NYPD: Riding Faster Than 15 MPH in Central Park Now Illegal

NYPD resources at work: Police in Central Park during the early morning ticket blitz that nabbed cyclists for riding faster than 15 mph. Photo: Dave Chomowitz via Gothamist

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.

  • Kaja, you are right, very sadly. I was riding to work just before 6am last fall. I was stopped going NB on 5th ave in Bklyn at 9th st. The cop car that was double parked in the bike lane at the Dunkin Donuts, flips a U to pull in behind me. I am in the Bike box there. The breeze from the speed of the U turn washes over me and it smells like that cop car was burning. I step back and look at the White shirt sitting in the passenger seat. He waits a while to roll down the window and I tell him, “Your car smells like its on fire, like burning electrical wire.” He asks, “Why are you standing in the middle of the street?” I tell him I am not, I am in the bike lane, in the bike box” He maintains no, that I am asking for it waiting in the middle of the street, and that even though I was standing on a symbol of a bike rider, I was in the wrong. I remained civil, until I egged him on as the light changed, I said; “You may want to brush up, as this bike lane is definitely where I am supposed to be.”
    His response,yelled at me as they pulled away, “I know my F@$king job!” That was courtesy, professionalism or respect, one of them I am sure.

    And in response to “everyone’s a criminal”, consider how many young men, (of all races) you know have been arrested for nothing offenses, even if tossed out. I heard a theory, that NYPD is amassing a file on young men, to “have something on them”. I was arrested sitting at a red light one block in on a mello Critical Mass ride. I now have an arrest record…

  • Joe R.

    “anyone want to guess how fast a cyclist has to go to attain the equivalent impact force of a car or SUV traveling 30 mph?”

    I’m getting a bit over 152 mph using that calculator. That’s easily double the fastest speed I’ve ever heard of any cyclist going, even on a very steep, very long downhill (none of which are found in the city). To put these numbers in perspective:

    speed of average cyclist: 12 to 15 mph
    speed of fast cyclist: 18 to 23 mph
    speed of professional cyclist being helped along by the peloton: 25 to 35 mph
    typical maximum descent speeds of professional cyclists: 55 to 75 mph
    fastest unpaced speed under human power (Varna Diablo III): 82.3 mph

    Even the last one is only equivalent to the impact of a car traveling in the low 20s.

  • Brandon

    Has Bloomberg said anything about this? They are sending some seriously mixed messages with Sadik-Khan on the one hand and the NYPD on the other.

  • Driver

    EP is the kind of person who perpetuates resentment against bike riders. Sorry, but guys picking up 10 or 20 tons of garbage in a night are not going to have much sympathy for you because you had to ride around them in the few minutes it takes to hand load a bunch of trash into the truck. Wait, I forgot, now that there are bike lanes it is YOUR space exclusively and damned if anybody else is going to occupy that space, even for a moment. Just because you have a bike lane does not mean you are now exempt from all the inconveniences that we all face as bikers, drivers, and pedestrians in a major metropolis.
    I’m not saying it’s ok for anyone to just park in the bike lane to make a typical delivery, or while drinking coffee and eating donuts in between meeting quotas, but hauling garbage is the kind of job where a few feet makes a big difference, you don’t have to be such a baby about it.

    I think the CP (and general) crackdown is bullshit btw, and I am pretty much in full agreement with you guys on this one.

  • Joe R.

    I was thinking the same thing here, Driver. When I see an obstacle in a bike lane, I just go around it without making a big deal. Par for the course in a big city. If I don’t want the NYPD to enforce laws AGAINST bikes except in the most egregarious cases, then I’m certainly not going to bother them if they fail to enforce laws FOR bikes, except of course when failing to enforce such laws places cyclists in real danger, not just inconveniences them. And that’s the case here. It’s 9:30 PM, I’m sure traffic was light even in Manhattan. Just go around the garbage truck and stop making a federal case out of it. I would have been already 30 or 40 blocks down in the time EP spent arguing with the police.

  • Larry Littlefield

    My view also Driver. I don’t get made at drivers for doing anything I have ever done in a car, or cyclists for anything I have ever done on a bicycle, or pedestrians for anything I have ever done on foot. Although I’m pretty law abiding in all three modes, I end up rarely getting mad.

    Someone loading in a bike path isn’t the same as someone blowing by you at 30 mph plus less than six inches from your elbow.

  • kevd

    Maybe Paul Steely White is 175 on his bike.
    But I’m definitely more…..

  • Joe R.

    Same here, kevd. My vintage 1980s Raleigh weighs 29 pounds, and I weigh 190. I actually lost about 10 pounds last year because I rode over 3100 miles instead of the 1000 or so I had been for a number of years before that. I still want to get back to my “fighting weight” of around 160.

  • meh

    As a runner, I am really getting a kick watching all the cyclists stopping at red lights. But as a cyclist I find the whole shebang in CP a total sham.

    Ken, this is your time. Remove the cars from the CP loop and police ALL park users: Walkers: PAY ATTENTION, Runners: move over, Dog walkers: keep those furry things on a leash and everyone else: watch out for me! I’m a New Yorker so the laws apply to someone else!


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