31 May 2014

They Didn't Give Him The Rope But He Got Snagged

Time was, not so long ago, when riding in some New York City parks was a risky proposition.  A few old riding buddies and training partners were mugged for their machines when they rounded the tree-bordered turns in Central and Fort Tryon  Parks, or when transversing Union Square.  I think a group of young men tried to do the same to--or simply harass-- me in Prospect Park:  a mob of them formed a human chain across the roadway.  Being as young and angry as I was, I pedaled harder and missed being entangled by, or breaking, their arms and legs by a couple of hair-breadths.

My close encounter came a bit more than two decades ago, not long after I first moved to Brooklyn and crime in New York was just beginning to decline from its historically high levels. (The crack epidemic was starting to wind down.)  Ever since those days, the main things cyclists have had to worry about when riding in Prospect (or, for that matter, Central) Park are collisions and other accidents.  In the few times I've ridden Prospect during the past few years, I've felt, if anything, safer than in most other places where I ride, as it's closed to traffic and seems well-patrolled.

However, today I heard about an incident that many of us believed to have become a thing of the past--or of which younger cyclists and more recent arrivals to the city have no memory. A cyclist has spent two days in Lutheran Hospital with six broken ribs and fractured elbow.  Even when there's been little or no crime in the park, I seem to hear about such an unfortunate turn of events at least once every year.  However, the way he crashed is what harkens back to the bad old days:  Witnesses say he was caught in a rope stretched across the roadway, fastened to a tree on one side and a fire hydrant on the other.  Those witnesses also say they saw three young men standing by the hydrant when the cyclist got caught in the rope and flipped over his handlebars.

From what I'm told and what I've read, the police report says that the cyclist ran over the rope. If the cyclist ended up immobilized in a bed in Lutheran, that can't be true.  I've ridden over ropes before, even the kind used to moor ships to docks, when I was riding skinny sew up tires.  And, let me tell you, I was riding pretty fast. (It was during my racing days.)  I was jarred the way one would be in running over, say, a speed bump or other similarly-sized and -shaped object, and it might have impaired my balance for a nanosecond.  But it didn't even come close to causing me to flip over my handlebars or to even lose control of my bike.

If indeed the cyclist crashed into a rope pulled across the roadway, that would be disturbing enough.  But it would upset me even more to know that the police treated the case so cavalierly, as they often did to other cyclists who were assaulted or robbed back in the bad old days.


  1. This reminds me of a series of similar incidents a few years back here in the UK. A new section of cycleway was opened between Bristol and Bath and soon became very popular with all kinds of cyclists from family groups to full on roadies. The report in the news advised cyclists to take extra care as some idiot/idiots were stringing high strength fishing line across the path. Makes me shudder to think of the potential outcome if something so sinister came into contact with a riders neck or face, sometimes small elements of the human race leave me lost for words.

  2. Paul--I'm sorry to hear that you've had to contend with such things in the UK. What is it that causes people to commit malicious acts against people who are simply having a good time and harming no one else?