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Unarmed Black Man Killed In Choke Hold, Racial Tensions Mount, Police Prioritize…Bicycle Crackdown? Tips Included

Racial tensions seem to be reaching a fever pitch in the US, set off by a series of killings of unarmed black males by the police. IMG_0180.GIF22 year old John Crawford was shot dead in a Beavercreak, Ohio Walmart (August 5th, 2014) for apparently failing to put down a toy gun he was purchasing for his son.

(August 9th, 2014) 18 year old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Police claim the teenage was banishing a weapon although eye-witnesses on the scene say Mr. Brown was killed with his hands in the air and was complying with the officers that shot him. IMG_0181.JPGOnly making things worse, were five days of violence that followed by militarized riot gear cops shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators who took to the streets to protest a long history of racial motivated harassment.

Both incidents and a similar killing of 25 year old, Ezell Ford in Los Angeles come in the shadow of a fourth homicide right here in NYC.

43 year old Staten Island resident Eric Garner, a father of six children who pleaded with officers that he couldn’t breathe during a choke hold–Not to mention a whole team of EMS workers who stood by and did nothing…all captured on video in broad daylight.

This is the first case of an unarmed black man being killed in NYC within mayor DeBlasio’s watch which definitely has local citizens concerned about how it will be handled, especially with such a long history of similar killings during past administrations all ending in officer acquittals.

Race is definitely a factor in these killings but doesn’t seemed to be addressed by the NYPD or other police forces, who would much rather discuss a few bad apple officers or debate whether the victims were “resisting arrest.” Within this politically charged climate…the police have scrutinized over their priorities and come up with: Operation Safe Cycle? A rather Orwellian term to crack down on bad biking behavior. I’m sure this will ease the family of Eric Garner on Staten Island awaiting a proper investigation.

That’s right, it was announced that for two weeks in August (until 8/26) police will be using their time wisely, looking for bikes riding the wrong way on the certain random parts of the streets.

From the Daily News:
NYPD launches Operation Safe Cycle

The New York Police Department has launched a two-week enforcement initiative to promote bicycle safety.

Operation Safe Cycle runs through Aug. 26.

The initiative will target violations that endanger pedestrians and bicyclists.

They include disobeying traffic signals and signs; riding against traffic; riding on the sidewalk; and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

Police also will target drivers who obstruct bicycle lanes, creating a hazard for riders.

Source: here.

Bike riders in NYC, will most likely be more alert for where the police are setting up their sting operations and hopefully for the sake of their finances, curb their renegade behavior until the end of August, when things will go right back to the way they always are and thus make no significant change. Very similar to how food delivery gives cyclists their bad name on illegal electric scooters, which is never properly enforced. And pedestrians will continue to jaywalk obliviously on their mobile devices and cars and trucks will continue to see bike lanes as more places for parking.

Gothamist has a more cynical announcement of #OpSafeCycle

Watch Out: NYPD Starts 2-Week Bicyclist Crackdown Today!
By Jen Chung
August 13th, 2014
IMG_0178.JPG photo by: Eric Harvey Brown.

Last night, the NYPD announced it was starting a “Operation Safe Cycle, a two week bicycle safety enforcement initiative,” today, August 13, through Tuesday, August 26. So… does this mean more police cruisers in the bike lane? Especially at dinner time, outside Papa John’s?
Here’s what the NYPD said:

The initiative will target the following hazardous violations that create a danger for pedestrians and bicyclists: failure to stop at a red light, disobey a traffic signal or sign, riding the wrong direction against traffic, riding on the sidewalk, and failure to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. An additional focus will be given to motorists who obstruct bicycle lanes, which creates a hazardous condition for bicyclists.

Read more: here.

Streetsblog has posed the question:
“Will This Year’s Operation Safe Cycle Make Us Any Safer?” in this article, by transportation journalist Ben Fried.

The #bikenyc community has responded with some good social media such as:

A parody of the official Operation Safe Cycle Pamphlet (yes there is one)

Andrew Yakira (@thel200ster) created this image which depicts a bit more realistic depiction of what it’s like out there to bike in NYC…
IMG_0179.JPG

Ok here are my tips for cyclists during #OpMakeMoneyonCylists

1. If you see police vans, police cruisers or police around in general, especially with fellow bikers pulled over…stop at the red lights and behave. Just be aware that cops have the hots for writing tickets right now. These tickets are the same as motor vehicle tickets and will cost you around $175.00. (for running reds) possible points on your license even though police will tell you they are not connected.

2. Use more common sense when biking. I know red lights should probably be treated as stop sign, so use this two week period to ride safer. Treat this like an example of trying to make something like a “rolling stop law”-(like they have in Oregon) a reality. Lead by example.

3. Avoid frightening pedestrians…even if they are too busy taking a selfie or seeing how popular they are on grinder or tinder-while crossing the street. This means stay off the sidewalk…you can do it. It doesn’t matter if that tourist is new to citibike has no regard for any traffic laws or the food delivery person is going 30 mlles an hour to drop off the soda they forgot…be the better person.

4. Use social networking and social media. Post pictures and accounts of where you see police set up and ticketing. Check things like twitter and facebook before you ride. Add to the pool of information like the NSA and google learning from our purchasing patterns. Take a lesson from Terminator movies: “Our biking community is a neural net processor…the more contact we have with the police…the more we learn.”

5. Reveal the hypocrisy. This is an excellent time to document all those blatant violations of the bike lane.

Gothamist has posted a great collection of photos of cars and trucks parked in the bike lane…including police commissioner Bratton.
IMG_0182.JPG photo by: Bitch Cakes.

See more: here.

6. Now if the police are going to enforce ticketing of motor vehicles parked in bike lanes, use this to our advantage.

I’ve been trying to get the 88th precinct to do something about the trucks that block the two-way bike lane on Kent. I’ve recently had the same route for work every day and documented a routine of trucks getting coffee from a food vendor (illegally parked on the sidewalk) forcing cyclists into on coming traffic…speaking of Safe Cycle.

IMG_0183.JPG

I hope to use this two week period to emphasize some real problems that make it an Operation for Cylists to be Unsafe.

I hate to merely avoid the issues of traffic safety by just focusing on tactics to avoid tickets…but I just don’t agree with the police, especially in a wave of racially motivated killings. Police should be using this time to have OperationSafeCommunity and learning sensitivity training and how to handle the complaints of the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect.

I also firmly believe that real change to improve traffic safety will not come from a punitive approach during a random ticketing blitz. This should come from a place of education, where bicycle safety advocates work together with the NYPD to try and reverse decades of bad traffic habits allowed to fester.

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