While it’s shocking to think that, in this day and age, a New York City police officer would stop and harass a female cyclist for biking in a short skirt, as Jasmijn Rijcken said happened to her last month, it also seems to fit the zeitgeist, coming amidst the well-publicized NYPD bike crackdown and following the sordid trial of two cops on rape charges (and their stunning acquittal). But when Streetsblog and Gothamist readers discovered that Rijcken touts her expertise in “guerrilla marketing” on her LinkedIn profile (sample prose: “We provide marketing in disguise and make YOU the talk of the town”), rumors started fluttering on Twitter that the story might have been too perfectly placed. Was it all a ploy to drum up publicity for the bikes that she was in town to promote?
The biking-while-sexy storyline has certainly garnered a lot of attention, getting picked up on Gothamist, the Daily News, Gawker and lots of blogs, most of which don’t seem to mention Rijcken’s bike company, Vanmoof. So Streetsblog reviewed the available information, double- and triple-checked with our sources, and spoke to a few more people. Our conclusion: It’s much more likely that Rijcken is the victim of harassment than the diabolical mastermind of an intricate viral marketing campaign.
Rijcken’s story is difficult to prove or disprove beyond the shadow of a doubt. No ticket was issued, no friends were with her to witness the episode, and Rijcken did not obtain the name or badge number of the cop. All of which is perfectly plausible given that Rijcken was a foreign tourist in an unfamiliar city, who committed no actual offense. But it leaves a dearth of direct evidence.
The indirect evidence is persuasive, however, starting with the fact that Rijcken told her American acquaintances about the incident the day it happened — May 3 — nearly three weeks before she posted a short note about it on Facebook.
George Bliss and Marlo Medrano of Hudson Urban Bicycles, a West Village bike shop, confirmed that Rijcken described an encounter with NYPD when she saw them later the same day. “She told it to us at the store,” said Bliss, “the night it happened.” Rijcken was in town for the New Amsterdam Bike Show and had a business meeting with Bliss and Medrano at their shop, which carries her company’s bikes. When she arrived, they said, she told them what had taken place.
Bliss’s recap of Rijcken’s account more or less matched what Rijcken told Streetsblog last Friday: An NYPD officer stopped her, accused her of endangering people by wearing a skirt that would distract drivers, took her ID and only let her off once she said she was Dutch. Medrano confirmed that she was wearing the skirt shown in the widely-circulated photograph of Rijcken on her bike, which Rijcken said was taken by other tourists while she was sightseeing on the Brooklyn Bridge, before she was stopped by the police.