It’s a sight some New Yorkers love to hate — renegade riders on ATVs and dirt bikes noisily careening through New York City neighborhoods. But some say there is a simple solution.
Longtime NYC dirt bike riders and community advocates are launching a new push to build a park where people can pop wheelies legally.
“Y’all don’t like that we’re riding bikes I guess recklessly, so I think the solution to that is us having a park,” said urban biker A$AP TyY.
He and another longtime rider, Benadon Benmore, first met with the I-Team in 2016 at an undisclosed street location where they showed off their extreme moves. Benmore, who has been arrested and had one bike confiscated, made it his mission to find legal places for BikeLifesports events.
“It was the argument that was saying like, if they build the park, people wouldn’t come because people want to show it on the streets,” Benmore said.
So far, Benmore has held 13 events on tracks from Upstate New York down to Georgia, drawing big crowds. He says those well-attended events defeat the argument that riders are just lawless criminals who want to rule the streets.
“All our riders for that day said, we’re going to go to the track, and we’re going to ride freely, without the hassle. It’s all about riding without the hassle,” Benmore told NBC New York. “So I proved to them that (riders) will come.”
The NYPD says it has been responding to complaints from every borough, and is offering a $100 reward for tips on illegal bike locations. So far in 2021, there have been 322 illegal vehicle seizures, along with 7,485 summonses issued.
“I think the NYPD is creating an outlaw mentality,” said Iesha Sekou, the Director for the non-profit group Street Corner Resources. “There’s this whole thing about, ‘We’re gonna get you’ — and with the bikers, ‘You’re not gonna get us.’”
Sekou is a Harlem community activist who has been battling to legitimize the urban sport for years
“It’s racism, stop skirting what is happening to Black and Latino males,” she said. “If they ride, and they ride in the street, they’re terrorizing the community. White boys go and ride on Long Island, they’re not terrorizing the community, you don’t hear anything about it. They ride the same damn dirt bikes.”
While Sekou says that building the park would create “create a safe space for the bikers to ride,” the idea hasn’t gotten much traction — much to the frustration of many riders.
“I ride bikes. I just want to ride the bike,” Benmore said. “I don’t want problems, I just want to ride.”
“It’s like we’re caught to just ride in the streets, this is all we have,” said A$AP TyY. “What you going to tell me? You ain’t gonna tell me nothing. I’m going to ride today, and I’m going to ride tomorrow.”
Bike advocates are hoping a new mayoral administration will be more receptive. In the meantime, BikeLifeSports continues to grow, as Benmore will be holding an event at a track in Upstate New York on July 25 and one in Atlanta on Aug. 1.