Hundreds Ask NYPD to Cease Irrational Bike Crackdown in Central Park

Photo: Ken Coughlin

A crowd of 300 people, outraged at a police ticket blitz that threatens to effectively eliminate Central Park as a place of recreation for cyclists, ran into an unyielding blue wall at last night’s meeting of the Central Park Precinct’s community council. The precinct commander, Captain Philip Wishnia, offered no hope that his precinct’s enforcement of red-light laws at each of the loop road’s 47 traffic lights will abate, nor any assurances that his officers will exercise meaningful discretion.

Both Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Upper West Side City Council Member Gale Brewer made brief statements at the meeting, urging exploration of a proposal to change the traffic lights to blinking yellow when cars are not in the park. Brewer, however, grasped the essence of the problem. Noting that she has had a bill before the council since 2006 calling for a trial closing of the park to cars, Brewer said, “Let’s get cars out of the park and change the current policy.”

Central Park precinct commander Philip Wishnia. Photo: NYPD
Central Park Precinct Commander Philip Wishnia. Photo: NYPD

Wishnia initially tried to claim that the precinct’s sudden crackdown is in response to a “dramatic increase in incidents over the years,” an assertion that he failed to substantiate. When speaker after speaker challenged the claim, Wishnia would eventually fall back on the explanation that he is simply being instructed by higher-ups to enforce the law and has no flexibility. He suggested audience members talk to their legislators if they want a change.

Here are some further highlights, if you can call them that (many thanks to audience members Steve Vaccaro and Lisa Sladkus for their notes):

  • Wishnia said that 230 summonses have been issued to cyclists so far this year, compared to 160 speeding summonses issued to drivers all of last year and 62 the prior year. Wishnia maintained the summonses given to cyclists are “not a lot” and that it “doesn’t amount to zero tolerance enforcement.”
  • “We cyclists don’t understand how routine speeding by motorists in the park is condoned and even encouraged in this way, but you can’t allow a cyclist to ride through a red light in a deserted intersection in the park,” said Vaccaro. “How can an officer have the discretion to ignore one, but not the other?”
  • Wishnia responded: “My officers have discretion. Not everyone who went through a light got a summons.” But when a cyclist asked under what circumstances he could go through a red light without getting a ticket, Wishnia replied, “I won’t tell you what your window of opportunity is.”
  • One audience member presented his calculation that a park visitor has an infinitesimal chance of being struck by a cyclist (35 million park visitors in 2010 vs. 43 incidents involving cyclists and pedestrians, an unknown number of which were not the cyclist’s fault). When Wishnia was pressed by this and other questioners on his evidence for a problem warranting the current crackdown, he declared, “Even one injury is too many.”
  • Stephen Bauman of the Five Borough Bicycle Club made a detailed legal argument that cyclists are not subject to Vehicle and Traffic Laws during non-car hours. “I think you’re making up the law,” Bauman said. “VTL does not apply directly to bicycles, and only to roadways ‘ordinarily used for vehicular travel.'”
  • Wishnia claimed that the crashes involving bikes typically happen when the cars aren’t in the park. “I can guarantee you that if you ban cars in the park, there will be more crashes.”
  • More from Wishnia: “When you’re leaned over your racing handlebars, you’re not looking out for pedestrians.”
  • Wishnia refused to address a question about why officers don’t try to keep joggers out of the bike lane. “Right now we’re talking about cyclists, not runners. There are lots of other things we could talk of.”
  • An 8-year-old girl asked Wishia: “If cyclists are being killed all the time, why are they being punished?”
  • “I believe in this little yellow light idea that would give cyclists the right to use the park,” said Stringer. “I sent a letter to DOT. If we (i.e. cyclists) respect the yellow light, we shouldn’t be hitting cyclists with $270 tickets.”
  • Wishnia estimated the crowd at 300 but claimed that the room could be filled with just as many who favor the current enforcement regime. “Where are they?” the crowd roared back.

Where do we go from here? Your comments appreciated.

  • jbk

    The only way this gets fixed is if an intrepid soul files a civil rights complaint regarding selective enforcement.

    FOIL requests to the department would get copies of the “instruct[ions] by higher-ups” that caused the crackdown to start.

  • csm

    Was the DOT represented at the meeeting?

  • If Wishnia’s “even one injury is too many” is the justification for police crackdown, doesn’t the data argue that the crackdown should be upon motorists (who kill and maim hundreds of NYC residents each year) as opposed to bicyclists (who, most years, kill and maim no one)?

  • ED

    “Wishnia said that 230 summonses have been issued to cyclists so far this year, compared to 160 speeding summonses issued to drivers all of last year and 62 the prior year.”
    What?!?!?!? My jaw just hit the floor.

  • Kevin Galligan

    Saw a tweet last night about Wishnia not accepting email, only snail mail. I think we could automate that a bit. Set up an email address, supporters write in, crank out post cards from the emails, then post the same messages online. Would need to scrape together some money for postage.

    Not that its going to matter much. The lawsuit sounds like a better plan 😉

  • Lisa

    Yes, I was shocked that Wishnia wouldn’t give out his email address. Other commanding officers are happy to share that information with the public. I think Wishnia was totally overwhelmed, and he’s clearly not the right person to change what is happening with enforcement. Time and again he said that he’s just following orders. I agree with JSK that we need to FOIL this. We also just need to get the cars out once and for all. Then we would have more space and could get rid of the current light system for a more reasonable (read: fewer) pedestrian push button system. And, NO, DOT wasn’t at the meeting.

  • “He suggested audience members talk to their legislators if they want a change.”

    And he is right about that. In addition to advocating that the signals be disabled in the absence of autos so that that auto traffic law does not apply (even if, as Bauman argues, this is already the case), people who wish to cycle through empty intersections with the same caution that they walk through them should be demanding that their legislature correct its longstanding error.

    Begging the police for the favor of “discretion” is democracy done pathetically backwards. If that even works for a season or two, there is no telling when the next crackdown will come from the top–or for people of certain appearances, when the next individual crackdown will come from the department’s lowest levels.

  • Lisa

    ooops, I meant JBK, not JSK…hahaha!

  • Josef

    “He suggested audience members talk to their legislators if they want a change.”

    How old is the car-free Central Park campaign? I think it’s time to get it done once and for all. And let’s write into the legislation that bikes cannot be ticketed. The cycling community obviously has friends in legislative places.

  • Glenn

    Everyone take out your checkbooks. Write a check for $230 to the Central Park Conservancy. in the memo section write “from an avid cyclist”. Sign it. Then write VOID in large letters across the check. Put it into the mail addressed to:

    Douglas Blonsky
    Central Park Conservancy
    14 E. 60th St
    New York, NY, 10022

    Feel free to attach a short letter, a copy of your summons, etc. Money talks. Maybe start your note with, “I used to enjoy riding around Central Park, but those days are gone…”

  • J:Lai

    I sympathize with the precinct commander. The law is BS, but it is still his duty to enforce it. Police discretion is the last thing we want. That is guaranteed to come back and bite you in the ass.
    The focus should be on changing the laws to keep motor vehicles out, and allow bikes to proceed through red lights.

    Until we switch to using all cameras and robots to enforce traffic violations, it will by nature be arbitrary. This is true of enforcement for motor vehicles as well; it is not specific to bicycles. Focusing on the enforcement side when it is the laws that are the problem is like blaming the MTA for service cuts and fare hikes.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Who is the source of this crackdown? Did the Central Park Conservancy demand it or some legislator, Community Board member or wealthy individual? Does anyone know?

  • Marcia Kramer’s Milagro

    Glenn has the best idea yet. Even just a copy of the summons with a note that said, “Wished I could have donated some of this to CPC” on it, would turn some heads.

  • Louis Mazerolle

    It really looks like what’s happening in Montreal’s Parc Jean-Drapeau. The direction of the park decided to ban sportive cyclists on the Gilles-Villeneuve race track by putting speed bumps and chicane obstacles. They said there are more and more accidents due to cyclists but always refuses to give details about it while people who use it said that obstacles are the most dangerous things and the accident are happening because of them. They also refused to discuss solutions with sportive federations and a bike advocate organisation (Vélo-Québec). Some people also saw the police doing radar speed control even if it is almost a close circuit and everybody knows that it is very easy to exceed the 30km/h limit on a road bike.
    The only alternative that the admistration of the park gave is a training period between 5 and 7am, which is ridiculous, and the right to ride on the narrow bike path around the Olympic rowing basin…

  • Joe R.

    “And he is right about that. In addition to advocating that the signals be disabled in the absence of autos so that that auto traffic law does not apply (even if, as Bauman argues, this is already the case), people who wish to cycle through empty intersections with the same caution that they walk through them should be demanding that their legislature correct its longstanding error.”

    Yes, this is what is really needed here. Police discretion is at best arbitrary and capricious. We need a statewide, or better yet a national change, in the traffic laws as they relate to bicycles. The idea that a bicycle should be treated as a motor vehicle is an old idea which never made any sense even back when traffic lights/stop signs were few and far between. Now that traffic lights frequently exist at every other intersection, the concept of bikes as vehicles can render cycling useless as an effective means of getting around on these types of streets. Self-propulsion is an inherent right which shouldn’t be subject to arbitrary regulations which may render it useless. The same argument can be applied to pedestrians and crossing signals. The fact that pedestrians are rarely given tickets for crossing on the red is moot. The law shouldn’t allow them to be ticketed at all. A pedestrian crossing signal should merely be thought of as a device which aids you in crossing the street, perhaps with the caveat that if you cross when it’s red, you can’t claim any damages if a car hits you. Same line of thought should exist for bikes. Proceed on red should be legal, but if you get injured you can’t sue the driver who hit you. And if you hit a pedestrian, you’re automatically at fault. Basically the idea is pedestrians and cyclists can’t get legal sanctions for ignoring traffic signals, but by the same token are on their own if they do so. This should be the law of the land nationwide to keep localities like NYC from imposing greater restrictions. Pedestrians and cyclists shouldn’t be subject a plethora of regulations/traffic control devices which exist mainly to speed along motor vehicles.

  • Joe R.

    “Until we switch to using all cameras and robots to enforce traffic violations, it will by nature be arbitrary. This is true of enforcement for motor vehicles as well; it is not specific to bicycles.”

    And this is something I agree with wholeheartedly because it will finally result in sensible laws. When motorists get a ticket every single time they pass a red, even if it just changed, they will undoubtedly advocate to have traffic lights removed. This is a good thing given how overused traffic lights are in this city. Traffic lights will only be in places where they are really needed. With fewer lights, motorists are more likely to obey them on the thought that if a light is here, there must be a good safety reason for it. Same thing with speed cameras. Now most drivers might do up to 75 on a 55 mph highway, but the statistically most dangerous drivers will often exceed 75 mph. It would make more sense to change the limit to 75 to catch those few dangerous drivers, rather than the current situation of mostly nonenforcement. However, few motorists will get behind that since they have nothing to gain except during rare ticket blitzes. Now put in speed cameras where you will get a ticket for going 56 or over all the time. All of a sudden motorists will advocate for the more reasonable speed limit of 75 which should have existed in the first place. End result, you now have 100% enforcement on the drivers most likely to cause injuries/deaths, but no ticketing at all of safe drivers going 10 or 15 over the formerly way too low speed limit.

    Zero tolerance enforcement via robotic means should ultimately lead to much more sensible rules which (hopefully) only catch the worst group most likely to cause injuries/deaths.

  • Mike

    Marty, there’s no Central Park-specific crackdown. There’s a citywide crackdown. (My theory is that Ray Kelly ordered it because JSK embarrassed him on the blizzard declaration of emergency, but that’s not based on any evidence, just supposition.)

  • Lizbon

    I second what David_K said. My first thought after reading was “If ONE injury were truly too many for the NYPD, motorists who kill peds and cyclists would not be getting away without criminal charges.”

    This (by which I mean the whole NYPD crackdown) is nothing more nor less than a selective campaign against cyclists. JBK is right – civil rights suit is called-for. And a collective one at that. It’s become a witchhunt, and I’m tired of being threatened with the bonfire.

  • John

    If every cyclist who gets a ticket fights it in court this ticket blitz will stop. The beurocratic hassle of actively prosecuting each and every ticket will grind them down and they’ll no longer write them.

  • Albert

    The traffic lights could be removed altogether if the loop were restored to its original car-free condition, restricting cars to the transverses, which were designed specifically to accommodate crosstown traffic.

    Traffic lights burning 24/7/365 in a park is a waste of money & energy. I understand that Gristedes doesn’t have traffic lights in its aisles just for that reason.

  • jd

    Joe R: totally agree with your posts and couldn’t have said it any better.

    I’m tired of the excuse (any excuse because people can absolve themselves from having to rethink our urban design) that bicycles are vehicles and have to follow laws designed for cars that weigh 100s of times more, travel many times faster, and whose operators have their sense of hearing and sight severely dulled not only by the car itself but by all the distractions in the car (radio, cell phone, eating food, messing with the kids in the backseat, etc). What happened is, in the last 100 years or so we designed our roads *only* for cars, then *after* the fact, slapped some paint between fast-moving cars and parked cars (at best! … most roads don’t even have that) and said, “See, now you must behave like a car”. Then they claim that bicycles must come to a full stop at every empty intersection with a stop sign because it’s for “their safety”. I call bullshit. If people cared about bicyclists safety, they wouldn’t relegate them to dangerous bike lanes squeezed into oblivion between thousands of pounds of fast-moving steel (imagine if they put sidewalks in the same place … people would be in an uproar about how dangerous it was … yet it’s okay for cyclists?!?!), or force them (and pedestrians) to suck exhaust all day. This isn’t about cyclists safety (or anyone else’s), so let’s get that straight.

    If you ask me, the reason motorists insist on treating bicycles like cars — even though that makes no sense since the system wasn’t designed for cyclists at all and the two transit modes are very different — is some perverse sense of jealousy (that bicyclists can move so nimbly and quickly through traffic and intersections in our dense urban areas compared to the cumbersome car) and so they want to see cyclists “suffer” too and be forced to stop constantly, combined with a complete lack of understanding of what it’s like to ride a bicycle and hence a lack of empathy towards cyclists. You can also add to that, as a bonus, an utterly oblivious concept of how inefficient, dangerous, and unsustainable the car is thanks to a culture that glorifies the car and never talks about the downsides.

    What we need to do on a national scale is adopt the “Idaho Stop” law:
    http://urbanvelo.org/bicycle-rolling-stop-animation-idaho-stop-law/

    And then we need to add bicycle-specific infrastructure, like separated cycle tracks. Actually, ultimately, I think we need more streets that are completely car-free as well and just eliminate even having to worry about the interaction between 4000 lb vehicles and what are essentially people on a tiny 20-30 lb steel frame (there is no reason cars need to go on *every* single block in our cities … but that’s another discussion).

    The whole argument motorists are making is moot when we establish the fact that bicycles are *not* cars and should hence not be following rules that weren’t designed for them, plain and simple. It’s like pitting a soccer team against a basketball team and then calling the basketball team for a hand ball or the soccer team for traveling.

    Finally, I see urban transit as having two extremes: pedestrians and cars. Pedestrians do not need any signs telling them to stop at intersections (unless they are dealing with cars) or which side of the sidewalk to walk on, etc. and they manage just fine without hurting each other, even when the sidewalks/streets are shoulder-to-shoulder. On the other hand, you have cars which are so dangerous, so cumbersome, and whose operators have no sense of how much power is literally at the tip of their toes, that they need signs every place to keep them from utterly killing each other (and, disproportionately, pedestrians and cyclists).

    The bicycle is in between these two extremes, but *MUCH* closer to the pedestrian, since it hardly weighs any more than a pedestrian, has no power that isn’t human-provided, the operator does not have their senses dulled, and travels at speeds about halfway between a car (traveling at city speeds) and a pedestrian. So when you factor all the issues involved, it’s clear that, though bicycles need more regulation than a pedestrian because they are moving faster, the bicycle does not need the crazy regulations that cars do. It is an anachronistic absurdity to insist that bicycles are cars.

    Until we realize this as a society, bicycling will never be treated fairly. But once we do, everything starts falling into place. The hurdle will be that, for the next generation as motorists have to fight harder and harder to retain their “way of life” and hence become more desperate and belligerent to their anachronistic and unsustainable ways, it’s going to be tough in the short-term. But in the long-term, bicycles will prove their worth and I believe we will all acknowledge it and embrace them.

  • J:Lai

    Joe R, traffic laws are enacted by the states, there are no national laws. Even seatbelt laws and speed limits on interstates are technically state laws that the federal government “influences” by threatening to withold funding if states do not comply with federal guidelines.

  • Sara

    I also love Glenn’s idea. I haven’t gotten a summons, but I also have been avoiding Central Park these days as a result of the crackdown. I just might tell the Central Park Conservancy this, and send the voided check along with my letter …

  • J:Lai

    jd,

    I don’t think the core motivation for drivers to oppose bikers stems from jealousy. Rather, I think it is a rational response to competition for a limited resource. There is a finite amount of street space, and right now almost all of it is allocated to moving or storing cars. Any improvement to bicycle infrastructure is perceived as a loss for drivers in a zero-sum game (even though this may not be strictly true given non-linear effects like reducing congestion.)

    There is a perception by drivers, which is in some ways correct, that bikers are trying to take space and infrastructure resources away from them.

    As the number of bikers and the amount of bike infrastructure grows, it is inevitable that more regulation and enforcement will affect bicycles. The “crackdown” on bikers is one manifestation, and it is not surprising. Bicycle use has grown to the point where it is on the radar for enforcement, but is not yet established enough to spur new legislation as to how it should be regulated. Thus, bikes get shoehorned into the same regulations that apply to motor vehicles.

    Ultimately, bicycling should gain mode share in a city like NYC. One hopes that given time and a growing constituency, the laws that govern operating a bike on city streets will be changed to better accomodate this mode.

  • Cycling is freedom.

    And it’s time that our car-oriented society come to terms with it.

  • NattyB

    re:

    “Stephen Bauman of the Five Borough Bicycle Club made a detailed legal argument that cyclists are not subject to Vehicle and Traffic Laws during non-car hours. “I think you’re making up the law,” Bauman said. “VTL does not apply directly to bicycles, and only to roadways ‘ordinarily used for vehicular travel.’”

    If the VTL doesn’t legally apply to bikes in Central Park, why can’t we sue to enjoin the Police from giving bikers VTL tickets?

  • Joe R.

    Great posts, jd and J:Lai. Yes, I agree right now we’re stuck in a tough middle ground where the law and infrastructure both are poor with regards to cycling. As cycling inevitably grows, a larger fraction of the population will “get it” that bikes aren’t cars, and shouldn’t be treated as such. I don’t blame non-cyclists for frequenting chiding bikers to “obey the law”. They don’t ride. They can’t know everything a cyclist goes through. But as more people choose to bike, eventually there will be a groundswell of support for both better infrastructure and cycling laws which make sense.

    In a way this cycling crackdown might well be a good thing if it highlights the absurdity of requiring bikes to follow rules designed for cars. We’re already seeing legislators suggesting a different set of rules in Central Park when cars aren’t present. If we try this, and realize that it works well, then it will only be a matter of time before others call for a similar change in the rules outside of the park. Now that the city is well on its way to building infrastructure to encourage cycling, the last thing we need is to turn off new riders who fear getting an expensive ticket. But this is something which really needs to be dealt with on the legislative level. My guess is the police don’t like enforcing these laws any more than the cyclists like getting tickets. In this regard, the police could well be our greatest allies in reforming cycling laws if we play our cards right by not villianizing them. They’re just a bunch of civil servants doing their job, stuck between a rock and a hard place. They would probably welcome a change in the traffic laws as much as cyclists would.

    Yes jd, I agree there’s no need for cars to be able to access every single block in the city, but that is an entirely separate discussion best left for another time.

  • Suzanne

    “As the number of bikers and the amount of bike infrastructure grows, it is inevitable that more regulation and enforcement will affect bicycles.”

    First they ignore us. Then they mock us. Now they’re fighting us, and, if we don’t give up, we’ll win.

  • jd

    J:Lai wrote: “I don’t think the core motivation for drivers to oppose bikers stems from jealousy. Rather, I think it is a rational response to competition for a limited resource. There is a finite amount of street space, and right now almost all of it is allocated to moving or storing cars. Any improvement to bicycle infrastructure is perceived as a loss for drivers in a zero-sum game (even though this may not be strictly true given non-linear effects like reducing congestion.)”

    True, that issue is in there too. But I guess I had in mind cyclists running stop signs at empty or nearly empty intersections — there the motorists isn’t losing anything. In fact, they often are gaining time since they don’t have to wait for the cyclists to start up. So here I think jealously is a big part of it. It’s the idea that somebody else is “getting away” with breaking the law when they can’t. I really think this issue is big in why people are against the Idaho stop, as statistics have shown cyclists can judge the right-of-way at intersections just fine without coming to a complete stop.

    But, when it comes to bike lanes, you’re right in that it’s a zero-sum game and somebody has to “lose”. Although the idea here is that, if you take space from cars for a bike lane, the number of people cycling grows which reduces the number of people driving which means that extra capacity isn’t needed. Now, I admit that it doesn’t quite balance out like that right now; the motorists pay a heavier price up front. But long-term, everybody wins out, because once that bike lane is there, it can support *much* more capacity than it currently does and the cars will not have to cede any more real estate all while the number of people drops and drops as people switch to cycling (and public transit and walking, of course).

    Another thing people need to realize about cyclists rolling through stop signs is that, though they are breaking the letter of the law, they are not breaking the *intent* of the law. Never minding the issue that these laws weren’t even designed for cyclists, stop signs aren’t there because we car about cars (or whatever) stopping, but to make sure people can determine the right of way and hence prevent collisions. And cyclists do this just fine without stopping. Cars, on the other hand, have reliably demonstrated that they can’t handle it (although most cars already roll though stop signs as it is). So the punishment needs to fit the crime: running a stop sign in a 4,000 lb car with 200 lbs of horsepower is NOT the same as running it on a 20 lb bike under your own power. Period. To give cyclists the same punishment as car drivers, whose breaking of the law causes much more severe consequences than a cyclist, is absurd. If car drivers get, say a $250 fine for running a stop sign, cyclists should get a $25 one.

    The effort cops are putting into giving tickets to cyclists in this case is clearly disproportionate to the damage the cyclists are causing when they break the law, and that’s where I really have the problem. It’s amazing how our sense of what’s important is so distorted in our culture, especially when it comes to cars. Cars kill and maim sooooooo many more people than cyclists (and further, cyclists have a net health benefit since you’re getting exercise) that it is a joke that cops give tickets to anything but the most reckless cyclists while the death and destruction following cars continues without any question. It’s the sign of a culture completely out of whack.

    Suzanne wrote: “First they ignore us. Then they mock us. Now they’re fighting us, and, if we don’t give up, we’ll win.”

    Assuming you meant, “they’ll win” at the end, great quote.

  • Daphna

    I want to thank the 300 or so people who went to that Police Precinct 22 Community Council meeting last night. I am sure many people who do not ride in the park came out of solidarity and I appreciate that.

    I do ride in Central Park and I witness both types of selective enforcement. I witness motorists not being ticketed for violations. And I witness the police letting some cyclists go through red lights without penalty.

    A week ago in the mid-afternoon there was a police squad car about 50 feet back on the pedestrian path from the light at 106th Street and West Drive. Needless to say, West Drive was closed to cars at that hour and there was not a single pedestrian on/near/approaching the crosswalk. That officer let me go through the red light, but I assume he was ready to pounce on cyclists who fit a certain profile.

    I have been witnessing a lot of this selective enforcement in Central Park because I have seen those 3-wheel interlopers or squad car stationed at a lot of lights. I bike the same way as I normally did before and am not getting tickets (despite the police witnessing my behavior) but I feel terrible for those 230 people who got tickets.

  • Daphna

    230 summonses to cyclists in Central Park for the first 2 months of 2011 amounts to 115 summonses per month to bike riders.
    versus
    160 summonses to motorists for speeding in Central Park for all of 2010 amounts to 13 summonses per month to speeding motorists.

    When someone (such as Commander Philip Wishnia) is given an order that does not make sense, I think he/she should challenge his/her superior and have a discussion, not just carry out an order that is harmful, wastes resources, and provides a negative rather than a positive impact. Commander Wishnia is following a pointless, destructive order, likely not challenging it out of fear for his career, and then absolving himself of following it by saying it “came from above”. Wimp!

  • ManhattanHillbilly

    Yes, by all means sent Central Park Conservancy (which has nothing to do with this crackdown) a voided check for money you never would have donated to them anyway. It will speak volumes — about you.

  • fdr

    “When someone (such as Commander Philip Wishnia) is given an order that does not make sense, I think he/she should challenge his/her superior and have a discussion, not just carry out an order that is harmful, wastes resources, and provides a negative rather than a positive impact.”

    That’s not going to happen in NYPD or any other police department.

  • AlexB

    I agree with J:Lai. The job of a police officer is to enforce laws and obey their superior officers and this guy is doing both things (however stupid it may be). The problem here is the laws and the fact that we allow cars in Central Park at all. If we expect cyclists to obey red lights anywhere in the city, we should expect them to obey red lights everywhere. I would prefer to create a different set of rules. Traffic laws are designed for people driving vehicles that are much much larger, heavier and faster than a bike. That they both have to obey almost the exact same rules is absurd in many instances.

  • This town needs so much work! They’re trying to require LICENSE PLATES FOR BIKES here too! How arrogant to run the “capital of the world” car-centric. How ignorant. Forget China: EVEN SAN FRANCISCO has considered the idea of making the entire financial district bikes-only: commercial vehicles only during daytime hours. Americans and cars …

  • Suzanne

    jd:

    Great analysis. As for my quote, I realize I was a bit off topic. I was responding more to this ludicrously disproportionate bikelash. It’s pretty depressing that cyclists are being attacked from all sides when we’re a major part of the solution but I keep trying to remember that we wouldn’t be so fiercely attacked if we weren’t making them nervous.

    We really do have numbers on our side. It’s hard to remember, what with all the crack downs and anti-bike mania in the media, but there’s a large and growing movement happening here. This can be a watershed moment where livable cities dies (like public health care) or, as has happened all over the Middle East, the increasing attacks prod people into rebelling out of sheer disgust. Most people would be supportive of these measures if they really understood the situation. For those who are friends, relatives and co-wokerkers with the misinformed or uninformed this is a great opportunity to have important discussions.

  • Down with Ray Kelly

  • as

    How do cyclists have nothing to do with joggers in the bike lane? That is directly related to cyclists. Cyclists can’t be in the bike lane if joggers are in it and every time I’ve bike in Central Park I have had many close calls solely because of the fact that there were joggers and pedestrians blocking the entire bike lane during car hours. I think it’s outrageous that cars are even allowed in the park in the first place, but I support the initiative to have blinking yellow lights during car-free hours. They can’t ticket you for running a red light if there are no red lights and it’s completely unnecessary for there to be red lights when there are no cars in the park. Most intersections are empty and the majority of pedestrians jay walk anyway. I also think it’s extremely clear that they are selectively enforcing the law by not ticketing speeding drivers, and not just in the park, that’s a problem city wide.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    These are fundamental game theory issues subject to Dictatorship of the Majority. You may not like Ray Kelly, neither do I, but he is the chief rival of Anthony Weiner, who you don’t like either. Bicyclists are a minority group, very much more so when you discount the disenfranchised majority of working cyclists and people too poor to ride transit. This is what happens in a democracy, the majority gangs up on the minority. And the majority hires the police.

  • Ken

    No, the minority with the money buys the majority, hires the police, and drives or is driven around in expensive cars.

  • Bay Ridge Guido

    “Wishnia said that 230 summonses have been issued to cyclists so far this year, compared to 160 speeding summonses issued to drivers all of last year and 62 the prior year.”

    Eleven weeks into 2011 and 230 summonses for cyclist! Annualized at that rate, there will be an average of over 1000 summonses issued to cyclists. The 160 speeding summonses issued to drivers last year is a laughably insignificant percentage of the car population in Manhattan.

    This is clearly a case of discriminate law enforcement. The first poster has it right: A $50m class action federal civil rights suit against the the Commissioner and his department is in order.

  • Peter frishauf’s

    A note of clarification: The president of Central Parks Conservancy, Doug Blonsky, favors a care-free park. See http://www.streetsblog.org/2010/09/21/central-park-administrator-pushes-east-west-bike-routes-car-free-park/.

    The Conservancy has nothing to do with this ridiculous crackdown or any other enforcement. That comes from the city under the NYPD and the NYC Parks Department Enforcement division. The Conservancy maintains and manages the physical aspects of the park. The loop drive itself is managed by the NYC DOT. While clearly the Conservancy needs to know that cyclists will fight this nasty and ridiculous new ticketing policy it’s also important that we direct our energies to the people and agencies most responsible. The FOI action sounds most promising in determining the facts.

  • Richard Rosenthal

    Capt. Wishnia said over and over: danger to pedestrians, danger to pedestrians, danger to pedestrians. That is his justification for issuing tickets to cyclists. (pullleassse, posters, NOT “bikers.” Bikers are motorcycle riders.) Here’s the solution: Forget enforcing traffic lights against cyclists. Post cops around the park. Whenever a cyclist transgresses the right-of-way of a pedestrian, ticket him for reckless or careless operation of a (uh-oh, here comes that word) vehicle.

    Let me note, as Capt. Wishnia so proudly trumpeted his increasing the number of radar enforced tickets issued to drivers for speeding to less than one every two days in a precinct that has, one imagines, ca. thirty officers, he also lead us to understand far and away most of those tickets are issued on the transverse. Uh, that’s not where cyclists and, for the most part, runners do their laps. Feeling safer already, are you? Not.

    When he was asked for specific numbers of tickets written, he said to contact the Deputy Commissioner for Public Information. I told him the DCPI bureau has stonewalled me for seven years over precisely this, including as recently as this January. No comment back from him.

    Those wishing to read my full rant, WITH PICTURES, of poor policing in and other problems about cycling in Central Park will find it at: http://newyorkbike.com/Central_Park.html

  • anon

    I’ve read all the reports, news stories and comments. I’ve seen the tickets being handed out. This is coming from Ray Kelley because of his battle with Times Up riders, JSK, and to get control of the many a++hole cyclists that do cause near collisions with pedestrians in the park, and I’ve seen plenty of those. So let’s admit that a lot of cyclists think the park is a closed private training course. It is not. Hopefully, the blitz will stop and hopefully a lot of cyclists will be more respectful to others using the park. Now, here’s my dilemma: I used to enjoy riding in the park, and finally bought a decent road bike. Now that I really enjoy riding, I’m completely paranoid about getting ticketed. When I do ride I hardly see any other cyclists (usually after 7pm on weeknights). So where is everyone going?

  • LN

    Last time I was in the park after 10am during car free hours, a Central Park Conservancy truck sped by me and through 5 red lights!

    FYI, Central Park Conservancy a private agency are the ones that decided that no one could ride their bike in the park after 1am. NYPD patrols the park after that hour and tickets all cyclists or makes them leave the park.

    If this is indeed a DOT road, then we are allowed to ride on it at all hours!

  • Chris

    The scariest part about this is that the crackdown could very well result in the NYPD ticketing cyclists during Summer Streets for running red-lights at streets with no crossing car traffic.

    It’s precisely the same situation.

  • alan e resnick

    Capt. Wishnia extolled the CP police over the last year or two and backed it up with statistics. The numbers of crimes committed was extremely small.
    This he said; showed the police were doing a good job. I DO NOT disagree with that statement; however, the small amount of crime indicates (I believe) that there IS very little crime in Central Park. This has increased in the area around north 110th street over the last couple of years however. This low level of crime is partially to explain why the police were able to crack-down on cyclists in Jan. and Feb.-with hardly anybody in the park.; they had the time and the man-power to ticket.

  • Ken

    Does any other park have its own precinct? Despite a recent uptick in crime (not counting bicycle tickets), I believe it’s still the safest precinct in the city. The fact that they have been able to focus on handing out tickets to hundreds of cyclists suggests that officers have a lot of time on their hands. Not only that, but the park is also patrolled by Parks Enforcement Officers. Perhaps we should be mounting a call for the precinct to be incorporated into an adjacent one and/or for a reduction in its ranks. Now THAT would get Wishnia’s attention.

  • Ken, you got me thinking: What’s going on in Prospect Park? Are they giving out tickets for riding through reds there?

  • NattyB

    @Richard Rosenthal,

    Can you change your blog’s background color or make the font darker? It looks like you have good stuff, but, it’s just too hard to read without highlighting everything.

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