Is Transportation Reform Possible When the Cops Don’t Care?

A reliable Streetsblog tipster sends along this photo of a police cruiser parked in the Department of Transportation’s new Ninth Avenue bike facility. The police officer seen getting into the car was returning from a nearby deli with what appeared to be lunch for him and his partner.

Again, as we pointed out yesterday, the Ninth Avenue cycle track is still under construction and it is way too early to judge whether it is working or not. New medians, planting beds, street markings, muni-meters and traffic signals will likely make it clearer that the city’s first on-avenue, physically-separated bike path is not a loading zone.

Still, no matter how the final design of this particular bike facility works out, the larger question remains: Is it possible to have meaningful transportation policy reform and a successful Livable Streets movement in a city where the police generally do not care to enforce traffic laws and, in many cases, actively break those laws themselves?

Related:

  • Automated Parking Enforcement is the Killer App (9/14/07)
  • NYPD to New York City: "We Do Not Summons Our Own" (3/28/07)
  • UncivilServants.org: Cleaning Up Illegal Placard Parking (3/15/07)
  • Chinatown Businessman Arrested for Photos of Illegally Parked Cops (9/7/06)
  • The $46 Million Parking Perk (6/16/06
  • flp

    no

  • dood

    i’m just going to directly paste my comment from the other 9AV article. (and yea, this comment was posted before this new post showed up)

    “i don’t have a problem with emergency vehicles in the bike lane, when there is a REAL emergency.
    but if they are just going down the bike lane with all their sirens on, just because they have to go get a donut, or because there are too many cars in the traffic lane, and there is no way to run a light, just because their shift is about to end and they have to get home…..”

    i guess no i have to add “getting lunch” to that…

  • ddartley

    “My” bike lane is designed specifically for avenues where chaotic behavior takes place on every block, and enforcement is a non-presence (like Avenues in Midtown Manhattan):

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/10798592@N08/1414440531/in/photostream/

    (check the larger view for more detail).

  • John

    Maybe instead of ponder on a blog, you could do something useful and take down this unit’s registered number, and forward it to everyone you can think of. Their precinct, the head of the NYPD, Mayor Bloomberg, everyone.

  • rex

    Oh Bollards!

  • budrick

    There are too many arrogant officers in the NYPD who consider themselves a law unto themselves, with no regard toward any higher vision of public order or justice.

    Until this institutional mindset changes, don’t expect the cops to enforce laws that are not in their self-interest to enforce, especially when it pertains to themselves or other cops.

    Though to be fair, the current mindset at the NYPD has seemed to help to reduce crime in the city, which is good. IT just sucks how arrogant, disrespectful of citizen’s rights and of the citizens themselves, and overagressive the NYPD is nowadays.

  • Stacy

    I’ve also notriced an increase in those brown traffic cars blocking bike lanes. And of course once the cops doit, everyone else follows. Maybe somebody needs to explain traffic laws to these guys.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Again, the pre-auto city is fundamentally incompatible with motor vehicles, so people make accomodations.

    The police officer decided to go into the deli. He had a choice of blocking the bike lane or blocking a lane of motor vehicles. With more motor vehicles than bikes, he chose the bike lanes.

    Sounds like a severe chicken and egg problem. Unless bikers rush to a bike lane, it isn’t a bike lane, based on the unofficial rules.

    Based on that, instead of a few blocks on 9th Avenue in October the segregated lane should be installed on the entire length of Broadway and 6th Avenues in April, to at least give it a chance.

  • Mark Fleischmann

    In my few interactions with the NYPD, I’ve always found them civil and professional. If they are having a hard time seeing from our point of view, that’s probably because many if not most of them commute to work by car. To them, we must seem an exotic and puzzling species. This would change in a hurry if there were a city residency requirement — perhaps coupled with housing subsidies and improved schools so that officers could live in or near the precincts where they work. If they walked or biked to work every day, they would be better able to relate to people who walk and bike. So rather than just slam the cops, what can we do to persuade them to become our neighbors?

  • Plotinus

    “Again, the pre-auto city is fundamentally incompatible with motor vehicles, so people make accomodations.”

    Huh? Very little of the infrastructure in this city is “pre-auto”. The grid concept is, but the actual streets have been widened and reconstructed in most of the city with cars in mind, 9th Ave being a glaringly obvious example of this.

    “The police officer decided to go into the deli. He had a choice of blocking the bike lane or blocking a lane of motor vehicles. With more motor vehicles than bikes, he chose the bike lanes.”

    So finding another deli where he could park, if not “legally” , at least less obstructively wasn’t an option?

    “Sounds like a severe chicken and egg problem. Unless bikers rush to a bike lane, it isn’t a bike lane, based on the unofficial rules.”

    No, it sounds like a cop deciding that traffic and parking rules don’t apply to him. Par for the course.

    “Based on that, instead of a few blocks on 9th Avenue in October the segregated lane should be installed on the entire length of Broadway and 6th Avenues in April, to at least give it a chance.”

    True enough. A few blocks of a single avenue is really not enough of a test of the design.

  • Hilary

    Isn’t he also too close to that hydrant??

  • Commissioner Popeye

    Just imagine what it will be like when I become Mayor.

  • Mayor Bluto

    You’re going to mandate spinich in city classrooms?

  • Commissioner Popeye

    I was merely using the affectionate name by which I am known within my agency, NYPD.

  • Spud Spudly

    Yeah, and look at all those bikes lined up behind the police car just waiting to get by. They’re probably not passing in the 4-5 feet of free space to the left of the car because bicyclists always obey traffic rules.

  • Steve

    Good idea, #15. Let’s abolish bike lanes until the level of cycling prevalence guarantees that bicyclists are “perpetually lined up” along all roadways. Only then will the lanes be warranted.

  • Sam

    Eh I mean i suppose there is room enough for cyclists to get around so it’s not a super big deal (although def annoying). My real complaint is that he couldn’t park the car a little bit more in the buffer lane? Oh and speaking of cops not enforcing the rules… the amount of times I have almost gotten hit by or rode right into a car not signaling its turn is one too many. Last I checked signaling was a LAW made for other drivers( and cyclists) safety. I’d like to see them start giving out tickets for failing to signal. Nothing makes me more angry than some jerk who thinks he is too good to let the other people on the rode not know what he is doing.

  • Gizler

    I’m surprised there is not more traffic enforcement in general. On the narrow one-way residential street in Brooklyn where I live, people constantly tear down it at Daytona 500 speeds. Young men almost exclusively, who also take corners with ear-splitting screeches and blow stop signs without a care in the world. In my opinion, there should be serious fines for this (& arrests for reckless driving), and rigorous enforcement. Even if the City had to hire more cops, it would pay for itself and then some.

  • Spud Spudly

    I understand people getting pissed when private cars and delivery trucks park in bike lanes. But here’s a guy who does a dangerous, underappreciated job for $45,000/year + benefits, so maybe he should be cut a little slack for doing something that has no real effect on anyone because the few bikes that actually are on the street can easily go around him for the three minutes he’s stopped getting coffee.

    And that salary is only if he’s been on the job for five years. If he’s a rookie then he’s getting $25,000/year — about $100 a day, maybe $12.50 an hour — to deal with the worst dregs 24-hours-a-day in the city’s worst neighborhoods. Yet he’ll drop everything to save your butt. If you’re getting mauled by a 6’8″, 400 lb. karate expert this guy will jump into the fray to help you, maybe getting killed in the process. So people need to worry less about harmless transgressions and keep it real.

    And no, I’m not a cop and I don’t have any cops in my family. But you’ve got people here talking about residency requirements (which are never going to happen, especially now that the City’s largest union DC37 won a non-residency requirement for its members in its last contract negotiations) and reporting this cop to the Mayor to get him in trouble.

    Does anyone really think the Mayor, police commissioner or anyone in a position of real authority gives a damn about this? Or do they have bigger things to worry about? How many times do you think they will roll their eyes when a bunch of Park Slopers bitch about a cop parking in a bike lane? Would that really help Streetsblog’s cause?

  • GJG

    spud, while parking in the bike may be the main topic of this thread/post, the main issue is traffic enforcement in general….. i.e. speed limits, parking in no parking or restricted parking zones, executing legal turns, double parking….. the list goes on. it is not about the complaints of a “few park slopers,” but about saving the lives of those you are needlessly killed and injured due to errant drivers!

  • Davis

    Oh, please, Spud. A lot of New Yorkers have difficult, dangerous, jobs that pay way too little. Low pay and dangerous work doesn’t give anyone the right to flout the law or degrade our city’s shared public spaces.

    If you sign up to be a law enforcement officer then it is all the more expected that you obey the law yourself. The bar is set even higher. Wasn’t it the NYPD who introduced NYC to the “broken windows theory” of policing? If the cops are allowed to break the law on this small, petty, seemingly meaningless stuff, where does it end?

  • Jonathan

    “Is it possible to have meaningful transportation policy reform and a successful Livable Streets movement in a city where the police generally do not care to enforce traffic laws and, in many cases, actively break those laws themselves?”

    I agree, the NYPD does not put enforcing traffic laws at the top of its list of things to do. What do cops do all day, then? Well, they respond to emergencies and calls for help. They patrol their assigned neighborhoods. They try to get illegal guns off the streets. They intervene in domestic disputes. They find lost children, and so forth.

    Pretty much every cop I’ve ever talked to is focused on finding illegal guns and the people who wield them. If you tell a cop about your crazy girlfriend who threatens you with a gun if you dare to cheat on her, his eyes light up. They get awards for that.

    Is getting double-parkers off the streets as important to you as getting guns off the streets? If you think cops have too much time on their hands (that could be more wisely spent writing tickets), tune into your local precinct’s police radio for eight hours and decide for yourself what calls they should defer responding to in order to write parking violations.

    In my opinion the cops are doing their part toward more livable blocks, streets, neighborhoods and cities by fighting crime. Cars parked in bike lanes, no matter how annoying, are violations, not crimes.

  • Middle Road

    Mounted police should be welcome in the bike lanes. They could be shared bicycle/bridle paths.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Forget mounted. Couldn’t police in dense neighborhoods ride Vespas, and call for cars after arrests? They’d get around faster.

  • Felix

    Or those Vespas without motors. The kind you pedal.

  • steve

    I agree for the most part with Jonathan EXCEPT (1) the TEA are not out looking for guns, their job is traffic and parking so I wish they would focus on on bit more on bike lanes–I think they view as akin to double-parking which is rarely ticketed and (2) I wish the cops would not lead motorists by example (as in the picture abvoe) into the bike lane.

  • Dave

    Yeah, mounted police.
    Then you’d be compalining about the horse poop in the bike lane.
    Sheesh.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It occurs to me that if emergency vehicles are allowed in cycle tracks, there is another way to look at congestion — not our problem if there are enough cycle tracks/emergency lanes available.

    Cyclists can ride in the cycle tracks. Pedestrians can walk on the sidewalks. Deliveries can be made overnight. In an emergency, cyclists can hop up onto the sidewalk and let emergency vehicles go by.

    So if other motor vehicles want to jam into the remaining street space, the congestion is their loss. Pollution remains an issue, but zero emission vehicles could be required. In the interim, tickets to be issued to those who do not shut off their engines when they are not moving.

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