Video: Anger among New York cyclists as police remove bikes ahead of Obama visit

NYPD cuts through locks as security measure before arrival of presidential motorcade

by Simon_MacMichael   May 2, 2010  

New York policeman removes bike.png

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has come under criticism from cycling campaigners and local politicians after cutting through locks and removing bicycles from a street on the route of President Obama’s motorcade when he visited the city last month.

Footage posted on the video-sharing website YouTube by New York-based direct action environmental organisation Time's Up shows officers sawing through locks on bicycles, including some parked on bike stands, on Manhattan’s East Houston Street, and putting them on to a lorry.

A spokesman for the NYPD, speaking on Saturday – before the discovery of a bomb in Times Square in which the vehicle used was a sports utility vehicle, not a bicycle – was quoted on the website of local TV channel NY1 as saying that the bicycles had been removed as a security measure.

The spokesman added that the NYPD had removed the bikes due to incidents of bicycle bombings around the world. Motor cars were also told away, and the spokesman said that signs had been put up in advance giving notice of the removals.

However, Peter Vallone, chair of New York City Council’s Public Safety Committee, believed that process of removing bicycles and cars alike could have been handled better by the NYPD.

Mr Vallone said: "Let's look at the way notice was given here. Obviously it could have been done better because there a lot of cars and bikes that were still there. Let's look at some alternatives like bomb sniffing dogs, and let's get some notice out to the people in the future. Is this going to happen every time a president comes to town? So we can work with the NYPD to make this better."

According to The New York Times’ City Room Blog, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne said in an email: “All vehicles, including 165 cars and 30 bikes were removed as a precaution in advance of the presidential motorcade. Notices were posted two days in advance, on Tuesday.”

The Deputy Commissioner attached a note detailing the history of the use of bicycle bombs in places such as Afghanistan, Germany, Iraq, India, Northern Ireland, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Local cyclists, however, dispute that adequate notice was given of the removal of the bicycles. One, 64-year-old Nat Zirata, said that a bicycle with a frame he had built himself had been removed from a signpost on East Houston, close to second avenue. “If I knew the police were coming, I would’ve moved my bike,” he said. “They should’ve given us a warning.”

Another, David Jaffe, aged 24, said that when he returned on Friday to get his bike, which he had locked to an official bike stand, he discovered it was gone, and was told by the doorman of a nearby building that the police had cut through the lock and cable and taken it away.

“The lock’s gone, the bike’s gone, no signs taped up, no warnings beforehand, no directions on where to get my bike,” Mr Jaffe said. “It was handled terribly.”

The New York Times said that while notices had gone up on East Houston warning that cars would be removed, these made no mention of bicycles, and the only sign that the bicycles could be picked up were handwritten notes saying “Retrieve Bikes from 7th Pct., [precinct]” which gave no address.

10 user comments

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At least one bicycle bomb was also used by the IRA in the UK.
The issue here seems to be one of whether adequate notice was given, which is debatable. I saw about the car bomb in NYC and did wonder if this was the work of an extreme right wing group.


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
2nd May 2010 - 13:26


Wink We also shouldn't forget just how dangerous these bicycle bombs are.

I'm sure it's 100% ok to remove potential bombs with a power-saw with sparks flying everywhere and no body armor.

It's another 'anti-terror measure' thought out by a bureaucrat and executed by nimwits.

posted by Shiny Flu [84 posts]
2nd May 2010 - 14:12


It all depends on the type of explosive used - the IRA used anfo (ammonium nitrate, fuel oil) using fertiliser and diesel and which has an explosive power about 90% that of gelignite. The quarrying and mining industries also use anfo as it's fairly cheap compared with gelignite - though they use a different grade of ammonium nitrate to that used in fertiliser as this makes more for efficient blasting. It takes quite a jolt to ignite anfo so you don't need to worry about sparks from an angle grinder. I'm a journalist but studied engineering and have written a great deal about mining and quarrying over the years so I know those industries and some of the technicalities of blasting pretty well. I think when the IRA used anfo in bicycle bombs they poured it into the frame tubes so it'd be enclosed too. If you read Graham Greene's book The Quiet American (one of his best of you ask me) there is also a detailed description of bicycle bombs being used. As an ex SIS member he had quite an insight into the technicalities involved. Maybe the NYC cops could've flagged up this a little better but I understand their actions and the need for them. The NYC cops did have to deal with a car bomb (which luckily was very crude and didn't ignite properly) so their intelligence was obviously on the ball. There are a lot of crazed nutters in the world deranged enough to plant a bomb in a public place sadly.


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
2nd May 2010 - 22:33


All "bicycle bombs" had bombs in bags on bicycles, not in bicycle frames. There are no recorded incidents of a bicycle "pipe bomb".

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1451 posts]
2nd May 2010 - 23:46


The least the price could do is issue a report to day which locks were hardest to defeat so we can learn from this!

posted by creepymonkey [31 posts]
3rd May 2010 - 9:32


OldRidgeback wrote:
I saw about the car bomb in NYC and did wonder if this was the work of an extreme right wing group.

What? An even more extreme right wing group than the US government itself? Hmm. I guess there is one.

simonmb's picture

posted by simonmb [360 posts]
3rd May 2010 - 10:23


if the bicycles posed threat did they have anybody from the bomb squad to check for any explosives? Thinking

posted by limeade [1 posts]
3rd May 2010 - 18:19


You know what this is? The NYPD's REVENGE on cyclists, after the critical mass incident. Because it's not enough that the cop was cleared of assault despite damning evidence that he pushed the cyclist off his bike. Now they are going to "have fun".

I wonder where those bikes will end up. Makes me mad! Angry

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
4th May 2010 - 12:13


Maybe if they had advetised enough and put up signs no bikes or cars etc...

When I was in Italy all they did was stop us crossing the road while Obama and world leaders' cars drove through.

I guess with the fruit cake and a nissan has caused this.

Zaskar's picture

posted by Zaskar [137 posts]
6th May 2010 - 12:29


I don't normally comment on spelling errors, but did a NYC point at the cars and say "Go away you naughty car."?

posted by Monstermunch [7 posts]
5th March 2011 - 21:12