By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
MANHATTAN — The ticketing blitz of cyclists in Central Park got Upper East Side triathlete Adrian Bijanada in gear to use Facebook to gather like-minded two-wheelers. They are calling for changes in how the park's traffic lights are programmed.
His Concerned Cyclists of Central Park group, launched this week — accumulating more than 250 supporters already — is calling for the traffic lights in the 843 acre park to be set to "blinking yellow" during off-peak hours. Traffic in the park has been a major issue, with 35 million visitors each year at war for space on the asphalt.
That would have prevented Bijanada and a friend from getting a $270 ticket three weeks ago on a Saturday around 8 a.m. when they passed a red light at the transverse road at West 72nd Street.
"We did go through the red light," Bijanada, 31, admitted. "We were being careful as we usually are. Typically, what we do as we approach the lower loop — since we know that's the most crowded park of the park with tourists renting bikes, roller bladers and pedestrians — we don't fly though that part."
The officer gave them one ticket and told them they could share it, since Bijanada didn't have any ID on him. The two plan to contest the ticket, and are asking for leniency since "we were being responsible users of the park and there were absolutely no users where we were."
A group of the city's largest bicycle organizations — the New York Cycle Club, Transportation Alternatives, Century Road Club Association, Five Borough Bicycle Club and the Weekday Cyclists — sent a letter Tuesday to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly requesting a meeting to discuss concerns about the NYPD enforcement of Central Park cyclists and adopting "a more rational" strategy for "encouraging safe recreation on the loop drive."
"Massively ticketing Central Park cyclists during car-free hours does little to increase park safety," the groups wrote. "What it will do is make cyclists feel unjustly harassed, unfairly singled out and, ultimately, discourage safe recreational riding in the park."
The NYPD did not respond immediately for comment.
Bijanada wanted to see "regulation at certain hours of high use" but didn't think it made sense for park traffic lights to be on the same schedule whether it was 3 a.m. or 3 p.m. He hoped to gain enough followers on Facebook and use the page as a petition to take to elected officials.
"We're not looking for our own velodrome where we are flying around at 60 m.p.h. We just want to use the park responsibly," the endurance athlete said. "We just want updated traffic policies in Central Park."
The Department of Transportation, however, believes the proposed light changes would "create confusion" for pedestrians.
"A continuous flashing yellow phase in one direction would have to be accompanied by a corresponding, continuous 'don’t walk' phase for crossing pedestrians in the other direction," DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow said, "creating potential conflicts."
A friend of Bijanada's recently passed a yellow light and got pulled over by an officer who told him, "You were close to getting a ticket," Bijanada recounted. "It would be nice if we could cycle without being selectively targeted by police."
He called the enforcement "discouraging," saying, "I'm more apt, at this point, to travel out to New Jersey on 9W to cycle out there."
He continued: "It's a very popular biking route. Only problem is, it takes us an hour to get there from the Upper East Side."