[image via New Amsterdam Bicycle Show]
Yesterday there seemed to be an unusual number of disconcerting bicycle stories floating around. Among the more bizarre were the news that a woman was stopped by the NYPD for wearing a skirt on her bike. Says a representative of the New Amsterdam Bicycle Show:
Our friend Jasmijn was stopped in SOHO by NYPD for riding in a skirt! The officer said she could distract drivers and cause an accident...and should go home and put pants on.Cycling in a skirt is, of course, perfectly legal. So when this sort of thing happens, one has to wonder how best to respond to it. After all, it has been shown that just because the officer is technically in the wrong, does not mean that the cyclist will not be ticketed, or even arrested and tried.
But what's more, is that when this story was posted on twitter other women replied that they too have been stopped by police while cycling dressed up - seemingly for no particular reason other than for the officer to comment on their appearance. It happened to me last summer as well. A policeman gestured for me to pull over, only to ask some random question about my bike. When I politely replied, he proceeded to comment on my outfit. Nervously, I kept wondering what law I broke and when he was going to get to the point. Was I required to chat with him? Was there some protocol to treat me as hostile if I didn't? When I finally asked "Excuse me, but can I go now?" He seemed hurt and simply said, "Yeah, sure..." adding "Be careful out there!" half-heartedly. For a while I kept going over the incident in my mind and trying to make sense of it, but it seems he stopped me without any legal purpose what so ever.
On a bicycle we are more noticeable than we are inside a car, and at the same time we can be legitimately pulled over as vehicles. Does us cycling make it easier for the police to abuse their power by supplying them with a reason to pull us over? That's an uncomfortable thought.
How would you respond if a police officer stopped you to comment on your appearance, or to tell you that you can't ride a bike dressed as you are?