A hospital worker who became known as the ‘CitiBike Karen’ has broken her silence after she was condemned online for a fierce confrontation with a group of black teenagers.
Sarah Comrie, 36, was seen in viral footage in May in a hostile back-and-forth over a CitiBike near Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, which she now claims erupted after she was ambushed by the high schoolers.
Speaking with New York Times columnist Pamela Paul in a supportive article titled ‘Don’t Call Her Karen’, Comrie said she only unlocked the bike for a moment before she was swarmed by the teens, who she claims harassed and cursed her out.
One of the teenagers disputed this after the footage sparked furious debate online, claiming Comrie stole the bike from him after he docked it for only five minutes to avoid paying higher toll rates.
Paul leapt to the hospital workers’ defense in her column as she criticized the backlash directed at Comrie, who has been placed on leave from Bellevue Hospital and faced death threats and doxxing online due to her ‘Karen’ label.
Sarah Comrie, pictured here tussling with the bike in the viral footage, has claimed she already paid for the CitiBike before she was ambushed by the teens
The hospital worker was defended in a recent New York Times column titled ‘Don’t Call Her Karen’
Comrie said the confrontation came after she had just finished a 12-and-a-half-hour shift, and she decided to use an E-bike on doctors’ orders because she was pregnant and had a uterine infection.
CitiBikes are a popular bike sharing service available in many major American cities, where users undock bikes and E-bikes using an app.
The hospital worker claims that she approached a boy leaning on one of the bikes and asked if it was taken, and was told it was. This led her to take the bike next to him, and scan its QR code to unlock it.
CitiBike receipts show she rented the bike at 7:24pm, but seconds later she says she heard a voice call out: ‘Hey, that’s my bike.’
The next thing she knew, Comrie says she was surrounded by a group of teenagers, who repeated that it was their bike despite her paying and unlocking it moments before.
While trying to explain that she had just rented the bike, she says one of the other high schoolers started becoming more hostile towards her. As tensions heated up, she says several of the teens then grabbed the bike and aggressively shoved it back into the docking station, automatically re-locking it.
One of the young men physically blocked her from rescanning the QR code, she claims, before using his own phone to pay for the bike instead.
Comrie said the escalating situation led her to yell for help, which is when she says one of the teenagers began recording on his phone in footage that subsequently went viral.
The receipt for Comrie’s ride showed she had rented the bike for only a matter of seconds as she wasn’t charged for the ride
The documents show that the ride was ultimately canceled, and she wasn’t charged, before booking another bike minutes after the incident
Footage of the incident opened with Comrie already in a furious exchange with the group, and one of the teens is heard telling her that he is recording the situation.
She is heard screaming for help, saying: ‘Help! Help me! Please help me!’ While one of the men offscreen, tells her: ‘This is not your bike.’
The hospital employee then cries out for help again, and asks the man to ‘please get off.’
She then takes off her hospital badge in an apparent effort to hide her identity, as one of the men could be heard asking her: ‘You know you’re not getting this bike?’
Comrie screams for help again and tries to get onto the rental bike, before swiping the man’s phone.
‘Why are you taking his phone?’ one of the man’s friends asks her. ‘What’s wrong with you? Do not touch his phone, do not touch his phone,’ he tells the hospital employee.
Comrie then tells the man that he’s ‘hurting my unborn baby,’ to which the man replies: ‘You put your stomach on my hand.’
The hospital worker was seen bursting into tears at that point, although the high schoolers thought she was faking and accused her of crocodile tears.
She then continues to climb onto the bike, hysterical with tears, as her coworker suggests they just ‘reset the bike.’ Comrie then steps off the bike and apparently stops crying as she pulls out her phone. ‘Not a tear came down miss,’ the friend says as the video ends.
In the video, Comrie could be seen screaming for help as well as warning the men that she was pregnant
Comrie could even be seen crying in the video as she hopped onto the disputed bike
Comrie’s version of events comes months after one of the teenagers, named only as Michael, told Newsone that the bike was his, but he docked it for a few minutes to avoid paying higher fees.
He didn’t dispute that she had booked the bike at 7:24pm, but says he pulled up to the hospital docking station at 7:19pm and locked the bike in for five minutes before Comrie appeared.
Michael added that the fact he was standing by the bike before intending to book it out again makes him the ‘rightful owner’ at the time Comrie booked it.
Due to his family receiving benefits, he said he gets a discount on Citi Bike rides but after 45 minutes the rate on the bikes increases. In order to avoid the higher charge, he said he frequently stops his rides and resets the clock by re-docking the bike.
‘I use the bikes to get to and from school. If I’m traveling anywhere in the city, even if it’s from here to Brooklyn, my first option is Citi Bike,’ he said.
‘It’s my preferred mode of transport. It’s like my car. I can’t say that all of this is not affecting me.’
On the day of the incident, May 12th, Michael and four other teenagers rode bikes from the Bronx to Harlem at 5:53pm, then to the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Receipts shared on Newsone show his travel from his native Bronx to Harlem, and then from Harlem to the Lowest East Side, stopping outside the Bellevue.
Receipts also show that he had pulled up to the hospital at 7:19pm, with Comrie’s receipt showing she had started to use the bike at 7:24pm. Receipts then show it docked a minute later, when Comrie says the bike was aggressively shoved back into the station.
At 7:25pm Michael then started using the bike, his receipt shows, and finished his trip at 7:31pm when he redocked it again outside the hospital.
He insists that they never left the bikes unattended and that four of his friends had been sitting on their bikes as they rested but he was standing next to his.
A roughly 90 second video of the incident was posted on TikTok and Twitter shows Comrie arguing with the man outside of New York City’s Bellevue Hospital (pictured)
After Comrie’s lawyer first opposed Michael’s version of events last month, Michael said he has seen a disturbing change in attitude towards him.
‘At first, I felt supported. It was like I went through this thing, people saw the video of it, and they were supporting me. When those receipts got released, everything flipped,’ he said.
‘People started calling me a ‘thief,’ a ‘thug,’ and a ‘Black man.’