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article imageOp-Ed: Runner cited in Central Park

By Joe Duarte     Mar 2, 2014 in Odd News
New York - A Central Park incident is disturbing for runners, who often struggle with the rules of the road—do you run against traffic or with it? Can you cross against the light if you don’t affect traffic? Do you yield at stop signs regardless of right of way?
The incident happened to Peter Shankman, author, entrepreneur, speaker, consultant and founder of Help A Reporter Out (a quick source for journalists in search of experts’ quotes on deadline). Shankman was running in Central Park at 4:30 am when he was stopped by a police cruiser and slapped with a summons for exercising in the park when it was closed.
The reason Shankman was out that early, not that he needs a reason (as many runners will attest), is that he is training for an Ironman event and needed to squeeze in 10 miles. As a runner, I often gauge my time according to the distances required in my training, choosing an earlier or later time in order to use the roads at a time when there is less traffic. That is also the reason I often choose parks or other public trails that help me avoid vehicles of any sort.
The reason Shankman received the summons is that Central Park is “closed” (in spirit, if not with physical barriers) between 1 am and 6 am, so he was breaking curfew. In a Facebook post, Shankman refers to understanding closing the park to cut down on illegal clandestine activities, such as engaging in sexual acts for cash or drugs, or to lessen the chance of terrorist activity. But, he doesn’t consider a “215 pound man running through Central Park at just over a 9:10 pace a threat to Manhattan.”
Shankman told Gothamist (a network of city-centric blogs that focus on local news, events, food and culture) that he understands the reasoning behind being issued the summons, but finds it confusing because he wasn’t abusing the park past curfew but rather using it early for his own health benefits.
“I was trying to get in better shape—exactly the point of all the other (NYC) laws the last 12 years have seen, from no smoking in bars to no big gulps full of sugary sodas,” he told
He also found it troubling the police officer didn’t just explain the curfew and usher him out of the park to run on the city sidewalks (reportedly because he had his supervisor in the patrol car). Central Park has its own precinct, and some comments to Shankman’s post indicate that, like other precincts, Central Park police officers have to meet monthly citation goals (which by extension are more difficult to meet in the short month of February).
However, Shankman also told Gothamist that the police officer was completely professional: “I don’t think for a second that he was rude, or bullying, or anything like that.”
Comments on Shankman’s Imgur posting of the “ticket” ranged from support to disdain, with some of the latter suggesting park users need to be obedient of park rules, which are in place for general order and safety.
It should be noted that NYC park rules do allow for exceptions at the Commissioner’s discretion, but the person applying for a permit to circumvent park rules may be asked to post a bond or show proof of liability insurance before obtaining such a permit.
The incident may not be overly important in terms of general news, but it is bothersome to people who want to get healthy on a budget. Running has always been one of the least expensive and most welcome forms of exercise because just about everyone can do it with little investment (a good pair of shoes, appropriate clothing, a water belt, etc.).
If a runner can be cited for impeding little on society, such as running in a public park at a time when few others are about, how might that affect crossing an empty street mid-block or safely crossing an intersection against a “walk” signal?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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