PHILADELPHIA - Young people riding bikes on Philly streets weaving in and out of traffic while doing stunts. It's not just a city thing. Police say it's also happening in the suburbs.
"Just driving down the road and they're riding in front of me lifting wheelies, giving me the finger, saying some curse words and I'm like really?" said Natalie McNish. It’s often referred to as "swerving". In Bensalem they call it "chicken". McNish says her neighborhood of Springdale Drive and Wexford Road in the Neshaminy section of town has been a hot spot.
"Riding bikes is one thing but playing chicken in traffic is not a good thing at all because if I hit them I'm responsible," she said. Shortly after school busses dropped off kids this particular afternoon kids on bikes began to surface meeting up with each other. This issue has been the talk of the town for few weeks so they spotted us and stayed away. They behaved but McNish says that hasn't been the norm.
"I see them up and down because I live right here. I'd say it's probably about 10 or 12 kids," she said.
Christine McCafferty has had run-ins with them too.
"Some of them won't get out of the way. I'll be at the stop sign down here by the basketball courts and they sort of just stay in front of you," she said.
Residents can find it on Facebook or the police department’s website. Just scroll down the post about ongoing bike issues and click where it says upload photos or videos and start your report. Director of Public Safety Fred Harran says the police department came up with this after getting increasing complaints from residents about unruly kids on bikes taking over neighborhoods around the township.
"If you do in Bensalem and someone takes your picture then smile because you’re on candid camera and you’re going to get a citation," said Harran. Since this initiative started Harran says they've begun to see a decrease in this activity.
They've put more uniformed and undercover police on this but a big part of it is neighbors helping.
"They see the police and obviously they take off running. We’re not chasing kids on bikes but this gives everybody an opportunity to be the eyes and ears of the police, take a picture safely and then download it so we don’t have to tie up a police officer going out there. And then we’ll send the kid a citation or reach out to their family," said Harran who adds there's only been one accident involving a car and a kid behaving badly on a bike and injuries were minor.
In recent weeks though police have mailed about eight citations. The fine can go from $25 to over $200. Harran showed us pictures someone uploaded to the police department's site along with a report and the biker was cited he says for weaving in traffic and driving in the middle of the road. Harran says school resources and D.A.R.E officers help identify the kids.
"The school resource officers will say I know who that kid is. That’s so and so because the same kids that are acting disorderly in the community are the same ones doing it at school," said Harran. While many neighbors support the crackdown others posted this on Facebook: "This has to be the dumbest idea ever. How many accidents are caused by bicycles vs. caused by motor vehicles?" And someone else posted, "The safety of the kids is important avoiding them from getting hit but wouldn't a more educational approach be the best? Some way of creating more respect between the drivers and the bikers instead of more rivalry?"
"It is tough because they are young. Some of them look really young. To me it's more of a parent issue," said McCafferty. Harran says while this isn't about criminal activity it's about getting kids to ride safely so no one gets into an accident or confronted by a driver who takes matters into their own hands.
"It's not about citing kids for riding their bicycles illegally. It's about preventing one of them from being hit by a car or some person maybe slams on their gas instead of their brake when a bicycle darts out," said Harran.
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