Interview With a New York Bike-Lane Vigilante

Casey Neistat’s slapstick protest against the NYPD’s bicycle crackdown — a YouTube video in which he intentionally crashes into illegal bike-lane obstructions, including a cop car — looks harrowing, but he claims he escaped without a scratch.

“No bumps, no bruises,” he told Daily Intel. “I always thought of myself as an amateur stunt man.” He does seem quite good at falling.

Neistat got a $50 ticket for riding outside the bike lane a few weeks ago. After calling into The Brian Lehrer Show for a segment about the city’s cyclist crackdown, he was inspired to make the video, now a viral hit among bike advocates and the much larger online population of people who enjoy watching others fall down.

The legality of riding outside the bike lane is a bit murky. New York City regulations state: “Bicycle riders must use bike path/lane, if provided, except for access, safety, turns, etc.” As seen in the video, the “safety” exception is frequently necessary. And city regulations also ban “parking, standing or stopping vehicles within or otherwise obstructing bike lanes.”

Neistat, a documentary filmmaker with a show on HBO, says he is “a big advocate for bike safety,” although a YouTube video of him riding his bike through the Holland Tunnel to New Jersey suggests that his definition of the term probably doesn’t match up that well with actual traffic laws.

The video ends with Neistat colliding with a cop car parked in a bike lane. “We got out of there pretty quickly,” he said. Oh, and Casey: No helmet?

“I don’t really have a good response for that one,” he said. “I own four helmets but I’m not so good at putting them on.”


My question to the class is, how do you think social media can change court decisions when one uses it as evidence?  Also, we have seen entire regimes collapse via use of social media, but do you think social media can be an effective tool for people to protest smaller injustices?


2 thoughts on “Interview With a New York Bike-Lane Vigilante

  1. Your questions reminded me of an article I read awhile ago by Malcolm Gladwell where he talks about the role that social media does or does not play in social activism.

    (Here’s a link if anyone wants to check it out in full, pretty good:

    Basically he recognizes that social media is obviously affecting various social issues today in a way that would not be possible previously. But he also makes several good points against the actual effectiveness of social media when it comes to taking real action. It seems to me that some of his strikes against the use of social media in a large scale revolution could actually be pluses for social media use in smaller, more local issues.

    For example, Gladwell talks about how studies show that people within a social movement that have strong, personal ties to others in that movement are willing to risk much more for their cause. That is basically the opposite of what a social network is, which is a large group of people who do not know each other personally. Another issue that is brought up is the lack of hierarchy in a social media movement versus successful executed activism, such as the Civil Rights Movement. Hierarchy or structure gives a movement the ability to form strategy, assign duties, and hold people personally responsible for those duties. With social media there is a great deal of anonymity. ‘Liking’ a cause and standing on dangerous front lines against military forces are two very different things.

    With more local, less high-risk issues, however, I think that a social media site has the potential to be an pretty effective place for organizing a movement. If a core group of activists formed a Facebook group, for example, and invited only other people who they knew to be passionate about their cause, they could have a virtual location in which to meet and share information. The key would be to not invite just anyone who is interested. Perhaps a separate group or a Twitter feed could be used for the general population to share information or drum up support. But I still think the key to actually making a change, whether it be global or local, is having a core group of very passionate people who are willing to take significant risks for their cause.

  2. This is a really interesting article and video clip that really accentuates some of the absurdities that occur in Manhattan on a regular basis. The fact the this guy got pulled over for not riding in a bike lane is ridiculous in my opinion. The mere evidence that is seen in the Youtube clip further confirms that the entire concept of bike lanes in Manhattan just do not make any sense. The guy makes a compelling argument in which the cop does say “you have to stay in the bike lane no matter what,” but what are people to do when their are obstructions prohibiting riders from getting from point A to point B. Again, this ticket seems ridiculous. The Youtube video does make social media an interesting point of evidence in such instances, but the particular ticket received in this case was not seen in a social media context, Thus, whether or not he actually “deserved” this ticket is up to interpretation. However, i do see how social media can be used to further facilitate compelling arguments in a court setting. Whether or not social media will be viewed as substantial evidence for instances such as these or others in the future we will have to wait and see. In this case, i firmly believe if this ticket was presented in front of a judge, the judge would not sustain the ticket.

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