Friday, June 10, 2011

Skirt Police


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?

99 comments:

  1. I'd tell the pervy puritanical putz to fuck off.

    I saw this at 300 views, fun to see it go viral in less than 2 days: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

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  2. Also, this brings up a lot of questions about abuse of power, skin color and class I'm not gonna touch.

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  3. I was just adding that link when you posted the first comment.

    There are many issues like that, including gender, colour, perceived social status, and even speaking with an accent.

    The problem with being pulled over on a bike, is that the laws are so vague that the officers seem to not even need a reason. They can just make something up and when you point out it is not illegal, the response can be "Well, it becomes illegal when it disrupts traffic." Have you been following the Chipseal story in Texas?

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  4. I've never been stopped while riding, and I ride in dresses all the time. However, I live pretty far away from the nearest city, and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've passed a cop while riding.

    I really like her skirt in the picture though... Any word on where it's from? :)

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  5. If a police officer pulled me over solely in regards to my clothes, I'd ask for the officer's name and badge number and then make a complaint, probably about sexual harassment.

    I'd probably also make some snarky comment about the Naked Bike Ride phenomenon, because really, if one girl in a skirt is "potentially distracting," what would they say about a whole fleet of bikers either in the nude or dressed as skimpily as possible (depending on local nudity laws)?

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  6. As a man commuting through Tacoma, WA I feel the inverse. The police completely ignore me to the point that they would probably ignore me if they saw me rolling through some red lights/stop signs. There's a pretty strict county law on helmets and I've regularly ridden by police cars and nothing.

    Maybe if I started wearing a skirt I'd get noticed more?

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  7. I hadn't heard of it, but just read your link. Reading the judge's ruling it sounds all reasonable, but not having any background to the story and not knowing the conditions makes it hard to pass judgement.

    Stories such as the 8 year old girl who "hit" a car and the Blackhawk CO case of banning cyclists seem outrageous on the internet but at least in the Blackhawk case there were legitimate safety concerns by bicyclists in that town. Just hard to tell.

    Some cops feel they've got to be all characters and making a formal complaint for an unwarranted stop is fair. I won't go into details of what I allegedly did but I got good cop/bad copped with the bad cop inches from my face frothing, trying to intimidate me. I let him do it, of course, then when he was sure he'd done enough to get me to fess up he asked if I'd done it. He'd leaned back and I leaned forward, "I DID NOT" inches from his face. Asshole totally caved.

    Point is, I think the Chipseal guy was asking for trouble by ignoring the officers, so they threw the book at him. In my case I knew where I stood and what I could get away with. A formal complaint here wouldn't have done squat.

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  8. Diane - I believe the Naked Bike Ride is not technically legal, though someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Even in Vienna, Austria - where nudity is legal and you are free to sunbathe naked on the grass in the park - the Naked Bike Ride is not legal, because of something about distracting drivers and being a public hazard. I took some pictures of the one in 2009 where you can see the police cracking down.

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  9. One hot day when I was riding home from work in a skirt, a police van pulled alongside me. One officer shouted, "Nice legs, honey." I ignored him and continued riding. Then, he stopped and yelled, "I SAID, NICE LEGS, HONEY!"

    I pedalled faster and the car pulled just ahead of me and cut me off. The two officers bolted out of the car. The driver yelled, "When we tell you to stop, you stop!"

    "But, officer, you didn't..."

    "Shut up and listen to us!," the other one roared.

    Each of them had at least 50 pounds and a few inches of bicep muscles on me. One of them demanded to see my ID. "Let me see yours first," I hissed.

    Then I noticed their badges were covered. And I glanced at the back of the van when he repeated his demand for my ID.

    Fortunately, I realized that I'd gotten my state (non-drivers') ID before I moved. So I showed him that and crossed my fingers.

    Neither of them wrote anything down. Instead, one of them said, "You know, when a cop tells you to stop, you stop. And when he asks for ID, you show it to him. Understand?"

    I nodded. Then the other cop said, "You know, Miss, we really want to protect you. Be careful out there."

    I remembered the license number. When I reported the incident to the local precinct, a female officer told me that wasn't the first incident like it anyone reported.

    I tried to follow up, but the report seemed to "disappear."

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  10. Velouria - It depends on what the nudity laws are wherever the ride takes place. My local Naked Bike Ride is more of a "Nearly" naked ride. The anti-nudity ordinance here states that you must have "opaque covering" over your naughty bits, and boobs, if you're female. I have a link that has the full text of the ordinance if you are interested.

    So I guess a police officer would have legitimate grounds to pull me over if I were riding my bike in a skirt while also going commando. But that's about it.

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  11. This might be a little off-topic. It has nothing to do with whether the police's actions are right or wrong. It's just my reaction to the post.

    While I think people should have the right to wear whatever feels comfortable to them on a bike, the movements of cycling can put cyclists in more "risque" body positions, and in those cases, particular cuts of clothings might be inappropriate or even indecent.

    For example, a deep V top may be totally fine for walking around the office, but when the cyclist is holding the drops of the handlebars, with the upper body bent over, a lot of skin can be exposed.
    Another example might be super tight and short skirts.

    Personally, I don't necessarily find these instances "distracting", but they do make me feel uncomfortable. I think people should put a little thought into what to wear if they will be riding their bike that day.

    THat's all.

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  12. Hmm, from a purely male perspective the legs of the woman in the photo would distract whether she was riding a bike or walking.

    The question relates to the right of women (and men) to wear whatever they like. This is a hot topic at the moment of course following the Toronto cop's foolish words to a class of women students, culminating in the current worldwide Slutwalk movement.

    Given the homo-sapien's genetic programming there will always be strong attraction between the sexes and sadly, a tendency for abuse of power.

    The only solution is public protest and appropriate punishment of the perpetrators. Perhaps greater numbers of women police cyclists would help also. Incidentally the Neistat "Viral" video was the focus of an article in the UK Guardian newspaper today.

    Unfortunately the world still "functions" just about, due to an economic model that prizes wealth generation and as motor vehicles generate more jobs and tax revenue than bicycles, the former still take precedence, even though we're killing ourselves and the planet with the associated pollution.

    So good initiative Velouria.

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  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  14. It is bad enough to be harassed by police while lawfully operating. I'd hate to have another element added.

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  15. This is very upsetting to read, people (read: men) are so uncivilized and women who bike don't deserve such treatment described in the post and comments.

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  16. The policeman is, of course, reacting from a men point of view and you are writing from a women point of view. It is nothing more than eternal misunderstanding of opinions. Other than that, it is a question how short was the skirt. I would not comment on that, but men are prone to notice that thing and can get distracted. It can cause accidents. It is just a common sense. Again, women drive in skirts from the beginning of bicycle era but there was a code of conduct, and for a good reason.

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  17. Nudity here is only allowed at the nude beaches... oh.. and inside comic books, books stores and greeting card stores... um... and television.

    No nakkid rides here in Groningen, NL that I know of. Still waiting for Tweed Rides to show up here too :/

    There are a lot of distracting pretty people here in NL, but no fashion police. Some of the prettiest people are the bike cops and their super tight bike shorts :P Who's gonna fine them for having beautifully distracting bums?? *giggle*

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  18. oh karen I cant believe a woman can say that! i am, shocked!!!
    what about thopse giuys in spandex tights?

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  19. Justine: That story is terrifying!

    There's no "honest mistakes" here. Just lecherous men wielding power over those who seem weaker than them. Get their badge number and report them. (Although, I don't know if I'd be able to stay cool long enough to do that. I could see myself either crying or totally flipping out at the cop or both, if this happened to me. Thankfully it hasn't yet.)

    Karen: Perhaps these women HAVE put "a little thought" into what they chose to wear that day. Not everyone has the same modesty code, or relax it due to heat or other factors. If it's 90 out, I'm not going to wear a shirt that comes up to my neck. Your attitude is condescending.

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  20. I rode a bike in a kilt once, I shudder to think of how that would have gone over in traffic court ;-)

    There does seem to have been a rash of odd citations lately, whether it's due to an increase in police activity or an increase in reporting, I don't know. I've never been ticketed on my bike, but was once pulled over in Watertown, NY while commuting in the early-morning hours. The excuse was "you can't have a flashing taillight, it has to be on a steady setting," but it seemed more of a "a guy on a bike at 3 a.m. must be up to no good" stop.

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  21. I would not comment on that, but men are prone to notice that thing and can get distracted. It can cause accidents.

    If a man is so easily distracted that he would crash his car (or bike) due to the sight of a woman's legs, perhaps he should have the common sense to stay off the road until he can act like an adult.

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  22. Look, he was hitting on you. And it is perfectly appropriate to make a complaint to the officer's department if you wish. There's no real ambiguity here. As Chris Rock says, "Just trying to get laid."

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  23. Jeez! Ever since they relaxed those public decency laws to let us show our ankles, things have gotten completely out of hand! Burkas for everyone!

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  24. Ground Round Jim: I hadn't heard of it, but just read your link. Reading the judge's ruling it sounds all reasonable, but not having any background to the story and not knowing the conditions makes it hard to pass judgement.

    Point is, I think the Chipseal guy was asking for trouble by ignoring the officers, so they threw the book at him. In my case I knew where I stood and what I could get away with. A formal complaint here wouldn't have done squat.


    I'm more familiar with the Chipseal case (and Steve A even more so, attending some of the hearings and helping Chipseal out in other ways). My impression is this: Chipseal knew what he was doing and was operating in a safe manner. He had 10,000+ accident-free miles to his credit (although I think his luck recently ran out... a little unclear on whether that was a personal account).

    On the other hand, he saw this as a civil rights case and defied what he viewed as unlawful orders from the police. He then made the mistake of going with a jury trial for the first trial, and a "jury of your peers" in Ennis, Texas, will never include more than a single cyclist. Naturally the bubbas saw it through the eyes of the police and the drivers on that road, and convicted.

    One can say that a right unexercised is a right lost, but I think Chipseal's fate in the courts was doomed by the singularity of his situation. The rest of us seem to get around Texas passably well without pissing off the local police, so he was pretty much labeled an antagonistic scofflaw, and convicted of that as much as anything else.

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  25. It's called sexual harassment I'm sure if you complain you wont be the first and then he will eventually get in trouble. He also will leave you alone after you complain, it looks bad to ticket someone that just filed a complaint of that nature.

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  26. @jon webb: I agree the cop was probably hitting on Velouria.

    If I were to be stopped for something like this, I'd try to get the cop's badge number/name/etc., but surreptitiously. It doesn't seem to do any good to argue with the police on site, and telling them to go stuff themselves could get you a disorderly conduct charge at best. Be calm and reasonable, and protest later.

    Although it may not do any good, as Justine's story shows. Wow, what a crappy thing to have happen. It's really frightening these days how much power the police have to do pretty much whatever they want.

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  27. Velouria, I'm guessing your incident was more of a bike/pedestrian confusion issue than anything else. If, from the officer's perspective, you weren't in a car, that meant you weren't in a hurry, and were thus a reasonable choice for someone to have an amiable chat with. I have an officer friend, and it can be a boring job sometimes. Unfortunately, there's a whole power dynamic that makes it really strange to be the object of that situation.

    The thing I find so surreal about the skirt story is that it happened in New York City. Because a lady in a skirt is the *only* distracting thing on those streets?

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  28. Here in Portland, police are gearing up to help support the naked bike ride to ensure that riders have a safe and fun ride. They'll be helping with traffic control at intersections and crowd control generally. My understanding is that it's not illegal to ride naked in Portland, btw.

    I'd be furious if a police officer pulled me over to comment on my appearance. Justine's experience illustrates why. It's impossible to know whether a comment from a random stranger (police officer o otherwise) is merely a neutral comment, or the beginning of a potential abuse of power. Once you've had experiences with the latter, you naturally feel nervous, as a woman, about this kind of thing.

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    1. Your understanding is correct: it is considered allowable artistic expression to be naked in public in Portland, OR. Sure, we've still got issues involving racial bias amongst our police force (like shooting people of color), but they are protective of our right to be naked.

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  29. I was flagged down once on my bike by two police on foot... for not wearing a helmet.

    I'm afraid my reaction was to get snarly and ask pointed questions about all the drivers going by in their cars yakking on cell phones (breaking the law) and did they really imagine I was more of a threat to the public safety than they were?

    Ugh!

    But that skirt incident sounds like a real example of police abusing their power... which has become a real issue here in Seattle.

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  30. Totally off-topic, but I can't decide if I hate that frame or kinda love it.

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  31. How about the male riding shirtless with the beer gut hanging out? Talk about obscene . . .

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  32. Reading the antics of the NYPD from here in England, I am absolutely astonished that this sort of behaviour occurs so regularly in what I thought was a civilised country. One normally associates such such oppressive behaviour with fanatical middle-eastern regimes or totalitarian states. Please tell me this isnt normal for the NYPD and that such behaviour gets punished!

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  33. This is very disturbing, but not shocking. People become authority figures for power and many people with power abuse it, especially male cops (and politicians). To serve and protect... by creepily "flirting" on the job in uniform while feigning safety advice?! Revolting. Get names and badges, stay in the public eye, have witnesses. Assist your fellow cyclists in these situations.
    This topic can also be taken into other cultures (or even historically) where women are expected to cover more parts of their bodies or show no skin at all because of sexist oppressive laws.
    Then again, I feel the opposite extreme that a "liberating" nude ride is just plain obnoxious, I can only guess at the ratio of men to women participants...

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  34. Wow, I've never gotten stopped by the police and I ride wearing a skirt anywhere between 3-6 times a week, depending on occasion. Then again, the cops here don't stop cyclists for anything, I think, because you see those "double" bikes riding around all the time and cyclists make a general habit of cutting through red lights right in front of cops, weaving through traffic etc. That said, maybe they should stop people more often, because that kind of behavior to me (as someone who also drives) can be really dangerous.

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  35. Some of these comments make me think we need to organize more slutwalks! Are we advocating that police should pull over and/or lecture all the pedestrians who cause drivers to rubberneck too? Those cops were off base, period, and the cyclist should at least submit a formal complaint so it is on the record.

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  36. I've been a bit unnerved by some of the things I've seen cycling toward young ladies in very short skirts. Would I arrest them? No. Would I stop one and explain that she should put on shorts or something under her skirt so she wasn't flashing her crotch (once completely naked) at everyone who passed her? Yes.

    I'm no prude, but I don't think that a public bike path is a good place to flash one's nether regions. Otherwise, wear what you like. As long as the skirt is long enough for semi-decent coverage, I'm good.

    Guess I'm gettin' old. Kids today and their nudity!

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  37. Wow, this is really disturbing and scary to me as I'm new to this kind of riding. I do find when I'm dressed up and commuting to work that I see police cars more often than usual. In my mind I'm hoping that they are looking out for me and other cyclists on this particular road. I'm hoping they are out there to make sure motorists drive at the speed limit and pass me at the 3 feet required distance. Again, this is all in my mind and I pray they are doing their job and not out there for any other reason.

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  38. Hmm,
    I've also never been stopped, although I often make a point of chatting with detail cops if I'm stopped in traffic. This is part of a really disturbing trend of cops in NYC issuing nonsense "harassment" tickets, but It's even more disturbing because of the sexual overtones and issues of what "propriety" is, and who has the authority to "enforce" it.

    Perhaps I'm biased as a woman, but If your superego can't keep control over you id enough for you to drive safely in the presence of women's legs, you should consider therapy, not drive if you're that easily distractible, or consider moving to Riyadh.

    I'm not saying that men shouldn't be allowed to notice an attractive woman, but if you're so easily distracted that you can't safely control your vehicle whilst appreciating the scenery, you need help.

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  39. snarkypup, i don't recommend stopping a woman to tell her that, but if you do, please frame it in terms of "it makes me uncomfortable to see your underwear" rather than "you should put on shorts or something so you don't flash your crotch at everyone." i hope you can see the difference: the latter would be likely to make me defensive or defiant.

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  40. I am not going to state my opinion on what's appropriate or not appropriate as streetwear, because it absolutely does not matter. We all have our views and our ways of judging each other's behaviour, but that is a separate issue from what is legal. A law enforcement officer only has the right to stop me about things I might be doing illegally; that is all.

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  41. Wow. Abuse of power at it's most quotidian: pick off the most vulnerable people for your own entertainment and to reassure yourself of the ability to do it.

    I agree with Velouria, what can we point to, in law, that can protect us? Particularly with police. Just like people who carry around copies of traffic laws to show drivers. What can we reference to protect ourselves that says, "this is not legal and it is harassment."

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  42. @Richard, I immediately thought of the Slut Walks as well, which I'll explain: They were started by feminist groups in response to a police officer saying that a girl was raped because her clothes suggested she was "asking for it."

    But like Valenti wrote in the Wash Post, it was a huge step for feminism that so many women were galvanized into action (the most in the last 20-30 years). I don't see this incident having a similar effect, unfortunately.

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  43. I think the cause of a lot of this is two-fold:

    1. Police officers are just as misinformed and unfamiliar with the bike laws in their area as the general public. Nobody's making them sit down and read through the laws any more than drivers are required to do so. The only people who know the bike laws are those that are biking, and thus are on the receiving end of these situations.

    2. Ninety-nine percent of the population still think of bicycling as strictly recreation, not transportation. When the officer pulled you over to strike up a random conversation, he probably thought you were just out toodling around for fun and didn't have somewhere to be. Let's strike up a friendly conversation with someone in the community, and you are obviously more approachable than the spandex-encrusted roadster set. While frankly, this is part of his job when community policing, it is indicative of the prevalent mindset.

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  44. I agree with Cycler that this has to be seen in the greater context of the NYPD ticketing blitz. The NYPD crackdown has made it easier for cops to harass women by providing an assortment of possible "reasons" for them to to pull you over. I frankly also see this in the context of the truly scary "rape cop" case that just concluded.

    I have been riding in NYC for seven years now. In the first six years I had exactly zero interactions with cops. Since the crackdown began I've been stopped twice, once to be hit on very plainly and once to have a cop say "just wanted to tell you to be careful of that pretty little head."

    I've also had cops follow me closely at a creepy slow speed three or four times.

    I also really agree with this:

    >>I'm not saying that men shouldn't be allowed to notice an attractive woman, but if you're so easily distracted that you can't safely control your vehicle whilst appreciating the scenery, you need help.

    Justine: wow. So scary!

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  45. Velouria said...
    "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?"

    IMO it would depend on the laws concerning lewd behavior or public indecency as to if a cop can ticket/arrest a cyclist for how the are clothed ,or not, in public.

    Since these laws are so broad it would leave the cyclist at the mercy of the courts as to if there were any laws broken.

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  46. I. don't. understand. the. comments. to. day.

    neighbour - how did you handle the sitches?

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  47. Veronica - But it wasn't as if I was cycling past him and he said "hi," he gestured for me to pull over, in the same way as he'd be pulling over a vehicle. I assumed that I didn't stop for long enough at the stop sign or maybe turned right on red when I wasn't supposed to, and he was going to write me a ticket. While he was asking me questions, I kept expecting for the next thing out of his mouth to be "Do you know why I stopped you?" but it never happened. In retrospect it's pretty clear that his stopping me was inappropriate, but when you're in that situation it is difficult to tell.

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  48. >>neighbour - how did you handle the sitches?

    The first time I was genuinely frightened because it was dusk and is kind of deserted where I live. The one cop started with "how are you today?" which confused me. I asked "have I done something wrong?" Then the officer who had gotten out of the car (!) told me that he and his partner were having a debate about my nationality. And I was so shocked I just said "oh my god, are you hitting on me -- but, you're a cop." And he said something like "cops like women, too" but that wasn't it, exactly, but it was something like that. At that moment I said "I'm leaving now" and rode away. His partner was laughing hysterically from the drivers seat. It was ugh. I wish I had written down their car number, but I didn't. I didn't hesitate to do that with garbage truck driver who almost ran over me and my son or the city bus driver who yelled something sexually explicit. Yet, I didn't with the cops. This is something to think about, huh? I find cops scary.

    With being followed, once I am sure this is happening, I stop and take a photo with my phone. They speed away. I also don't do any Idaho stopping when cops are around.

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  49. Dagmara, I actually think if there were a "jaywalking crackdown" here, NYPD harassment of women walking would increase. It seems to me that while most cops are fine and some are great, there is a subset that is just aching to have a reason to do just this kind of stupid shit. A crackdown gives them the cover they need.

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  50. I'll chime in again about police ed. One of the major victories that Massachusetts advocates have scored in recent years is a state-wide requirement for police to get training specifically in bike law in the academies (and I believe in continuing ed).

    Above and beyond that, Boston has voiced the commitment to have every cadet trained in the Police Academy be receive training as a bicycle cop. I'd like to find out if that's really happening-I was at a meeting where the BPD "liason to the bike community" said that it was planned.

    I know, I know, we've all seen bike cops do stupid things, just as we may have seen cops in cars on on foot do things that seem like abuses of power. However, I do believe that every cop we can get from out behind a windshield, even if only in training, is a great thing in making them truly understand a bicyclist's perspective.

    I'll also say that (knock on wood) I've had nothing but good experiences with Cambridge cops. They take complaints seriously, they investigate bike accidents and ticket at fault motorists. I posted a while ago about the one who kicked a cabbie out of the bike lane for me. Of course, the People's Republic is a lot different than NYPD Blue, but so far, so good..

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  51. Last time I checked, this is still a free country. I'll be wearing a skirt tonight. I have every intention of getting looked at. I even shaved my legs.

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  52. "cops like women, too"
    I got over thinking all cops are here to protect and serve after paying attention and a few incidents, like the one I wrote about above. There's an old line that goes something like, "There's a fine line between a crook and a cop." Cynical, and only applicable in a small number of cases, but true.
    I've been to NYC enough to know the cops are all over the map, professionalism-wise. One ass forced me into the street while walking so I turned around and gave him some nasty. The Neistat film pretty much nailed it: take out your cam and start filming, with you being the narrator. Guarantee the schmuck will mind his Ps and Qs.
    If I have a "rendezvous" with a delivery, dump truck driver or contractor and words are exchanged, I'll calmly get out my pen and start writing the number on the side. It's like pricking a balloon with a pin. I'll always call. Once I got the dispatcher who turned out to be the waste collection agency's owner. She told me she knew exactly who it was an was going to rip him a new one. Gotta love it.

    I know it must be creepy to get hit on as a woman, but I've been hit on by so many gay guys it's just funny. Saying something like, "I don't think you could handle me" always results in smiles.

    Cold Iron, I was wondering why you're always nice to me...see above.

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  53. That's harassment plain and simple.
    Her fenders are too short though.

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  54. hi guys, my name is Jasmijn, I am from Amsterdam and I am the girl in the picture.

    Thanks for your support. It was not my intention to make any americans uncomfortable. I was just enjoying a bike ride in the sun in my normal everyday wear.



    This police officer seemed very upset. He was SO angry... I felt it must be a cultural difference and that there was a law I was unaware of. In holland its normal to bike in normal clothes..

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  55. So, I don't know whether or not to read your story as a humble brag or not.

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  56. One; a cop doesn't have to have a reason per se to pull you over. One any type of vehicle. They can legally make up an excuse and/or lie.

    Secondly; I am sure the girl wearing a skirt was showing her panties. That would distract anyone and is considered by law indecent exposure. Yes it is stupid that they can wear less in a bikini but hey our government is corrupt by money wielding, bible thumping, controlling douche waffles. Nuff said.

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  57. @Julia Leigh
    I don't think it will either but it highlights unacceptable behaviour. And every reaction denouncing such behaviour can generate a shift in collective consciousness.

    So in a sense these small actions can be as important as big events such as the Slutwalk demonstrations.

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  58. Quite a few issues in this thread.

    To legally stop you, an officer needs to have probable cause to believe that you are committing or have committed a crime. If an officer tells you to stop, you have to stop, like V did. The best policy is always to be polite, but you should ascertain why he stopped you and whether he is detaining you. If necessary, you can demand he either vocalize a charge, detain you, and allow you to contact your attorney, or let you be on your way.

    If an officer detains you without cause, there may be a civil rights violation involved. Individuals sue for wrongful arrest on a lot weaker grounds than some of those described here. Regardless of whether there is a sexual element involved, the question is whether your civil rights were violated. Of course, you can complain to the police department about a particular officer, as well, but a civil rights violation gives you a legal remedy to pursue.

    The legality of a short skirt or nudity would depend on the jurisdiction. Obviously every jurisdiction has some kind of public indecency statute. However, the same would apply to pedestrians or cyclists or anybody else out in the public space. Generally, I would not see either criminal or civil liability attaching outside of such a statute unless an individual were intentionally trying to disrupt traffic. A skirt shouldn't really do much of anything, unless it is exposing the genitals. Otherwise, riding in a bikini is much more revealing. There's a pretty fine line in the case law considering the constitutionality of public indecency statutes. The state certainly has a valid interest in regulating exposure, but only if the regulation is very minimal, and courts like the more easily applied definitions, e.g., genitals. How many inches long a skirt should be is simply too amorphous a definition for easy judicial enforcement.

    Of course, none of the above should be considered legal advice, for which you should consult your own attorney, licensed in your own jurisdiction :)

    Garth-

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  59. I understand where you're coming from with the skirt, etc. But when you were pulled over, were you being treated as hostile, or was the policeman just... chatting to you?

    Only reason I ask, is because know that happens quite a bit in UK & Ireland, where individual police genuinely have the same interests as most of the public [I've heard legitimate stories of policemen stopping people just to talk about a common interest, like: cars, motorcycles, airsoft, & tech]. You also mentioned he seemed "hurt", when you asked if you could go [not saying you were the wrong]

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  60. Blow their little NE cop minds: wear a birka and a miniskirt. On a bike. Obey the bike laws. Hook up with local ACLU and file a suit.

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  61. If my former department had received a complaint along the lines of what you describe above, it would have been the subject of a thorough review by Internal Affairs. It's discourteous and an inappropriate use of authority.

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  62. Anon 4:58 - I don't think that being perceived as an easy target is anything to brag about. The officer was probably bored and would have stopped any young woman.

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  63. You know, I bet they do that just to talk to a pretty girl. I would be interseted to see what their response would be if you flirted back a bit. Maybe with a hidden pinhole camera recording the whole interaction, then put those pigs ON BLAST on YouTube. Haha, that would be priceless.

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  64. sinbad - If his intent was to chat from the start, then he very much abused his authority. As Garth points out above, I was *required* to stop when he gestured for me to pull over. If a policeman in uniform wants to be friendly, that's not the way to do it. He made me think that I was being detained and therefore was required to speak to him.

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  65. I think that people should carry a phone that's capable of video and audio, and use it when accosted. Is there anything illegal about recording the whole transaction? What part of Professionalism is it that certain cops don't understand.

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  66. Apparently there are laws on the books in MA, IL and MD limiting the recording of police action unless they consent. That's really a travesty of justice; but we do live in Lockdown Nation now, unfortunately.

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  67. MelissatheRagamuffinJune 10, 2011 at 11:14 PM

    I really wanted to go to World Naked Bike Ride in DC tomorrow, but my camera's presence has been requested at a graduation. *sigh* In DC as long as your genitals are covered - you're golden. So, that means women can ride topless. Looking at years past, most people wore some kind of bottom - even if it was just a thong. But, a few people really did go starkers.

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  68. Just to be clear: I would never tell a random cycling woman to put on shorts. I meant if I were a cop, and saw someone cycling by in a way that exposed her nether regions, I'd probably stop her and at least suggest to her that she put on something less revealing next time she rides. She might not realize, for one thing. Otherwise, who the hell cares what one wears on a bike?

    Once, when I crafted a debate unit for my students, I had a group of girls sitting up in the front row as judges. I stood up in the front to talk to them about proper judging behavior and realized that I could see up most of their skirts. If I could, the boys who would soon be debating could. I had them stay for a moment after class and pointed this out. They were very embarrassed and every girl showed up the next morning in jeans. Most women don't really want to flash even their undies at random people, but many modern fashions are more revealing than folks realize (think of all the times a woman kneels down in low-rise pants, and you know exactly what undies she's wearing).

    I am no personal prude, but I think a bit of public modesty is warranted unless the situation generally allows otherwise. Bike paths are not nude beaches, and one should dress appropriately. I have several "skorts," which have built-in shorts. I would wear one biking in a heartbeat, and not worry about showing off my boy-shorts. But I wouldn't wear a micro-mini and ride my bike. I don't need everyone to see my undies, nor do I want to see the undies of everyone. Just sayin'.

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  69. In the incident I described, I was wearing a "sensible" skirt, as many a woman wears in an office: knee-length, navy blue and not a tapered or pencil cut. So I don't think I exposed any part of my leg more than about two inches above my knees. I don't know how anyone could have seen my undies.

    And, if you've seen me (or photos of me), you'd know that I'm no lightweight. So for those cops to have, between them, about a hundred pounds and about a foot of muscular tissue more than I have, they definitely had to be big and burly. Plus, I'm almost entirely sure they took steroids: I'd know, because I saw plenty of it back when I was regularly going to a gym to lift weights.

    I still shake in thinking about that incident, even though it happened about six years ago. I think what scared me the most is that it happened during the second year of my transition, so I was definitely not prepared for anything like that.

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  70. Justine - Did you get the feeling at all that their behaviour was related to your transition? Because that could have its own implications.

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  71. Wow, I would probably get their number and speak to someone higher up. I would also quote the motor vehicle act which says nothing about dresses or how one should dress. I wear skirts and dresses when cycling, can't say a skirt has ever flown over my head. I've had men say creepy gross things, but I was wearing pants at the time.
    And with the recent "Slut walks" happening the world over it should be a reminder that a woman can dress as she pleases, is not asking to be attacked or made an example of. Certainly biking naked is inappropriate(unless you're in a naked bike ride) or wearing so little you are at risk of major road burn should you get in an accident.
    I also just read a headline about someone in nyc getting ticketed for biking outside a bike lane! How wrong is that? It is totally legal to ride on roads because under any motor vehicle act a bicycle is considered a vehicle.
    Bike lanes are great where available, but not always the best choice for a given route.

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  72. If they would start pulling over women in skirts in Amsterdam, the police would be very very busy.. Dang.. This is not okay!

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  73. I would be really annoyed if that happened to me.

    I don't drive, so I either cycle, walk or skateboard everywhere I go, and it's bad enough having construction workers whistle at me.

    I just don't know how to feel about being hailed by strangers who think I'm attractive. On one hand, it is technically a compliment and on the other I easily feel degraded by it: like, am I only ever going to be noticed for being sexually appealing?

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  74. It's almost like wearing clothing that will be blown or folded back on a bike to the point where it'd violate public decency standards is the sort of thing cops should warn people about.

    Go figure.

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  75. If an officer gestured me over (not with lights/siren as if he were actually "pulling" me over, and started commenting on my clothes and bike, it would all depend on the tone of the conversation. If he was making nice comments then I would just go with it and thank him and use it as a opportunity to try to get him interested in riding. If he were trying to criticize my fashion decision, well then I would be taking down his badge number, because he's on the clock and I wasn't doing anything illegal. I'm not one to automatically assume that any male who offers comment on my cloths, looks or even body to be a pervert or trying to sexually harass me.

    Now if he pulled me over, with lights and everything, as if I had broken some law, just to chat me up or to tell me what to wear, then game on. I'll have his name, badge #, cruiser # and report it on the spot. I don't take s*** from cops who abuse their power.

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  76. If a cop wants to chat a girl up, he should wait until he's out of uniform and do it on his own dime.

    While on the clock, he or she is a public servant.

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  77. I wanted to add that in hot climates or summer heat men go around without their shirts on all the time. It's okay, so we all have to be okay with it. Guys walking without shirts, guys at the store without shirts, guys biking without shirts....and we all have to be okay with seeing man boobs. While it is legal for women to go around topless some parts of Canada, it certainly isn't encouraged.
    In warm climates it is common to see women biking in their bathing suits to the beach, or in light summer dresses. Same for summer beach communities. When I lived in cities with hot summers of course I biked around in summer dresses, skirts etc.. and I was in Miami for 4 months and absolutely had to be in the lightest summer clothes possible when biking. And come on, in Miami Beach and Venice Beach in LA, women rollerblade in bikinis so, really, the police cannot be stopping women cyclists for wearing regular skirts or dressy attire.
    It's been very hot on the east coast, so it's understandable the ladies have gotten out their summer frocks. The woman Jasmin should file a complaint with the nypd, should have gotten the officers name and gone viral like the women did in Toronto who started the "slut walk" over a similar sexist stupid comment a police officer made.
    Sheesh, on the hottest days in the pacific northwest, I still have to bring a sweater just in case, but I wear my skirts, yes indeedy I do!

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  78. @Richard, you were totally right! Check out #shortskirtprotestride and some #bikenyc on twitter.

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  79. michelleavenant - The way I see it, is that when people comment about my looks (whether it be to tell me that I am attractive or ugly), it is an invasion of my privacy. Why should the way I look or dress or carry myself give a person the right to address me and ask me personal questions?

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  80. haha america's too funny. I live in japan and there is probably around a couple of 100 women each day i see riding bicycles in skirts around town.

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  81. Velouria, I did indeed think that it had something to do with my transition. I had that experience about six years ago, when I was still in an early stage of my transition. From what people have told me, I looked different then. But I think my body language was different, too.

    For some time afterward, I could see, in my mind's eye, the expressions of two cops with 'roid rage. And I kept on imagining what was in the back of their van. At the time they harassed me, all I could think about was keeping myself out of there.

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  82. I want to add that, even though I feel that my experience might have been related to my transition, I also feel that I had experienced something too many other women have experienced: having my actual or imputed attractiveness and sexuality (which, in minds like those of the cops who harassed me, are the same thing) become a rationale for someone to abuse his power.

    In the end, whether those cops saw me as a woman or a guy in drag, what they did was just that: an abuse of power.

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  83. The subject has now been taken up on Copenhagen Cycle Chic, with very much the same comments: "cops are out of line":
    http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/

    As for Holland, a compilation of shots from summery Amsterdam:
    http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/06/doing-dutch.html
    Lots of work to do for sexist policemen.

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  84. There was an item in Holland's biggest newspaper De Telegraaf today, with 181 comments so far, many of which agreed with the policeman. We are a weird people!
    http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/10013339/__Rokje_in_het_verkeer_gevaarlijk__.html?p=21,1

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  85. Being polite is generally the way to go when confronted with wrong-headed officers-- not kowtowing, but polite; just as one would expect of them in their functions as agents of the public peace. However, if one feels the interaction is inappropriate, is somehow harassing or demeaning, they always have the option of requesting the officer's badge number (which they are compelled to give, by law, if asked for), and then filing a report with the appropriate authorities.

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  86. BTW the buzz on the incident that started all this is that it was a PR stunt by VANMOOF, which is the brand of bike she was riding (shown in your photo.)

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  87. Jon Webb - This is a point of view expressed by Henry of Workcycles (a bicycle manufacturer himself) and there is no verification of it. Statements from both the New Amsterdam Show and the woman in question (who happens to work for VanMoof) maintain that the incident happened. I think we need to be real careful with this issue.

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  88. If the girl says it happened w/o proof, shrug shoulders. If Henry says it's viral w/o proof, same.

    Ultimately it's all internet noise; it's a local issue.

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  89. ^ Agreed 100%

    I am not a journalist. I used the story as a trajectory for a more general discussion. I have no financial or other interest in VanMoof Bicycles. That's as far as it goes.

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  90. I think I'd be really nice and ask if he had a business card. And then I'd call and report him thereafter.

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  91. Pretty sure this was a publicity stunt (or "guerrilla marketing," if you prefer). http://cdogzilla.blogspot.com/2011/06/cited-for-cws-cycling-while-sexy.html

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  92. cdogzilla- I feel that this Village Voice article provides fairly even handed coverage.

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  93. cdogzilla - If this had been a publicity stunt it was bound to backfire. Ms Rijcken was in NY to promote her bikes, a very distinctive and recognizable design but very little else. Going to the press to tell your prospective customers that their traffic cops are a bunch of lecherous bigots would definitely not be a smart move. And if I were riding one of her bikes in NY traffic I would constantly be on the lookout for vindictive cops thinking "Look, another one, let's see what we can get him for". Not good for business, and I presume that Ms. Rijcken realizes this only too well.

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  94. itsd just so annoying when I have to change my behaviour because men use the pathetic excuse that they cant change theirs (ie focus on driving rahter than sight-seeing or if a policeman - catching criminals)

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  95. If the Dutch cops did that in any city in the Netherlands, there would be a ridiculous amount of tickets given... we all bike with skirts on. and suits and heels and whatever we want!

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  96. More on the hoax debate, for those who raised that point. Both the Village Voice and the Streetsblog investigations (as well as my own) conclude that incident most likely real.

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  97. Quite honestly, I still think it was a publicity stunt. Nevertheless, putting that aside, I find that it doesn't cost anything wearing shorts underneath the skirt if you'll be riding your bike. Call me a prude if you want, I don't need to be told not to do something, I have common sense. I won't be showing off my bum to anyone. This is for narcissists or for people with really low self esteem...

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  98. This story has finally been picked up by the UK Guardian Newspaper.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2011/jun/15/cycling-skirt-motoring-hazard for those interested.

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