By Matthew Vandivort
There has been some e-mail traffic on the NYVelocity list regarding tickets in the park (including at least one that went to a team member), but for those of you not on the CRCA.net yahoo board the number of tickets being received in the park has reached staggering numbers (see the NYPost link below – 1000 tickets for Manhattan cyclists in 2 weeks). This includes during weekday mornings and evenings when the park is closed to traffic and cyclists typically train in the park.
If this NYPD enforcement continues into the summer training in the park risks becoming a frustrating chore (e.g. have fun stopping 2 minutes into your 6AM threshold interval for a red-light where there are no pedestrians crossing the street). And who knows – there could be implications for racing in the park once the season gets under way as well.
For those of you that don’t follow the local cycling blogs or advocacy groups (e.g. Streetsblog, Transportation Alternatives) the anti-bike lane and anti-biking crowd has been gaining momentum (hardly a day goes by when the NYPost doesn’t have a story criticizing cyclists). Unfortunately this momentum has also been gaining steam with City Council members (see recent proposals regarding requirements for bike licenses or today’s article regarding an extended review before installing any new bike lanes).
If you have five minutes, pull up the City Council link below, find your relevant Councilperson and send him/her an email. If you want just copy and paste the form email below (which was sent out by a CRCA member) or write your own email on how the latest NYPD enforcement action irrationally impairs the use of the park for cyclists. The five minutes minutes required to send an email could prove important for all of the training and racing hours we hope to log in the park this summer.
NYPost Coverage – nearly 1,000 tickets in Manhattan in 2 weeks
City Council Look-up / Contact Info
Sample Letter / E-mail via CRCA.net
Dear Councilperson [XXXX],
First of all thank you for your continued hard work on behalf of my district and the City of New York. I appreciate you taking the time to review this letter and would likewise be thankful for any response you can provide.
I am writing regarding a recent "crackdown" by NYPD on cyclists in Central Park. I have heard numerous accounts of cyclists receiving tickets for as much as $250 for running red lights in the Park.
I am an avid cyclist who easily logs several thousand miles each year in the Park. I belong to a cycling club in the City that has hundreds of members who use the park regularly – often during the early morning weekday hours. While I have been spared ticketing so far, this new effort by the City is disturbing for several reasons.
I, like almost all cyclists I know, take safety seriously. We are constantly on the lookout for reckless drivers, unaware pedestrian tourists, and careless taxi patrons who can unintentional "door" us with disastrous results. We are also aware that there are some dangerous cyclists in the City, including but not limited to the ongoing problem with delivery persons (particularly those that now ride motorized scooters)
The NYPD crackdown seems to be an attempt to make the Park safer. However, the enforcement seems quite unfair. I have friends who have received tickets early in the morning or late at night when the Park is closed to car traffic and foot traffic is scarce. There are dozens of traffic lights on the Central Park loop. To target and ticket cyclists in a largely empty Park that is closed to cars (partly so cyclists and other pedestrians may enjoy safer riding) seems unreasonable.
If I were to enter the Park, at perhaps 6:00am or 7:00pm, and stop at every light, a formerly pleasant spin would be a worthless chore. Even worse, I have heard of bike commuters (who reduce congestion and pollution) who have been ticketed on the way to work. Shockingly, the enforcement is selective in nature. Pedestrians, skaters, and joggers who run red lights and/or jaywalk are exempt.
If I may propose one potential solution – during car free hours the city can put the traffic lights in the park on flashing yellow with "press to walk" buttons for pedestrians. This would allow cyclists – particularly those of us who use the park during the wee morning hours when foot traffic is extremely sparse – to continuing using the park in a safe manner without having to stop at red lights that are essentially not in use.
I’m not sure who initiated this new policy and for what reason. I would kindly request that your office look into this matter. Safe recreational cyclists want to work with the City to make the park safer and the City as a whole a more pleasant place to live. I am certain that with rational discussion an amicable solution can be found for all of the parties involved.