01.01.11: The Battle For New York

There is a battle raging in New York. Cyclists have become the enemy of all law-abiding citizens, and their “out-of-control behavior” (as quoted in the New York Post) needs to be stamped out! We are the scorn of the neighborhoods. What is it with this city and their hate of cyclists? Is it like this anywhere else? If you cut through the ridiculous over-the-top headlines, there is a level of discrimination going on that really doesn’t make sense, or seem fair. This is best illustrated by the following.

During the week there are basically two places to train, Central Park and Prospect Park. Due to the insanity of the traffic (yes, in the Park, when they are surrounded by two lane roads) means most riders train in their respective park “after hours” when they are closed to traffic. Please focus on the CLOSED TO TRAFFIC part. That means riding at 6am or after 7pm when the park is mostly riders, runners and roller bladers all basically going in the same direction, clockwise (ok, some roller bladers get carried away and do counter clockwise twirls, but they look pretty). Pretty much everyone is just getting on with it and getting some exercise in. In these “closed” times no one is stopping at the lights. Now what is happening is, the NYPD are standing by those lights and giving tickets to cyclists that don’t stop when the light is red (If  memory serves me right, maybe eight sets of lights in Central Park? Try getting 5 laps in and some intervals before breakfast with that amount of stops). The current count is up to over 1000 tickets issued and that is in the winter when most of us are on indoor trainers!

The letter of the law says tickets should be given when a red light is broken. When the park is open to traffic and I am riding in there, I would expect to have to stop at a red light, same as on the streets, just the same as any car. But when the park is closed to cars? Does that really make sense? In the 10 years I have been riding in those parks during closed hours I have never endangered a life by riding through those lights. In fact, the only time harm was caused was me going through the back window of a car and getting 202 stitches in my face for my trouble….let’s move on. Would it not be a better strategy to show some understanding and encourage riders to use the parks during these closed hours? and keep us off the streets and out of the way where you really don’t want us anyway? And for those riders that insist on flaunting the law everywhere else, you ticket them? In the 10 years that I have lived here riding in the Park like this has never been a problem, so why now? This type of riding is just not the same as the idiot that rides up a one way street the wrong way.

Again from the New York Post, a high-ranking police official said “Bicyclists should travel like vehicles and must obey the same laws. I think the moral of the story is it’s not just obey the rules of the road, but to utilize the bike lanes and safety first.” But come on. How many cars do we see parked in bike lanes? I could walk this neighborhood (Borem Hill, Cobble Hill) on any given morning or night and give out 20 tickets to cars parked in bike lanes. Is that happening? Of course not. Cars in bike lanes don’t matter. In fact, check out the picture below, how do you deal with that? When the people telling me to get in the bike lane and off the road (after telling me I should behave like a vehicle) is full of vehicles with flashing lights on top. It is absurd. And as for the idiots that drive vehicles in the park after hours with their hazard lights on (because that somehow makes it ok), when are we going to crack down on their “out-of-control behavior”? Yes I know I am a hazard, but my lights make it ok.

Not really sure where this one is going to go. Racing starts in those parks in a few months, and I wouldn’t want to be the cop that has to stand out in front of a charging Cat2/3 field on a Saturday morning, and try to get them to stop. I absolutely support stopping at red lights out on the open traffic-infested roads. I may even shout at cyclists who break them, and hope they get a ticket. It pisses me off when I see riders riding down the street the wrong way, when there is a right way street and a bike lane one block over. Get your lazy ass over there, you need the exercise. But these instances are not the same as riding on a closed park loop in a controlled manner. Enforce where it is needed and let the rest of us get on with it. It also means ALL laws should be enforced equally, and they aren’t (see bike lane above). If you close a park to traffic, then you don’t need traffic controlling-devices, traffic lights. If you say the closed park is for recreation, I love to recreation on my bike. Sometimes a little faster than others, but more often not.

Categories: Riders / The Other Stuff

  1. Great article. Derek Markham’s tweet tipped me off to this. If you’re up for it, fine if no, would love to feature this on elephantjournal.com–love the constructive spirit of it, I’m a 365 day bike commuter myself and we’d love to feature this on our twitter and FB and http://www.elephantjournal.com itself, if you like. Again no worries if no.


    Waylon at elephantjournal dot com

  2. The basic thing to remember is that the city & state are broke and will exhaust all avenues to gain income. Fines from summons’ ( motor vehicles – parking mostly) are predicted (aka quotas). But those are not enough so new avenues need to be explored. Bicyclist are the new target for easy fines. Don’t be surprised that bicycle registration will be required soon.

  3. It is time to go to the city and ask them to change the laws regarding parks when not open to traffic. It is the only way we the cyclists can make any head way against authorities like the police. Otherwise there is going to be more anger on the part of people on bikes and more smugness on the face of those who already have a bad view of us. Well written sir, I commend you.

  4. Absolutely Waylon. Use it how you want, anything to help.

  5. Well said.

  6. Actually the problem is that legally, bicycles are vehicles, and are subject to rules of the road. Hence bicycles are traffic, and subject to no traffic laws, unless it says no motorized vehicles…

    So while it doesn’t “make sense”, the police are enforcing the laws. Yes, with this level of enforcement, there is a crackdown, which some may call persecution.

    The best bet is to have a dialog with the city departments, with the intent on changing the traffic lights from red to either blinking red (equivalent of a stop sign) or flashing yellow caution. That way both sides win, the laws are not being broken, and the city has a defensible position that the intersections are being controlled.

  7. Sounds similar to what happened in Charleston, SC. We wanted to start up a practice crit on a closed loop at Hampton Park where there are no stop signs or traffic lights. The city required we pay for a policeman and a police car which would lead the group around a physically closed off park.


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