Spring has returned, and, unfortunately, in upper Manhattan that includes a reckless pack of small motorbikes and four-wheel ATVs that takes over the streets.
My neighborhood is plagued by a group of joy riders that drives against oncoming traffic, runs red lights, speeds, jumps onto sidewalks, pops wheelies, and takes pictures while driving. These scofflaws, some without displayed license plates, endanger pedestrians, motorists and themselves with their dangerous behaviors. The revving of engines makes conversations inside your home impossible.
There are campaigns against speeding, unbuckled seat belts and texting while driving. But this disregard for basic laws has gone on for years even though the caravan passes near police precincts. One day when getting the mail, I dodged three riders who chased one another onto the sidewalk. An elderly person or a child probably would not have avoided serious injury.
After a bike gang’s attack on a family driving on the West Side Highway in 2013, neighbors expressed hope that some good might come from that horrible incident. Surely, the city would get such bikers off the streets before another incident. But that hasn’t happened. (I have no knowledge that the group in my neighborhood has any connection to the West Side Highway case, or a violent history.)
The NYPD, which recently promised to crack down, has concerns about chasing joy riders and creating an even more hazardous situation, as well as challenging public relations issues if a biker is hurt. But letting bikers break laws until the next road rage tragedy or injury or death of a pedestrian isn’t the answer. Traffic cameras issue tickets to motorists who run red lights, and that technology could identify those who ride on the wrong side of the street.
Old-fashioned police work could uncover where vehicles are parked so police can issue summonses and confiscate those that are not registered or fail noise tests. The undercover officer who was part of the West Side Highway incident gathered useful information before, unfortunately, he became involved in the violence while off duty. I fear what could happen if NYC doesn’t enforce its laws. Already, boys on regular bicycles chase the bikers.
Rich Prior is a writer who is working on a memoir about developing focal dystonia, a neurological disorder.