Lawbreaking motorcyclists targeted by LI cops

Suffolk County Highway Patrol Sgt. George Hodge inspects

Suffolk County Highway Patrol Sgt. George Hodge inspects seven motorcycle helmets owned by bikers who were arrested along the eastbound LIE near exit 64 in Medford, N.Y. All seven were charged with reckless driving. (Oct. 14, 2013) (Credit: James Carbone)

Police are cracking down on individual motorcyclists and "pack riders" who race and break other traffic laws across Long Island.

From the Long Island Expressway to Sunrise Highway, the Northern and Southern state parkways and other stretches of road, these cyclists, often steering powerful bikes, are turning highways into personal racecourses, police and residents say.

"We're out there, and when we see motorcyclists presenting a danger, we will stop them," said Sgt. Lou Dini, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police highway patrol bureau's motorcycle unit. "This is unsafe."


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Reckless motorcyclists have come under renewed scrutiny from law enforcement agencies in the metropolitan area following a string of highly publicized incidents, including the arrests of seven bikers on the LIE in Farmingville last Monday and a Sept. 29 road rage incident in which police say a pack of motorcyclists chased down and beat an SUV driver on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan.

Dangerous motorcycle driving abounds in other areas as well, police and residents say.

Along Ocean Parkway near Jones Beach, numerous residents say they routinely see bikers driving more than 100 mph, racing other bikers as well as sports cars. Elmont residents say they have seen bikers racing on the Cross Island Parkway near Belmont Park.

Neighbors fed up

Police say they've seen an increase in aggressive motorcycle driving over the past decade or so because of the influx of imports that are faster and more powerful than they were before.

Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said late-night motorcycle racing regularly disturbs residents living near the Northern State Parkway.

"It definitely affects their quality of life," said Cavallaro, who has asked State Police to investigate the racing.

Steven Donohue, an electrician from Wantagh, said the sounds of racing motorcyclists on Ocean Parkway near Jones Beach keep him up late several nights a week.

"I see them flying down the parkway like bats out of hell," said Donohue, 56. "This isn't the Hells Angels we're talking about here. It's just a bunch of young people on very fast bikes driving at very dangerous speeds, and it's making people in this neighborhood nuts."

Elmont resident Janice Molinari, who lives about a half-mile from Belmont Park, said she was "terrified" by speeding motorcyclists who cut her off on the Cross Island on Oct. 10 near Exit 26B.

"I see them riding in packs on my evening commute home, weaving in and out of traffic, going insanely fast," Molinari said. "They're not only risking their lives. They're risking the lives of responsible drivers unlucky enough to be in their immediate area."

State Police, who patrol state roads, say they continuously work to prevent reckless motorcycle riding and enforce traffic laws. The Nassau Police Department said it, too, will stop any riders seen breaking the law.

"When an officer sees a motorcyclist commit a violation, he/she will take appropriate police action," Nassau Police Det. Vincent Garcia said in an email.

Some motorcycle riders in Nassau and Suffolk say they are being unfairly maligned by the public and police because of the recent, high-profile biker busts.

"I follow the law on the road, and yet I'm getting pulled over now, whereas I rarely have in the past," said Robert Gonzalez, 33, of Hauppauge, who rides a Yamaha motorcycle. "The police got me for going 10 miles over the limit the other day. They have really been turning up the heat . . . but those of us who ride safely shouldn't be lumped in with those maniacs who do 100 and chase people."

Busted biker: Lesson learned

Dan Hester, a former amateur motorcycle racer, said a biker's adrenaline can lead to speeding.

"It's easy to lose track of your speed, if you're not careful," said Hester, 64, of Huntington, who still rides with friends on occasion. "When that adrenaline starts pumping, you don't necessarily realize how fast you're going. And that's more common now because of the production of all these fast bikes that are getting . . . cheaper, lighter and faster every year."

One of the seven motorcyclists arrested on the LIE Monday in Farmingville said he and his friends had "learned our lesson."

"Believe me, that was enough to slow everybody down," said the motorcyclist, who spoke to Newsday on the condition his name not be used. "You get on the open road out east, the traffic thins out and it's fun to push your bike. We just got a little carried away."

In the Suffolk incident, highway patrol officers cited the motorcyclists and impounded their bikes after they drove 90 mph in and out of traffic, police said.

Dini said many motorists who passed the pulled-over motorcycles honked their horns at police in approval and gave a thumbs up.

"They were pleased," he said.


Recent incidents

Sept. 29

An SUV driver on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan is assaulted by a group of motorcyclists. Alexian Lien, 33, was driving a Range Rover on the parkway in Washington Heights and trying to escape bikers who had surrounded his vehicle after it apparently struck one of the motorcycles. At least seven motorcyclists have been arrested in connection with the assault.

Oct. 14

Highway patrol officers arrest seven motorcyclists and impound their bikes after they allegedly drove 90 mph in and out of traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

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