Saudi Arabia on the Hudson: NYPD Officer Stopped Cyclist For Wearing Skirt

When Jasmijn Rijcken, the general manager of the VANMOOF bicycle company, traveled from Amsterdam to New York in late April, she was excited to see what she’d heard described as a city that had embraced bicycling. It wasn’t NYC’s new protected bike lanes that defined her ride through the city, however, but the New York Police Department, currently in the midst of a major crackdown against cyclists.

Jasmijn Rijcken was stopped and almost ticketed by an NYPD officer for biking in this outfit. Her skirt, the officer said, was too distracting for drivers.

Rijcken was in town for the New Amsterdam Bike Show on April 30. After she had dismounted on Broadway in SoHo, an NYPD officer stopped, berated, and threatened to ticket Rijcken for wearing a skirt while cycling, which, it must be noted, is entirely legal and common. Rijcken says the officer told her that her skirt was dangerous because she would distract drivers and potentially cause them to crash.

“I was standing there next to my bike, looking at my map, and then this police guy stops and starts telling me about my skirt,” reported Rijcken. “At first I thought he was making a joke or maybe even a compliment, but then I found out he was serious because he got really mad.”

The officer got out of his car and threatened to ticket her, said Rijcken, even though, it bears repeating, there is no law against biking in a skirt. The justification for a potential ticket was the danger her exposed skin posed to everyone on the street. “That was the bottom line, that I was very dangerous,” said Rijcken. “I think every woman, even when walking in a skirt, would be dangerous then.”

According to Rijcken, the cop’s words were not merely an empty threat. He took her ID and only began to back down when he saw that she was Dutch. She hurriedly explained that in Amsterdam, it’s common for women to bike in skirts. In the end, the officer told her she should change into pants and let her go.

At the time, Rijcken said, she wasn’t sure that she hadn’t broken the law. “If you’re by yourself in a different country and a police guy comes really angrily at you, you get scared,” she said.

This is not the first time an NYPD officer has stopped cyclists for completely frivolous non-offenses. In April, a private school administrator received a ticket for biking with a tote bag on her handlebars. The police have not responded to a Streetsblog inquiry about Rijcken’s allegations.

Her harassment at the hands of the police has colored Rijcken’s perception of not only New York City but the United States. “I was shocked,” she said. “In Holland, people refer to America as the country of freedom.”

  • clarisse

    “In Holland, people refer to America as the country of freedom.”  Only outside the five boroughs, sister.

    If it had been myself (as I bike in skirts every day), I would have given serious thought to consulting an attorney about a sexual harassment lawsuit.  That man had no business telling her what she could and could not wear–I don’t care what his badge says.

  • Guest

    Sexism from the NYPD! Shocking, but sadly not surprising.

  • Eric McClure

    Jesus, we’re more like the country of dimwits.

    Had Jasmijn Rijcken had a clue that this was SOP for harassing cyclists, she could have taken down the badge number and filed a complaint. Welcome to New York City!

  • Anonymous

    I second “clarisse”‘s comment – Jasmijn should consult a sexual harrassment attorney. Unfortunately, all I can find online for federal and NY law pertains to a “hostile environment” in an employment situation.

    http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/fs-sex.html

    Oh well, she can hop a plane to SF, she can wear skirts, pants, whatever while riding her bike where she pleases without an additional layer of harrassment from SFPD fulfilling their duty as needed.

  • Joe R.

    This sadly illustrates the pathetic direction this country, and especially this city, is headed.  We’re passing and enforcing ever more petty laws which just make life for average people difficult.  On top of that, we’re letting police make up things to ticket citizens for, like riding outside the bike lane, and now ticketing because you’re distracting drivers (as if no driver ever saw someone in a skirt before).

    It all started with Guiliani and his “quality of life” initiatives.  Now it’s gotten completely out of hand.  Ticketing squeegee men who were actively shaking down motorists for money is one thing.  Ticketing cyclists (and sometimes motorists) for actions which don’t harm others is quite another.  Time to revert to the principals of natural law.  That means the law can’t do anything unless you kill or injure someone, or steal/damage their property.  Enough of this nonsense of ticketing because some idiot on the City Council passed a law deeming some action “dangerous”.

  • carma

    okay.  i agree on hazardous biking.  but c’mon.  this is getting silly here.
    i mean sorry, but i actually would be impressed shes wearing a skirt. (heh, im a guy after all)

  • Anonymous

    You will be stopped when your scan returns “Item not found”.  All these little insults are to prepare us for that day.

  • Well at least it colored her perception of the city pretty accurately. This is the shit we have to deal with. 

  • Flava Flav

    I suppose Jasmijn should feel lucky the NYPD officer didn’t follow her home and spoon with her in bed for a half hour, naked. That is also a service the NYPD provides to single, vulnerable women.

  • Anonymous

    I’d like to propose a new harrassment theme: “CWS: Cycling While Sexy” – and if you think past your guffaws for a moment, you’d see everything that’s about.  

  • Saul Bikinsky

    Oh, and the other thing… Mayor Ray Kelly!

  • Lt. Goren

    Is this what cops go to the academy for? To harass cyclists over petty “crimes”?  Any hard-working cop who’s out there really protecting the city should be embarrassed by this garbage. Ray Kelly could make it stop in an instant and restore some semblance of honor to the department. Instead, the NYPD is quickly becoming a laughingstock.

  • vnm

    If you’re driving and you hit and kill someone, it’s “just an accident” and probably the victim’s fault, especially if they’re walking or biking. If you’re driving and you see a cute girl and suddenly “lose control,” it’s the girl’s fault, even though you’re the duly licensed operator of a dangerous multi-ton machine. When will drivers be accountable?

  • carma

    cycling while sexy.  bonus points awarded… calling all men & women

  • vnm

    If you’re driving and you hit and kill someone, it’s “just an accident,” especially if the victim is a pedestrian or cyclist. If you’re driving and you see a cute girl and this causes you to “lost control of the vehicle,” it’s the girl’s fault, even though you’re the duly licensed operator of a dangerous, multi-ton machine. When will drivers be held accountable? 

  • Joe R.

    Well, maybe they stretched the meaning of protect and “serve”?

  • Joe R.

    Well, maybe they stretched the meaning of protect and “serve”?

  • Ws

    Wearing that on the sidewalk, OK. On a bike, same. F you NYPD BADGE #.

  • Jay

    This is clearly an illegal stop, so if nothing else, it’s a violation of her civil rights.

  • Anonymous

    Time for another YouTube video making fun of the NYPD.

  • Komanoff

    Noah — Where in SoHo did this happen? What time of day? Any witnesses? Any pics or video? How did you come by the story?

  • Anonymous

    Jeez-a-Lou! NYPD continues to reach new lows. What a laughing stock.Instead of a naked bike ride, I say we have an all skirts ride. Yay!
    BTW – We should warn our Scottish friends not to wear kilts while cycling here.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    I ride around without a shirt in the summer at least a few times per week.  I certainly hope I am not distracting any drivers.

  • Hell No

    Wow, I call shens.

  • poncho

    “In Holland, people refer to America as the country of freedom.”

    Thats just right wing jingoist propoganda, we have more rules than any other developed country and have been living in a police state since 9/11. By the way did you get fondled at the airport?

  • Sjw

    American Idiots as Green Day kindly sung…

  • Anonymous

    What no stop and frisk?

  • M V Balveren

    Jasmijn commented on the Basil linkedin discussion about the totebag scandal. There she mentioned about the nypd officer. I was angry and couldnt believe it. I posted it on several linkedin groups and mailed it to nypost… I am glad it gets the attention it deserves!

  • Andy Mabbett

    That’s not a “crackdown against cyclists”. It’s a crackdown against women.

  • bedford

    You sure this didn’t happen in Williamsburg?

  • A crackdown against cyclists that run lights, go the wrong way, ride on the sidewalk, and all the other things that are actually illegal and dangerous is a good thing. Trying to shame a woman and control what she wears is definitely NOT.

  • Maybe someone in NY needs to organise a Slut Cycle?

  • Dave

    New York’s reputation as a newly bike-friendly city is sadly lost. Bloomberg, what are you doing?! You must stop the crackdown or you’re just like all the rest of the mayors who don’t care about cycling, don’t get urbanism. Dude. 

  • BTW, nice bike!

  • I doubt this cop really believed he was justified in stopping her, let alone ticketing her, for wearing a skirt.  Wanna bet he was trying to “pick her up”, then got angry and frustrated when she didn’t play along? 

  • Anonymous

    What are you New Yorkers gonna do about all this bullshit from the NYPD?

  • Anonymous

    Keep your recording devices handy and hit record the second you’re approached and get a badge number

  • way

    agreed! and it’s fucked up. taking us 10 steps back, next thing we know bare arms and ankles will be forbidden!

  • SGreenberg

    You mean drivers will be distracted from their texting by a woman in a skirt?  

  • dporpentine

    I have twelve questions about this event:

    1) Was she wearing a top? Perhaps the officer’s emphasis on the distraction created by her skirt was the result of being puzzled why she would wear a skirt but no top.

    2) How fast was she riding? Perhaps her skirt was blowing up into her face, causing drivers to fear that she was going to pull into traffic and kill them all.

    3) In what direction and at what speed was the wind blowing? Perhaps it was turning her skirt into a parachute and lifting her into the air–again, causing drivers understandable fear for their lives.

    4) Was she wearing one of those ultra-heavy noise- and light-producing Dutch Skirts originally developed to fight the Flemish? Chechnyan rebels are famous for using those to distract and sometimes even blind Russian tank drivers. 

    5) Did she spell her first name for the officer? Perhaps he was driven into a rage by that grossly unnecessary (and suggestively leggy)  j near the end of it. (“It’s spelled “Jazzmyn”–two z’s and only ONE j, dang blast it!”)

    6) Does she really think NYC cops “compliment” women on their skirts?

    7) Does she really think NYC cops know the Netherlands exist? The cop almost certainly thought her ID showed she was part of some Hell-worshiping (NETHERlandish, amsterDAM-based) cult.That’s why he backed off.

    8) Did she think to ask the cop about *his* skirt? Maybe he’s acutely aware of how distracting it is to others. I mean really: do they even teach them manners over there in Flemland?

    9) Why oh why is the name of her bicycle company in all caps? D

    10) I’m not giving up on that: doesn’t she realize all caps makes it look like a comic book sound effect?

    11) Is Streetsblog really going to try to pretend this is part of the “bikelash”? Not one cop’s sexual problems hauled into the public sphere?

    12) C’mon: “country of freedom”? Don’t pull that crap on us.

  • Wheelsofire

    Fortunately, it is only places like Iran or extremist Islamic countries which have fundamentalist policing.
    BTW, nice legs. We have plenty here in Ireland too and they don’t get blamed for poor driving. Perhaps the cop was upset because unlike his own fat and flabby appendages,Jasmijn’s are slim,tanned and athletic.
    I am convinced that the petty tyrants now empowered since 9/11 have misheard. It’s supposed to be a War on Terrorism not a War on Tourism.

  • Pete

    The land of the free is an ironic title and has been for years. I used to say the US was a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there… not even sure about that these days.

  • This calls for a public mocking. Maybe with pictures. Should I be wearing a burka, to avoid making poor men (and I guess lesbians) think sinful… I mean distracting thoughts?

    We’ve got people texting, reading, eating, putting on make up, belting in children, playing fantasy football, doing manicures while driving with their feet. He couldn’t find an actually dangerous person to give a ticket to?

    I think this is a sign that there are waaaaay too many police on the streets. We need to give them some real work to do. It seems like every other train station is completely paralyzed on weekends – maybe we can ship them over to the MTA and finally have them doing something useful. At the very least, it’ll remove half the parked vehicles in the bike lanes. Then all we’ll have to worry about are the UPS and Fresh Direct trucks.

  • Noah Berland

    Wow, I think this cop was watching too much Seinfeld, harking back to when Elaine gave Sue Ellen Mischke a Bra as a top, at the sight of this Kramer and Jerry both Freeze and have and accident; “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”.

  • It’s good to distract drivers into slowing down. Nothing wrong with that! When I ride in heels and
    skirt, traffic actually slows down around me and my ride becomes much
    safer!

    And I agree with @twitter-143729158:disqus : Women should definitely organize a Slut Cycle and really distract drivers
    who would in turn slow down to check them out.

  • Pegferrier

    Oh no. May I apologize on behalf of …everyone? This is not how most of Americans behave. So sorry this happened to you.

  • Esteban

    Land of the free, my ass. You can’t do anything here.

  • Bluefrog

    She could easily lodge a complaint against the city for sexual harassment.  

  • Joe R.

    Everyone I’ve told so far about this has said pretty much the same thing.  My brother says he sees NYPD cruisers double-parked all the time, with the cops just BSing with attractive woman, not doing anything else productive.

  • Tun106

    I actually bike with a skirt and heels and sandals all the time.  I shudder to think what the exposure of my freshly manicured pinky toes would do to some drivers.  I’m surprised I haven’t caused any major traffic jams.

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