Two men physically intimidated a woman biker, and aggressively detained her, after claiming she scratched their massive SUV, which was partially parked in the First Avenue bike lane Tuesday morning — an incident that offers yet another glimpse at the dangers faced by women bikers and why the cycling gender gap persists in this city.
The hostilities from the duo, both with air-pods in their ears, was partly caught on videotape — and will likely spark cycling's long-overdue version of a #MeToo movement in a city where male cyclists outnumber female riders three to one.
The video begins with the two men hovering over the unidentified Citi Biker — a small-framed, older woman wearing a helmet. The back wheels of their black SUV are in the green painted bike lane. One of the men shouts, “You scratched my car," while his hand tightly holds the bike by its front rack. At one point in the video, the woman tries to bike away, but the men detain her, possibly illegally.
Several witnesses urge the belligerent men to call the police — standard protocol for collisions involving injury or damage — but the men continue to prevent the woman from leaving. The woman says, "Help," and, "This is called kidnapping." The video ends before cops arrived.
The men acted irrationally, according to a witness who took a video of the scary incident.
“It was crazy. ... The taller guy standing in front of her had his hand the whole time on her basket, kind of jerking her bike around — screaming at her,” said CJ, a female biker from Queens.
CJ and another witness, bike advocate Austin Horse who works with Biking Public Project, said the altercation began when the woman and others were all stopped waiting at the light on First Avenue near 59th Street when the guys then jumped out of their car and wouldn’t let the woman go all because they claim she scratched their car.
It is unclear why the men believe the woman scratched their car — or if the massive SUV was damaged at all. Many cyclists tap on the sides of cars that violate bike lane rules, frequently enraging the guilty parties. In any event, all parties involved in a crash that results in either property damage or injury or death must stay at the scene until police arrive to give their statements, according to attorney Daniel Flanzig.
But the men did not have the right to restrain the woman in the manner they did, Flanzig added. It's worth nothing that the SUV being operated by the men has racked up eight parking and camera violations, including two tickets for speeding in a school zone and two for failing to stop at a red light — though in none of those cases of public endangerment were the men physically restrained by anyone.
Eventually, the men did call the cops, but neither CJ nor Horse stayed for the NYPD's arrival. A police spokesperson later told Streetsblog that police responded to a 911 call about a dispute, but that no summonses or arrests were made, and that there are currently no complaint reports on file. Likely, that means there was no scratch.
The incident will likely have a broader reverberation than normal, everyday disputes because of the gender aggression involved, said CJ.
“She kept saying, ‘I want to go, leave me alone.’ She was very distraught — big dudes just screaming, you would have thought their car was blown up by a rocket,” she said.
The video is a reminder why so few women bike in this city — in 2017, nearly 72 percent of bike commuters were men versus 28 percent women. And just 25 percent of all Citi Bike subscriber trips were made by women in 2018, according to the Department of Transportation.
The incident luckily took place in broad daylight where others were quickly able to come to the woman’s side to help, but under different circumstances, CJ says she would have been too frightened to ever hop on her bike again.
“Poor lady. These dudes were huge. She was an older woman, she had a little helmet, she was terrified,” she said. “If this was night-time I’d hang up my helmet and never bike again if two dudes lurched at me.”