NYPD’s Increased Bike Law Enforcement Going as Badly as Everyone Expected

01/11/2011 9:41 AM |

Bike Brigade

Unlike The Post, members of the New York City bicycle community greeted last week’s news that the NYPD was planning to actually start enforcing traffic laws as they apply to cyclists with skepticism and fear that this would lead to all kinds of backwards, quota-filling tactics to bust cyclists for, say, making a right turn on a red light off a quiet street into a park. Which, it seems, is exactly what happened to some of the first cyclists who received special NYPD attention since the new policy was announced.

A fellow named Greg wrote his story to StreetsBlog yesterday, beginning with the ticket he receives for turning into the Central Park loop on a red light around 1pm on Saturday, and continues thusly:

Unfortunately, this was not the end of my encounter with NYPD. After riding about a mile in Central Park a police SUV parked at an on-ramp on the UWS started to follow me. It was obvious I was being stalked. Worried they were searching for any infraction I stopped riding and got off my bike. The police car turned on its lights and parked about 50 yards behind me waiting for me to resume riding. It was freezing cold so I had to get back on and try to make it home. The car continued to follow me.

Greg only gets the one ticket, but it’s exactly the type of pointless, negative enforcement that’s not going to make cyclists who ride dangerously respect any more traffic laws, and may in fact dissuade respectful riders from cycling at all.

And then there’s the much scarier story that user “galochka” posted in response to our original post about increased enforcement, about an encounter she had with NYPD officers in Williamsburg that very day.

On Wed. January 5th I was stopped riding my bicycle on Grand and Roebling without Back reflector and headlight. In panic and outrage at a ticket for laws I haven’t heard about, I made a mistake to continue riding. Police car hit my bike into the snow. At that point, I took out my wallet and offered an id. Police officer screamed “now you are going to jail.” Without Any other explanation, he twisted my arm to the point of pain. I started screaming, trying To call attention to the violance. However, I did not fight back or run, just tried to resist My arm being broken. More policemen twisted both of my arms and pushed me on the Ground, face down into the garbage bags. At that point I realized they wanted my hands for Handcuffs behind my back. However I was never told that and had no idea how handcuffs operate, Having never been handcuffed in my live. After this, I was taken to the precinct and spend 24 Hours in jail. Jail had 15 women in about 15 by 20 room with floor space for 10 matts, an open toilet, no soap, dirty floors and matts that were not disinfected and dirty, cockroaches, mice, and rats. There was a sign on the wall “soap avaialable upon request.” However, upon request, the guard said that there is no soap and the sign was just put up for inspection.I was released on a half a year Hold, found not guilty and given one day of community service I don’t exactly know why. To complete The picture of the police actions against me, I would like to add that I am a 33 year old woman, 5.1 in height, who has never been arrested before. After this I am not so sure about ride safely….

Counterproductive, quota-filling and unjust enforcement aside, it’s probably time to brush up on those bike traffic laws, and maybe the DOT will start handing out lights again. And watch out for bored, angry cops roving Central Park in packs, looking for cyclists to ticket.

5 Comment

  • I have to say as a Brooklyn driver, bicyclist and pedestrian, I’m actually happy that bike laws are being enforced. All three groups can have a grandiose sense of self importance, and in my view I think everyone should just chill, take a few more minutes to get to where they need to go, and not think that they’re made of titanium. The laws may seem stupid (and admittedly some are), but they’re there for a reason- to keep us safe (and ambulatory). These two cases must be exceptions from the norm.

  • @brooklynbombshell: Yes, absolutely, actual enforcement of actual laws, especially for the until now largely un-policed cyclists, is a good thing, unless the stories above turn out to be illustrative examples of how the whole oh-hey-we’re-gonna-police-bikes-too-now initiative is going to pan out. Let’s hope that you’re right, that these two cases are indeed exceptions.

  • Not going back to NYC ever. My bike and camera make me a terrorist target or for cops. I don’t have enough money/time for that kind of harassment when I’m not a criminal by any stretch of the imagination. Hope the police can find some real crime to take care of – like trucks smashing humans on the pavement and getting away with vehicular manslaughter. Until the accident statistics show more people are regularly killed by bicyclists than cars and trucks then perhaps Bloomberg’s revenue stream enforcers can get a grip on reality.

  • Maybe if they actually enforced parking and speeding laws against cars I could see the point of cracking down on bikes, but until then this is just a stupid excuse for NYPD to be assholes.

  • I was in Central Park yesterday trying do some bike riding. The Park Drive there has no cars much of the time, with the road shared by runners, bladers, bicyclists, etc. I had always assumed that the many traffic lights were meant to be ignored when the Drive was closed to traffic. Dozens of police were there yesterday, stopping bicyclists who went through the lights when they were red and issuing them summonses. As far as I could tell, no summonses being issued to people on foot who were crossing against the lights.