Earlier this year, the NYPD crushed dozens of confiscated dirt bikes with a bulldozer—streaming it on Facebook Live—to send A Serious Message that the police will crack down on "nitwits" and "knuckleheads" who speed around on the illegal bikes or ATVs. But the thrill-lovers are still at it, and some devotees are saying they get a bad rep.
NBC New York's I-Team spoke to some riders in an attempt to understand their hobby. “It’s a skill. It’s a sport. What we’re doing now has never been done before," Benadone (also known as Benmore) told reporter Sarah Wallace.
A video posted by Benadon also known as Benmore (@benadon_benmore) on
A video posted by BlaCktravis Pastrana (@asap__tyy) on
On the other hand, pedestrians and drivers are frightened by the bikers' high-speed antics on streets and sidewalks. "Who is going to expect a dirt bike to jump in front of you when you’re driving in the city?" one Harlem resident asked NBC. "You could swerve to the right, to the left, and you could hit somebody."
Watch a number of ATVs documented on video this summer near 161st Street Grand Concourse in the Bronx. The person who took the video said, "They cross over the Willis Avenue bridge and the Madison Avenue bridge into Harlem every weekend."
And, in August, there was an impromptu motocross rally in Times Square:
A video posted by Maicol La Guidice (@officialmaicol) on
The NYPD's aviation unit hunts for dirt bikes and ATVs, and cops on the ground try to trap the dozens of bikers riding together at gas stations or on streets (they no longer pursue bikers after a fatality).
Benmore has spent the past few years lobbying for a park where they can ride: "Everyone is talking about how illegal this action is What about the park? What about the space? Why can’t we have a conversation."
However, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill told NBC New York, "The people we’re involved with, the groups that we’re involved with, the people that we take law enforcement action against, I’m not sure those are the people giving that reason for why they ride illegally in New York City." In a 2013 article, the NY Times reported that skeptics of the bike park idea "contend that a bike park would go unused, that bikers are egged on by social media in which they share videos and push each other to ever riskier stunts, and that evading the law is part of the thrill."
ASAP TyY also praised the social media aspect of riding and posting videos, "Why are we only seeing the bad things to this bike life stuff? What about the people who like it? What about the people I talk to across the worlds, all the new friends and all the people I’ve met?"
A photo posted by BlaCktravis Pastrana (@asap__tyy) on
Benmore, in a 2012 interview with DNAinfo, said bike riding helped him avoid joining gangs or dealing drugs: "We were into all kind of crime because we had nothing else to do."