thing like, "You may not bike, skate or run in groups without a permit. The speed limit for a bicycle in Central Park is 15 mph. You may not wear more than one earphone while on the drive." 

I’m there to work out, training for the Lake Placid Iron Man race. I’m there to bust out fast time. But I ride alone, not in a big group. I’m careful. I’ve never been in an accident.

I was riding this morning alongside a guy. He was clipped by a car. Totally wiped out. A woman in a minivan got too close when she was passing. Her rear view mirror hit his elbow, he swerved and his front brake locked up, the road was wet. What can you do? Fortunately, he didn’t get hurt really badly. His elbows were bleeding and he had a lot of road rash.

But how many people are hurt by cars in Central Park versus how many are hurt by cyclists? 

There’s so much traffic in Manhattan and yet we’re the criminals. I don’t ride a bike anywhere in Manhattan except Central Park because of the safety issues.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised. Frankly I always assumed that during the hours when cars were not on the loop, the lights were not in effect. An education campaign would be more effective – perhaps a large sign that says the red light is in effect at all times would suffice for me.

    Also – does this mean all traffic including pedestrians, joggers, walkers, strollers are not allowed to cross the light? That would seem to be the implication if they were enforcing the law as opposed to trying to trap cyclists…

  • anon

    public parks are not for speed training on wheels, one mistake and people will get hurt. if you need to train for speed, perhaps it would be good to lobby for an area for this to be set aside in the park.

  • Indeed, I know that many times when I have been working on Car-Free Park campaigns in Prospect Park, I have come across people who say that they feel the biggest problem and danger on the Park’s Loop Drives are not the cars but the bike racers doing training runs. This conflict between racing cyclists and pedestrians in the Park creates a lot of antipathy towards cyclists in general.

  • What they need are crossing guards like they have during formal races. The cyclists are pretty intermittent most of the time, except during the races.

  • David Brinker

    Absolutely livid. I think it is time for a bike in around City Hall. Everyone who loves Central Park riding brings their bike down to City Hall in one large showing of solidarity.

    Maybe they should think of ticketing cars in parks. Or how about parents who don’t watch their kids on bikes. Maybe they should think about ticketing the New York Road Runners.

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