After a meeting last week with some 300 angry cyclists protesting the NYPD's Central Park red light crackdown, Captain Philip Wishnia conceded that "there’s a possible way of correcting” the policy of strictly applying driving laws to bike riders. But it looks like that correction was not made, because early this morning the NYPD set up a speed trap at the bottom of a hill in Central Park and, using a radar gun, ticketed cyclists for speeding—in the early morning twilight, when the park is closed to traffic and largely used for exercise.
Dave Jordan of the Century Road Club Association tells us that at least six or seven cyclists received speeding tickets this morning for biking over 15 mph (not the actual speed limit), and cyclist Dave Chomowicz, who took this photo, says, "They had a radar gun out. One or two riders in the picture and two of my teammates were ticketed, and some triathletes got tickets. I believe one of the cyclists was going 20 mph. I took the picture at 6:45 this morning and came back to the park for a while, after cars started coming in and the speed trap was gone. Cars were going far in excess of 15 mph. I saw cars going through red lights."
Jordan believes six or seven cyclists were ticketed for speeding, and tells us one was slapped with fines totaling $350. "These are athletes and responsible people," says Jordan. "The people they want are people who are doing this in the middle of the day on the weekends when the park is crowded and you want to do something with your kids and there's some guy f-bombing as he's biking around. The law states that we should yield to pedestrians. To enforce lights that have no purpose when there are no cars in the park just doesn't make sense."
Cyclist Greg Lowdermilk, a disabled Iraq war veteran who works for FEMA, tells us he got hit with a $140 speeding ticket. "The speed limit is actually 25 mph, and I got a ticket for going 25 in a 25," says Lowdermilk. "I know this because I have a computer on my bike. The cops said the speed limit was 15, but on the ticket it said it was 20. It's easy to beat these things but it just becomes a hassle for me. Another guy I rode with was also cited; he was told by one of the cops that at the entrances to the park there are signs saying it's 15. But we couldn't find a single one of those signs.
"There are a lot of cyclists who break the rules in Central Park but the ones who use it for training are the ones suffering. Pedestrians walk right in front of us, they let their dogs run loose without leashes, and then you have cyclists going the wrong way and that makes us all look bad. I told the cops it must really suck to have a job like yours, and one cop said this is the last thing he wants to be doing. I mean, how embarrassing being out there pointing a radar gun at cyclists?"
Another cyclist, Bill Weiss, tells he got a $270 ticket:
My ticket occurred at 6:12, so still in the dark. As I approached the red, I slowed to less than 10 mph and unclipped a foot to see why there were three unmarked cars parked in a lane of the park drive. I thought there was a traffic accident or someone was filming or something. As I moved over to check it out closer, the cops came out from behind their cars and asked me to pull to the side. Rather sneaky, I thought. Technically, I ran my red light (at a child's crawl), so not much I can do. They were firm, but not impolite. They took my license, issued the summons and told me to ride safely in the park.
I attended the precinct meeting last week and witnessed the barbs between cyclists and Captain Wishnia. The cyclists, for the most part, did little to help their plight. I can't help but think this morning's activities was a "thank you" from the precinct's Captain. As a coach, like Dave Jordan, I simply cannot afford to ride in the park anymore. Sad days.
Tomorrow the City Council will introduce legislation that would change the lights in Central Park to flashing yellow, but if you're only allowed to go 15 mph, what's the point of using the park for exercise anyway? Jordan, who is a coach, adds, "I can't go in Central Park for training anymore."