I Was Cursed by a Cop for Fixing the Second Avenue Bike Lane!

This is as good as it gets. File photo: Lincoln Anderson
This is as good as it gets. File photo: Lincoln Anderson

An NYPD traffic-enforcement agent yelled and cursed at me on Thursday after I dismounted my bicycle in order to fix the barrels marking Manhattan’s temporary Second Avenue bike lane, created so that cyclists could have safe routes to get around during the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Eric Rosenthal
Michael Eric Rosenthal

The officer, who was directing traffic to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel at around 7 a.m., provided a textbook example of NYPD personnel escalating a situation and acting without courtesy, professionalism, or respect for the citizens the department serves.

The traffic-enforcement agent yelled, “Fuck you” at me after I went to fix the barrels, which were at the turn onto the approach to the tunnel, where bikes and cars dangerously mix and people often move the barrels to the sidewalk. He seemed to believe that the bike lane actually is not supposed to be there — and seem not to know, or care, about the safety issues created by the misplaced barrels.

I had taken time and energy out of my day to reset the barrels, and I wanted to get away before the NYPD official found an excuse to stop and summons me or worse. So I hurried as I put the final barrels back in place so I could continue biking away from the very uncomfortable stares of anger and confusion from passing motorists. I particularly wanted to get away from the cop, and braced myself as I passed him.

I tried to do the right thing. Getting yelled at by an intimidating person in uniform while I fixed DOT’s infrastructure in the middle of active traffic is insulting, unwelcoming, and a deterrent. If this is how the NYPD treats people trying to help, the city will be a much worse place for it. 

When I go out and ride, I expect the infrastructure that’s supposed to be there to actually be in place; my history of traumatic brain injuries accentuates the need for safety infrastructure. It’s frustrating when the taxpayer-funded infrastructure that the DOT takes the time to plan and build for pedestrians, bus riders, and cyclists is routinely and dangerously abused. 

I and every other cyclist in this city shouldn’t be the ones who have to risk our safety in order to drag barriers back out onto the road and into their rightful spots. 

Even with a City Council-backed DOT program for more pop-up bike lanes and open streets on my side, I still felt powerless, bullied, disrespected, and in danger by that officer.

The Second Avenue pop-up bike lane was at least intact by the tunnel when I checked again later that day, and it felt great to see plenty of riders using the lane instead of being suddenly spit into traffic.

If the barrels are moved again — which happens a lot, as Streetsblog has documented — the result could be far more disastrous than merely being yelled at by a cop.