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The Hudson River Park Bike Seizure: Why’d They Do It?

5:57 PM EDT on August 18, 2010

Hudson_River_Park_Side_by_Side.jpgThough there's a rule forbidding parking bikes to objects that aren't racks, it's easy to miss unless you already know what to look for. Photos: Noah Kazis

Last Saturday, ten cyclists returned to where they had parked their bikes in Hudson River Park to find them gone. They had been attached to a railing along the river and, as reported in Gothamist, confiscated by the park.

By Hudson River Park regulations -- the park isn't run by the city Parks Department -- bikes may only be parked at a bike rack. "Bike racks are designed to have bikes locked to it; our railings and lightposts are not," explained Hudson River Park spokesman David Katz. "This was an iron railing. It's going to get scratched. It's going to get scuffed."

According to Katz, the bikes had been locked to the sea wall railing near Leroy Street for around two and a half hours when park enforcement officials decided they had to go. Katz claims that staff asked nearby park users, including those in the dog run and at Pier 40's athletic fields, if the bikes were theirs. When no one claimed them, they cut through the locks and took them to the park headquarters inside Pier 40. "Since they are in violation of park regulations," added Katz, "they are summonsed."

Ultimately, all ten bikes were reclaimed, said Katz. The owners had all been on a cruise together on the nearby Queen of Hearts boat.

The Gothamist report pointed a finger at the park for not notifying the cyclists that their property was about to be seized. In particular, the lack of signs announcing the rule was seen to make the seizure unfair. Katz claimed that the rule was prominently displayed. "There are large signs at every entrance to the park," he said, including the bike parking rule along with other regulations. 

The truth is somewhere in between. I visited the park and there are, in fact, posted signs at every entrance. I found five within a minute or two walk of the Queen of Hearts' dock. They aren't large, however. You wouldn't see the bike rule unless you were looking for it. Had the cyclists sought out the parking regulations, they would have found them, but it would have been very easy not to have noticed the rule at all.

Another complicating factor is the availability of bike racks. There's a small rack immediately across the path from the Queen of Hearts, which Katz says was empty when the bikes were confiscated. The rack doesn't have room for ten bikes, though. A block further south, there is ample bike parking, but it's inside a Pier 40 walkway, not visible from most angles.

Those difficulties suggest that Hudson River Park should be doing more to accommodate cyclists, said Transportation Alternatives' Noah Budnick. "If that's the rule they want to promulgate," he said, "they have to go above and beyond to publicize it. And if they're going to take people's bikes, they should at least have a tagging policy in place." After all, said Budnick, the greenway is the busiest bike path in the country and each one of those riders is a Hudson River Park customer. As shown on Saturday, current efforts aren't enough. 

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