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Bicycle Safety

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

3:56 PM EDT on June 26, 2006

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.

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