Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Street Safety

New Fights over Space in Prospect Park After Cyclist Hits Pedestrian

After a crash, the park is experiencing the latest (and very predictable) cycle: cops have flooded the park, tension is on the rise, and vigilantes are plying their dangerous trade.

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

A crash between a pedestrian and cyclist causes increased enforcement in Prospect Park.

It's a turf war in the grass.

A pedestrian was hit and injured by a cyclist on May 13 along the redesigned and car-free East Drive, a crash that kicked off that very predictable New York cycle: cops have flooded the park, tension is on the rise, and vigilantes are plying their dangerous trade.

And the crash has underscored another problem in the park: Crashes are up, as are injuries to both cyclists and pedestrians.

First, the police response: Since the crash, the NYPD has periodically set up stings in the park to catch delivery workers on illegal mopeds as well as to ticket cyclists passing through red lights, which is a haven for cyclists and pedestrians looking to exercise or simply relax on car-free streets. Group riders began to notice this one day after the crash, when members of the 65,000-person strong sub-Reddit r/NYCbike started warning others of the practice.

“I just got a ticket 10 mins ago for running a red in the Prospect Park. I slowed down, let a woman and a dog walk in the crosswalk and then proceeded and they ticketed me,” said one Reddit user.

Prospect Park's new layout widened the bike lane and took out an official vehicle lane. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The blitz follows the crash on May 13 at around 7 p.m. when a cyclist hit a 60-year-old pedestrian, causing head trauma. The pedestrian was taken to Kings County Hospital “in critical but stable condition,” according to the NYPD. The cyclist stayed at the scene until EMS arrived, but left once the pedestrian was taken to the hospital. There were no arrests, though the investigation remains open.

The NYPD did not respond to questions about how many tickets have been issued in the park since the crash. Only a few cyclists have said on Reddit that they were ticketed, but it was enough to prompt some to forgo the park altogether so as to not get a ticket. This pattern of post-crash enforcement is typical of the NYPD and causes confusion as to what the rules and expectations actually are.

“Whenever something happens, we see police out ticketing people for minor infractions for a few days, and then it returns to normal with no substantive changes made,” said Vincent Tricarico, a resident of Kensington who bikes through the park on his way to work and also walks in the park with his family and dog.

A map of Prospect Park. Graphic: Prospect Park Alliance

Within Prospect Park, cyclists are supposed to obey the traffic laws and come to a full stop at each light, according to the Prospect Park Alliance. In practice, the majority of cyclists and pedestrians ignore the lights because the park is still designed for the cars that were banished years ago. Some of the traffic lights remain green until a pedestrian presses a button to trigger the red light, which does prompt cyclists to stop.

The tension
A cyclist found a tack in his wheel on Tuesday morning after riding in the park. Photo: Reddit

Since the crash and the subsequent enforcement spree, tension has been rising in the park. One cyclist, who asked not to be named because of his sensitive employment position, found himself caught in the middle of it — when his bike was disabled after hitting thumb tacks that were clearly laid intentionally by an anti-bike park user.

“I started hearing, 'Thump thump thump,' as I went up the hill, I looked down and noticed my tires were flat and there were tacks in the tires,” the bike rider said.

The cyclist frequents the park just before 6 a.m. to work out with other New York Cycle Club riders who chose that hour so the park isn’t too crowded. The Cycle Club member thought the tacks were a one-off attack — until he saw another rider walking a bike after suffering the same kind of attack.

The cyclist hopes this isn’t indicative of a larger issue.

“What I don’t want is vigilante cyclists and vigilante pedestrians being at odds with each other,” said the cyclist.

The park was redesigned in 2023, giving more space to cyclists and pedestrians. Graphic: NYC DOT
The danger

The DOT redesigned the East Drive for cyclists and pedestrians in 2023, years after cars were finally banished. The park got fresh pavement and a new paint job that repurposed the unused car lane into more space for cyclists and a second pedestrian corridor. The traffic lights in the park, however, were not updated.

“It's easy to say cyclists don't have any regard for the rules or lights, but the truth is the signs and signals are not designed for the Greenway's current use,” said Tricarico.

Prospect Park wasn't always car-free. Before 2017, cars ruled East Drive. Once cars were banned, park usage changed, and the data shows that this may have created a new problem: In the five years before the East Drive was made off limits to cars, there were 23 reported crashes, injuring 16 cyclists and zero pedestrians. In the last five calendar years, those numbers have increased — to 28 total crashes, injuring 23 cyclists and 14 pedestrians, city data show, evidence that more needs to be done to help cyclists and pedestrians safely share the car-free park.

Neither the Department of Transportation nor the Parks Department responsed to Streetsblog's request for comment.

Given those numbers, some park-goers say they feel torn between using the park as a cyclist or as a pedestrian. For frequent users, the lights don’t offer much safety because they aren’t trusted by pedestrians or cyclists.

“Most of the time, people just wait to cross between cyclists, but again, the design isn't great. Some of the crossings are at the bottom of steep hills where it is dangerous for cyclists to suddenly stop. As someone pushing a stroller, I just wait until it's clear to cross, and I think most people do too. We're not waiting for a light to change,” said Tricarico. 

NYPD stationed at a Prospect Park intersection on Tuesday.Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

On Monday, May 20, Streetsblog observed multiple NYPD vehicles driving within the park and waiting at the intersections between 8 and 10 p.m. No tickets were issued but their presence forced cyclists to stop at the lights. On Tuesday, Streetsblog returned to the park where the police presence continued, but only at one light.

The only person pulled over was a delivery worker on a moped, who actually observed the signal and the speed limit, though his moped is illegal in the park.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Pols Let Suffolk Co. Red Light Cams Expire, Inviting Deadlier Streets

Long Islanders should be red hot mad that streets are about to become less safe.

June 19, 2024

Wednesday’s Headlines: Juneteenth Edition

We're off for the holiday, but we still have a slate of news for you!

June 19, 2024

Elmhurst’s ‘Little Thailand’ Gets Open Street Redesign

An already popular open street will be converted to one-way — with the space used to bolster the many restaurants nearby.

June 19, 2024

MTA Halts Work On Second Avenue Subway After Hochul’s Congestion Pricing ‘Pause’

Gridlock Gov. Hochul has joined the history books as the next governor to stop work on the Second Avenue subway.

June 18, 2024

National Green Groups Condemn Hochul’s Congestion Pricing ‘Pause’

Had New York engaged congestion pricing, the state would have "played a nation-leading role." Alas.

June 18, 2024
See all posts