Reports of the erroneous $88 DMV surcharge imposed on cyclists during the current two week ticketing blitz have brought back bitter memories for local bike riders and their encounters with the law. Barbara Ross, a Lower East Side resident who has been a cyclist in the city for more than 20 years, wrote to tell us the tale of how a peaceful Sunday morning ride has resulted in a $625 fine, the suspension of her license and a warrant out for her arrest.

The short answer, as you might have predicted, is that Ross failed to pay her ticket, which she was issued after pedaling through a red light on 1st Avenue and East 7th Street one September morning back in 2012. "It was deathly quiet," she recalled. "There were no pedestrians, no drivers, nothing in the intersection." Ross, an activist associated with Critical Mass and Times Up!, said she's a consistently cautious cyclist, and in her years spent riding, she has never been in an accident—a rare feat for a New Yorker.

Still, she failed to notice the squad car trailing behind her, and was quickly pulled her over.

"He was behind me, and drove up and stopped me," she said. "I usually do my thing, you know, 'Can you just put your efforts into the cars?' And he didn't like that. He told me he didn't like my attitude, and said, 'You know, it looks like you don't have a bell, either.' And then that's when I stopped talking."

Ross, a first time offender, was slammed with a $200 ticket for going through the red light, and an additional $90 ticket for the bell. This being America, she was entitled to her day in court, but when she showed up for her hearing at the DMVs Rector Street location in Lower Manhattan, she found the building was closed—a handwritten note on the door explained it was shuttered due to damage from Superstorm Sandy, which had rocked the area around two months prior. The taped-up sign offered no alternative address where the hearing might be held, so Ross went home.

In April, Ross received another notice from the DMV, alerting her to her new court date. As a freelancer, she was eager to try to lower the egregious fine, and once again showed up to 19 Rector Street, and was once again greeted by a note alerting her the building remained shuttered.

Around two months later, Ross received her third court date notice. Exasperated by the first two failed attempts and tired of interrupting weekday mornings to show up at to a hearing that probably wouldn't happen, Ross ignored the summons. "You're trying to get work, it's kind of a prime time," she said. "I was like, 'I'm going to go there again, and it's going to be cancelled.' I really thought it was going to be cancelled again. I didn't take it very seriously the third time."

Naturally, the third time was a charm—the building had finally reopened, and she missed her hearing. That's when the notices really started coming in—alerting her that her drivers license was suspended, as was her (already expired) pedicab license, in addition to a warrant for her arrest. The total for the two tickets was also raised to $625.

While the suspended license is more of a hassle (Ross doesn't typically drive) and the warrant is disturbing, she was more gravely concerned with the money. Despite missing the appearance, Ross still wanted to have her hearing to explain her predicament, hoping she could have the fine lowered.

In February of this year, she filed an appeal to have a date scheduled. "In general I told them I went twice, that they never informed me it was closed, I just had to go there, and then I missed the one time," she said. But it wasn't enough. In March, she was told her appeal had been denied on the basis of "inadequate excuse for default."

Her only choice now is to pay the increasingly daunting fine, a financial burden that Ross doesn't think befits her crime. Operation Safe Cycle, she said, is an example of over-criminalizing relatively minor infractions.

"They target cyclists that are usually riding pretty slow. Those are the ones that they go for—they're not targeting reckless street users," she said. "And the worst part is the fines are just outrageous. It's bringing up a lot of emotions in a lot of people—does the penalty really match whats going on?"