Surge in Police Ticketing Is Discouraging Cycling
A comparison of DOT bike counts and police summonses issued to cyclists suggests what many cyclists have suspected: the mass ticketing of cyclists has reduced cycling in Manhattan's Central Business District. As tickets soared from 5,966 in 1996 to 12,058 in 1998, the number of cyclists dropped from16,066 to 14,993 a day. The trend is ominous for the success of cycling citywide, since Manhattan south of 60th Street is by far the City's largest cycling destination.
The surge in ticketing is a serious discouragement to cyclists for a number of reasons. First, the fines for cyclists are draconian and severely disproportionate to the offense. For example, cyclists are issued $100 tickets for running red lights (whether pedestrians or other vehicles are present or not), whereas dangerous oversized trucks shoulder a lower fine for driving on city streets. Second, the police are striving to fill quotas and often ticket cyclists who are safe riders. In particular, cyclists at the approaches to the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges are targeted, though they are forced by dangerous street designs to ride against traffic and through red lights. Ironically, the police rarely target cyclists riding on the sidewalk, though this offense provokes the largest volume of public complaints and pervasive anti-bike public sentiment. Yes, under the law, cyclists are vehicles and subject to the same rules as cars. But these laws don't reflect the fact that bikes are human powered and far less dangerous than cars. Also, cyclists must survive a hostile environment on streets designed for cars, including traffic lights timed for car speeds, not bicyclists. The on-going police crackdown takes none of this into consideration and punishes city cyclists for not driving.
Write the police commissioner and tell him to target the dangerous motorists who kill 200+ pedestrians a year. Ask him to join the cycling public in educating cyclists who menace pedestrians by riding on crowded sidewalks.