The Midtown Community Court typically focuses on low-level "quality-of-life" offenses that criminal court can't adequately cope with—instead of sending offenders to Rikers for a few days, they're given community service and an afternoon of education about what they did wrong and why. Hookers, shoplifters, vandals, and fare-evaders are the most common denizens of Community Court, but now they're being joined by another class of criminals: scofflaw cyclists.
The court started sentencing cyclists to reeducation camp this spring, and so far 30 bikers have been sent through the 90-minute program, which includes a slideshow about bicycle law and a lesson on how to make hand signals. The majority of the cyclists sent to the class were ticketed for riding on the sidewalk and not using the bicycle lane—the latter offense has caused considerable debate, because in NYC cyclists are not legally required to use the bike lane in every situation. (Of course, good luck explaining that to a cop.)
According to the Times, the cyclists sentenced to take the class so far haven't been particularly receptive:
Several cyclists admitted riding on the sidewalk for a few feet and complained that the sentence — often a day of community service in addition to the class — was excessive. “It was literally three seconds,” Steve Galiczynski said of his short sidewalk ride to his parking spot on the Upper West Side, witnessed by a police officer. He said he had already spent a day cleaning up trash in Times Square. “This whole thing is nuts. It’s like I’m in a Russian novel — a crazy Russian novel.”
Spencer Aste, 47, an actor who lives on the Upper West Side and rode his bike to the class last week, said he had been cited after being forced off the road by traffic and clattering to the pavement in a crosswalk. “I’m on my face, bleeding,” he said. “When I got up, the cop was writing me a ticket.”
Hey, he should consider himself lucky he didn't get an additional ticket for littering his filthy blood drops all over the sidewalk! The education program comes as the City Council introduces legislation this week to reform the enforcement of commercial cycling laws. The City Council plans to create a civil penalty for enforcing laws, shifting the enforcement burden from the understaffed NYPD to special DOT enforcement officers. In addition, businesses that fail to comply with commercial cycling laws will face civil penalties of $100 per violation.
"I am tired of hearing complaints from every corner of the city about commercial cyclists riding recklessly and with abandon," says Councilmember James Vacca, who is introducing the legislation along with Councilmember Gale Brewer. "These laws are not new, but this enforcement is long overdue. The creation of a civil penalty will give DOT what it needs to enforce the laws on the books. I hope to bring both of these bills to a hearing in September and pass them as soon as possible. Once these bills become law, there will be no more excuses for lack of enforcement."