NYPD Slams Doored Cyclist with Two Summonses, Lets Driver Off the Hook

While riding home from work on the morning of March 22, Rodney Seymour was doored by a truck driver. When the police responded to his 911 call, instead of ticketing the doorer, they hit Seymour with two summonses for improperly equipping his bike. 

RodneySeymour.JPGRodney Seymour, after being doored and ticketed, and before having his bike stolen.

Seymour says he was biking safely, heading home from work in the direction of traffic and wearing an orange reflective vest and helmet. After crossing 10th Street on Third Avenue, heading north, he got doored by a box truck driver, falling onto his shoulder and head. "I was in a little pain and the truck driver suggested I call the cops," said Seymour. "He was very cooperative."

A fire truck and ambulance arrived first.
The EMTs took Seymour’s vitals, gave him an ice pack and suggested he wait for the police to arrive so he could make a report. An accident report is necessary in order to get the doorer to pay a victim’s medical bills under New York’s no-fault law, said Mark Taylor, Seymour’s attorney.  

When an officer from the Ninth Precinct arrived on the scene, Seymour found him more interested in avoiding paperwork than helping an injured cyclist. "He got very upset because I was insisting on having a police report," said Seymour. He recalled the officer yelling, "You want a report? You want a report? I’ll give you a report!" (The Ninth Precinct has not returned Streetsblog’s requests for comment.)

The officer then walked back to his vehicle, Seymour said, returning ten minutes later with the report in hand. But that wasn’t all. He’d also brought over two summonses.

The first was for riding a bike without a bell, which Seymour admits he lacked. The second cited Seymour for riding without reflectors on the wheel. According to Taylor, the law only requires reflectors on new bikes for sale. Seymour noted that his bright orange reflective vest and reflective helmet should have made him perfectly visible — that and the fact that it was just before 10 a.m. 

While the dooring victim received two tickets, the driver didn’t get a summons at all, Seymour said, just a "sorry for your inconvenience" from the officer. Even though dooring is against the law in New York state. The double standard rankled Seymour. "I thought New York was trying to transform people into riding bicycles," he said. The city’s pro-bike policies will have trouble gaining momentum if invalid and trivial infractions, like riding without reflectors or a bell, get stricter enforcement from NYPD than potentially deadly actions like dooring.

After his encounter with police, Seymour’s terrible morning took one more turn for the worse. When he got back from Beth Israel hospital to pick up his bike, which he had locked up before getting into the ambulance, it was gone — stolen.

  • molly

    A summons for riding without reflectors? If this kind of insanity weren’t par for the course with the NYPD, this too would read like satire.

  • J

    Does anyone know Raymond Kelly? Can T.A organize a public chat with him? Maybe take him on a bike ride, so that he can try some sympathy for a change. These types of incidents happen all the time, and they have tacit approval all the way to the top.

  • DingDong

    Being a cyclist and dealing with cops=bad. Being African-American and dealing with cops=bad. Being both=….

  • JamesR

    DingDong for the win.

    What a bunch of BS. The summons for the absence of a reflector violates the spirit of the law. The guy was wearing a bright orange reflective vest, for crying out loud. Just repeat to yourself: we’re on our own out there.

  • Maybe Paul Steely White, or someone else from T.A. should very publicly invite Ray Kelly for a bike ride to kick off Bike Month. Hell, you could even bring along Al Sharpton if that’ll help. It wouldn’t be the first time Rev. Al has supported cyclists.

    Has anyone ever looked at the racial/ethnic background of cyclists treated poorly by NYPD? We’ve often presumed it was an anti-bike problem but maybe it runs a little deeper.

  • come on NYPD! seriously! COURTESY RESPECT PROFESSIONALISM…. it’s on your damn cars!

  • As a person of color, this story does not surprise me. It would also not surprise me if the officer were a person of color as well. Whenever Bloomberg brags on stats, he always says crime is down 10 million percent, but never says “friskings/pat downs” are down. Or NYPD approval ratings among minorities are up.

  • The cyclist should go into court wearing the reflective vest and say, “This is my reflector. Why does the NYPD have a problem with this?”

  • “Meetings: The Precinct Community Council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. The meetings are held at the 9th Precinct Stationhouse located at 321 East 5th Street. ”

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/precincts/precinct_009.shtml

  • This is the main reason for repealing “Audible Signal Requirements” for bicycles in all 50 States (Many states already don’t require them)!

    The provision is only used to harass cyclists and one’s voice is MUCH more effective in getting peoples’ (drivers’) attention on the road (they are pretty good for trail riding though).

  • Herzog

    Would there be grounds for a lawsuit?

  • encephalopath

    My guess is that if Mr. Seymour pleads not guilty and appears in court, the police officer won’t even show up.

    The whole point was to inconvience Mr. Seymour with a frivilous court date, to punish him for talking back. The LEO took a dislike to Mr. Seymour and just wanted to be dick.

  • Paul

    The invite letter to Commissioner Kelly is in the mail! Thanks for the great suggestion, folks. I’ll keep Sblog posted on what happens.

  • “After his encounter with police, Seymour’s terrible morning took one more turn for the worse. When he got back from Beth Israel hospital to pick up his bike, which he had locked up before getting into the ambulance, it was gone — stolen.”

    If he hasn’t already, Mr. Seymour should probably check with the pound to make sure the 9th Precinct wasn’t engaged in their other favorite cycling activity.

  • Jim

    Yep, what’s new. See the other hilarious article about “Seeing the world through an officer’s eyes” to get an idea of the arrogant blindness police dupe themselves with, and how shamefully they ignore these kind of accidents.

  • Jim
  • BicyclesOnly

    I’ll bet the officer learned how to harass and punish cyclists with bogus summonses on Critical Mass detail–the NYPD’s training program for thousands of officers where they are schooled in technicalities and misinterpretations of the laws so that, whatever the cyclist’s conduct is, and no matter how legal or safe, a summons can be issued.

  • Chris

    This is just not right. Not right at all.

  • Wizard

    I’m willing to bet good money that it was that very same cop who clipped Seymore’s bike while he was at the hospital.

  • Emily Litella

    Bastards. Cant wait to retire so I can have the time to hound miscreants like this cop (via legal means).

  • Jason A

    Seriously. Get Ray Kelly on a bike for an invite ride. That would be amazing.

  • What is the story with the summonses? Is he going to fight it?

  • vw

    I have had similar experiences with the 9th precinct. I was doored while in a bike lane on Avenue A by a passenger getting out of a cab. Luckily, I wasn’t really hurt. The EMTs and FDNY guys were perfectly nice but the cops just ranted about cabbies having no place to discharge passengers if not into the bike lane “because Mayor Bloomberg put bike lanes on both sides of the street and you can’t discharge someone into the middle of the street.” They suggested I complain to Bloomberg. I had to argue with them to actually take an incident report. They first said that they couldn’t because I wouldn’t give them my ID (they hadn’t even asked me for it) and that my car insurance would go up (I don’t have any and it couldn’t anyway since I was on my bike). The passenger initially agreed to pay for any damages to my bike so the cops didn’t think there was any reason to take or file an incident report. They eventually had to call their supervisor who told them they had to file the report. I had actually demanded the name and number of their supervisor when they were initially being jerks. Even the EMT was shocked out how the cops were acting.

  • mike

    Riding a bike on the streets of NYC should be at your own risk cars an trucks can move suddenly easy to catch a bike cutting between lanes. He got a bump on the head, get up dust yourself off and get on your way. Your late to where your going the truck driver is late and your wasting a cops time.

  • sam marone

    It’s a class issue, most cyclists were poor, or delivery guys, now some things are changing, but we need the NYPD to learn to treat them the same as peds or drivers.

  • Seriously. Get Ray Kelly on a bike for an invite ride. That would be amazing.

    Vegas has the odds at 40,000 to 1 against, so make your wagers now.

  • John

    To mike–“wasting a cop’s time”? What else are they paid to do, eat donuts all day? Obviously they’re not stopping crimes such as bike theft.

    As a law-abiding citizen of color, I will say that police officers have used their arbitrary powers to write frivolous summons against me (and yes, the minority cops are by far the worst). I’m not at all surprised that this biker was treated this way by the NYPD. And it’s representative that the NYPD was not there when the bike was stolen–I’m sure they were too busy writing summonses to people who rubbed them the wrong way to actually do their job and prevent crimes.

  • Steven Faust, AICP

    My 2 cents,

    NYC DOT = Good
    NYPD = Bad – Very Bad!

    Result:
    Engineering can be very good + 1;
    Enforcement and Education can be very bad – 2

    Net Result for 3 E’s in NYC = – 1

    ps: not only is there a NYS law against dooring,
    there is a parallel NYC statute requiring drivers and passengers to look before they open a door.
    There are some good cops, but unfortunately, Ray Kelly has been training most of the NYPD in erroneous laws for the wrong reasons.
    Even worse, the cops anti bike behavior is being copied by drivers.

  • no surprises here

  • Tim

    Douchebag cop! Glad I’m not an American. Your policing and legal systems suck !!

  • I have tracked stories like this for years, since the early 1990’s – see this link to the first time I wrote on this subject, in 1993 for TA’s magazine:

    http://www.transalt.org/files/newsroom/magazine/936NovDeccc/justice_14.html

    It doesn’t happen every time, but it still happens far too often – cops arrive at the scene of a crash with an injured cyclist and they victimize the cyclist a second time – by not offering to take the cyclist’s bike for safekeeping (as they should have done for the subject of the story above), by not properly filing criminal charges in hit-and-run cases, or by interviewing only the driver.

    This is fixable by training – both in the Academy for new cops and in the precincts. Every few years I write to the NYPD to ask them to fix this problem. Sometimes they respond, but only to talk about the individual cases I bring up and never about fixing the problem Department-wide.

    PS: regarding reflector rules, there are two rules – one for new bikes in the store, as discussed above by a commenter, and another that says the NYS DMV can issue rules requiring reflectors on bikes being operated in the street. But I’ve never found the rules issued by the DMV, assuming they exist.

  • Transportation systems based on cars are structurally violent and it is very difficult to understand how people do not understand this.

    It is basic to the way automobiles have been able to monopolize our cities’ streets and nations’ roads and preferred modes of travel.

    It is just too dangerous to travel on most streets and roads traversed by cars, trucks, and buses not being in the requisite armored vehicle.

  • jack

    I want some money because I was not paying attention to the vehicles I riding so close to. Do you really think people watch out for a cyclist when opening their door?? I’ve been on the bike in Houston for 25 years and I would never put myself in a position to get wacked like that and then cry about it if I did…..

  • #32 jack, “I would never put myself in a position to get wacked”

    Yes, this piece of wisdom is correct at least to a certain extent; but, also in the “blame the victim” category; and, most importantly part of the idea that if you do not want to get hurt do not ride a bike in the street or any vehicle without sufficient armoring and safety equipment like seat belts and air bags.

    Kind of like saying if you want good healthcare you have to have money or you have to have good health insurance.

    The structural violence of transportation systems based on cars perpetuates these local transportation monopolies secured by making the streets unsafe for other more sensible, practical, and environmentally suitable vehicles.

    Ironically, the cash-rich insurance industry benefits from this just as it does from its monopoly in the healthcare industry stifling much better ways of doing things.

  • chad

    Post the badge number.

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