On Monday, cyclist message boards lit up with outrage over the story of a woman who was arrested after supposedly running a red light on her bicycle on Amsterdam Avenue. But it turns out the truth is actually more outrageous: Christina Thede, the cyclist in question, tells us she didn't run a red light at all. Her crime? Criticizing a plainclothes cop who nearly doored her.
Thede, a 28-year-old theater technician on the Upper West Side, tells us she was biking home on Sunday around 6 p.m. when the driver's side door of a double parked black car popped open suddenly on Amsterdam between 76th and 77th Streets. "I had to brake so abruptly that a delivery biker behind me ran into me," says Thede. "I had a verbal exchange with the driver in which I told him to watch what he was doing." Then she rode on, but soon realized that the guy had gotten back into his car and was zooming up behind her. She still had no idea this man was an officer of the law, and the situation devolved from there:
He was driving after me and I was scared. He kept slowing down alongside me, so I cut all the way over to the left lane. But he angrily skidded to a stop in front of me, pulling his car perpendicular to traffic in the left lane. Then I got off my bike and tried to walk my bike onto the sidewalk because I wasn't going to run out into traffic. That's when he grabbed the back of my bike and started pulling it.
He didn't say he was a cop and I thought, 'This guy's crazy, he's attacking me!' I screamed for help and he started restraining my arms and holding me so I couldn't move. People on the street stopped and started asking him what he was doing. I did not hear him say he was a police officer or see any indication he was a police officer, so I was terrified. Then an NYPD squad car arrived and my initial thought was that they were going to save me from this guy; I figured the bystanders had called 911.
But instead of handcuffing her assailant, they slapped the cuffs on Thede, and that's when she realized that it was a policeman who had chased her. "I asked one of the police officers who was telling me to calm down if this guy and the passenger in his car were really cops," Thede recalls. "And she confirmed that they were from the Central Park precinct. I overheard a bystander say, 'I think she ran a red light.' But that's not true. "He was hotheaded and couldn't take someone telling him what he did was wrong so he needed to come after me and teach me a lesson."
Thede was charged with reckless operation of a bicycle and disorderly conduct, and spent about an hour at the local precinct station house. During that time, the cop who arrested her, one "Sgt. Santiago" according to the summons, tried to justify the arrest. Thede says, "He told me that when I went around the door of his car to continue, that that was reckless because I was going into traffic. He maintained that I wasn't allowed to swerve around. But I came to a complete stop, exchanged words with him, then rode around his still-opened door. He said he arrested me because he was concerned for his safety."We're waiting to hear back from the NYPD on this, but Thede's lawyer believes the tickets will be dismissed, and she's considering suing the city.