NYPD, Secret Service Joined Forces to Cage Bridge Cyclists During Trump Visit

Cyclists pulled their bikes onto the roadway rather than wait 45 minutes for the president. Photo: Steve Bodzin
Cyclists pulled their bikes onto the roadway rather than wait 45 minutes for the president. Photo: Steve Bodzin

“We felt we were being unlawfully detained — and unjustly because it was about our mode of transport.”

So said Laura Shepard, bike commuter, longtime Queens safe-cycling organizer and, since February, communications co-ordinator for Bike New York.

Shepard was among the dozens of cyclists whom NYPD blockaded on the Queensboro Bridge’s bike path from around 8:45 to a little after 9 a.m. on Friday, on the premise that their presence compromised the safety of the presidential motorcade on the FDR Drive below. The hastily installed blockade covered the outer roadway only; adjacent car and truck traffic was unimpeded.

Neither the NYPD or city DOT gave prior announcement of the blockade, so Shepard and other cyclists live-tweeted it from the roadway as a heads-up to other Manhattan-bound bike commuters.

During the detention time, a dozen or more cyclists hoisted their bikes over the guardrail to cycle amidst the cars and trucks on the bridge’s primary lanes. Handlebar footage of their speedy descents posted on Twitter was exhilarating, or unsettling, or both, although motor traffic was moving slowly, according to Shepard, under 20 mph and more often just 5-10 mph.

“The cop who stopped us said the wait could be as long as 45 minutes,” Shepard said, which surely motivated some of the intrepid hoisters. “I didn’t join them because of concerns for my safety, and I knew I wouldn’t be penalized at work. Plus, I figured I would use the time to do what the city didn’t do — warn others.”

In all my QBB crossings over the years, I’ve never even noticed the FDR below. I’m too pre-occupied with maintaining my pace on the uphill and managing my speed on the downhill. And if I look up from the path it’s to take in the spectacle of NYC from this fabulous vantage point, not to conjure a way to terrorize motorists underneath.

And while in theory it’s possible for a cyclist or pedestrian to haul a brick and drop it over the side, so could anyone in a car, cab or truck: just stop the vehicle, get out, climb over the low barrier, and let fly.

One on the bridge, cyclists had a smoother ride. Photo: Steve Bodzin
One on the bridge, cyclists had a smoother ride. Photo: Steve Bodzin

“It’s a twisted logic — the absurdity of stopping peds and cyclists but not drivers,” Shepard told me. “And the air quality was terrible with the slow-moving trucks, and no bathrooms or water. It’s a bridge, after all.”

Friday’s bridge blockage wasn’t the first use of extreme measures in the name of presidential security. In 2010, citing unnamed reports that parked bikes could house pipe bombs, the NYPD broke the locks of hundreds of bicycles chained to street furniture on East Houston Street, along the route of a motorcade carrying then-President Barack Obama, and carted them off in flatbed trucks.

What happened last Friday wasn’t as vicious. But if anything it’s more troubling. One sudden move by a car or truck driver could have caused injury or worse to one of the hoisters. And while it’s easy to say they should have just sat tight, I’m not sure I’d have waited in the face of a possible 45-minute hold.

In Iowa and elsewhere, de Blasio is casting himself as the anti-Trump. We city cyclists and pedestrians know that when our rights — and safety — are at stake, the two of them are pretty much one and the same.

  • A lot of people mentioned that NYPD decided to put this blockade on the bridge (well past the midpoint for inbound commuters) and not at the entrance.

    The entire idea of “Let’s allow cyclists to come onto the bridge, but then let’s detain them for an indeterminate amount of time because of a motorcade” just shows how poorly they think of people who aren’t in cars.

  • Joe R.

    Do the people in charge pull these ideas of their asses? Or are they really that stupid?

  • robert

    Wow 15 min you had to wait end of the world
    When any Pres travels there care always intermittent closures.
    Hillary still causes them when she comes to NYC Bill causes it a lot when he comes down to his Harlem office.

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    fuck you MAGA scum.

  • Andrew

    Meanwhile, motorists complain when they’re asked to spend an extra 15 seconds to obey the law.

  • PeteNY

    You’re.both making something out of nothing. Much as I hate this Prez, ain’t no big thing.

  • qrt145

    Something that’s not clear from this story: were people prevented from turning around and leaving the bridge from where they entered? If not, claims of “detention” are BS; it’s just an inconvenient roadblock. That said, I agree that blocking a bike lane but not the car lines for “security” is BS, too.

  • Andy

    No and thats also my problem with this attention grabbing title. While “detain” can also mean prevent someone from proceeding, its giving the impression that people weren’t free to turn around or jump over the fence, which the 2 police officers didn’t stop anyone from doing

  • Andy

    Closer to 45 minutes, in the middle of morning rush hour, on the only pedestrian/bicycle East River crossing between 1st and 120th St, with no warning.

  • Andy

    Think about pedestrians that walked 10 minutes 3/4 of the way across the bridge. If the bridge was closed at the entrance, they could have jumped on the subway rather than walking 10 minutes back or waiting.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    It was way more than a dozen people who rode down the car lanes. I was one of a group of 10 or more who biked back to the service entrance to the roadway and entered there rather than going over the fence. That was three of the most unpleasant minutes i’ve ever experienced on a bike. And then to top it off, 56th was completely closed, no pedestrians or bikes could cross under the motorcade passed. The closure of the bike path was bad but that was worse and is an even better illustration of how lazy and incompetent the NYPD is. If they had any organizational capacity they would leave the ped crossings open and do a rolling block of the sidewalks as the motorcade passed. But that would take some effort and coordination so why bother.

  • It’s clear NYPD did no thinking about any of the bridge users in their planning. Which is consistent for them, yet another disturbing incident in a trend of their hostility/carelessness to people who live, work and get-around here.

  • Philip Neumann

    I agree as well, but turn around and go where? People were trying to get to work, and leaving cyclists, some of whom had already biked miles, to stand in sweaty clothes and now they’ve got lactic acid building up in their muscles while they stand around for a possible 45 minutes, doesnt sound appealing to me in the slightest. I’d have jumped the rail as well.

    But I think the fact that motorists could proceed at all — even at a glacial pace — while the ramp to the cycling path was held closed entirely, is the real issue at hand here.

  • AMH

    “parked bikes could house pipe bombs”

    This is such garbage. A single car could house hundreds of pipe bombs.

  • JK

    Another chapter in QBB security theater of the absurd. In the 1990’s, DOT and NYPD officials told Trans Alt that the Outer Roadways were going to be fenced in part because they were concerned cyclists and pedestrians on the path might throw hand grenades onto gasoline barges… And this was pre-9/11. Trans Alt pointed out that any terrorist who was that motivated could easily get bolt cutters and cut the fence. That aside, PD has clearly been concerned about the bridge paths for a long-time. I was twice stopped by PD during presidential visits while riding South Outer Roadway.

  • 6SJ7

    SOP Secret Service security measures in the post JFK assassination world.

  • mfs

    This happened to me around 2010 crossing the WB bridge when Obama was in town. Silly they only blocked the ped/bike route and its inconvenient, but let’s be clear – it’s the least unjust thing done in the name of security theater.

  • Simon Phearson

    Yes, the “reporting” here is misleadingly inaccurate.

    This is not the first time that the NYPD has stopped pedestrian/cyclist traffic over the QB in order to accommodate “security” concerns with the passage of the president underneath it, but it is the first time that I’m aware of their doing it during peak times. They usually just block passage forward, but since other cyclists and pedestrians are coming continuously, you can effectively be “penned in” by people lining up behind you.

    It is annoying, inconvenient, and likely ineffective. But the NYPD needs to earn their overtime somehow, huh?

  • TheKingJAK

    Lol, describing the state of the cyclists both above and in the article is completely melodramatic. Please, if somebody can’t accept a pause in cycling, especially over a relatively flat bridge, then they need to stay home -Signed, a MTBer.

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