NYPD Celebrates Earth Day With Massive Houston Street Bike Clipping

NYPD_bike_clipping.jpgPhoto: Anthony Rebholz/This is FYF

Via Gothamist, local blog This is FYF posts this scene from Houston Street earlier today. Apparently, with President Obama due in town for a speech at Cooper Union, NYPD jumped at the chance to drastically overreact by confiscating New Yorkers’ personal property. We haven’t been able to confirm with the public information office yet, but This is FYF says police cited "security concerns that bikes might be secret pipe bombs" as their excuse:

NYPD officers clipped the locks of hundreds of bikes along Houston
Street this morning in preparation for President Obama’s speech at
Cooper Union. The bikes were unceremoniously put in the back of the
truck.  There was no prior notification of the bikes needing to be
cleared along the route by NYPD and onlookers were not given
information as to what would become of the bikes.

NYPD’s penchant for equating bikes and cycling with security threats is, historically speaking, a recent development. If they were doing this stuff forty years ago, Governor Rockefeller might never have made it to his Earth Day speech in Prospect Park.

  • Ian Turner

    Did they clear the cars for security concerns too? Historically, they seem much more likely to explode and kill.

  • Ian, yeah, look at the photo. They did actually clear the cars. But that doesn’t make any sense out of the bike removal.

  • Ken Coughlin

    What is this, Baghdad? But given that our level of fear knows no bounds, the more important issue is the lack of prior notice accorded cyclists. Did the NYPD similarly just start towing all cars parked along Houston without putting up any signs beforehand? I think not.

  • Moser

    The self-importance and ass covering behavior of so-called security agencies in the U.S. is a huge dead weight on all kinds of opportunities to create better communities.

  • Andy

    Soon, undercover officers will be trying sell the confiscated bikes to Busy Bee bike shop.

  • This is awful. Ray LaHood, you just made transportation advocates smile declaring bikes should be on equal footing. It’d be helpful to hear you condemn NYPD for spitting in the face of that message.

  • I Just Have to Say….

    Minus one.

  • Man, that is f-cked up. A confiscation of valued property on the flimsiest of excuses.

    Ken Coughlin: good points.

    By the way, this morning when crossing Houston, I asked an officer what was up with all the barricades. She said, “I don’t know. They never tell us.”

  • What’s so awful about this is that it would have been very very easy for the NYPD to make this painless. Why not tag the bikes the day before? Or the week before? Why not corral all the bikes and then let owners pick them up later? Why not just put no bike parking signs up the week before? These are not hard tasks to accomplish.

    However, it’s probably the case that the NYPD doesn’t have knowledge of the exact route of travel beforehand so it’s probably going to be difficult for them to execute a strategy weeks in advance, but clearly there’s a better solution that just stealing everyone’s bike.

    When they film movies, they put up no parking signs in advance to warn motorists and even if your car gets towed, it sometimes just gets towed to another block so it’s out of the shot. Nobody would think it would be okay to go around impounding every car on the day before a movie shoot. It would be considered cruel and a massive misuse of NYPD resources. Messing with hippie cyclists on the other hand…

  • Wirehead

    I always knew those “This bike is a pipe bomb” stickers were trouble.

  • Danny G

    Sue ’em

  • Wow. Good thing I didn’t stop in at Whole Foods for some granola bars.

    So even if bike owners can just stop by the precinct,or the pound, to pick up their bikes what happens with the lock? Will the City reimburse cyclists $90 to $110 each to replace a Kryptonite?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “So even if bike owners can just stop by the precinct,or the pound, to pick up their bikes what happens with the lock? Will the City reimburse cyclists $90 to $110 each to replace a Kryptonite?”

    Really, my lock is worth more than my bike.

  • @yaweneep tweeted that she saw a sign up that bikes could be retrieved at a local precinct. But look at that truck: how will they tell which bike belongs to whom? Yeah, officer, that’s my Serotta!


  • Jimmy

    “So even if bike owners can just stop by the precinct,or the pound, to pick up their bikes what happens with the lock? Will the City reimburse cyclists $90 to $110 each to replace a Kryptonite?”

    Not to mention the fact that anybody could just go to the precinct, pick out the nicest bike there, and claim that one as their bike. I’d be pissed if I lost my bike somehow due to that kind of shenanigans.

  • kdt


  • Ann

    Wow, these stories are hard to believe – fascinating! Can’t wait to see the movie on the Livable Streets Movement 30 years from now.

    Streetsblog, why not add some artistic posts? Where’s the livable streets art popping up right now? Commission an artist. The first thing that comes to my mind are the faux cars – cars made of cardboard and bamboo. I’ve also seen a model of a typical suburban house sounded by mirrors (can’t remember the artist).

  • I hope Streetsblog reports on this incident further. I would love to know whether owners are compensated for loss of locks (which, as Stacy noted, can be expensive). And I want to know how the police are handling the pickup situation: did anyone lose their bike because of this nonsense? Does an owner have to prove ownership when claiming a bike? (I’ve got a couple of pretty decent bikes, and I don’t know whether I could prove ownership. If the criterion is having a serial number registered somewhere, I would be out of luck).

  • At what point does Ray Kelly just become a laughing stock?

  • “yes officer, these 12 expensive looking bikes are mine. I even bought along this nice uhaul truck to take them home. My wife and 10 kids were furious when their bikes were taken. My uncle will be by this evening to pick up the 15 bikes he lost”

  • Stolen Bikes

    Wow….theft of property. NYPD, that is amazing. And you know, they could have put up signs so easily on each bike and warned people…..amazing.

  • They didn’t just screw with bike transportation. I tried to get the #6 at Astor Place this afternoon, and it was all barricaded.

  • JK

    Huh? The PD won’t/can’t/don’t post signs telling the public to remove their parked bikes because that would reveal the motorcade route. But, terrorists with advance knowledge of the route might plant a bike bomb there. So, the secret service and the terrorists know the route, but it’s secret to the bike riding public?

  • Ian Turner

    JK, how’d they clear the street of cars? Surely they didn’t just show up with an army of tow trucks and send them all to the impound.

  • Shameful.

  • Let’s all just keep this in mind when Kelly runs for Mayor.

  • terry wrist

    civil rights are a thing of the past. i couldn’t cross houston st. at any point to get to work for over 20 minutes.

  • The sort of social views encouraged in police departments are very, um, localist. Part of this involves resistance to anything that looks different or foreign and to any change that doesn’t come from within. The only way around it, barring massive overhaul of how policing works, is to teach cops things one by one. Lindsay and Dinkins forced NYPD to learn racial tolerance, and one can imagine a future mayor forcing NYPD to learn not to hate cyclists.


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