What did we learn last week? It’s legal to be topless in public in New York City! The police even said so. Yet there is plenty of other prudishness to contend with, given a recent story, which we originally read on Lovely Bicycle!: A Dutch tourist named Jasmijn Rijcken, 31, was in town for the New Amsterdam Bike Show and was stopped by the NYPD while biking on Broadway in Soho because she was wearing a skirt. We spoke to her by phone to get her story.
She told us: “I stopped to check the map, to check where I had to go. This policeman was in a car, and he stopped next to me and got out of the car. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, what did I do wrong?’ I was by myself. I thought maybe I rode wrong or something. But he starts talking about the way I was dressed.”
At first, she thought he wasn’t serious. But it soon became clear that he was. “He said I was distracting cars, and that it was dangerous, I shouldn’t wear these clothes on a bike.” She was not wearing a helmet, she says, but the cop never mentioned that.
When we asked what the cop looked like, Rijcken described him as “maybe 35 or 40, a white guy.” She didn’t get his name. But “he was acting like I did something really stupid, and asked for my ID.” Rijcken gave him her Dutch train ID, and he responded, “Oh, you’re not from here.” Fearing she might have trouble leaving the country for her flight back to Holland the next day, Rijcken apologized, and said she wasn’t aware there was a dress code. She says the cop told her, “I decide what’s a dangerous situation.”
She was ultimately not ticketed, and returned to her hotel. “The next day I was really careful not to wear a skirt,” she says. Feeling ashamed she hadn’t been aware of “cultural differences” in New York, Rijcken didn’t tell anyone about the incident for awhile. When she eventually did, posting the story on Facebook and LinkedIn, however, she got an overwhelming response in her favor.
According to a comment from NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne to the Daily News, there may be no getting to the bottom of this story unless the officer comes forward: “Whether this story bears even a modest semblance of what actually occurred is impossible to establish without being provided the purported officer’s name and getting his side of the story,” he said.
Of New York biking in general, Rijcken said, “It’s sad to see that there is so much disrespect between cars and bikes. In Holland, you do both — one day you’re in a car, one day you’re on a bike — and you respect each other. In New York it feels like a big fight.” Still, she says, “I thought riding in New York City was beautiful.”
Meanwhile, Joanna Virello, organizer of the New Amsterdam Bike Show, is planning a ride of folks who bike in skirts as a show of support. We’ll keep you posted on the details. If you or someone you know has been stopped for “inappropriate attire” on a bike, please let us know.
Update: Responding to questions about whether this was a guerrilla marketing tactic for VANMOOF (the maker of the bike she’s riding, and where she works), Rijcken emailed the following:
“I understand that they say that. I actually never went to the press myself. I just posted it on our Facebook page. I would have never for a second thought that this would be all over the media. I never mentioned my bike because I don’t think that it matters what bike it is. It’s beside the point.
I don’t know really what to say to people who doubt it. It perhaps shows how insane it is that the police did this.”