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Ticketed Cyclists Say Police Made House Calls to Apologize
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The Central Park Conservancy is removing some confusing signs that led police to ticket nine cyclists for speeding — and the NYPD took the unusual step of making house calls to apologize for the erroneous citations.
Early Tuesday morning, police set up a speed trap in Central Park on West Drive in near 76th Street. They snagged 10 cyclists for going over the posted speed limit for bicycles of 15 mph during the car-free hours of the park. David Regen was one of them. He was surprised to get pulled over just after one of the park's biggest hills.
"I've been riding in Central Park probably for 25 years, and I've never been stopped by a police officer for anything before," he said.
What was more unusual was what happened about 13 hours later around dinnertime when police showed up at his door and told him he was treated unfairly. They withdrew the ticket.
"I thought it was extraordinary that they came physically to my door, that two officers came to my door to tell me this," he said.
NYPD took the proactive step of personally visiting the cited cyclists to withdraw the tickets after they realized the summonses were issued as motor vehicle violations under the Vehicle Traffic Law when they should have been summonses for violating park regulations.
Cyclist Greg Lowdermilk was also ticketed and captured his conversation with police on tape. A bike blog quickly compiled several accounts from cyclists' perspectives and posted regulations about bike speed limits, fueling a sense among the cycling community that they are being targeted.
Dave Jordan, a triathalon coach and President of Century Road Club Association, told WNYC, "this is just another nail in the coffin for cycling in Central Park. Especially if they are doing it on a downhill. There's no way you can not do 15 mph on anything but a mountain bike."
The speed limit, however, is actually 25 mph, WNYC has learned. There was confusion about the official limit Wednesday because old signs posted in the 1990s declare the speed limit for bikes to be 15 mph. when cars are not in the park. That's what the police operated on during their early morning radar enforcement.
When asked what the speed limit is, the Department of Transportation referred WNYC to the Parks Department. Parks Dept. Spokeswoman Vickie Karp gave WNYC this statement:
"Any vehicle using the roadways, including cyclists, are supposed to observe standard speed limits for those roadways. The standard speed limit in both Prospect and Central Park is 25 miles per hour, as designated by the Department of Transportation, which is in charge of setting speed limits for the city. It is true that there are a few old signs in Central Park, placed there by the Central Park Conservancy (CPC) in the late 1990s, that say 15 miles per hour. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. CPC is removing them today."
When made aware of the CPC plan to remove the old signs, the Police Department said it would enforce the posted speed limit.