Summer 2004, p.7

Cycling News
TA Fights for More Safety, Less Harassment

Police enforce bike lanes.

It's a spring rite for NYPD bike cops to issue a flurry of bicycle traffic tickets and summonses for infractions like riding without a bell and riding on the sidewalk. NYPD bike cops also write a lot of spring summonses to double-parking drivers who block bike lanes.

For a decade, T.A. has worked with the NYPD to focus bike enforcement on making streets safer. We regularly meet with the Commanding Officers of local precincts and urge them to go after the most dangerous offenses, like biking on the sidewalk and against traffic, not pick on cyclists who are just trying to do the right thing.

Police crack down on unsafe cycling.

Of the 25,000 bicycling-related summonses issued by NYPD bike units in an average year, about 19,000 are given to double parkers and other parking violators, 650 to those parking in bike lanes, 900 to red light running cyclists, 850 to cyclists riding the wrong way, 300 to sidewalk cyclists and the rest to cyclists for violations such as biking without brakes, not riding in the bike lane and to motorists blocking intersections.

Targeting cyclists who ride the wrong way, ride on the sidewalk or fail to yield to pedestrians makes the streets safer for everyone. ( T.A.’s Working Cyclist Safety Campaign focuses on these most dangerous infractions.) On the other hand, ticketing bike riders for much less serious infractions—such as riding outside the bike lane, not having bells or not dismounting and walking their bicycles on certain bridge paths—has a negligible effect on safety. In fact, such “harassment” summonses
may even serve to make streets more dangerous to the extent that they discourage cyclists to take to the road. Recent “safety in numbers” research shows that motorists drive more carefully the more cyclists they see on the street.

Fortunately, the NYPD’s Chief of Transportation, Michael Scagnelli, has made “quality” summonses that do the most to improve bicyclist and pedestrian safety a top priority for both the NYPD’s Traffic Control Division and local precincts. For example, Chief Scagnelli has drastically increased summonses for double-parking, a ubiquitous threat to all road users because double parkers force motorists and cyclists alike to veer into adjacent traffic. Reducing double-parkers also improves visibility for bikers, walkers and drivers.

“Are You Riding In The Safety Zone?”

Answer these quick questions to find out. Give yourself one point for each question you answer yes to.

When riding I always:
1. Obey all traffic laws
2. Yield to pedestrians, even when they are jaywalking
3. Stay off the sidewalk.
4. Use front and rear lights.
5. Use a bell to alert daydreaming pedestrians
6. Ride with the traffic
7. Signal when approaching pedestrians or making a turn.
8. Wear a helmet
9. Ride with confidence that I deserve my portion of the road, not arrogance that I own it. 

1-3: Whoa there cowboy! What are you trying to prove? Unsafe riding puts you and others at risk of serious injury or worse.
4-6: Halfway home. You try to ride safely, but being safe only part of the time leaves you and others in danger when safety takes a back seat to other concerns.
7-9: Safety Stud. Nothing makes bicycling seem more attractive to pedestrians, potential and current cyclists alike than a safe and courteous rider.

A History of NYC’s Cops on Bikes

In 1895 New York City Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt created the city’s
first bicycle patrol, the “Scorcher Squad,” to catch the speeders of the day, cyclists and carriage drivers, who exceeded the city’s 8mph speed limit. The NYPD’s modern day “Cops-on-Bikes” program started in 1992 and is a sure sign that bicycling is becoming part of the mainstream in New York City.

What started with five donated bikes in the Upper West Side’s 24th Precinct grew
to over 2,500 bikes used in precincts citywide for community policing and traffic enforcement. Bike cops can see and hear crimes that other officers can’t. They help improve community relations because they are more approachable than officers
sitting in patrol cars, and bike cops can use the element of surprise to stop crime, since bicycles are far quieter than cars. Officers on bicycles also stay in top physical
and mental form by regular riding. And by biking the officers set a good example for
the rest of NYC.

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