Cyclist Gets in the Way of Cop Opening Van Door. Was “Criminality” Involved?

John del Signore at Gothamist brings us the tape of a cyclist who got doored by an NYPD van driver near Grand Central Terminal. The dooring victim, Stephen Mann, told Gothamist that after he got knocked off his bike, police mainly wanted to know if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs:

I was instantly surrounded by about 7 cops who all started asking me questions, like was I drunk, or on drugs, or how long have I been riding bikes, and all sorts of foolishness. At the same time the driver of the van was reprimanded by another police officer and told to get back in the van and “shut up”. Prior to that he asked me why I was riding my bike in the street.

Meanwhile I was bleeding all over my leg and bike, and a random stranger came over and gave me Neosporin and some bandages, which is ten times more than any of the cops did. They filled out an accident report and asked if I wanted an ambulance. I hesitated and wasn’t sure, when another police officer came over and told me “get checked” and so I said I wanted to get checked out. But the other cops quickly ushered the helpful police officer away from their group. It was like some sort of bad crime story cover-up; they huddled around me and seemingly tried to intimidate me. I really do think they asked if I was on drugs close to 10 times.

Police refused to give Mann their names or show him the accident report, he told Gothamist.

Why the fixation on whether the doored cyclist was on drugs? I think it has to do with the NYPD’s rote response to any traffic crash.

Mann stayed at the scene, obviously, so there was no cause to bring a hit-and-run charge against him. Then it’s on to question number two: Was Mann sober? If he was, then no criminality was involved. Mann could walk or bike away with his bleeding appendages, secure in the knowledge that the police won’t charge him for getting in the way of an officer opening his door.

Unless the door got damaged. Then Mann might have to contend with a criminal mischief charge.

  • Why the fixation on whether the doored cyclist was on drugs?

    Because only someone on drugs would ride their bike in the street.  DUR! 

  • cycler

    Obviously the cop should have looked before he opened the door,  and this kind of victim intimidation is inexcusable.   But this is exactly why I won’t filter, especially at speed.  I’ll just take the lane and stay in it thanks.  If I filter I go super slow. and expect the worst at any second.

    I’m glad the guy is OK- looks like he was really lucky that he didn’t end up under the wheels of the taxi.   Does NY have an anti- dooring law like MA does?   

  • NYC has this law, which is occasionally invoked when a cyclist dies as a result of getting doored:

    § 1214. Opening and closing vehicle doors. No person shall open the
    door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic

  • NYC has this law, which is occasionally invoked when a cyclist dies as a result of getting doored:

    § 1214. Opening and closing vehicle doors. No person shall open the
    door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic

  • Larry Littlefield

    The police officer was legally in the wrong.

    But cyclists should drive defensively, and that was a little fast for the space.  You do that enough, and sooner or later you will be doored, although perhaps not by a police officer.

    Don’t ride in a way that you are only safe if everyone else does the right thing.  Not in this town.  Not in any town.  Not on a bike or in a car.

  • Mark Walker

    Looking forward to Marcia Kramer’s report on Badge Bedlam.

  • You don’t get doored in the tightest spaces because doors require a lot more room to open than a bicycle does to pass. In this case it was the first door after the lane opened up. That’s definitely one to watch out for, but it terms of culpability it’s not any different from just riding on the right (where you are supposed to) in moving traffic and getting doored. Motorists and passengers need to look before they open their car doors, as the law requires. Cyclists have every incentive to anticipate illegally opened car doors to the best of their abilities, but sometimes you guess wrong.

    You really can not just take lanes and leave it at that in New York, unless you are happy being treated like the lowest form of life and constantly threatened with worse than dooring. If you don’t pass stopped traffic you’re ceding the greatest natural advantage of the bicycle, which is that it doesn’t take a up a shit-ton of space and it can be easily maneuvered through city streets without blocking or being blocked. If cars are going to pass me without a full lane at my cruising speed, I won’t hesitate to pass them in the same manner at the next light.

  • I agree with your opinion shrugged

  • Well, tonight I was stopped and had my records checked by a pair of police officers in Williamsburg because I alerted them that their squad car was blocking a marked bike lane (the westbound lane to the bridge from South 4th Street – not an obvious lane, but it happens to be on the sidewalk near the bridge in a place were no car should be parked anyway). They were unprofessional and discourteous with me, escalating the situation from my original statement to them, and they seized my ID and took 4-5 minutes to check my criminal record before dismissing me in a huff and zooming off. The chilling thing about it was that I knew, from unfortunate prior experience, I was one little white lie or exaggerated statement away from spending 2 days in Brooklyn central booking. (though I’ve still got a clean record!) 

    I grew up knowing a lot of police officers. My childhood friends are police. My friends’ siblings are police. My father is a retired police officer. My parents’ friends are largely police officers. And everyone’s from this local area. I know there’s a lot of good people serving, and I know there’s some bad ones here and there too. And this is how it is: in a police force of 35,000, there’s nothing guaranteeing you’ll only run into good cops, and there’s very little that can protect you from the wrath of bad cops. Disappointingly, I’ve been trained to expect the worst and to give up on trying to do anything corrective when I see something wrong. Tonight, making any statement about how that patrol car was in the bike lane… that was a mistake. I was literally asking to be arrested since I opened my mouth (not illegal but definitely confrontational) and didn’t know that the wrong kind of guys were sitting in the car. That’s how it is. If we want to change that, we have a really long fight ahead of us, and it starts from the top down. Central command has to give a shit when these sort of things happen in order for this to change.

    (FYI, I should have taken hard notes of the squad car # and the officers’ names… because by the time I got to the other side of the bridge, my memory went fuzzy.)

  • Well, tonight I was stopped and had my records checked by a pair of police officers in Williamsburg because I alerted them that their squad car was blocking a marked bike lane (the westbound lane to the bridge from South 4th Street – not an obvious lane, but it happens to be on the sidewalk near the bridge in a place were no car should be parked anyway). They were unprofessional and discourteous with me, escalating the situation from my original statement to them, and they seized my ID and took 4-5 minutes to check my criminal record before dismissing me in a huff and zooming off. The chilling thing about it was that I knew, from unfortunate prior experience, I was one little white lie or exaggerated statement away from spending 2 days in Brooklyn central booking. (though I’ve still got a clean record!) 

    I grew up knowing a lot of police officers. My childhood friends are police. My friends’ siblings are police. My father is a retired police officer. My parents’ friends are largely police officers. And everyone’s from this local area. I know there’s a lot of good people serving, and I know there’s some bad ones here and there too. And this is how it is: in a police force of 35,000, there’s nothing guaranteeing you’ll only run into good cops, and there’s very little that can protect you from the wrath of bad cops. Disappointingly, I’ve been trained to expect the worst and to give up on trying to do anything corrective when I see something wrong. Tonight, making any statement about how that patrol car was in the bike lane… that was a mistake. I was literally asking to be arrested since I opened my mouth (not illegal but definitely confrontational) and didn’t know that the wrong kind of guys were sitting in the car. That’s how it is. If we want to change that, we have a really long fight ahead of us, and it starts from the top down. Central command has to give a shit when these sort of things happen in order for this to change.

    (FYI, I should have taken hard notes of the squad car # and the officers’ names… because by the time I got to the other side of the bridge, my memory went fuzzy.)

  • Mister Bad Example

    Perhaps Streetsblog or TA needs to set up a website for videos and stills of this sort of behavior to be archived the same way the people who abused parking placards were called out?

    In the meantime, I’m sorry to say that police are largely useless for helping cyclists. That’s a community relations issue that has to be changed at the top.

  • Rob

    @BenFried:disqus Hey Ben, is there a comparable door opening law for New York STATE?  Us folks out here in the ‘burbs have the same issue.  Thanks in advance.

  • kevd

    The cop was wrong & the cyclist was riding in a really stupid place. 
    If you are relying on drivers checking behind them before they open their doors in order to not get doored, then you’re definitely going to get doored.

  • Driver

    Talking back to the cops might as well be illegal.  They just call it disorderly conduct.  It’s not right, but it is a reality. 

  • Driver

     I’m also curious, what did you think their response was going to be? 

  • @Driver: Well, I said to them “You know that you’re blocking an active bike lane, right?” in part because it’s not marked as obviously as the green on-street lanes are… so yeah, I expected to get beaten, tasered, and locked up for a few days. As a matter of fact, I should be charged with resisting arrest just for posting this comment.
    Excellent troll, 9/10.

  • Driver

    I’m a troll for understanding the realities that exist in our city?  
    Sorry, I have little sympathy for people who do dumb things and then act surprised about what happened to them afterward.

    I like how they “seized” your ID. It makes it sound more dramatic.

  • Anonymous

    If we take your assertion that “there’s a lot of good people serving” as true (dubious), then at the very least these “good people” are condoning the behavior of the bad ones.

    Police who fail to speak out or do something about it when their colleagues break the law, or act like entitled thugs, are just as responsible for the miserable state of the NYPD as the ones actually committing these offenses.

    This problem is pervasive through the whole department.  It starts with the policies and attitudes at the highest level, and is not the result of a few exceptionally bad individuals.

  • Anonymous

    If we take your assertion that “there’s a lot of good people serving” as true (dubious), then at the very least these “good people” are condoning the behavior of the bad ones.

    Police who fail to speak out or do something about it when their colleagues break the law, or act like entitled thugs, are just as responsible for the miserable state of the NYPD as the ones actually committing these offenses.

    This problem is pervasive through the whole department.  It starts with the policies and attitudes at the highest level, and is not the result of a few exceptionally bad individuals.

  • No, a troll for trying to take an unreasonable side of the argument. Why should I act as if I EXPECT the police to do things that are improper, abusive and against official department policy? They are supposed to be held to a higher standard than most people who are just doing a job (yet still treated with the utmost respect), and abuse of power should be something we act aggressively to denounce and prevent. 

    I have little regard for people like you who think informed, outspoken, active citizens deserve abusive behavior by authority figures. Your attitude is crap. I’m sorry that you get to vote and pay low taxes in America.

    And J_12: It’s definitely a messy situation. Wouldn’t say fellow officers are necessarily complicit for failing to resist abuse and corruption; it’s often the case that they feel powerless to work toward change because they can’t figure out what to do about it that wouldn’t leave anyone worse-off than we are now. The press and the public can’t maturely handle a police corruption purge, because tomorrow we’ll trust a reformed force even less than we trust a corrupt force today. And abuse can be directed inward as well; ever see Serpico? Ever see The Wire? One-man whistleblowers get singled-out and have their careers destroyed, at which point they have no power to reform anymore. It’s not necessarily good to hesitate to take action in this situation, but it’s surely ineffective to move full-speed ahead as a force of reform and immediately get put down. Something bigger needs to happen. And yes, it needs to be a top-down effort, not bottom-up.

  • Anonymous

    The quickest way to change viewpoints will be more cops on bikes. NYPD seems to have a few, but they need more.

  • Anonymous

    The quickest way to change viewpoints will be more cops on bikes. NYPD seems to have a few, but they need more.

  • Anonymous

    The quickest way to change viewpoints will be more cops on bikes. NYPD seems to have a few, but they need more.

  • Driver

    There’s nothing unreasonable about it.  I’m not condoning the way (some) cops act, I think it’s wrong.   I’m not saying you deserved anything.  None of us deserve to be harassed by the cops, but I live in the real world and understand the realities of how things are instead of idealizing about how they should be. 

    “Why should I act as if I EXPECT the police to do things that are improper, abusive and against official department policy?”

    You already answered your own question

    “The chilling thing about it was that I knew, from unfortunate prior
    experience, I was one little white lie or exaggerated statement away
    from spending 2 days in Brooklyn central booking.”

  • @SB_Driver:disqus : Twisting my words. Once the escalation started, I knew I was talking to abusive cops. And I know what abusive cops can do with their power… I’ve been tackled from behind and beaten up because of wild misunderstandings. But prior to witnessing their asinine behavior, I did not expect them to be assholes as I first approached them. 
    Why am I letting you lecture me about my conduct and “the real world” anyway? You weren’t there. What could you possibly conclude from any of this? That people shouldn’t approach police officers at all in order to prevent future confrontations?

  • Driver

    No the conclusion is that telling police officers they are in the wrong  generally doesn’t go over well with them, even when they are in the wrong.  This should not come as a surprise to anybody with a bit of street smarts.  Did you really think they would say “oh sorry, we’ll move out of the bike lane”?   

    I did not twist your words in any way.  You rhetorically asked why you should expect the police to behave improperly after already expressing doubt (correctly so) in the integrity of police officers.

  • Driver

    I knew your name was familiar from another discussion.  I forgot you were the guy who passed in front of and was hit by an SUV driver that had been menacing you.  I guess avoiding confrontation is not your thing.

  • Kaja

    > Why the fixation on whether the doored cyclist was on drugs?

    Because cops’ job is to arrest folks, and they can’t arrest you for getting doored. But since plenty of folks smoke drugs, and drink, and since people stunned and on adrenaline don’t know how to watch their mouths, asking a stunned person if he’s done drugs recently is a fantastic way to create probable cause.

    Don’t talk to the police. Especially after they assault you.

  • Kaja

    > Well, tonight I was stopped and had my records checked by a pair of police officers in Williamsburg because I alerted them that their squad car was blocking a marked bike lane… I grew up knowing a lot of police officers. My childhood friends are police. My friends’ siblings are police. My father is a retired police officer. My parents’ friends are largely police officers. And everyone’s from this local area.How have you not yet internalized “don’t talk to the police”?Do you stick your hand in beehives to find honey, too?Unreal.

  • Driver

    No joke Kaja.  The less you say the better.  And in the event you actually have done something wrong, say nothing.  

  • carma

    Brian,
    Lets put it this way.  Police vans and officers block the middle of a street for traffic stops.  As a driver, would you approach them and tell them, “excuse me, you are blocking the road”.

    So you approach the officers who were blocking the bike lane.  Big deal.  bike around it.  its NOT THAT HARD, PLUS, you dont have to try to be confrontational.

    seriously, what were you trying to prove to the officers?

    heh, im not saying that you need to be complacent about everything, but why are you feeding raw bloody meat to a raging lion?  you WERE asking for trouble.  heh, if you like going to central booking.  please antagonize more officers.  but if not, just let the officers be, and RIDE AROUND the lane.

  • It bears repeating: none of you were there, and none of you saw what I said to the police officers. You’re all assuming that I ran up to them barking and that they responded in kind, so I must be “that kind of idiot”. That’s incorrect. 

    You’re all assuming a lot of other things too. Like, that one could ride around them. You couldn’t ride around their cruiser because they were blocking the entire path between bollards and signposts. You had to dismount, jump off the sidewalk, walk in the roadway, and come back around, which is what gave me enough time to point out that they were blocking the path. (riding in the roadway toward the bridge would have qualified me for a ticket)

    And as a final note: everyone questioning my decision to approach the police officers is missing the overall point. Regardless of the “sense” of that decision, they were openly hostile and abusive to me. It’s uncalled for in ANY situation. Police officers are not trained to be “raging lions”. The fact that any of you condone such behavior on their part (by questioning me for interacting with them) is bullshit. Just like it’s bullshit that any of you are questioning the motives/behavior of the cyclist from the news story above. It’s forum trolling. No one supports abuse of authority or fascist rule here. It’s not martial law out there. Be good neighbors and support people who report legitimate police abuse, or get the fuck out of here.

  • Brian, I’ve never in my life seen a motorist ask a police officer (or EMT) to move an ambulance or RMP out of the traffic lane. I bet they thought you had stolen the bike and that you wanted to get out of Brooklyn in haste.

  • Driver

    You put your story in the comments section and then you get upset when people comment on it because they have different views and aren’t giving you the sympathy you seem to be looking for.  Then you result to insults and cursing and telling us how we should think in order to be contributors to this board.  Grow up.

  • Driver

     And saying a wrong behavior could be expected is not condoning it. 

  • Mark Walker

    Brian’s assessment of Driver is spot-on. Driver comes into this forum whenever a pedestrian or cyclist has become the victim of reported violence and/or injustice. His consistent aim is to sow doubt, blame the victim, and defend some of the sickest and most violent people on our streets as long as they’re behind the wheel. Just the sight of his tag makes my stomach turn.

  • Driver

    That’s right, I have 215 comments here on SB and all of them are exactly as you describe.  Maybe you should try reading them some time instead of forming your opinion on the comments you don’t like.  Sorry if I think people should have some responsibility for their own safety and not obliviously walk in the streets that we all know are dangerous, or put themselves in bad situations because of a foolish sense of righteousness.  That doesn’t mean I blame every victim, but I also don’t think every pedestrian (or driver for that matter) is exempt from using common sense or good judgment, especially when dealing with known dangers. 

    And who are these sickest and most violent people you speak of?  Is someone who unintentionally hits a jaywalker or cyclist with their vehicle really a sick violent person?  Do you see me defending drivers who hit pedestrians with the right of way, or drivers who intentionally inflict damage, or drunk drivers?  I don’t think so.

  • Driver

    Did someone delete my reply to Mark?  If so I would like to know why. 

    Mark, it sounds like you don’t even read my posts.  Maybe you should try it.  You can access them from my disqus profile.  Maybe you can point out where I am  defending these sick and violent individuals. 

  • Driver

     Here is a re-post of my original reply.  Why it was deleted from here is a mystery to me. 

    That’s right, I have 215 comments here on SB and all of them are exactly
    as you describe.  Maybe you should try reading them some time instead
    of forming your opinion on the comments you don’t like.  Sorry if I
    think people should have some responsibility for their own safety and
    not obliviously walk in the streets that we all know are dangerous, or
    put themselves in bad situations because of a foolish sense of
    righteousness.  That doesn’t mean I blame every victim, but I also don’t
    think every pedestrian (or driver for that matter) is exempt from using
    common sense or good judgment, especially when dealing with known
    dangers. 

    And who are these sickest and most violent people you
    speak of?  Is someone who unintentionally hits a jaywalker or cyclist
    with their vehicle really a sick violent person?  Do you see me
    defending drivers who hit pedestrians with the right of way, or drivers
    who intentionally inflict damage, or drunk drivers?  I don’t think so.

  • Mark Walker

    Driver: Brian came into this forum, following a horrible experience, seeking solace and support from like-minded people. You gave him a flame war — but you won’t get the chance to employ your corrosive, divisive, cynical tactics against me. Whenever I disengage with a troll, I quote the Streetsblog mission statement, which speaks of “working to transform our cities by reducing dependence on private
    automobiles and improving conditions for cyclists, pedestrians and
    transit riders.” Complete text elsewhere on this page. The very name you use here demonstrates that you are not part of the solution but part of the problem. I would gladly delete your comments if I had the power. Have a nice day.

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