By Joy Bergmann
Like the return of migratory birds, spring brings forth flocks of illegal ATVs and dirt bikes to Upper West Side streets – including inside Central Park – engines gunning, wheelies popping and speeds racing beyond the 25 mph limit.
Many residents wonder: Why do police allow such risky riding behavior to persist?
At local precinct meetings last year, NYPD explained that pursuits to stop these riders would likely endanger the public more than the daredevil exploits. Rather than court confrontations, officials said they would seek ways to safely track the vehicles to where they were stored, then confiscate and destroy them.
However, during his mayoral campaign, candidate Eric Adams indicated he would take a more vigorous approach. He called for a crackdown, citing the peril and the symbolic power of such displays.
These vehicles race through traffic, drive down bike lanes and sidewalks, & endanger our communities.
This is more than just a quality-of-life issue — it's a sign that our city is becoming less safe. We need to crack down on illegal ATV & dirtbike use.https://t.co/LUSNgZW3We
— Eric Adams (@ericadamsfornyc) May 27, 2021
So, have changes been implemented under now-Mayor Adams?
WSR asked Mayor Adams’ office multiple questions about illegal vehicle enforcement efforts, including what, if anything, he has asked the NYPD to do differently.
His spokesperson referred us to the NYPD’s Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI).
NYPD’s answers to WSR’s questions did not seem to indicate any major changes to their enforcement strategy.
The following email Q&A with an NYPD spokesperson has been edited for clarity and length; we’ve also added contextual information.
WSR: Does NYPD policy continue to be “no pursuit” of these riders while they are riding?
NYPD: We are guided by the patrol guide’s policy regarding vehicle pursuits. Department policy requires that a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if the suspect is not immediately apprehended.
WSR: Is the continued aim of the NYPD to seize these vehicles where they are stored?
NYPD: Yes, this is a tactic that is employed when possible.
WSR: How many illegal ATVs and motorbikes were seized and destroyed by the NYPD in 2021?
NYPD: This data is not immediately available.
WSR: What does the NYPD say to residents who feel these riders endanger pedestrians, bicyclists and legal motorists by not obeying traffic signals and/or speed limits?
NYPD: We absolutely understand this concern and take enforcement action against drivers/riders that commit violations of the Vehicle Traffic Law. Just as a point of reference, historically, over 90% of pedestrian injuries are caused by cars, trucks and SUVs. But we absolutely seek to eliminate the 10% that occur from two-wheeled devices. These “riders” also endanger themselves and we seek to educate and enforce against this destructive behavior.
[As WSR has reported, UWS precincts have been issuing far fewer moving violation summonses compared to pre-pandemic periods. Our most recent analysis showed traffic tickets — issued to all types of vehicles — are down more than 50%.]
WSR: If residents want to report locations of illegal vehicles, what should they do?
NYPD: Individuals are still urged to call 911, 311, CrimeStoppers or their local precincts to report information as appropriate. All calls are strictly confidential.
WSR: Anything further you’d like to add about enforcement on this front?
NYPD: Yes, the NYPD uses video evidence, including body cam footage, to identify persons and vehicles that are observed on these devices and flee the scene without apprehension.
Should those responses be less than satisfying, Community Council meetings offer residents an opportunity to raise concerns directly with commanding officers:
20th Precinct [59th Street – 86th Street] will meet this Thursday, March 24th, at 7:00 p.m. at the station, 120 W. 82nd Street.
24th Precinct [86th Street – 110th Street] meets Wednesday, April 20th, at 7:00 p.m. at Bloomingdale Library, 150 W. 100th Street.
Central Park Precinct next meets on Wednesday, May 11th, at 7:00 p.m. at the station located midway across the park’s 86th Street Transverse.