Last Sunday, with temperatures hovering around 40F, I rode outside for the first time in about four weeks.
In those four weeks without outdoor riding, I knew things would change. The blast of aerial pressure on my face would seem new and wholly unpleasant, the bright sunlight burning retinas weakened by constant exposure to fluorescents. I would have to actually dodge things rather than simply stare at other people dodging things on my computer screen. A sports bra and shorts would no longer be appropriate attire to wear while on the bike; if not only to keep hypothermia at bay, social etiquette and modesty would require more layers. Things were going to change when I finally decided to leave the comfortable warmth and windless environment that is my living room.
But in those four weeks, I never expected NYC to become a cyclocross obstacle course.
With what has been labeled the "NYC Cyclist Crackdown," [which is beginning to sound like some undercover drug ring operation] apparently you can't just ride your bike in the city anymore. Or in the park. Or without a helmet even if you're over 13 years of age. SRSLY? OMG. WTF.
Snow-blocked bike lanes and the West Side Greenway being covered in a few inches of ice aside [at one point last Sunday, trying to scoot my way through ice, I ended up doing the Catwoman pose, except way less sexy and with a bike attached to my outstretched leg], tickets are being issued not just to people who ride the wrong way down the street [here's looking at you, you Asian girl on a cruiser who almost fucking killed me], but in Central Park as well. The po-po aren't out there in the park while it's closed off to vehicular traffic, ticketing the masses of pedestrians or anyone else who might be breaking the law. Just, you know, dragnetting anything on a bike that happens to cruise through a red.
Though it can be argued that traffic laws and regulations may not apply to Central Park while it is closed off to vehicular traffic [not an unreasonable argument as it’s unclear how Central Park is actually classified under NY state and municipal statutes], let’s just assume it is for now. Even so, the sudden enforcement of laws which hereto have been largely ignored could raise some due process and equal protection issues [ironically, New York was the only state to ask that the due process clause be included in the original Constitution]. After all, “the purpose of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is to secure every person within the State's jurisdiction against intentional and arbitrary discrimination, whether occasioned by express terms of a statute or by its improper execution through duly constituted agents.” Vill. of Willowbrook v. Olech, 528 U.S. 562, 564, 120 S.Ct. 1073, 145 L.Ed.2d 1060 (2000). Targeting a particular group, with the intent to discriminate against them, [while ignoring other groups similarly situated who are also breaking the law] is a classic equal protection violation. Sure, if one appeals the traffic ticket which would otherwise cost you $270, it appears that it can be knocked down to $70. But you’re still out of pocket $70. As in you, the cyclist, are out of pocket $70 while everyone else who might be breaking the law in Central Park are paying, well, $0.
Given that I pretty much sucked at constitutional law, I have to give you a disclaimer: don't take my word for this. But it is something to think about. And, I will tell you this, and you should listen to this one. With The Crackdown being enforced in Central Park, every cyclist with half a brain is going to haul ass to make those lights. Including me. And now there’s really no incentive to slow down to let that mob of tourists through the crosswalk. Because that’s my goddamn green now, son.
Although I suppose they could always make up some law and write you a ticket for going through a green too fast or something. But that's what attorneys are for, right?