Central Park Etiquette by Sue Hitzmann

As a native New Yorker I feel it’s my obligation after returning from a rollerblade in the divine Central Park, to write a blog about Central Park Etiquette.

For those of you who have never been here, I must say it’s a city anyone should experience a few times over a lifetime. It’s not to be missed. If you do come or are planning to in the future, I truly believe Central Park should not be missed, especially in the warm months when you can really spend an entire day hiking about in the deep trails or simply taking a walk around its perimeter.

Before I left, I MELTed my hands and feet and drank about 10 oz of water. After two loops I called it quits on the last day of Memorial Day Weekend and there are a LOT of people not paying attention on the main roadway of the park today.

I saw so many acts of sheer non-sensible actions I’m going to use my GoPro next week so I can video what it is I see on my blades cruising around the park.

To give you a little topography of the park for general reference, Central Park's 843 acres include 136 acres of woodlands, 250 acres of lawns, and 150 acres of water in seven different bodies including the reservoir in the middle of the park between roughly 81st St and 100th St. 

The Park's 6-mile perimeter extends from Central Park West to Fifth Avenue and 59th Street to 110th Street and is a 6-mile loop. The east and west sides are about 2.5 miles in length and the top and bottom (110thand 59thstreets are about a half mile wide).

If you do decide to ride, blade, run, or walk around the park roads, here’s a few tips to help you not cause or become a part of an accident:

If you are riding a bike on a weekend day or a holiday, here are my top tips:

  1. There is a direction of traffic when you are on a bike. That would be counterclockwise. So you will ride up the east side of the park going north and down the west side going south. Riding against the flow is not only dangerous, you could be sited with a parks ticket, which I believe is a $50 fine.
  2. Don’t make sudden U-Turns without actually looking behind you first and try your best to ride in a straight line.
  3. When riding with multiple people, ride two by two at maximum. Don’t make a human barricade from left to right. It’s not only dangerous, it pisses the NYC bikers off a lot and they will scream at you, perhaps physically push you while blazing past you. Trust me, I’ve seen it occur.
  4.  If you are letting your child ride a bike on the main roadway, do us all a favor and use some common sense. A child should be riding to the inside perimeter of the road and you, the parent should be slightly behind and slightly wider than they are so they are in voice distance as you tell them how great they are doing riding in a straight line. That way if they happen to lose control of their bike the only person they might injure is your or themselves. Neither of you will sue the other but other riders who get taken down at the sheer fact you let your kid ride a bike on the weekend in the busiest park of all of NYC.
  5. Especially on the weekends, the stoplights apply to bike riders. So if you come upon a RED light that means physically STOP if there are pedestrians in the walk way. Even if you don’t see anyone in the walkway, at the very least slow down and YIELD a bit because kids frequently will come out of nowhere and suddenly be running across the street. This is just common sense be even today I saw at least 30 bike riders just plow through the walkways with pedestrians in the middle. If you are a native New Yorker, or you actually live here and you are the ones with no common sense to yield or stop, you should move out of the city because the rest of us New Yorkers find you annoying.

If you decide to walk or run around the park:

  1. You can go in either direction but stay to the far inside curve of the roadway. That’s for running and walking and you can do either in either direction. Just be nice to those moving faster than you or in the opposite direction and use a little common sense. Think of your body like a car. Stay to the right when driving one in the USA. If you are from another country, this may take some getting used to but even runners will plow into you if you don’t pay attention.
  2. If you are with your kid, you should actually put them on a small leash or hold their hand because I’ve seen too many kids just run randomly across the street, and I mean 3 year-olds. Seriously it’s bad when a kid goes down because the bikers may or may not stop afterwards.
  3. Cross the street in the designated walkways. It’s not only dangerous to walk wherever you feel like you want to, again, bikers and bladers will scream at you and perhaps throw water or an object at you while you scurry between them.
  4. Don’t cross the street if the light isn’t green. This is again is common sense, folks but if you get hit by a biker and the light wasn’t green on your side, YOU are responsible for the accident. If they hit you when the light is green on your side, well, you get to take that dude to court and in NYC, you would win that case with no question.
  5. Don’t let your kids play with a ball on the roadway. I’m mentioning this because I watch two parents watching their two kids kick a ball between them down the road until one kicked it and the other missed it and it rolled out in front of bikers just today and nearly took the guy down.

Some other simple things I’d request from people in the park is don’t litter. Don’t spit your gum out on the street, don’t throw your wrappers on the grass or leave your leftover food on the ground, and please, could you smokers stop throwing the butts on the ground? There are these things called rats and Central Park is filled with them so let’s keep them in the bushes and out of the areas where humans like to be. And for the rest of the junk you all leave behind, it’s just wrong to do that.

I’ve lived here for almost 24 years and each summer I see accidents that could be avoided. I’ve worked on dozens of people who got injured riding, blading, and even walking in the park. Let’s all use our common senses and work together to have a safe summer in Central park. Be alert and enjoy!

I did a full-body MELT and enjoyed the rest of this perfect Memorial Day. Thank you to our veterans and active troops for all you do to protect and serve this beautiful country.

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