Here’s What the NYPD Doesn’t Want You to Know About Its ‘No-Bell’ Crackdown

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.

The NYPD has denied a Streetsblog freedom of information request seeking information about police officers’ targeted harassment against cyclists back in April — enforcement that stopped what police merely believed would be an unruly bike ride, the city’s top cop later admitted.

But police don’t want the public to know what led to the crackdown, which advocates charged was “punitive and racist.”

Dozens of armed officers swarmed Tompkins Square Park, and later Union Square Park, where riders were gathering for the sixth annual “Race and Bake” bike event on April 20 — a ride that had nothing to do with marijuana besides the pun, according to organizer Shardy Nieves.

Nieves ended up being arrested for a four-year-old open container warrant that was immediately dismissed by a Bronx judge. He said police showed him pages from his social media account, and indicated that they had stalked him to the event.

Police handed out tickets and even confiscated some kids’ bikes for not having bells on their bicycles — the latest crackdown against cyclists, many of them working men of color. The targeted enforcement enraged advocates who called out the de Blasio administration for having “misplaced priorities and racist policies,” though Hizzoner touts New York as “America’s fairest big city.”

The mayor declined to comment after the crackdown. But a few weeks later, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill confessed that he had deployed dozens of officers to stop the bike ride from happening — an apparent misuse of power to harass people for a crime they had not even committed, critics charged.

And even local pols were left scratching their heads as to why police would use so many resources to stop a bike ride before it happened and what led to the decision.

So on April 26, Streetsblog filed a Freedom of Information Law request seeking “NYPD communications … related to bike bell operations at Tompkins Square Park on April 20, 2019, and all correspondences related to officers assigned to Tompkins Square Park on April 20, 2019.” Our goal was to review the advance planning conducted by the NYPD before the operation.

On June 20, police denied the request, citing multiple reasons, including, “Such records/information would endanger the life or safety of any person”; “If disclosed, would reveal non-routine techniques and procedures;” “These records are sealed under court order, pursuant to Criminal Procedure Law Section 160.50 and can only be requested by the arrested person or their representative”; “Records/information are inter-agency or intra-agency materials which are not final agency policy or determinations.”

Streetsblog plans to appeal.

  • bggb

    ACAB.

  • Driver

    Still referring to “kids” and eroding your journalistic integrity.

  • NoKXLNE

    Since there was no crime, can there be a final determination? Assuming not, was there ever a final policy document approved by PD admin? Or was the entire action taken on the basis of the “informal” email communication, in which case their denial of FOIL is invalid.

  • norman segel

    there are too many police in the streets, not to mentioned the belligerency of them. to the devil you bring holly water to the police you bring your camera.

  • Steven Craig

    It is “So, So difficult” for cyclists to comply with this ? Pathetic.
    I am sure there would be hundreds if not thousands of summonses issued for this and traffic violations if the NYPD was not constrained by the fact many of those stopped do not carry valid ID thus resulting in wasted station house time. If we are not to require license and registration of cyclists the very least is to require the user carry acceptable ID when operating a cycle. So difficult ?

  • William Lawson

    How about pedestrians, should they be required to carry ID as well?

  • Steven Craig

    Anyone operating a vehicle on the roadway , this includes cycles should
    carry ID, motor vehicles require, license, registration and insurance. Odd, anyone would object as you cannot enter 99% of the office buildings or visit City offices without. So difficult ? Guess if you want to ignore the laws governing riding a cycle, it is !

  • William Lawson

    Pedestrians use roads too. Sometimes they cause accidents. Again: should pedestrians be required to carry ID? Also, the licensing requirements for motor vehicles are very much based on the fact that they are extremely dangerous pieces of machinery that can kill dozens in a matter of seconds in the wrong hands, as well as the potential damage to both private and public property in the event of a crash. Bikes may share the road with them (as do peds) but there the similarity ends.

  • Joe R.

    While we’re at it let’s require papers for anyone traveling between boroughs or states, like they did in the old USSR. NYC already practically has its own version of the KGB in the form of the NYPD, so this isn’t much of a stretch. There’s no requirement to carry any form of ID in a public street. Even a driver’s license, although it often doubles as a form of ID, is really just an operator’s license needed to operate a heavy, dangerous piece of equipment. If cars weren’t dangerous to operate, drivers wouldn’t need any form of ID, either.

    Cyclists and pedestrians aren’t required to carry ID, nor should they ever be. By your thinking cyclists should carry ID to make it easier for cops to give them tickets? Are you kidding me? They harass us out of all proportion to any danger we cause as it is. We should be making it a lot harder to ticket and fine us. That includes paying fines in pennies. Cops shouldn’t be wasting their time ticketing cyclists, or pedestrians for that matter. Law enforcement should prioritize what is the most dangerous. Cops can start with rapists and murderers. There are too many cops anyway, and not enough real crime to keep them busy. We should do one of two things. Cut the police force by about 2/3rd, or do things which increase violent crime to keep the cops busy. Back in my father’s day, any self-respecting cop would have been ashamed to be going after cyclists instead of real criminals. In fact, my father probably would have called cops like that the derogatory f-word for homosexual, or at the very least wussies.

  • Elizabeth F

    If I push a wheelbarrow into the street, should that also require license, registration and insurance?

  • Driver

    You’re talking out of your ass. The NYPD does write tens of thousands of tickets to cyclist each year.

  • Joe R.

    In the minds of motorists like Steve, if it has wheels it should cost the person as much as owning an automobile. I guess that even includes kid’s toys like Razor scooters and so forth. All the moms out there, make sure your kid’s tricycle is registered, has insurance, and your kid has a tricycle license.

  • Alex

    Wasting NYPD resources on bikes without bells, while traffic fatalities have increased by 20%-30% this year.

    Good to know where our priorities are.

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  • Seymour Butz

    On June 20, police denied the request, citing multiple reasons, including, “Such records/information would endanger the life or safety of any person” <— HUH? this will just be a waste of taxpayers $$ when the police are sued and forced by the court to release the info

  • Seymour Butz

    HI TROLL

  • This is an example of the lawlessness and the unaccountability of our City’s police force.

  • Steven Craig

    Really, how many get paid ? Please give an exact number as such enforcement is not evident in any of the Manhattan precincts. Wish it was ! Further what is the consequence to a cyclist who continually disregards the law ? Drivers can and do lose their license and their insurance increases, cyclists have no consequences for illegal and bad behavior. Hence , the problem and need for registration or at the very least mandatory ID when operating

  • Steven Craig

    Sorry, if you want to operate a vehicle, pedal powered or motor driven you need to obey the lay. At present cyclists have a free ride with no consequences for their illegal acts but a summons. Bad actors can receive dozens and are still allowed on the roads and , of course, sidewalks. ID/registration would allow for an increase of penalty to the habitual offender.

  • Joe R.

    And drivers can and do drive without licenses because the chances of getting caught are minimal. In addition, ever heard of assigned risk pools? Sure, the insurance goes up for bad drivers, but not in proportion to the amount they cost insurance companies. The purpose of the assigned risk pools is basically to keep bad drivers on the road because without them insurance for these drivers would be prohibitively expensive (think something like $10K or $20K annually).

  • Joe R.

    Just come out and say it—your goal here is to get cyclists off the road so they’re not in the way of your car. That’s the only thing licensing/registration/insurance schemes accomplish when applied to bikes. Get real. Nobody is going to pay for licensing, registration, or insurance to ride a fucking bike. They’ll just either ride without them if enforcement is lax, or give up riding if enforcement is heavy.

    If cyclists get tickets, isn’t that the penalty? Why do you need additional penalties, especially when the police write cyclists tickets for mostly harmless infractions to start with? Cyclists should get tickets in proportion to the danger they represent. That would be about 1 cyclist ticket for every 1000 or so motorist tickets.

  • Joe R.

    You gotta love the avatars these spammers pick, also. I’m sure the avatar is not the person posting, who is most likely a 300 pound dude living in their parents basement.

  • PDiddy

    You want me to bring out the code book for whatever city/county/state you live in and look through your life with a fine tooth comb to see how many laws you are breaking? I bet you I’ll find a f** ton of laws that you are breaking, will you then still feel that the law is something that should be respected 100%?

    This is the truth and listen up so your tiny brain understand this. Laws need to be enforced in common sense ways. Just look at the top causes of death and injury and that is what law enforcement should be focusing on with regards to enforcement of laws.

    But instead you’d have us believe bicycle bells are somehow causing death and injury. Please stop insulting people’s intelligence with this nonsense, you obviously hate bicycles, be honest about your true nature.

  • Steven Craig

    No. laws need to be enforced, period.
    We cannot pick and choose as many on this thread seem to do, possibly those that they agree with and pontificate why they are justified in breaking those that are inconvenient. Running red lights is NOT an option. Unfortunately , bikes have had a free ride and for the safety of ALL, that needs to change.

  • PDiddy

    What does red lights have to do with anything? We’re talking about bells here you dumb f***, try to keep up.

    But actually, I’ll take you up on that offer. I think the best use of our police force is to have them go after people for bread and butter offenses. That means an increased police presence for motorists for speeding, red light runners and lack of proper registration and licensing.

  • Steven Craig

    Your language skills are impressive. However, you ignore that cyclists, pedestrians and drivers of motor vehicles all have both rights and obligations. If bells are required, get a bell or pay the fine, if running a red light and endangering others is your preference, accept what comes, a fine arrest or possibly death. Time for the cycle community to stop whinging and acting like a petulant six year old with entitlement. Obey the law, simple.

  • PDiddy

    No no no. You don’t have the same obligation in a car to be careful around pedestrians vs. a cyclist. You have a much higher responsibility to drive safely because of the simple law of physics.

  • Steven Craig

    Tell that to the lady hit by the cyclist on 6th and 57th. running the red light ! Wonder if he even had a bell ! PLEEZE !

  • PDiddy

    The costs of fines should have a direct relationship with the ticketed offense’s potential harm to the public. A car that is 4000 pounds travelling at over 30+ mph has almost 800 times more kinetic energy than a cyclist traveling at the average speeds we see bicycles ~7.5 mph.

    Are you really saying that a car and a bicycle have the same lethality? Because the statistics show that to be veritably false.

  • Steven Craig

    I believe pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles ALL must obey the respective regulations. Is it that hard ?

  • PDiddy

    And I already told you what I believe. So stop parroting the same thing and either give me a reason why my idea is wrong or stop talking.

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