NYPD Intimidates and Cracks Down on Cyclists For No Good Reason

An NYPD lieutenant tells kids why some of them got tickets for not having bells. Photo: Terry Barentsen via YouTube.
An NYPD lieutenant tells kids why some of them got tickets for not having bells. Photo: Terry Barentsen via YouTube.

Dozens of armed cops swarmed two Manhattan parks on Saturday to harass kids on bikes and kick them out of the public spaces — the latest display of aggressive enforcement against cyclists in what Mayor de Blasio calls “America’s fairest city.”

More than 50 cops intimidated young kids, confiscated many bikes, and wrote tickets to youths for not having bells on their bicycles on Saturday — a targeted response that the mayor claimed to not know anything about and the NYPD dismissed as merely a precaution on 4/20, a day when marijuana use was expected to jump.

De Blasio said on Monday at an unrelated press conference, “I literally can’t comment” because he did not know “anything” about the harassment or the four tickets that were issued to kids for not having bells.

But Council Speaker Corey Johnson did not hold back in blasting the NYPD for doing the exact opposite to make cyclists feel safe in the city — especially when they are being killed at an alarming rate this year.

“We should be encouraging cycling by making people feel safe biking on our streets, not targeting cyclists for overly punitive crackdowns. We have to do better than this,” Johnson, who is mulling a run for mayor, wrote on social media.

And Bay Ridge Council member Justin Brannan said the city should instead focus on actual issues that put people in danger— like the chaotic intersections in his district.

Saturday’s crackdown began in Tompkins Square Park, where cops showed up en masse to arrest the organizer of the sixth annual “Race and Bake” biking event. Cops knew organizer Shardy Nieves would be at the park because they had followed his social media accounts.

“A friend of mine counted 52 cops,” he said.

Nieves said as he walking into the park, he was greeted by the police officers — and one officer showed him a folder full of social media posts promoting the event, whose name is a cheeky pun for marijuana use, though Nieves claimed it actually refers to baked goods and pizza that the riders enjoy after the race.

Nonetheless, he was arrested on what cops said was an outstanding open container warrant.

The arrest of Shardy Nieves.
The arrest of Shardy Nieves.

The timing of his arrest the day of his racing event was suspicious, according to Nieves, who said he was pulled over this past summer for running a red light and was told his record was clean. He added that cops were clearly trying to intimidate participants, some of whom were indeed spotted on a video made by participant Terry Barentsen leaving the event before it even started, owing to the police presence, said Nieves.

Another joked ruefully that the cops who had ticketed some of the riders had awarded the kids the “no-bell prize.”

“It was pretty ridiculous. I’m organizing a bike event you don’t want to happen and now I have a warrant. You guys have all these cops here to pick me up,” Nieves said. “They legit did this to arrest me in front of everyone, to stop this event.”

A Bronx judge quickly dismissed the charges.

But the unwarranted crackdown did not end with Nieves’s arrest. Police also wrote up cyclists, most of whom were kids of color, for not having bells on their bikes.

Cops confiscated their bikes and brought them to the local precinct. Several kids had to wait hours to get them back, according to social media reports and one of the victims.

“As soon as we got there, we all sat on our bikes and the cops kind of just walked to us and told us they were doing bike checks. They told us they didn’t have bells so they were gonna give us summons,” said 21-year-old Marc Nieves, who is of no relation to the organizer, Shardy Nieves. “From 1 pm, we didn’t get our bikes back to almost 6 pm.”

Police later marched to Union Square Park, where they continued the crackdown. 

The targeted harassment was the latest NYPD crackdowns on cyclists, which cops usually launch after a cyclist is killed. Over the winter, cops went on a ticket blitz against cyclists after 72-year-old Chaim Joseph was struck and killed on Eighth Avenue near 45th Street in Manhattan on Feb. 4 — an officer days later issued a biker a summons for not wearing a helmet, which is not against the law. And another cop tackled a cyclist to stop him for riding outside a blocked bike lane — which later led to a massive rally outside the Midtown North stationhouse.

And lest not forget de Blasio’s unjustified crackdown on e-bikes, which he has continued to defend even after data that proves the illegal vehicles made up just a tiny fraction of all 2018 collisions.

This city will never be the fair place the mayor wants it to be until he stops giving his cops permission to harass anyone who gets around on two wheels instead of four, according to Rosemary Bolich from the Biking Public Project. 

“The NYPD’s targeted harassment over the weekend of young people of color riding bikes is appalling. From immigrant food delivery workers to teenagers with BMX bikes, there are too many examples of racist enforcement of traffic laws in this city. The mayor claims that NYC is a fair city, but it never will be until this kind of harassment stops,” she said. 

NYPD spokeswoman Detective Denise Moroney said officers were assigned to the park ahead of Nieves’s event, which police claim was “advertising smoking marijuana and traveling on New York City roadways to various locations.”

On Monday, police said they did not write any tickets for anything related to marijuana.

Cops should use the same amount of resources and energy to kick dangerous drivers — including themselves — off the road as they do to target cyclists for minor infractions, said a spokesman from Transportation Alternatives.

“It seems like they’ll find any excuse to ticket people on bikes. If we’re going to be sticklers for the letter of the law, how about cracking down on people who have illegal license plate covers and defaced license plates instead,” said Joe Cutrufo.

Streetsblog followed up with the mayor’s office, but has not heard back.

  • Joe R.

    This really happened? Or is this article a late April Fool’s joke? If they’re going to stoop this low, maybe us citizens should start arresting cops for being fat and ugly. It makes about as much sense as the nonsense they’re pulling here.

  • r

    Any readers in Iowa or New Hampshire? Maybe ask the mayor about his harassment of people of color and immigrants while he’s there. His progressive credentials are such a lie. Is there nobody in City Hall who can stand up to this harmful moron?

  • Tooscrapps

    Hands down the worst Parks & Rec episode.

  • SBDriver

    Where’s the ” young kids” and “youths”?
    Don’t erode your credibility by trying to put a spin on the story.
    Confiscating bikes for not having a bell is absurd and infuriating. It may be against the law to operate a bike without one, but what is the justification for not letting people walk away with their bikes?

  • Sassojr

    Typical day in the life of a legal motorcyclist. Meanwhile the dirt bikers and ATVs blow right through motorcycle only checkpoints because of the NYPD’s “No Pursuit” policy.

    It’s funny because I’ve never seen a commercial vehicle only checkpoint and we know how much more dangerous they are than a commuter on a motorcycle. ?

  • Joe R.

    The good news is he’ll be gone in less than three years. The bad news is he can still do a lot of damage before then. Just off the top of my head he’s already done or tried to do all of the following:

    1) Tried to get rid of the tests for the specialized high schools.
    2) Is still trying to get his inane BQX streetcar built.
    3) Is closing Riker’s Island and putting prisons across the city instead.
    4) Has waged an ongoing war against e-bikes and delivery people without statistics to back it up. Supplying him with the statistics didn’t change his views.
    5) Has increased the already prevalent crackdowns against cyclists which started under Guiliani and continued with Bloomberg.
    6) Has often sided with Community Boards which diluted or eliminated safe streets projects in favor of parking.
    7) Wasted city tax dollars replacing 4100K LED streetlights with dimmer, yellower, inferior 3000K ones on the basis of complaints from a small, vocal minority. This actually affected me personally when I fell after hitting a hole I would have easily seen under the original LED lighting. I’m in the process of putting together studies which show this is detrimental to street safety in order to get the city to revert back to lights of at least 4100K.
    8) Added over 1,000 new cops despite NYC already having nearly three times the police per capita as other large cities.
    9) Failed to reign in the general lawlessness of the NYPD.
    10) Issued tens of thousands of parking placards to school employees.

    Feel free to add to this list. I thought Dinkins was bad, but at least he didn’t get reelected. This guy was just as bad in his first term. It looks likes he’s gone off the deep end in his second. I don’t know what the love is for progressives in this city. They represent the worst of both parties. They have the authoritarian side of the GOP compared with the tax and spend propensities of straight liberals.

  • Joe R.

    “America’s Fairest City” if you’re rich and/or a car owner. For everyone else, the city sucks.

  • zucho drig

    6 months after Pittsburgh shooting, the only thing to worry about on 4/20 is excessive marijuana usage. That’s fine.

  • Bill zero-backbone De Blasio

    De Blasio hides behind his banner of moral righteousness.

    He is no city manager.

    Ineffective, incompetent, clueless and corrupt.

    Sucks to suck, Warren Wilhem

  • Vooch

    The real tragedy is the average beat officer wonders why they ‘get no respect’ from the locals and the NYPD leadership is baffled why no one in the ‘community’ helps solve crimes.

    The youth needless harassed yesterday will now never respect anyone in a NYPD costume.

  • AMH

    It would be great if we had a mayor who had a clue what was happening in his city, or even cared.

  • Wonder how it feels for the cops, after a long day of busting bicyclists. I.e. do they feel proud and accomplished, or do they feel like worthless shit with a shitty job? Most likely the latter. I don’t care for NYPD cops but in this case I am inclined to actually feel some sympathy here. No man can feel good about himself spending his workday in this way.

  • LOL NYPD costume. Makes sense though. Security Theater, gotta have costumes.

  • Knut Torkelson

    I think they feel great. If you’ve lived in this city for more than 5 minutes, have interacted with the NYPD, and still feel these people are doing some sort of moral introspection on what they do for work, you’re living in a fantasyland.

  • Knut Torkelson

    ” I don’t know what the love is for progressives in this city. They represent the worst of both parties.”

    K. Nonsense conclusions. BdB is a fake progressive, and most of the things you listed are not progressive at all. If de Blasio was actually progressive, you’d certainly see him cracking down on the NYPD, rapidly expanding bike infrastructure, and not wasting money on a giveway to real estate developers and wealthy waterfront dwellers with the Ferry and BQX.

  • ddv4171

    How about…just handing out bells and lights and showing everyone how to install and use them?? Would require far fewer cops and offset the minuscule cost of the supplies…

  • Joe R.

    They hate bikes and they hate blacks. To a cop, busting a black kid on a bike is a double win. If they really detested it, enough would complain to their superiors about the waste of police manpower and/or just refuse to ticket people for nonsense (which would effectively end these pointless bike dragnets).

  • vbtwo31984

    I would love to see how many cars they confiscate for having a broken taillight for example. I assume the answer is 0 and they just write out a ticket and tell the driver to get it fixed.

  • MatthewEH

    I’ve seen some stray stories about NYPD giving people on Citi Bikes bell tickets in the last few months.

    This law has got to go, IMO. There’s no good evidence that having a bell improves safety/others’ knowledge of your position and intentions as compared to calling out “on your left”, “coming through” and whatnot. Lots more semantics you can impart if you use your words.

    Doing a deep-dive on the legislation, it looks like there was no bell law until 2009, and then one was added, effective 2009? Odd; I’ve been riding in NYC longer than that…

    Besides, the law is written as follows:

    “No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.”

    I can shout loud enough to be heard from 100 feet. Why should my voice not count as a “device”?

  • Sassojr

    They will if it’s a motorcycle. Even though illegal dirt bikes and ATVs don’t stop at motorcycle only checkpoints.

  • Joe R.

    I totally agree. I don’t have space on my handlebars for a bell anyway, but even if I did I think they’re pointless, stupid, and a throwback to the 1950s. A motorist isn’t going to hear a bell from inside their insulated cocoon. A pedestrian used to background noise, and probably immersed in their phone, likely won’t hear it either, or will just ignore it. The best way to operate is to just pass people with a wide enough berth so no warning is necessary. I do this both when passing pedestrians and slower cyclists.

    On the other hand, if it were at all feasible to mount one of these on my bike, I might strongly consider it:

  • I use my voice too. Dingy bell sounds ridiculous. Or sometimes if I want to be subtle I’ll just shift some gears on my old fashioned cassette. The clickety clack is usually plenty of heads up.

  • Joe R.

    A couple of brief taps on your brake is also a good way to get people’s attention.

  • FTP. BdB too.

  • JR

    1 and 3 are good things. Standardized tests for entrance exams are generally more indicative of economic standing than with aptitude or future performance. And Rikers is a stain know the city. Each borough should house it’s own jail populations, to make it easier for those jailed to stay connected with their communities and families, especially during pretrial detention.

  • Joe R.

    The problem is if you get rid of the standardized tests the specialized high schools won’t be the schools they are. They’ll just be like regular high schools, perhaps with a more slightly advanced curriculum. You would have no choice but to dumb things down, or the people admitted under some sort of quota system would fail, get discouraged, and drop out, pretty much defeating the point of getting rid of the tests in the first place. If you do dumb things down, those who would have got in by merit will get a lesser education. Many of their parents might then choose to send them to private schools instead, diluting the makeup of the specialized schools even further. Those whose parents couldn’t afford private schools wouldn’t get the education they get now at these schools as a result of dumbing down the curriculum.

    What we can and should do is to put in a lot more effort to find gifted children in poor neighborhoods at an early age, then see that they’re put into programs where they can reach their potential. When the time comes for them to take the test, they’ll be competitive with those from better economic backgrounds.

    We also need to keep in mind no matter how much equality of opportunity we create, there WILL be disparities in results in different fields due to the strengths and weaknesses of each group. In other words, the makeup of every institution will never reflect the general population no matter what, nor should that be the goal of creating equal opportunity. For example, nobody seems to complain that the majority of players in the NBA are black, and that we should try to get more white or Asian players. Under the pure merit systems which exists, the majority of those who reach professional level happen to be black. That’s fine. Same thing when a majority of those in specialized math or science programs happen to be Asian. For whatever reason, as a group this is something they excel at, and yet because of it they’re subject to reverse prejudice by the admissions offices at elite colleges.

    Again, equality of opportunity, not of outcome, is something we as a society must strive for. There’s no excuse for schools to be lousy in poor neighborhoods. Every kid there should have an equal shot getting into a good high school as their peers in rich neighborhoods.

    Not sure how to feel about the jails. Maybe separate jails will serve the function you say. The worry of a lot of people is the fact an escaped prisoner will be in the general community. At least on Riker’s Island it was, well, an island, so there was little chance of that.

  • djx


    “The real tragedy is the average beat officer wonders why they ‘get no
    respect’ from the locals and the NYPD leadership is baffled why no one
    in the ‘community’ helps solve crimes.”

    This too.

  • david

    Here’s an idea nypd, why not hand out bells and educate bikers instead of being jerks?

  • SBDriver

    “No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or
    other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at
    least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with
    nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.”
    It sounds like it is illegal to use a whistle or “siren” (horn would
    probably count). That’s even worse than the bell requirement. So we
    have to ride in traffic and follow all traffic laws, but are not allowed
    to use a horn?! That’s just asinine.

  • Rex Rocket

    Th citibike bell works for me. People pay attention, i’ve seen people with headphones turn at the sound. It means “bike” and no one wants to be in a collision with one. Of course there are people who don’t hear it, and they seem to barely hear me yelling at them to move.

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  • Vooch

    why do they dress in black costumes these days ?

  • My wife’s Trek hybrid, whenever there’s any moisture on the rims, will screech really loud when the brakes are applied. It sounds pretty alarming. I am so jealous, I wish I could get my own rims/brakes to make that sound. It really wakes people the F up.

  • Joe R.

    Steel rims? Back when I used to use those, the brakes often screeched like crazy.

    I find that giving multiple taps on the brakes, while letting the levers release on their own, creates a series of fairly loud clicks which even in NYC attracts attention because it’s not a normal sound. Squeaky brakes would just be a bonus but that rarely happens with alloy rims.

  • relevantjeff

    True that. The NYPD does a better job of discouraging people from coming forward than any Stop Snitching campaign ever did.

  • AMH

    Bell tickets? On a Citi Bike? Every one of them has a bell!

  • MatthewEH

    This is just how bone-deep the stupidity is