This past weekend, the NYPD dispatched dozens of armed officers to arrest the organizer of a 4/20 bike ride for a four-year-old open container warrant and confiscate a handful of bikes without bells. "Members of the public and the NYPD have a shared responsibility to ensure safety for all navigating the streets of the city," is how a police spokesperson explained the enforcement action. Indeed—so why doesn't NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill have a bell on his bike?
Commissioner O'Neill, who is a fan of long, strenuous bike rides, also apparently likes to ride dirty.
Commissioner O'Neill on a September 2018 ride (NYPD Cycling Team Facebook)
Photographic evidence shows the Commissioner's handlebars nude save for a odometer and a prayer.
It's an alluring way to bike, for sure—feeling the wind in your face, the ice cold blood in your veins, knowing that at any moment, an officer of the law might stop you and confiscate your whip just because it refuses to be saddled with some sonic straightjacket. But it's a clear violation of 1236-B of New York's Vehicle and Traffic Law.
Then again, if you're O'Neill, who's gonna stop you? The mayor?
— Commissioner O'Neill (@NYPDONeill) September 10, 2017
"I feel he should lead by example since he wants to crack down on all cyclists," said Brandon Rosado, one of the cyclists who was given a citation for lacking a bell, and whose bike was taken as a result.
Marc Nieves, another cyclist who suffered the same fate, added, "I lost almost five hours of work because I had no bell, when the number one person who should be informing the rules doesn't use one."
The NYPD did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
On Monday, we asked Mayor Bill de Blasio whether using dozens of NYPD officers to confiscate some bikes without bells was a proper use of police resources. "I don't know anything about that incident so I literally can't comment until I get more information but we'll look at that," de Blasio responded.
On Tuesday, the Mayor's Office declined to comment, and referred us to the NYPD.
Watch out for Commissioner O'Neill—you won't hear him coming.