On Monday morning, cyclist Chaim Joseph was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Hell's Kitchen. No arrests have been made. On Thursday afternoon, NYPD officers stood one block from where Joseph was killed and ticketed cyclists, according to one witness who took video of the encounter, knocking one cyclist off his bike in order to issue a citation.
Chana Widawski, a Hell's Kitchen resident, told Gothamist she arrived at the intersection of 9th Avenue and West 46th Street at around 4:40 p.m. because her neighbor told her the police were ticketing cyclists there.
"When I first came up, I saw an officer shove a guy off of his bicycle," Widawski, said, referring to the capped NYPD officer, who appears to have Captain's bars on his shoulder. "That guy screaming from the car, he was screaming, 'I saw you just knocked that bicyclist on the ground!' I was trying to record it as a witness."
Footage from midtown north precinct @NYPDMTN tackling riders of color and confiscating bikes #bikeNYC @NYCSpeakerCoJo 46th Street and 9th Avenue @GershKuntzman @sydneyp1234 @ChristRobbins @seancoughlinnyc @Chekpeds @dahvnyc pic.twitter.com/9WOWMW8P9h
— Chelsea Skye (@pekochel) February 7, 2019
“Come on man, be fair. He knocked him off the bike, pulled him off the bike," says the man in the car, who identifies himself as Eugene Green. "Don’t be bullshitting." (The audio in the video is poor.)
Widawski said she saw at least five cyclists being ticketed at the intersection, and took a photograph of one of the citations; it was for "failure to use a bicycle lane."
Cyclists are required by law to use the bike lane if one is provided, but they may leave it if it is blocked by "fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, in-line skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle or person on in-line skates and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane."
Widawski, who works for Families For Safe Streets, an organization made up of New Yorkers who have been injured or who have lost loved ones in traffic crashes, said the bike lane on 9th Avenue is in "horrendous condition."
"It's filled with pedestrians and it's in many ways unuseable," she added.
"One of the most troubling things I and others witnessed was that it was only people of color being stopped, some just being asked for IDs," Widawski said.
"The Midtown North Precinct was addressing community and safety concerns in the vicinity of West 46 Street and 9th Avenue," the NYPD's press office said in a statement. "The individual was stopped and advised of his violations, and released without summonses."
On Wednesday night, safe streets advocates holding a vigil for Joseph reported a “ticket blitz” at Eighth Avenue and 45th Street. One Citi Bike rider said a police officer issued him a $50 summons for not wearing a helmet while biking on Eighth Avenue near 45th Street. It's not illegal to ride without a helmet in New York City, unless you are under the age of 14 years old. (The NYPD now says that ticket was issue “in error”).
The NYPD frequently cracks down on cyclists after a cyclist is killed by a driver in the vicinity.
Traffic fatalities are up 70 percent this year compared to the same period of 2018, and cycling injuries have also increased.
"It's outrageous this is what the police are using their limited resources for," Widawski said. "We know what's actually killing New Yorkers on our streets, and that's drivers who fail to yield and drivers who are speeding."
Safe streets and bicycling advocates are planning a protest outside the Midtown North Precinct house on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Additional reporting by Jake Offenhartz.