By Amy Zimmer
MANHATTAN — Central Park cyclists are trying to accelerate a proposal to have the 47 traffic lights traversing the 843-acre jewel of green space turned to blinking yellow during car-free hours as a way to curb the recent bike ticket blitz.
A few elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and Upper West Side City Councilwoman Gale Brewer spoke in favor of exploring such a proposal at Monday night's Central Park precinct community council meeting that attracted a reported 300 people.
The Central Park Precinct Commander Philip Wishnia told the crowd that 230 summonses had been issued to cyclists so far this year, attendees said. That's compared to all of last year's 160 summonses for motorists and 62 the year before.
The park attracts 35 million visitors a year competing for space, and many users have complained about cyclists, especially the spandex wearing ones zooming through the loop. But bike advocates are worried that the NYPD is targeting all cyclists, rather than just reckless behavior.
The ticketing spike, Wishnia said, was in response to an increase in incidents, and basically said the current enforcement wouldn't change without an order from police headquarters.
The Department of Transportation — which did not send representatives to the meeting — has hit the brakes on the blinking-yellow light idea, citing public safety concerns for crossing pedestrians.
Regardless of what happens with the yellow light proposal, Caroline Samponaro of bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said, "There needs to be some rethinking of the enforcement strategy of how the loop is used during car-free hours."
She believes the "zero tolerance" approach the police are taking is negatively impacting how people use the park for exercise. "This isn't to say cyclists shouldn't be slowing down and stopping for cyclists," she said. "There's a huge demand for recreation space … and singling out cyclists is not a good solution."
Cyclists at Monday's meeting hoped for more resolution from the forum with police.
"Not much progress was made towards a fair solution," said Upper East Side endurance athlete Adrian Bijanada, who started a Facebook group called Concerned Cyclists of Central Park, which has been advocating for the blinking-yellow lights.
"The suggestion of better education of park users was mentioned and is a great idea," Bijanada, 31, said in an e-mail. "More signage is needed to make all users aware of park rules and etiquette to promote safe and fair shared use."