Mayor Bill de Blasio and the NYPD are defending a police officer who "forcefully stopped" a cyclist in the East Village—and wound up running over his Citi Bike in the process.
The incident took place on Avenue A near Tompkins Square Park on Friday evening, just three days after the mayor announced a brief campaign to protect cyclists. A widely-shared video of the confrontation shows an unidentified officer—his SUV parked in the bike lane, a mangled Citi Bike stuck in its wheel—accusing the cyclist of riding recklessly.
"I'm going to use whatever means necessary to stop you, and that's for your safety," the officer tells him, drawing laughs and gasps from a gathered crowd.
— Garvey Rich (@Garvey_Rich) July 5, 2019
Asked about the incident at an unrelated press conference on Monday, the mayor said that while he had not seen videos of the incident, the officer's actions seemed justified. "There has to be respect for when a law enforcement officer says you’re doing something illegal, you need to stop, and if the individual ignores that it’s a different dynamic," the mayor said.
Police Commissioner James O'Neill added that using force against cyclists who commit traffic infractions was not necessarily prohibited by the NYPD, and that "it's up to the individual officer to make that decision."
It's unclear how the bike ended up under the police SUV. In an emailed statement, NYPD spokesperson Detective Sophia Mason said the cyclist "jumped [off] his bike and it became wedged in between the police vehicle and a parked vehicle." The NYPD declined to elaborate further, and has refused to release body-worn camera footage that the officer references in the video.
According to the officer's statements, the cyclist was riding east on St. Marks when officers say they observed him pedal through two red lights. He allegedly had headphones on, and ignored police sirens and multiple orders from police to pull over as he approached Avenue A from 1st Avenue.
But Garvey Rich, an East Village resident who was in the playground across the street when the bike was run over, said the officer did not use a siren or his loudspeaker in the vicinity of Avenue A.
"I would have heard it for sure if there was a commotion," Rich told Gothamist. "There was no commotion, no feeling on street of police activity. It didn't make sense in many ways."
While he did not see the initial impact that wedged the bike under the SUV, Rich noted that others at the scene said it was the police officer who acted recklessly. Prior to the video's start, witnesses said the officer cut off another car making a right turn from St. Marks and Avenue A, then drove on the wrong side of the street before veering in front of the cyclist.
"At this point you are being forcefully stopped because, essentially, you are driving recklessly and refusing to stop after multiple lawful orders that you looked at and acknowledged," the officer said.
"My entire tire came off," the stunned cyclist responds. "You have a bullet proof door. This is ridiculous."
— Garvey Rich (@Garvey_Rich) July 6, 2019
In a separate video, the cyclist can be heard informing a 911 dispatcher that the cop "hit me and the bike."
"He's sitting inside the car, rolled up his window because he doesn't want to talk to me, and I'm assuming he's writing a ticket," he continues.
The cyclist later received four summonses, according to police—two for running a red light, one for wearing headphones, and one for failing to comply with a lawful order.
A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office told Gothamist that the incident was under review. She declined to respond to questions about whether it is standard practice for police officers to physically cut off cyclists accused of biking recklessly, or whether such enforcement actions were part of the NYPD's "bike safety blitz" announced by the city last week.
A spokesperson for Citi Bike did not respond to Gothamist's inquiries.
Additional reporting by Rosemary Misdary.
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