Joint Statement: Transportation Alternatives and Bicycle Advocacy Consultant Courtney Williams Demand Mayor de Blasio Bring an End to NYPD’s Harassment of Cyclists of Color

Targeting New Yorkers on bikes for not having bells is race-based policing, not Vision Zero
Joseph Cutrufo -
(646) 873-6027

Statement of Transportation Alternatives Interim Co-Executive Director Marco Conner:

“In a shocking display of misplaced priorities and racist policies, NYPD surveilled the online activity of a cyclist of color who had organized a group bicycle ride, sent more than 50 officers to police the ride, and seized bicycles from participants in Tompkins Square Park this past weekend. Their “crime”: not having bells on their bicycles. Proof of the bias and absurdity at play here can be found of NYPD Commissioner O’Neill’s own bicycle, which he rides regularly on city streets, sans bell. The same day, the same group of officers summonsed young cyclists of color in Union Square Park, seizing bikes and ejecting the cyclists from the park. This is just the latest example of Mayor de Blasio permitting and directing the NYPD to harass to cyclists of color. It’s a nouveau-Broken Windows style of policing under the guise of Vision Zero.

The police are expected to confiscate vehicles only if they present a danger, like a multi-ton car with faulty brakes. A bicycle without a bell doesn’t come close to meeting that standard. It’s also not the first example of this happening during the de Blasio administration. For more than two years, Mayor de Blasio has promoted and defended a police crackdown on food delivery workers who ride e-bikes, which he admits is founded on anecdotal complaints, not actual safety data -- no one has ever been killed by an e-bike in New York City. That crackdown, which has disproportionately targeted Spanish- and Chinese-speaking cyclists, has put the NYPD’s institutional harassment of people of color, and cyclists, in plain view. These often recent immigrants have their bikes confiscated more often, are ticketed more often, and are fined greater total sums, than their English-speaking counterparts.

The mayor has also defended the actions of an officer who shoved a black man off of his bicycle in Midtown Manhattan earlier this year, and has encouraged his police force to use “vigorous” force while intervening in group rides primarily comprised of black and Latino children, including the arrest of many participants. 

If Mayor de Blasio is committed to Vision Zero, as well as the idea that New York is a true sanctuary city and “the fairest big city in America,” the harassment of cyclists of color, and the NYPD’s failure to employ data-driven enforcement, has to end immediately. Enabling a racist policy is inexcusable.”

Statement of Courtney Williams, Chief Strategist of The Brown Bike Girl Bicycle Advocacy Consulting:

"It blows my mind and disheartens my soul that, especially in this era of an apparent rise in fascism, our own government chooses to sell us on the suppression of our right to assemble with bikes, work on bikes, or protest about fairness on bikes, by justifying a level of surveillance and seizure more fitting of drug pins or human traffickers.

Just as we all know many who do not ride with helmets, bells, or lights who have never met police presence a day in their life, we all also know that the dismal reality that no matter what color we are, if we’re struck by a reckless driver in the city, a just report or even a timely response by “bike safety-driven” NYPD would be hard to come by."