NYPD’s apparent bid to criminalize recreational cycling in Central Park took another surreal turn this morning. One week after hundreds of people asked police to stop the irrational barrage of red light tickets for cyclists in the park, NYPD has apparently doubled down on its bike enforcement blitz. Cycling message boards lit up today with stories from an early morning sweep that caught about half a dozen people training in the park, where cops dished out hefty fines (reportedly as high as $350) for going faster than 15 mph.
The NYPD habit of picking off easy traffic enforcement targets under dubious pretenses, while leaving real problems unaddressed, seems to be holding steady. Gothamist’s John del Signore has some highlights:
Dave Jordan of the Century Road Club Association tells us that at least six or seven cyclists received speeding tickets this morning for biking over 15 mph (not the actual speed limit), and cyclist Dave Chomowicz, who took this photo, says, “They had a radar gun out. One or two riders in the picture and two of my teammates were ticketed, and some triathletes got tickets. I believe one of the cyclists was going 20 mph. I took the picture at 6:45 this morning and came back to the park for a while, after cars started coming in and the speed trap was gone. Cars were going far in excess of 15 mph. I saw cars going through red lights.”
Jordan believes six or seven cyclists were ticketed for speeding, and tells us one was slapped with fines totaling $350. “These are athletes and responsible people,” says Jordan. “The people they want are people who are doing this in the middle of the day on the weekends when the park is crowded and you want to do something with your kids and there’s some guy f-bombing as he’s biking around. The law states that we should yield to pedestrians. To enforce lights that have no purpose when there are no cars in the park just doesn’t make sense.”
The 15 mph rule, which doesn’t hold on city streets and apparently applies only to bikes inside the park, has been especially bewildering. The Central Park Conservancy website says the official speed limit for bikes and cars in the park is 25 mph. Some signs inside the park, impossible to read from the roadway, do indicate a 15 mph cap for cyclists. (Athletes can easily run faster than 15 mph, by the way, which is slower than the average speed of every Olympic medalist in the men’s 1,500 meter race going back to 1960.) The same signs imply that bicyclists don’t have to stop for full red light cycles, but should simply yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. Regardless, the rules only seem to apply if you’re on two wheels and you’re an easy mark. Central Park’s red light-running cabbies and speeding drivers can carry on.
In other news, NYPD issued no charges to either of the two drivers involved in yesterday’s noon-time Jackson Heights smash-up, in which one car careened into 82-year-old bystander Margaret Choborka, inflicting fatal head trauma.