By: Ephraim Crystal  | 

Motorcycle Races in the Heights: A Danger Not to be Ignored

When I first witnessed a drag race down Amsterdam Ave. late one Friday night a few months ago, I must confess that I enjoyed it. With dozens of loud, unmuffled cars taking up both sides of the street, violently swerving around each other, and harshly screeching around corners, it was quite a sight to behold. However, having now seen — and heard — multiple motorbike races, which have been growing in frequency as the weather gets warmer, I have come to see that street racing, though sometimes entertaining, is almost always a public nuisance and even a danger to the community.

On a practical level, the noise generated by motorcycle gangs multiple times per day can be extremely distracting. This has disturbed my davening, Zoom classes and sleep. Other students share this sentiment. For example, Ezra Emerson (SSSB ‘23) expressed to me that he recently tuned into his Zoom class from outside and tried to contribute to the class discussion, but his professor, as a result of the motorcycles roaring down Amsterdam, couldn’t hear him and even muted him.

But more significantly, these motorcyclists present an incredible danger to the Washington Heights neighborhood that must not be ignored. They often drive much faster than the speed limit and ignore red lights on a near consistent basis. On more than one occasion, I have seen motorcyclists swerve around pedestrians that were trying to cross the street. Frustrated drivers trying to turn onto Amsterdam are forced to wait for their own safety even though they have the right of way. This is an accident waiting to happen. As Baruch Lerman (YC ‘23) noted, “there are small children walking around the campus area at almost all times. How long is it until one of these less skilled motorcyclists accidentally runs into one?”

While there is no straightforward solution to this problem, there are some obvious steps that can be taken. I propose that the NYPD — which surely knows about this issue by now, as the motorcyclists intentionally draw attention to themselves — should increase patrols around Amsterdam Ave. in the afternoon and early night hours. Additionally, traffic cameras can be installed in order to efficiently identify and apprehend the perpetrators.

It is important to note that neither this issue nor these suggestions are new. Last year, a letter signed by multiple people including Rabbi Dr. Berman, president of Yeshiva University, Rabbi Josh Kahn, head of school of the Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA), and several local store owners, was sent to the New York City Department of Transportation with similar proposals, including the creation of speed humps and enforcement of existing regulations that limit traffic to busses and local deliveries at certain hours, similar to the new regulations introduced for 181st Street on April 26 this year. The letter seems to have been ignored, as these changes have yet to be implemented. The situation thus remains unsafe and needs to be addressed.

I do not envy the role of the police; I don’t claim to know what an officer should do when faced with a pack of reckless motorists numbering in the tens. However, I do believe these simple steps can help.

Hopefully, in the near future, this issue will be resolved and Amsterdam Ave. will be a safer street for law-abiding drivers and pedestrians alike. But for now, I’d recommend making sure to look both ways before crossing the street — even when you have the right of way.


Photo Caption: A motorcyclist swerves around pedestrians that clearly have the walk signal.

Photo Credit: Ephraim Crystal