[UPDATE BELOW] Another day, another report of cops with nothing better to do than hassle bicyclists with frivolous summonses. This one comes from Krista [last name withheld at her request] a musician/bike messenger/Gothamist intern, who got a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign at a deserted intersection. It's something that cyclists do every second of every day, and when they execute stoptionals responsibly—giving pedestrians the right of way and yielding to traffic—we don't see the harm. But the NYPD has thrown common sense out the window, as Krista explains. And to make matters worse, she neglected to pay the ticket, and now her driver's license might be suspended. Here's her aggravating tale:
This happened on the night of February 2nd around 5:30 p.m., on Roebling and North 9th in Williamsburg. I had picked up my first delivery of the night and was on my way back to the restaurant when I saw a cop car heading north on Union Avenue and North 12th, and I believe the car saw me and did a U-turn to follow right behind me, waiting for me to do something illegal. I made a right onto Roebling and approached the intersection at North 9th, looked both ways while braking, saw that it was clear, and proceeded. As soon as I went past the stop sign, I heard sirens behind me and knew that it was a cop car.
I pulled over and a cop got out asking me, "Do you know why we pulled you over?" to which I always reply, "No," even though I knew it was because of the stop sign, which he then confirmed. They asked for my license and I gave it to them, but I thought they were only going to give me a warning because that is what they do with most of the delivery people in the neighborhood (kind of like they know the policy isn't great, and that you have to do your job, so they let you go). But he brought my license away to the cop in the car, and I started to worry that they were actually writing me a ticket and when the cop came back I said, "You know I'm working, right?" And he asked me for who? I said for a delivery service called Snap, so for [redacted]. He went back to the car, then came back to me and said "Well, he's already writing the ticket, but he's going to try to reduce it because we would have just given you a warning if we knew you were working."
I got really upset at this point (because I had worked the night before until midnight, then at another job during the day, then delivery again at night and it was raining), and the cop told me that I should "be careful," to which I replied, "I am careful." He said that they had reduced the ticket for me in a way that wouldn't require me to answer it because there would be no bench warrant issued, that it would only cost me $30 instead of the $130 for running a stop sign.
The other cop got out of the car to give me the ticket and he said, "You know we could have given you a ticket for..." and then he eyed my bike, looking for a component (lights, bell, brakes) that he could ticket me for not having, but I have all of those things, then looked me up and down and said "...not wearing proper reflective attire." I don't think there's a law on the books that says you must wear certain clothes, but I pointed to the part on my jacket that says "Gore Bike Wear" and said, "But I'm wearing a jacket specifically for biking." They said they had "shined a light on me" (I assume when they were following behind me) and that it hadn't reflected. Then they told me again to "be careful," to which I replied again, "I am careful, it's my job." And they drove off.
The ticket says the offense is "disobey stop sign." I couldn't see anything about it that seemed different, like they had promised. The last day I had to reply to it was March 23rd, but I had completely forgotten about it at that time. Then on Wednesday I got a letter in the mail from the DMV that said something like, if I fail to show up at the DMV by April 22nd, then my driver's license will be suspended because of the violation. And that if I don't pay the fine by some date in May (which is $130, not $30) then I'll get a fee charged on to it.
Anyway, I'm obviously bothered by this because I don't see the logic in treating bikes as if they are cars, when they aren't given the same rights to the road (bikes AREN'T allowed one full lane, unlike in Portland or other places like that), bikes don't carry the same danger as cars. I can't think of another legal precedence where two completely different objects are given the same legal jurisdiction, I really don't get it. And as a delivery person, I have a personal stance against riding my bike on the sidewalk (because that doesn't help me get to a delivery any faster), but I will go through stop signs and red lights as I see fit. I've been doing this job for over four years and have never gotten into an accident while working. It's my job to stay safe and get to the delivery in one piece, so I don't appreciate the cop's suggestions that I 'be careful' as if I'm somehow not, and as if the only things that will keep me safe are these bogus laws that the police are trying to enforce out of nowhere.
You tell 'em, Krista! And she's not alone; she adds that "almost every delivery person I know has gotten a ticket in the past few months for doing the regular infractions required to keep their jobs, which are hardly dangerous to anyone. And many messengers in Manhattan are getting them, too, for anything from not having a bell, to riding the wrong way. Even one of my messenger friends got pinned between a cop car and the side of a building just for running a red light."
Update: Krista also says, "I want to make it clear that I was unaware that a cop car was behind me as I made the traffic violation, because it seems that many readers are confused of that fact and it seems to be a point of contention. I was only able to piece together afterwards that they made a U-turn after passing by, and did not know I was being followed."