Cyclist: I Was Nearly Murdered by a Driver — Then Cops Traumatized Me All Over Again

New Yorkers want to believe that the NYPD is a professional police force that treats all citizens — especially victims of crime — with respect and meticulousness. But New Yorkers are frequently disappointed.

The latest example? Earlier this week, a cyclist on a Citi Bike said a pick-up truck driver tried to kill him in a road rage incident, prompting him to run for his life and call the police — who showed up 90 minutes later and repeatedly blamed him.

It all started on Sunday night, when the cyclist, who has asked to remain anonymous (you’ll see why in a minute) was riding on the Lower East Side at around 8:15 p.m. His story, posted on Reddit under the headline, “Tonight a driver chased me into a park on a public footpath, tried to run me over, stole my CitiBike. 5 pct takes 90mins to show up, refuses to let me report the bike as stolen, writes a BS report for ‘harassment,'” offers the basic narrative, which Streetsblog is anotating based on our conversation with the cyclist.

Not even exaggerating with that title. … I was riding a CitiBike down Forsyth Street alongside the park, and since it was the narrow section where they have part of the road fenced off for construction, I took the lane.

Forsyth Street between Stanton and Rivington. Photo: Google
Forsyth Street between Stanton and Rivington. Photo: Google

The cyclist said he was on Forsyth Street between Stanton and Rivington streets. The roadway is normally narrow, thanks to on-street car storage on both sides, and frequent double parking (see file picture, right). The cyclist’s tale continues…

A pickup truck accelerated right up behind me and started honking. I was like, “Dude, I’m gonna be turning off into the park in like five seconds (to dock the bike).” He continued to honk, and actually got right up to my back wheel and nudged me. I kept my shit together, turned off sharply into the park and yelled, “Are you fucking stupid!” (as would anyone). The dude makes a sudden turn into the park with me, spinning his back wheels out, and comes right at me, driving into the park up onto the footpath. I kept turning, toward the ball courts. He turned with me, right up my ass all the way, I could actually feel my wheel coming away from under me when he touched it. It was at that point I thought, “He’s either gonna crush me against the fence or I’m gonna go under the car.” Split-second stuff. So I leaped off the bike as it went down, miraculously managed to stay on my feet, and ran for my life up the footpath that runs alongside the [basketball] courts, not knowing if he was going to keep chasing me up there and run me over. I ran as far as Rivington and looked back. The bike was under his fender, and he was getting out his truck and yelling, “Come back, I’m gonna fuck you up. Call the cops, I don’t care.” Dude was seriously on drugs or something. Saw him get the bike from under the fender.

So I called 911.

In an interview with Streetsblog, the cyclist said he was appalled at how unprofessional the 911 operator was, asking the cyclist to repeat “three times” the address of the incident. And officers took so long to arrive, that he had to call 911 two more times, and the Fifth Precinct once. He was stunned by how long it took officers to arrive, given that he had repeatedly told the 911 operator that he was worried that the driver had a gun. “I called the cops and I said to the operator that the driver was still there in the park with the bike and that he just tried to kill me. The car as a weapon wasn’t enough for them, but I was fearing for my life because he kept going in and out of the car and taunting me to come back. I thought he might have a gun.” Still, he waited 90 minutes, he said.

Meanwhile, the dude put my Citi Bike in the back of his truck and drove off. I had to stand there in the freezing cold for an hour and a half before the cops arrived. “They’ll get there when they’ll get there.” The responding cops, a young man and woman, were exactly how you’d expect the NYPD to be in a case like this, i.e. totally apathetic, acting like I deserved it (when I described what the guy did as being on par with attempted murder, she was like, “But hang on, you said something to the guy to provoke him.” She said, “Well at the most, that’s harassment, given that you don’t have any injuries.” I said, “What about the bike?” Her response (after talking to her supervisor on the phone): “You abandoned the bike. So technically it’s not theft.” I explained in great detail, once again, that the guy forced me off the bike and caused me to run for my life. It was not “abandoning” the bike, not least in any way that should prevent one from filing a police report. She was seriously expecting me to accept the fact that, if someone physically forces you off your bike in a manner which causes you to run for your life, and then steals then bike, that it’s not theft because you “gave” the bike to the thief when you abandoned it? Totally fucking stupid.

I then pointed out the fact that the entire thing will have been captured on security cameras on the nearby NYCHA housing on Stanton and Forsyth. She said, “They’re not our cameras, we don’t own them” as if it’s impossible for the NYPD to get camera footage of a crime if the camera doesn’t “belong” to them. Throughout, she was tutting and dismissive and rolling her eyes. This woman absolutely did not want to be bothering herself with taking reports from cyclists who have just almost been murdered. I persisted, naturally, and said, “I absolutely have to file a report for the stolen bike. You cannot refuse to take a report for a crime like this, it’s ridiculous!” She responded by saying, “My supervisor says you abandoned the bike, so we’re just taking a report for harassment.”

The officer did take the report for harassment and gave the cyclist a receipt (not the report), but it is unclear what if anything will happen. The cyclist told Streetsblog that he expected the police to at least issue some sort of call to other officers to be on the lookout for the pickup truck in the incident, but the cops did not do that. The cyclist continues…

So I’m screwed right? A driver ran me off the road, tried to run me over (attempted murder) and then stole my Citi Bike, and according to the NYPD, no theft was committed. I am so fucking livid right now I’m shaking. I stood in the cold for 90 minutes waiting for a couple of dumbass incompetent morons who have no business with a gun and a badge to tell me that I’m shit out of luck. Now because they point-blank refused to let me file a report for a stolen bike, I’m gonna be on the hook to Citi Bike for the cost. Needless to say, I FUCKING HATE THE NYPD. Sorry for the long post. I’m done with these bastards.

The original post on Reddit garnered many comments with many cyclists offering sympathy and, given their own personal experiences, empathy. There was also the usual mix of victim-blaming — but none of it could prepare the cyclist for what happened next, when he visited the Fifth Precinct station house on Elizabeth Street to report the stolen bike so that he would not be charged for it by Citi Bike. His story continues …

As you can imagine, they started by brushing me off with the same BS that the officer gave me last night. “Yeah, but technically you abandoned the bike,” “Do you have proof that he drove away with it?” etc. They point-blank refused to write a report. I was having none of it. After all, just where does this line of reasoning end? If one of these officers left their keys in their cruiser and someone jumped in and drove away with it, would they say, “Well it’s our fault because we abandoned the car with the keys in the ignition”? Of course not. They’d treat it like the grand larceny it was, and would prosecute the thief to the full extent of the law. I’m definitely not the kind of person to tolerate this kind of pig headed, coarse minded stupidity, however, and I was having absolutely none of it. Realizing that their “abandoned” argument was being exposed for the shit it is, they tried a new one. “Yeah, but the bike wasn’t your property, it belongs to Citi Bike. If it wasn’t yours, you cannot report it as stolen. Citi Bike as the property owner would have to make that report to us.” Again, complete and utter bullshit, spun out of whole cloth. They just make it up as they go along. Of course you can report a theft if the property isn’t yours. Do you think they’d refuse to take a report of the theft of a rental car? Of course they wouldn’t. All of this bullshit is 100 percent them dismissing me out of hand because I’m a cyclist and not a motorist.

Streetsblog asked Citi Bike about this and was told that Citi Bike customers should, indeed, report bike thefts to the NYPD — just as a driver of a rented car should, if the car was stolen. “We encourage you to file a police report in the event that a bike has been forcibly taken or stolen,” Citi Bike says on its website. The cyclist continues …

Eventually, I managed to persuade a reasonable officer to write out the report for me. (I think they got the impression that I won’t lie down and take it and will argue every step of the way.) While he was away getting the forms, I had the pleasure of a loud, unwelcome lecture from the desk sergeant (he was an older guy [who] wasn’t involved in any of this, but he felt he had to yell over). Without soliciting his opinion, he yelled over, “Sir, this was road rage. You have to understand that in road rage, both parties have a responsibility. You said something to the driver. You should not have said anything to him. It’s like 15-20 percent your fault.” I told him straight up, I think your opinion is BS and totally unprofessional, and that I didn’t need a lecture, thanks. (He just wanted to lecture me. He knew I was a cyclist who was accusing a motorist of something. They never accept that it could just be the driver’s fault.)

Can you imagine if we used the same line of reasoning against them when one of them gets assaulted or killed on the job? “Yeah, but come on, you provoked the guy. You shouldn’t have approached him. Just by being a cop, you’re provoking people. What you said to him provoked him. The way you walked towards him provoked him. It’s partly your fault.” My God is it any wonder the NYPD has such widespread disrespect in this city.

The cyclist said the officer did finally take a report for the stolen Citi Bike, which he forwarded to the company and believes will be enough to avoid getting charged for the lost bike. In fact, the bike isn’t actually lost — the cyclist said he got a notification on his phone that someone, presumably the pick-up-truck-driving madman, had returned the Citi Bike to a dock on the Upper East Side.

He does not believe the NYPD is seeking the driver.

The police did take the "harassment" report.
The police did take the “harassment” report.

“They aren’t concerned at all,” he said. “This guy was a psychopath. Why not put that out on the radio and look? I thought they would take it more seriously and get to the scene as soon as possible.”

The incident left the cyclist frustrated with the NYPD’s lack of concern for abused cyclists.

“I can deal with the psychopathic drivers, but when the cops show up and they make it worse, it really affects you,” he said. “People have to know how shitty they are. People have this blind respect for cops. They automatically believe the cops and they have no idea. But I can’t stop cycling.”

Streetsblog has repeatedly asked the NYPD about this incident, but has not heard back. If we do, we will update this story.