When Jasmijn Rijcken, the general manager of the VANMOOF bicycle company, traveled from Amsterdam to New York in late April, she was excited to see what she’d heard described as a city that had embraced bicycling. It wasn’t NYC’s new protected bike lanes that defined her ride through the city, however, but the New York Police Department, currently in the midst of a major crackdown against cyclists.
Rijcken was in town for the New Amsterdam Bike Show on April 30. After she had dismounted on Broadway in SoHo, an NYPD officer stopped, berated, and threatened to ticket Rijcken for wearing a skirt while cycling, which, it must be noted, is entirely legal and common. Rijcken says the officer told her that her skirt was dangerous because she would distract drivers and potentially cause them to crash.
“I was standing there next to my bike, looking at my map, and then this police guy stops and starts telling me about my skirt,” reported Rijcken. “At first I thought he was making a joke or maybe even a compliment, but then I found out he was serious because he got really mad.”
The officer got out of his car and threatened to ticket her, said Rijcken, even though, it bears repeating, there is no law against biking in a skirt. The justification for a potential ticket was the danger her exposed skin posed to everyone on the street. “That was the bottom line, that I was very dangerous,” said Rijcken. “I think every woman, even when walking in a skirt, would be dangerous then.”
According to Rijcken, the cop’s words were not merely an empty threat. He took her ID and only began to back down when he saw that she was Dutch. She hurriedly explained that in Amsterdam, it’s common for women to bike in skirts. In the end, the officer told her she should change into pants and let her go.
At the time, Rijcken said, she wasn’t sure that she hadn’t broken the law. “If you’re by yourself in a different country and a police guy comes really angrily at you, you get scared,” she said.
This is not the first time an NYPD officer has stopped cyclists for completely frivolous non-offenses. In April, a private school administrator received a ticket for biking with a tote bag on her handlebars. The police have not responded to a Streetsblog inquiry about Rijcken’s allegations.
Her harassment at the hands of the police has colored Rijcken’s perception of not only New York City but the United States. “I was shocked,” she said. “In Holland, people refer to America as the country of freedom.”