Summer 2002, p.15

Council Ups Penalties for Riding on Sidewalk--Again

Sidewalk cyclist at 30th and 6th.For the third time in eight years, the NYC City Council passed legislation in late June increasing the penalties for cycling on the sidewalk. The Council's vote is a direct result of the failure of the police to enforce existing laws. The political impetus for the new law is the rampant sidewalk cycling on Manhattan's Upper West and East Sides-primarily by restaurant delivery cyclists. Councilmembers representing these areas, including powerful City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, have been deluged with complaints, especially from the elderly.

Some cyclists downplay complaints about riding on sidewalks and point to the tremendous menace that motor vehicles pose. They are right that, objectively, cars are by far the bigger problem. However, it is a big mistake to think that cycling on the sidewalks is a trivial issue. In fact, politically, bikes on sidewalks are a far bigger issue than dangerous drivers. The pervasiveness of sidewalk cycling has irritated just about everyone, including T.A. In fact, in some neighborhoods, the public frustration over bikes on sidewalks is so high that issues like traffic safety, traffic calming, bridge tolls and encouraging cycling--cannot compete. People who are afraid of being hit by a bike will not support increased cycling.

Unfortunately, public anger and the consternation of city councilmembers have not translated into intelligent education and enforcement efforts. Instead of gathering the facts and holding the police department accountable for enforcement, the Council continues to create ever more punitive laws. Currently, bike on sidewalk laws are not enforced by the police and when they are, fines are not paid. (The Environmental Control Board, which is supposed to collect cycling fines, is owed $650 million.) But there are ways to substantially reduce sidewalk cycling. One is improved education. Later this year, T.A. will conduct a Give Respect/Get Respect event with State Senator Liz Krueger from the Upper East Side and Councilmember Gail Brewer from the Upper West Side. Indeed, education combined with increased enforcement of existing commercial cycling laws, especially those holding restaurant owners accountable, is the best way to stop sidewalk cycling on the Upper East and West Sides. Write to Police Commissioner Kelly and urge the NYPD to increase its enforcement of penalizing sidewalk cyclists.

Raymond Kelly
Commissioner, NYPD
One Police Plaza
NYC 10038

T.A. knows that cycling in NYC can be scary, which is why we are working hard to make streets safer. But we also know that sidewalks are for pedestrians-only.
Do not ride on the sidewalk. Ever. Remember, when you ride on the sidewalk, you both threaten pedestrians and jeopardize the fight for respect for cyclists in NYC.

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Sidewalk Crash Scorecard

From April 25, 2002 to June 26, 2002

  • City Council Transportation Committee held two hearings on sidewalk cycling.
  • City Council voted unanimously in favor of the new sidewalk cycling law.
  • There were zero crashes on the sidewalk between cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Six cars crashed onto NYC's sidewalks, killing three people and severely injuring 23:
    • May 4 Car jumps curb in Richmond Hill, Queens: 4-year-old boy killed.
    • June 9 Police cruiser jumps curb in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn: 3 pedestrians injured.
    • June 11 SUV jumps curb on Park Avenue in Midtown: pedestrian loses leg.
    • June 13 Car crashes into scaffolding on East 47th Street: 3 pedestrians injured.
    • June 22 SUV jumps curb in Brownsville, Brooklyn: grandma 46, granddaughter 13 killed; second granddaughter critically injured.
    • June 23 Cab jumps curb at 60th Street and Lexington: 15 pedestrians injured, 2 critically.

Of these six crashes, not one driver was

  • fined
  • summonsed or arrested
  • nor was any vehicle impounded

Presently, if you ride your bicycle on the sidewalk near a pedestrian, you could

  • be fined $300
  • be summonsed with a criminal misdemeanor (and be arrested if you are on parole)
  • have your bicycle impounded

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