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Cop Tackles Cyclist in Midtown — And It’s All Caught on Camera!

9:26 PM EST on February 7, 2019

Here is the tackling incident on Thursday that will stoke rage today.

Cyclists are demanding answers after an NYPD captain apparently tackled a bike rider in Midtown on Thursday as he was trying to ticket him in a police sting set up near where a cyclist was killed by a hit and run driver earlier this week — an incident that was captured on video.

The footage shows the aftermath of the 4:40 p.m. incident, with the roughed-up cyclist sitting on the ground on Ninth Avenue near 46th Street having being knocked down by the officer, who had apparently been trying to ticket him for an alleged moving violation at the intersection. Two still photos published by Gothamist show the moments before the cyclist was knocked down.

Police have been ticketing cyclists for infractions — some of them imaginary — in the area in the days after Chaim Joseph was run down and killed by a truck driver on Eighth Avenue and 45th Street.

“Come on, man! Why did you grab me like that?” the cyclist said as he got up from the ground. The officer picked up the bike but did not help the unidentified man as he struggled to his feet.

A witness in a car stuck in traffic described what happened in the moments before the video began.

“He knocked him off the bike, he pulled him off the bike!” said the witness, who identified himself as Eugene Green from New Jersey.

A Streetsblog source identified the cop as Captain Thomas Smith of Midtown North.

"He often oversees that operation," said our source. "He's a known bully — many of his subordinate officers do not like working with him because of his temper and attitude."

A police spokesman declined to comment on Smith on Thursday night. Meanwhile, the riding public was outraged.

"In what world is it ok to use physical force on a person's body for a moving violation?" asked activist Steven Bodzin.

Cris Furlong of Make Queens Safer added, "What goes on when there are no cameras around?"

Police in the video can be seen ticketing several other cyclists, most of whom appear to be delivery workers. A police officer ads the allegedly shoved cyclists bike to a pile of other bikes at the curb.

The police claim the knocked-down cyclist was not ticketed.

"The Midtown North Precinct was addressing community and safety concerns in the vicinity of West 46th Street and Ninth Avenue. The individual was stopped and advised of his violations and released without summons,” the NYPD told Streetsblog. Chana Widawski, who took the video, told Gothamist the NYPD was stopping cyclists for "failure to use a bike lane." 

It is unclear what the safety concerns might have been. Car drivers killed 201 people last year in New York City, while cyclists did not kill a single person. The NYPD has been ticketing cyclists for moving violations all week, despite the death of Chiam and despite a 20-percent increase so far this year in cyclists injuries compared to last year and a 90-percent increase in deaths caused by drivers in the same period. Nonetheless, the police have  been issuing cyclists tickets for riding without a helmet, which is not against the law for adults, for running red lights or riding with headphones. 

Some cyclists pointed the finger of blame at a broader problem: the exploitation of delivery cyclists.

"Hey tech bros@Seamless @Grubhub @UberEats @lyft," Shops by Bike posted on Twitter. "These are your bike bros getting assaulted by the NYPD so you can make a buck without lifting a finger. I know your model is 'these aren't employees,' but if you're suing over #congestionpricing you should be suing over this too."

The ticketing of cyclists has been typical of the NYPD after deaths...of cyclists.

"It's a strategy," Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey told DNAinfo in 2017, when NYPD was posted near locations of cyclist fatalities, informing cyclists of their violations and ticketing those who ran red lights. "We don't target victims. We target people who commit violations."

The attack on the unidentified cyclist comes one week before a long-planned solidarity ride with delivery workers hosted by Courtney Williams, aka the Brown Bike Girl, at Grand Central Station at 11 a.m. on Feb. 17.

Update: An earlier version of this story misidentified 72-year-old Chaim Joseph because of an erroneous NYPD report.

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