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Babylon Village looks to crack down on reckless bicycle riding

A public hearing on Aug. 13 at Babylon

A public hearing on Aug. 13 at Babylon Village Hall will consider a law to allow village code enforcement officers to impound the bike of anyone under 16 riding recklessly. Credit: T.C. McCarthy

To curb what they call “reckless and dangerous” bike riding among youths who intentionally block traffic and antagonize drivers, Babylon Village officials are weighing a law that would allow code enforcement officers to confiscate bicycles.

Residents have complained to officials and on social media about the reckless riding, saying young bicyclists block traffic with some  playing chicken — approaching a vehicle head-on and swerving at the last minute. 

The Babylon mayor and trustees scheduled a public hearing Aug. 13 to consider a law to allow village code enforcement officers to impound the bike of anyone under 16 riding recklessly, call their parents and later return the bike.

The 15 code enforcement officers currently can only write violations for disorderly conduct for those older than 16, village attorney Gerard Glass said. The proposed law would give those officers a new approach in dealing with minors by impounding bikes. Those older than 16 who are issued violations could be fined up to $250 and/or imprisoned up to 15 days if found guilty of "reckless or uncontrolled operation," according to the bill.

“We’re crossing into some new territory,” Glass said. “This is aimed at reckless operation of a bicycle. We’re not looking to hit some neighborhood kids with tickets.”

He emphasized that he doesn’t see the village fining many people.

“The objective is to educate, not fine,” Glass said. “The objective is to make sure the parents know what's going on.”

He described the target as youths on bikes “marauding and threatening village residents by circling their car, or riding wheelies three abreast down Main Street.”

Insp. Kevin Kane, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Department’s First Precinct, said he has spoken to village officials about the issue, which police have seen elsewhere in Suffolk County with complaints of bicyclists having “commandeered” the road, Kane said.

He said in the past, police have worked with school resource officers when they got word of a planned “rideout” that was posted on social media. In some cases, police and school officials have prevented the gatherings, which Kane said is a scenario better than prosecuting after the fact.

Police can arrest and charge someone with reckless endangerment, including juveniles, he noted.

“Cyclists are subject to the rules of the road and traffic law,” he said.

“A lot of it is education” for parents who may not know their children are participating in such activities, Kane said.

He said Suffolk Police supports Babylon Village’s move.

“We’re in favor of anything that can add to our toolbox,” he said.

He cautioned drivers encountering what he also referred to as “flash mobs” not to “engage anyone on a bicycle … but to safely observe and report. These people may be subject to arrest.”

The Babylon Village public hearing will be at 7 p.m. at Village Hall, 153 W Main St., Babylon.

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