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Bicycle Safety

Ding Dong! NYPD Commissioner Stops Breaking a Law His Cops Use to Harass Kids

Commissioner O’Neill at a 2018 bike ride — before he turned in his no-bell prize. Photo: @NYPDOneill on Twitter

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill has turned in his no-bell prize.

The top cop admitted on Thursday that he has stopped breaking the law — a law used by his own cops to harass youths who bike — and has installed a bell on his two-wheeler.

"I'm happy to report to New York City that I do have a bell on my bike now," said O'Neill, who proudly calls himself a cyclist even as his rank-and-file officers violently crack down on bicyclists frequently.

The handlebars of a hypocrite. Photo: @NYPDoneill
The handlebars of a hypocrite — in a file photo. Photo: @NYPDoneill
The handlebars of a hypocrite — in a file photo. Photo: @NYPDoneill

The admission came at a press conference where O'Neill was asked about a specific crackdown on bell-less youths in Manhattan — a police action he defended by alleging past misbehavior by the kids. Still, days after that incident, O'Neill was embarrassed by several media outlets — including Gothamist and Streetsblog — for posting pictures of himself and his bell-less bike repeatedly on social media.

Transportation Alternatives called the most recent crackdown evidence of a "racist policy."

Streetsblog could not immediately confirm whether O'Neill had, indeed, installed the bell. But in any event, activists were infuriated about the whole situation.

"Commissioner O'Neill received a second chance and a free 'get-out-of-jail' card by his own officers," said Marco Conner, the co-deputy director of Transportation Alternatives. "He was given time to cure his obvious offense and law-breaking by installing a bell after a stern warning from civic minded reporters."

Conner added that the "second chance" should also "be extended to the bicyclists that the NYPD harassed in Tompkins Sq. Park and Union Square as well."

"Even more important, O'Neill should use the discretion inherent in his department's policing powers to immediately apply this same second chance for every day NYC bicyclists," Conner added. "Anything less would be further hypocrisy and nepotism by both the commissioner and the mayor."

Lawyer Steve Vaccaro, who has been involved in cycling cases involving the police, opted to poke fun at the commissioner's prior hypocrisy.

"I give him points for responding to the criticism!" Vaccaro said, but added that any experienced cyclist should know "that in exigent circumstances, a spoken or shouted warning can be issued far more quickly and effectively than sounding one's bell."

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