The Dog-Bicycle Conflict in Central Park

By Owen Diaz

In Central Park, dog owners and bicyclists have been getting in each other’s way, and the problem seems to be getting worse.

Under park rules, dogs are allowed to play off leash in 23 specified areas in the morning before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. So many dog owners go to the park early — but so do cyclists, many of whom prefer the early hours because there is less traffic in the park, and they want to exercise before they go to work.

Dogs off leash will occasionally dart into the 6.1-mile Park Drive that cyclists travel on, sometimes causing accidents.

Linda Wintner, who leads morning rides in the park for the New York Cycle Club, says she has been in one accident, witnessed another and seen many near-misses. Wintner says she was lucky because her accident occurred during her final lap, as she was traveling slower to cool down. Cyclists are not always without fault. The roadway, or “loop” as it is known, has traffic lights and crosswalks that many cyclists ignore. Amanda Lee, who walks her dog Arthur for an hour in the park every morning, says, “I try to wait for a break in the bikers to cross, but sometimes I’m standing there for minutes and one never comes. Then I just have to pick the best moment I can find, and go, often getting yelled at by a biker for doing so.”

What makes this conflict odd is how many members of both groups seem to agree on a solution for it. Since dogs are not going to the park to play on the paved loop, and cyclists are not allowed on the pathways through the rest of the park, the space where the two interact is a tiny percentage of the park. If the rules required dogs to be on leash when crossing the roadway—right now it is only suggested they be leashed—and bikers heeded the stoplights when people need to cross, fewer accidents would be likely to occur.