Despite a change in leadership, New York City has continued to confiscate and destroy motorcycles officials have deemed illegal. Pioneered by ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio (formerly Warren Wilhelm Jr.), the practice has been continued by Eric Adams. In fact, the new mayor was so enthusiastic about the trend that the city held a press event where a bulldozer crushed over one-hundred bikes as he waved a checkered flag — effectively turning them all into garbage in a matter of seconds.
As a motorcycle enthusiast and recovering New Yorker myself, this story has been one your author has followed since the beginning as an excuse to professionally gripe about something personal. The city set out to confiscate dirt bikes and ATVs that are relatively common to see (and hear) zipping through traffic or cluttering sidewalks. De Blasio even made it one of his biggest traffic-enforcement initiatives in 2021, adding a bit of spectacle to the new vehicle bans. However, a cursory examination of the vehicles involved has shown a significant number of vehicles being destroyed are regular motorcycles that would have been legal under NYC law and all-electric scooters used by low-income commuters and restaurant delivery services.
But it’s the seemingly arbitrary nature of the confiscations and utter wastefulness of their destruction that has me grinding my teeth. Determinations of what makes a bike illegal are largely left up to individual NYPD officers who have been tasked to get as many two-wheeled conveyances off the street as possible. This has resulted in regular street bikes (basically anything that doesn’t look like an old-fashioned cruiser) and electric scooters getting caught up in the mix.
While de Blasio also hosted numerous press events where bikes were publicly crushed for the media, this appears to be Mayor Adams’ first rodeo. On Wednesday, he and the NYPD lined up roughly a gross of motorcycles to be destroyed for the sake of photographers. Adams pointed to dirt bikes and ATVs as being a dangerous nuisance, though anyone looking at the lineup of doomed vehicles would notice there were plenty of other completely legal designs lined up for the bulldozer’s treads.
During the event, NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell stated that the city had seized over 2,000 vehicles citywide in 2022 so far — noting that this represented an 80-percent increase over the same timeframe in 2021.
City leadership has been attempting to link motorcycles to an increase in violent crime and robberies since 2020, often adding that the vehicles themselves are loud and driven recklessly. While the latter claims are indeed true (though not always), custom automobiles with exceptionally loud exhausts are also relatively common in NYC and can frequently be heard screaming through the night air.
Steps have likewise been taken to crack down on that issue. But two-wheeled transportation has arguably become the preferred scapegoat for everything that’s gone wrong over the last few years. That does not excuse the city from confiscating legal bikes and e-scooters. It also doesn’t explain why NYC would opt to crush these vehicles, instead of auctioning them off to make itself some money.
“The motorbikes are destroyed rather than resold or donated in order to prevent them from returning to our streets and not allow them to be operating again,” Adams said during the event. “So again, we want to thank all those who participated and assisted in the retrieving of these dirt bike [sic]. So we see this every year, it’s the first day of summer, the increases go up. That’s why we are using this day as a day of putting in place concrete actions to make sure that we get all of these illegal bikes and vehicles off our streets.”
Again, these were initiatives pioneered by Adams’ predecessor. But you don’t put on a spectacle like this and not try and take some of the credit. However, the current mayor has attempted to expand on those efforts by working with nearby cities and utilizing new camera technologies to locate more vehicles. He and the NYPD confirmed on Wednesday that this summer will include a crackdown assumed to dwarf the city’s previous confiscation efforts.
“We’re here at Erie Basin Auto Pound to send a very strong and very clear message to anyone who illegally operates an ATV, dirt bike, or other such vehicle on the streets of New York City. We will seize that bike and we will destroy it. We take this very seriously because driving these motor bikes on city streets, on sidewalks, or in parks, and within housing developments is dangerous. It’s reckless and it’s illegal. It puts everyone at risk. Other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and not to mention the bike riders themselves,” Commissioner Sewell told the press.
“Our city will not tolerate this, and the NYPD will use every tool at our disposal to rid our neighborhoods of these hazards. It is the people living in these communities who are making the majority of complaints. They are telling us loud and clear to get these motorbikes out of our neighborhoods and keep them out. The NYPD got the message and that’s exactly what we’re doing today.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams waved a checkered flag to start a bulldozing event, where 100 illegal dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, confiscated by the New York City Police Department, were crushed pic.twitter.com/DuzKOnWwAN
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 22, 2022
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