There's been an outcry over the NYPD cracking down on cyclists who blow through red lights in Central Park, and biking advocates hope to persuade the NYPD to adjust enforcement in the park at a meeting Monday night. But if you ride a bike outside of Central Park, don't think for a minute you're off the hook. Artist and graphic designer Tyler Lafreniere found this out the hard way last night on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn. He writes:
I was riding home to Greenpoint from DUMBO this evening about 6.30 p.m. via Flushing Avenue. I have both front and rear lights on my bike and was wearing a helmet. After coming to a complete stop to the point of having put a foot down on the ground at the intersection of Flushing and Clinton at a red light, I looked around and, seeing no oncoming traffic, proceed through the intersection.
A block or so later I was pulled to the side of the road by a police cruiser with lights and intermittent siren on. The officer informed me that he was citing me for running the light. While I waited for 15 minutes for them to run my license and write the ticket, I saw 4 -5 cyclists go by with no lights and several other run the red light at the next intersect.
Eventually I was given my $270 ticket, which was for the exact same moving violation that would be given to a car, except my vehicle make was listed as "bike." I plan to fight the ticket, but thought that you might be interested to know that the apparent backlash against cyclists seems to be spreading. I'm not sure who in the police force to sending the message down the chain of command that cops should be wasting their time ticketed cyclist, and treating them the same as they would be a car.
We've heard that judges are throwing these red light tickets out, suggesting that they see them as a nuisance. But what's also a nuisance is having to take a day off of work to fight an absurd ticket written to boost some quota for the NYPD's misguided cyclist crackdown. Caroline Samponaro at Transportation Alternatives tells us, "We've been mostly getting called by people who are getting tickets for things that don't exist." (Things such as biking without a helmet.)
Samporano tells us Transportation Alternatives has been advising a physician who was ticketed coming off the Willimsburg Bridge in Manhattan because he was biking on the left side of Delancey (not illegal). "So he can either pay it, or take a day off from his medical practice," Samponaro explains. "Instead of enforcing against dangerous behavior, the NYPD seems to be just looking to give out tickets across the board. So we've been trying to facilitate a dialogue with the NYPD about how they can enforce dangerous behavior, and that applies to everyone on the street, not just cyclists."
Transportation Alternatives is using the Freedom of Information Law to try to get the numbers on cyclist tickets and summonses. In the future, Samponaro says, the "Saving Lives Through Better Information" bill will help, and New Yorkers, in theory, will be able to go to the NYPD website and see exactly what they're ticketing people for. For now, if you get a ticket, you can get advice and help track the trend by reporting it on the Transportation Alternatives website.