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Crackdown update

Here are the latest developments in the NYPD’s crackdown on cyclists.

On my way into work today I read a fairly horrifying tweet…

Can this be? $270.00? Right in my neighborhood?

Recently, in the dead of winter, when bicycles are prevailing even with un-plowed streets and cars being abandon during the snowpocolypse, the NYPD has decided to sort through their list of priorities and issue a “fatwa” against illegal cycling.

The NY POST reported on this on the 7th of January, a news organization that has always been a champion of cyclists hate speak such as this article from Steve Cuozzo whining about how the city plowed bike lanes while certain car roadways weren’t touched. He also called us: “Mayor Bloomberg’s favorite class of commuters: maniacs and deliverymen on two wheels.” Seems fair and balanced.

Well even though the tourists love our less car centric initiatives and cycling has increased, the bikers reward seems to come with a price. According to the POST, the NYPD’s Manhattan crackdown is being extended to parts of Brooklyn, which have seen the largest increase in bicycle traffic.

The Post went onto say in this article, according to police in Williamsburg, that this is “prolonged enforcement– not a crackdown with quotas.”

Of course don’t forget the NYPD statement that came out issued in Manhattan was just 24 hours after the city had lost a major case against Critical Mass and had to pay out over $900,000. Sour grapes or a focused effort to respond to numerous complaints by NYC citizens? You decide.

Meanwhile, Gothamist reports, according to the NYPD “bicycle riders will be ticketed for often-overlooked “vehicular offenses, such as failing to obey traffic signals and signs, breaking the speed limit, tailgating, and even failure to signal before turning.” Not exactly sure how a cyclist can break the speed limit…what is the speed limit for bicycles and tailgating?

I am for enforcement of cyclists breaking the law for such things as riding on the sidewalk and going the wrong way down a one-way, but this may be a case of careful what you wish for, like asking the Hells Angels to do security at your rock concert. (Altamont)

I did get to speak out on this a bit in an interview with 1010WINZ, John Montone which can be found here.

Along with fellow bloggers Brooklyncyclist.com and brooklynbybike.com we gave a few sound bites expressing our opinions about such things as expecting bikers to stop at every red light seems a bit of a stretch, like asking people not to jaywalk.

Judging from reports coming in, it seems as if this NYPD crackdown is less concerned with the safety of the streets and more about continuing a long standing pattern of intimidation.

Streetsblog.org reported today of one such incident where a cyclists was ticketed for making a right turn on red into an auto-free Central park for his afternoon ride.

This has stirred up much debate, dividing people into two camps: those defending the changes the city has made to create space for bikers and those venting just how much they can’t stand those on two wheels.

I especially appreciate the comments left here including this one from Angel Fernandez, who discovered my blog through the 1010WINZ story:

“Biker Brothers,

This is simply an attempt by Bloomberg to raise more money for the city. We know the city is strapped and that precinct captains are pushing quotas for parking tickets and moving violations.

Make no mistake, if we don’t respond by increasing pressure on drivers, we will suffer setbacks on the significant progress made. Its ironic this admin has really promoted bike use, only to then regulate and fine.

Drivers obstruct bike lanes, pedestrians limit the speed of travel on new designs that place bike lanes between parked cars and sidewalks.

Riding among cars and being allowed to cross on red lights is not only part of our bike culture, it’s “American”. I just returned from Mexico, and I can tell you the culture there is much slower because they are afraid of cars.

What’s exceptional about New York is we are not afraid of traffic. If we give up ground, we will only make ourselves vulnerable to more and more rules – defeating the purpose.”

All of this seems to emphasize a huge disconnect between Mayor Bloomberg’s DOT which has been paving the way for people to ride bikes and the NYPD who wants to “crackdown” on the ridership.

I personally believe the priority of traffic enforcement should be ordered upon the vehicles which can cause the most damage…like a 15 passenger van critically injuring a toddler in a hit and run.

6 comments to Crackdown update

  • Gordon

    I think posts like this one give off a bad vibe from the biking community. I am an avid city-cyclist, and I wholeheartedly agree that our city’s police force would be better used enforcing the law on the more dangerous drivers. I also understand that you aren’t saying that cyclists shouldn’t be exempt from the law, but I don’t believe that point comes through well enough. When you start complaining about the crackdown, I can’t help but honestly cringe. Fine, that rider got charged a large amount for running a red. You simply cannot argue, though, that it wasn’t a lawfully and rightfully given ticket.

    Also, that argument that running red lights is “American” bike culture is awful, frankly. Even if it IS true, are you really proud to say that breaking the law and potentially harming pedestrians is culture that should be upheld??? What it comes down to is that the law is the law and it is supposed to be obeyed. Don’t get me wrong, I think cyclists running the occasional red light is nothing compared to the hazards of reckless drivers. But I feel posts like this shine a bad light on us. If the public and government view us as law-skirting, we’ll have a much harder time making our case for biking in the city. What we should be focusing on is not how innocent we are—because we’re really not—but how big of a problem drivers and many pedestrians are. I hope I clearly expressed my point.

  • rich

    this evening i watched as cabs drove along in bike lanes. while in my car. most driver’s don’t have a care for other drivers let alone cyclists. Bloomberg has had a “how dare you” attitude since the Republican National Convention, and a particular vendetta against anything involving pedals since then. He’s less concerned about the citizens living in the 5 boroughs than he is his bottom line and his perceived shot at the presidency.

    Cyclists are not the issue here. A government that doesn’t serve it’s constituency on the local level is. Cycling is better for one’s personal health as well as the health of the environment. And with the MTA’s inability to operate without lying (see it’s most recent fabrication of safety inspections) bicycles may very well be the only reliable mode of transportation in this city.

    I own a car and I drive, but I try to do so with regard to both pedestrians and cyclists. I wonder how many do the same.

  • Piper

    Gordon, you’re missing the point: Bikes are not cars or pedestrians, so how can they be held to the same laws? What’s more, when was the last time you heard of a crackdown on jaywalking in NYC? Just a couple of days ago I saw a biker thrown off her bike as she tried to make a left turn onto lafayette from houston (she had the green), and some pedestrians walked out from behind a construction blockade. The walkers were fine, not even a scratch, but the biker had to be helped out of the street as she limped toward the curb and another onlooker picked up her bike. The bikesnob was right to point out that inconsiderate jerks are inconsiderate jerks, whether they’re walking, riding or driving, and they won’t look before they enter an intersection. So, in order for any kind of enforcement to be effective and seen as fair, it has to be enforced across the board–because its just as illegal for pedestrians to wait to the cross the street a couple of feet into the intersection as it is for a biker to wait for the light to change in the crosswalk. That being said, I would take the bikesnob’s analysis one step further, because I don’t think it is reasonable to categorize bikes as equivalent to cars in the eyes of the law, BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT CARS. As described by wikipedia, the factors that encourage cycling (and therefore make it safer by getting more cyclists on the road, which makes them more visible) reinforce each other. Just a few of these factors are terrain, infrastructure, culture, etc. An important part of the infrastructure to reinforce and promote safe biking is legal infrastructure: an established system (precedent, if you will) for dealing with conflicts between the various ways people get around. Right now, that doesn’t exist in NYC. Rather, as I mentioned before, bikers get lumped into one category or the other depending on who/what the opposition is. Clearly, this makes no sense.

    Yes, you’re right to say that its just as illegal for a bike to run a red light, and we should held accountable for those indiscretions–IF YOU’RE THINKING OF BIKES AS CARS. But, bikes are not cars, they’re bikes! So, yes, it is perfectly reasonable for us bikers to get pissed off, and as a matter of fact, it would be absurd for us not to! We live in a democracy, getting pissed off and making something an issue is how change happens (or, at least thats how its supposed to work). Its ridiculous for you to say that we shine a bad light on ourselves by standing up for ourselves if for no other reason than that its been demonstrated time and again that if we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one else will!

  • Gordon

    Piper, you’re missing MY point. Anyone with an ounce of intelligence will agree that a crackdown on drivers would provide for a safer NYC than a crackdown on cyclists. I also believe that cyclists should undoubtedly stand up and call attention to this. The way I think this post approaches the crackdown, though, is not in highlighting the danger of cars but highlighting the supposed injustice towards the bikers. I believe this gives the public the idea that cyclists are selfish, caring more about the “injustices” imposed on them than the eventual safety of our city.

    Take the “horrifying” Twitter quote, for example. Do you really believe that police enforcing the law is HORRIFYING?? It is not in the least! It is simply police enforcing the law. Would it be a better use of their time enforcing the law on cars? Undeniably. But calling it “horrifying” gives off the impression that cyclists have no regard for the law. Similarly to what you said, in order to promote cycling, we need a study legal precedent. To do that, we need people to realize that we respect the law, and calling it “horrifying” definitely doesn’t show them that.

    I was considering responding to each point you made, but you so misunderstood what I was saying that it would be better for you to reread my comment.

  • Joe

    I got one of these last year. 230 dollars. But what they do not tell you is that you don’t have to pay the whole ticket. I got napped running a red in rush hour in manhattan. usually a 110 dollar ticket. they added on all this bullshit that the cop or the ticket doesn’t tell you that if you are bicyclist you are not forced to pay.

  • Piper

    Gordon: Yes, it can be argued that it was not a lawfully issued ticket. Cyclists aren’t arguing that they should be exempt from the law, as you’re interpreting the situation. What’s more, how else but selfish should we act? Should we really sit back and say, “Yea, ok, you’re right, in the interest of increasing the sum of safety in our city, you should give a cyclist a ticket for stopping in the crosswalk, but not the pedestrian waiting for the light to change several feet into the intersection.” In the interest of increasing the sum of safety, there shouldn’t be such double standards! If you want people to be safer, then enforce the law across the books, don’t pick and choose! Rather, cyclists think such a “crack down” is “horrifying” and “absurd” because its not clear where cyclists stand: cyclists are not cars nor are they pedestrians, so why should we be treated as such in the eyes of the law? In a sense you’re right that no, its not really horrifying for the police to do their job–on the basis that the NYPD doesn’t make the law they just have to enforce it, but recall the earlier point that the laws should be enforced equally, and the counter example of a cyclist in a crosswalk getting a ticket while nearby pedestrians waiting for the walk signal several feet into the intersection don’t. A crackdown by the NYPD on cyclists can only practically mean holding cyclists to the laws that cars are held to, because there is no significant legal code to govern the way bikes behave on the streets (which is reinforced by the lack of meaningful cycling infrastructure and culture–as opposed to painted stripes on roads and people that are afraid to start biking in the city). So, yes, I do think it is horrifying that the NYPD is enforcing a law that doesn’t apply to me BECAUSE WHEN I’M RIDING A BIKE, I’M NOT DRIVING A CAR. Its not that cyclists have no regard for the law (as demonstrated by the VAST majority of us that don’t ride on the sidewalk or against traffic–the 2 laws that represent the bulk of moving violations that actually categorically apply to cyclists, as opposed to a category that cyclists get lumped into depending on the situation), but rather that the lack of support for biking in the city has fostered a bike culture that depends on avoiding: avoiding the car that swerved in front of you, avoiding the light that’s about to change in front of you, avoiding the food cart getting pushed the wrong way down the bike lane, avoiding the delivery trucks and police cars parked in the bike lane, avoiding the pedestrian that’s crossing the street without looking, and avoiding the laws designed for cars and pedestrians that are incapable of protecting bikes but get applied to them anyway. You may not like NYC bike culture, but its what we’ve got, and its a reflection of the system itself, not inherent to the bikers themselves–demonstrated by the fact that it stands in stark contrast to the bike culture in cities where biking as transportation is successfully promoted and supported.