What to Know
State law prevents off-road bikes and ATVs from being registered for street use
Dirt bike riders say street riding is a highly skilled sport; police say it's illegal and dangerous
Proponents say they want a designated park to ride their dirt bikes; top police officials say that won't stop illegal biking in the city
The NYPD says it is cracking down on illegal dirt bikes: Seizures are up 52 percent over last year, with 1,817 off-road bikes and ATVs confiscated around the city as of late October, according to police officials.
But bikers claim their numbers are on the rise. They say street riding is a highly skilled sport just like extreme skateboarding that should be accepted as legitimate. Some riders have hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram.
The I-Team spoke exclusively with two bikers about why they ride.
“It’s a rush,” said ASAP TyY, who is also a rap artist.
Dirt Bikers Fight for Right to 'Extreme Sport' as NYPD Cracks Down on Illegal Riding
Benadon, also known as Benmore, said, “It’s a skill. It’s a sport. What we’re doing now has never been done before.”
For months, the I-Team gathered biker videos that show riders careening through the streets of New York City, on highways and over bridges. Some can be seen openly taunting cops in a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.
Terrified pedestrians and drivers are often forced to duck for cover.
"They come out of nowhere," said Harlem resident Jazmine Velez. "You know, people could get hurt.”
Daniel Camacho, also from Harlem, thinks the bikers are a menace.
“Who is going to expect a dirt bike to jump in front of you when you’re driving in the city?” he said. “You could swerve to the right, to the left, and you could hit somebody.”
New York state law prevents off-road bikes and ATVs from registration for street use. And the NYPD showcased its own stunt in late spring, crushing a pile of confiscated dirt bikes and ATVs.
Bikers like ASAP TyY say their lifestyle gets a bad rap.
"Why are we only seeing the bad things to this bike life stuff?" he said. "What about the people who like it? What about the people I talk to across the worlds, all the new friends and all the people I’ve met?"
Filmmaker Edward Harris spent four and a half years with riders in New York, Baltimore, Florida and Atlanta. His documentary "1Dream2Ride" is due out next year.
"You have to say, why is this a phenomenon?" Harris said. "When I first saw it, I was like, 'Oh, my God.' Then it scared me. And then I was like, this isn’t one or two guys. You’re talking about thousands of riders. So, it’s not just like, we get rid of these 5,000 people, then it’s going to be squashed."
He said he believes the answer is to give the bikers a place to ride, with bleachers, so fans could watch.
Benmore told the I-Team he has been pushing the city to give riders a park for years.
“No one’s talking about a park. Everyone is talking about how illegal this action is," he said. "What about the park? What about the space? Why can’t we have a conversation."
New NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill told the I-Team he doesn’t buy the argument that a park would contain bikers.
“The people we’re involved with, the groups that we’re involved with, the people that we take law enforcement action against, I’m not sure those are the people giving that reason for why they ride illegally in New York City,” O'Neill said.
Harris said he believes that street riding will evolve into a legitimate extreme sport with corporate sponsors. But in the meantime, riders show no sign of slowing down.
ASAP TyY said he’ll ride wherever he wants until there’s a designated place for him to do so.
“I’m going to do what I do,” he said.