Cyclists in Central Park have been issued over 200 tickets so far in 2011 for traffic violations as the city works to crack down on riders not stopping for red lights. But on Tuesday morning, the NYPD took it to a new level, setting up a speed trap, radar gun and all, at the bottom of a Central Park hill, where they gave ten tickets to cyclists traveling over 15 mph. (The speed limit is actually 25 mph, says Central Park’s official website.) By Tuesday night, police were already backtracking.
“We have taken a proactive approach to ensure that people improperly issued a summons will be notified,” said a Police Department spokesperson.
One man, David Regen, got a house call during dinner; two officers showed up at his door. “They said, ‘We’re here because we’re withdrawing your ticket because we feel you were treated unfairly,'” he told the New York Times.
The Community Affairs Bureau, realizing the misstep and not needing the bad publicity as the conversation about bike safety and cyclist rights becomes “the newest urban culture war,” according to the latest New York magazine cover story, worked overtime to correct an oppressive morning.
Still, the Times writes that “parks department regulations dating from 1991 limit bike riders to 15 m.p.h, though even the police say this lower limit could be better posted inside the park.” (Again, that’s not what the website says.)
The speed limit isn’t really the point though. The crackdown, police apologies or not, is affecting cyclists, like Greg Lowdermilk, a FEMA employee and disabled veteran of the war in Iraq. He spoke to Gothamist on Tuesday afternoon:
“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?”