Since my husband Lin and I came home from the hospital with our twin boys, Otis and Max, I've tried to sneak out daily for a bike ride around Prospect Park in our Brooklyn neighborhood for 20 minutes, to get a little exercise and clear my sleep-deprived head. It's been easy to do, especially with Lin's parents visiting.
So I headed out today into the hot/hazy/humid day. On my bike, crossing Vanderbilt Ave. from our street, Prospect Place, freaks me out because people whip from Prospect onto Vanderbilt way too fast, so I usually ride two blocks on the sidewalk and meet the bike lane two blocks away.
Today, as I crossed Park Place, one block up, I took advantage of the fact that a pedestrian was already in the crosswalk, and rode across as well. It's something that's definitely not allowed, but is done at this intersection every hour, probably hundreds of times, by bikes.
Thing was, the car yielding to the pedestrian and me was a NYPD squad car. Before I knew it, I was 30 feet up the street, and the car had pulled onto the curb of wrong side of Vanderbilt Ave and two female officers hopped out, screaming at me.
"You better have your ID on you or you're coming into the station," was the first thing I heard.
I was in my skimpy Sugoi running shorts without pockets, so they got what they wanted.
They mentioned as well that I should never fail to stop for the police. They said that after I went through the crosswalk they blipped their siren and I failed to stop -- now, NYPD sirens aren't really sirens at all as most of us understand them, but rather a deep bass-like sound, that, for whatever reasons that are likely related to my sleep-deprived, new-daddy state, didn't register at all.
Without delay, she told me to put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me - not the plastic, protest-y kind of handcuffs, but big metal numbers. And then she put me in the car. (Thankfully a local business owner, alarmed at what he'd seen, offered to store my bike until my return, saving me an extra hassle.) While the one who cuffed me was outside on the phone, undoubtedly deciding whether to screw with me or not, I mentioned to the partner that I had two newborns and home and maybe they could verify my identity through the computer, as was readily possible.
"That's up to the arresting officer," she said, pausing from eating her sandwich. She failed to mention my situation to that arresting officer when she got back in the car, so I stewed for the 15-minute ride to the oh-so-Spartan 77th Precinct. I was told to stand up against a wall, was shouted at by an un-uniformed man. "Hey! Where's your pants!" Hilarious.
Then I was marched into the fingerprinting room, where I was told to remove the laces from my shoes before they put me in the holding tank (presumably to prevent me from committing suicide over this infraction.) They let me call Lin, who, alarmed, headed with my ID to the station.
They placed me in the holding cell, with a man who was more drugged out an incoherent than anyone I've ever seem. He repeatedly drifted into me, when he wasn't banging his head violently into the bars or a wall, and when I mentioned this to the desk jockey on duty in the room, he noted that the man was a cautionary tale about not using drugs -- as most bike-in-crosswalk offenders surely need to be reminded. Then all police personnel left the room, leaving me alone with him for at least 15 minutes, as I weaved around trying to avoid his gaze and his person.
Lin showed up and I was brought before the desk guy by my arresting officer, while being told to keep my hands behind my back. He seemed to have no idea why she was making me do this and told her to let me go with the summons to appear in September. I'm so proud, today, to be a New Yorker. If I were less demure, I might insert a choice NWA lyric here.
In a borough where motorized delivery bikes speed constantly, and silently, in the wrong direction, "Flatbush vans" with out-of-state license plates drive maniacally and go entirely unregulated, and cars speed down my residential block at 40mph, often running red lights or failing to yield for pedestrians, surely we can do better than harassing bikers.
Long day in Brooklyn.