Park Slope Cop Brings About Sidewalk Cycling, Then Tickets It

The NYPD has never hesitated to park in the city's bike lanes (this van was ##http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/07/18/wanted-better-protection-for-thousands-of-cyclists-dumped-onto-the-bowery/##parked on the Bowery last summer##). Photo: Ben Fried

We at Streetsblog aren’t big fans of sidewalk bike riding. As we’ve said before, if the police truly must take time away from targeting the most dangerous traffic crimes, like motorist speeding and failure-to-yield, sidewalk riding is the kind of infraction for them to worry about. Pedestrian space is scarce enough in New York City.

But that doesn’t excuse this story of entrepreneurial police work out of Park Slope.

Last Friday, at least two separate cyclists were ticketed for traveling a couple car lengths on the sidewalk of 3rd Street, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. Why were they on the sidewalk? To get around the police car blocking the bike lane, the vehicle of the very same officer doing the ticketing.

Makalé Faber-Cullen was riding home from work at around 6:00 p.m. when she hit a traffic jam on 3rd. A police car was parked in the bike lane. Cars had enough room to go around it, but not easily, and Faber-Cullen said she didn’t feel safe entering the queue of tightly-packed drivers. “There really wasn’t a passage through,” she explained, “so I went on the sidewalk for maybe 20 or 30 feet, just to go around the police car. I got back on the bike lane right after that.”

After re-entering the bike lane, however, the police officer called out to her, asked for her ID, and slapped her with a summons for riding on the sidewalk. Faber-Cullen said she’d felt a bit sheepish about making the mistake of not walking her bike the short distance, until she caught up with a family of three — two parents and a three-year-old — also on their bikes, and started speaking with the father.

“He said he’d been gotten by the same officer five minutes ago,” said Faber-Cullen. “It was infuriating.”

Pulling over a cyclist for riding on the sidewalk is one thing. Parking in the bike lane and waiting until someone inevitably goes the wrong way around? That’s another story. There wasn’t any public safety problem until the officer arrived on the scene.

Faber-Cullen said she didn’t observe the officer performing any other kind of enforcement, whether citing motorists or non-traffic crimes, as she approached and left the location.

This isn’t the first time that an NYPD officer has made a day of parking in a bike lane and then ticketing the cyclists who go past. Gothamist found an officer doing the same on Manhattan’s First Avenue in 2010.

The point of traffic enforcement isn’t to ensure compliance with the law for its own sake. It’s to save lives. It’s to prevent the 75,000 injuries caused by motor vehicle crashes a year.

Every officer who spends her time luring cyclists onto the sidewalk is an officer letting 62 percent of truck drivers on Greenpoint’s McGuinness Boulevard exceed the speed limit. She’s an officer making New York City less safe.

  • The Truth

    If only they were so eager to ticket cars when they drive on the sidewalk to get around the DSNY trucks in my neighborhood!!!

    The only thing that is consistent about the NYPD is their preference for bullying the citizenry when they should be providing for public safety instead.

  • The people who were ticketed, especially the young family, should go to the 78th community council meeting and speak directly with Captain Michael Ameri.

    Given how fast drivers speed on 4th and the behavior of motorists on 5th, especially car service drivers, it is extremely worrying that a family riding on the sidewalk between these two avenues is a top concern of Ameri’s officers.

    http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/html/precincts/precinct_078.shtml

    Next meeting is on April 24th at 7:30 PM at the precinct.

  • Pete

    That reeks of a CCRB complaint.  

  • Andy

    As lame and annoying as it is that the cop lead cyclists out of the bike lane, riders do have the choice to either ride momentarily in the regular lanes, or get off and walk on the sidewalk. Nothing forced them specifically to ride on the sidewalk, and for such a short distance, I’m not sure why someone would get on the bike only pedal a few times and then get off to put it back on the pavement.

  • Joe R.

    This is entrapment, plain and simple. What would have happened if the cyclist passed on the left side? A ticket for riding outside the bike lane perhaps? I actually got a sidewalk cycling ticket during the last bike crackdown in 1999 under equally stupid circumstances. I was returning a tape at 10 PM. Street was deserted, so was the sidewalk. I was on the sidewalk for probably 100 feet, if that. I vowed that would be the first and last ticket I would ever get cycling, so now I do nothing illegal if police are in sight. In the above scenario though, it seems no matter which side you choose to pass the police on, you could potentially get a ticket.

    Others have said it but it bears repeating-if some police have time on their hands for nonsense like this, or to give tickets for slow rolling through reds at empty intersections, then it’s high time to cut the police force in half. This kind of policing serves absolutely no public safety purpose. It doesn’t even fit the “broken windows” theory of ticketing for quality of life violations to prevent worse crimes. The vast majority of cyclists caught in these dragnets wouldn’t go on to become murderers or rapists if the police didn’t ticket them.

  • Matt

    the ticket should be fought but traffic court is intended to waste time. there should be compensation for the wasted time as well.

  • Joe R.

    @ggAndy:disqus You’re kind of missing the point here. If the police weren’t there, then there would be no reason to decide between riding versus walking on the sidewalk. In fact, it’s the police presence which created those sidewalk riders in the first place. That’s the very definition of entrapment. And there’s no need to dismount and remount if one chooses to ride on the sidewalk. I can easily hop up the curb, and then use the ramp at the next intersection to get back into the street. But the overriding point remains that the police not only created a dangerous obstruction, but violated the law themselves by blocking the bike lane while not responding to an emergency.

  • Andy

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus  I don’t disagree that if the police had no business being in the lane, then they are specifically the cause of the issue at hand. However, I don’t find that to be entrapment when 2 other legal options existed, even if they aren’t a riders top choice. 

  • Joe R.

    @ggAndy:disqus Actually, there is only one option where one could reasonably be sure of not getting a ticket-namely walking the bike on the sidewalk. Passing on the left could merit a ticket for riding outside the bike lane. Sure, you can beat such a ticket in court-if you’re willing to show up multiple times until the officer finally shows up. This is a case where the system would be the punishment. In fact, if a person doesn’t wish to contest a ticket for sidewalk cycling or red light running or other moving violations, why can’t they just mail in the fine instead of having to take time off to go to court? That’s like being punished twice.

    The case of the parents riding with a three-year old shows how nonsensical a blanket citiwide prohibition against sidewalk cycling is. Suppose parents want to ride with small children and there are no protected bike lanes or bike paths? There’s the option of all of them riding in the street, which is not a good idea for inexperienced small children. Or the parents can ride in the street and the child on the sidewalk, often with a row of parked cars separating them. The third option, namely all three riding on the sidewalk, is probably the best from a safety point of view, but now the parents are subject to a summons. In the outer boroughs especially where the sidewalks are often nearly empty, it makes no sense for sidewalk cycling to be illegal. This is a Manhattan-centric law which really should only apply to the Manhattan CBD and/or similarly congested small portions of the outer boroughs.

  • Ben from Bed stuy

    Sometimes, when I am biking and a cop car is blocking the bike lane, I say, “Officer, you are blocking the bike lane” as I slowly pass. Other times, I keep my mouth shut because it seems risky to antagonize the cop towards me specifically or cyclists in general. That said, let’s all start riding with our camera phones or helmet cameras at the ready and take pictures of cops creating dangerous situations. Then, when we go to a precinct meeting, we can bring photo evidence.
    One other point that bears mentioning – if it is a regular practice for cops to park their cars in bike lanes (and we know it is) does anyone wonder why so many regular citizens do that as well? I’d like to see more cops leading by example rather than endangering those citizens they are meant to protect and serve.

  • KillMoto

    NYPD is so specialized.  They have a crack squad of elite 19 elite detectives trained to investigate whether a vehicular manslaughter is an accident, or a crime.  

    Why then do they allow plain old motorized patrol officers to issue tickets to cyclists?  What cycling specific training have they received?  NYPD mechanized patrol officers should be required to stick to motor vehicle violations (preventing and citing same, not perpetrating them).  Bicycle police should be the only force qualified to issue cyclist citations.  

    The victims of this illegal police harassment can sue the city – if even only in small claims court – and compel a change.  

    Write your city council rep and demand a change!

  • Anonymous

    You don’t need to take your camera far to find police vehicles blocking a bike lane. Just go to any precinct that’s close to a bike lane. Police precincts always seem to be surrounded by double or even triple-parked police vehicles. Sometimes I see one parked on the sidewalk, another on parking lane, and a third one on the bike lane!

  • The Truth

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus while this is an unacceptable practice from the NYPD, creating a hazard for no legitimate public safety purpose, an entrapment defense cannot stand up.
     
    To constitute entrapment, the guilty person cannot be predisposed to breaking the law.  If they chose to ride on the sidewalk in front of a police officer, when a legal option was readily available, there is no way they will ever clear the predisposition hurdle.  They would have ridden on the sidewalk when eventually confronted with a non-NYPD vehicle blocking the bike lane.

  • Joe R.

    @40daebbed12b53745f7f9f21456e6154:disqus One must know the law to avoid breaking it. It’s not unreasonable to assume some people who ride on the sidewalk to avoid the police vehicle might not know it’s against the law to do so. Heck, I was riding for 21 years when I received my sidewalk cycling ticket in 1999, yet I had no idea until then I wasn’t allowed on sidewalks. When I researched it, apparently there was no law against it until the mid or late 1990s. To this day I haven’t seen a single sign anywhere prohibiting bicycles from sidewalks. I know ignorance of the law isn’t an excuse, but by the same token how would one know a law against sidewalk cycling exists without signs to that effect? For example, do we expect motorists to stop at an intersection if no stop sign is posted there? Do we expect people to know when and where they’re not allowed to park without signs? The answer is no. Lack of proper signage is an admissible defense if you get a parking ticket. The same line of thought should apply here. It’s not required to go through any formal procedure to ride a bicycle where one might be made aware of what the laws are, even if no signs are posted (i.e. NYC’s 30 mph speed limit which all motorists should know because it’s mentioned in the driver’s manual). Therefore, the only laws any cyclist can be reasonably expected to obey are those for which signs exist, such as stop or yield signs, or traffic signals, the meaning of which is universally known. It’s certainly not intuitively obvious that bicycles shouldn’t be on sidewalks given that they’re halfway between a car and a pedestrian. To muddy things further, it’s not even illegal to ride on sidewalks if you’re under a certain age. So you might grow up riding on sidewalks, thinking it’s OK, and might never learn otherwise until the police give you a ticket. Therefore, in my opinion, unless signs are posted to that effect on a given section of street, tickets for sidewalk cycling shouldn’t hold up in court. 

  • Joe R.

    And on another note, if we’re going to ticket cyclists for riding on the sidewalk, then we should ticket pedestrians and joggers in the bike lane. In fact, the latter is less defensible than the former because most streets with bike lanes have signs which say something to the effect of “Bike Lane-Bikes Only”. It’s clearly signed that pedestrians don’t belong in the bike lane. I have yet to see a sign prohibiting cyclists from the sidewalk.

  • “Sometimes, when I am biking and a cop car is blocking the bike lane, I say, ‘Officer, you are blocking the bike lane'”

    Really? When I’m biking and I see a cop I shut the hell up and stay the hell out of their way.

  • Killmoto

    You begin and end with a false premise. If the police did their job, there would be no other car in the bike lane, due to police ticket and tow

  • Rhubarbpie

    This is as pure an example of how perverse the NYPD’s quota system is. It’s resulting in bogus tickets, not to mention an outrageous stop-and-frisk policy, as documented in the Village Voice and by the brave former police officer Adrian Schoolcraft, among other officers. (See http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2011/09/federal_judge_n.php,) The result is dangerous streets for everyone. Only public pressure will end it — whether it’s at the precinct level or through lawsuits (the NYCLU has filed one about quotas). In the end, our next mayor must end this kind of policing — and every candidate should be pressed hard on what they’ll do about quotas, stop-and-frisk and vigorous enforcement of traffic laws.

  • Entropy

    ALERT! You can actually stop your bike, dismount and walk. And before you are “forced” into life threatening traffic at a blocked bike lane you can do the same. It’s a choice, risk your life or stop your bike

  • Park Slope Parent

    Clearly very few commenters here ride with children.  On this particular street it’s not uncommon to see parents on bikes with kids, given the soccer field, Old Stone House and the (soon to be open again) playground.  Unless you provide a protected bike lane, anywhere there’s a park you’re going to find a few cyclists, especially parents with kids, on the sidewalk. 

    Most of the drivers speed off of 4th Avenue and whip up the hill, so it’s easy to see why someone would choose to go onto the sidewalk rather than mix with angry drivers.  But debating whether or not it’s legal or necessary to do this, however, is not really the point.

    The real issue is one of resources: the NYPD must truly have nothing better to do if it’s ticketing Park Slope dads portaging their children. 

  • Anonymous

    Parents (or guardians, etc.) should be allowed to ride on the sidewalk with young children. The laws should be amended or the police should make it absolutely clear that enforcement under that scenario is a no-no.

    I mean, they’ve managed to make it clear that parking enforcement against other cops is a no-no. They could at least have an exception that benefits the public at large.

  • Matthijs van Guilder

    Police officers while they are on patrol in a police vehicle can drive or park anywhere, in any direction they feel suitable. Where do you come from if you don’t know this? I cannot speak for anyone but myself, but the only time I chose to drive on a sidewalk is because of the obvious lack of safety of driving in the adjacent street. Especially if there are no pedestrians on the sidewalk. However, if you are riding a bike in a known “heavy bike enforcement” neighborhood, or can guess as much, then you really ask for it to zip right by them. This is reality.

  • Anonymous

    —AC 19-176 – Riding bicycles on sidewalks is prohibited. Bicycles may be confiscated.
    NOTE: Tickets for riding on the sidewalk fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Control Board (ECB). If you are given a ticket or summons that requires you to appear in criminal court instead, you should be able to get the
     
    http://www.bicycledefensefund.org/bikelaw.html

  • Anonymous

    —AC 19-176 – Riding bicycles on sidewalks is prohibited. Bicycles may be confiscated.
    NOTE: Tickets for riding on the sidewalk fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Control Board (ECB). If you are given a ticket or summons that requires you to appear in criminal court instead, you should be able to get the ticket thrown out for lack of jurisdiction.  http://www.bicycledefensefund.org/bikelaw.html

  • Real New Yorker

    Dear NYPD: Fuck you. Seriously, fuck you.

    — New Yorkers Trying to Commute by Bicycle. 

  • Adrastos

    the police suck no matter how you look at it.
    they suck

  • The Truth

    @google-2142be360725cd57d72f4daa30edc1fd:disqus that is absolutely false!
    In New York State, the police are ONLY allowed (legally) to park in illegal locations when they are involved in “an emergency operation.”  Getting a donut or writing a parking ticket do not meet that definition under any tortured use of the English language.
    http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/LAWSSEAF.cgi?QUERYTYPE=LAWS+&QUERYDATA=$$VAT1103$$@TXVAT01103+&LIST=LAW+&BROWSER=BROWSER+&TOKEN=22967650+&TARGET=VIEW
    If it’s not an emergency, New York State law explicitly requires them to park legally.

    But thanks for spreading misinformation that helps the NYPD believe they have unlimited powers.  It’s folks like you who enable the police state.

  • Was the 3 year old riding a bike or in a bike seat?  If on a bike, they are allowed, and by being guardians I believe the parents are legal to be there as well.  Letter of the law is under 12 and under 20″ wheels, but do they expect the parent to abandon their child on the sidewalk and ride in the street?

    I’d say the officer needs not just a ticket, but a civil suit for fraud.  This kind of jackass give all police a bad name… not that giving cops a bad name is hard in NYC.

  • Anonymous

    That is just plain evil.
     

  • Anonymous

    Entrapment: Blocking the street and bike lane so traffic is backed up, for no other reason than to force cyclists onto the sidewalk so they can be ticketed, is pure entrapment. 

    Shared-Use Bike Path: The 3rd Street sidewalk is wider than most shared use bike paths and has fewer bikes or pedestrians on it.  Bluntly, it is less dangerous to both pedestrians and cyclists to be riding on the 3rd Street sidewalk than on most bike paths!

    Says Inspector Javert,  “The law is clear: It is illegal for both the rich and the poor to sleep under bridges, just as stealing bread is illegal for both rich and poor.” 

  • Anonymous

     driving on the sidewalk IS legal for cars – for driving from the street, to a driveway, supposedly to off street parking.  But how many cars are driven up onto the sidewalk and parked there on the sidewalk?
     
    How about having drivers get out of their cars and push them across the driveways? 

    Why should it be illegal for me to roll up the driveway near my house and ride to my door.  It is legal if I was driving my car, why not my bike?  Do we not have the same rights as well as the responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles?  If they don’t ban cars from sidewalks, how can they ban bikes?

  • The Truth

    @Brownstone2:disqus an entrapment defense requires not only that the police created the condition, but also that the guilty party was not predisposed to break the law.  
    Since there was an obvious legal option available, any reasonable person would believe that the person who rode on the sidewalk would eventually break the law when confronted with a non-NYPD vehicle blocking the lane.  This is not entrapment because it does not meet the predisposition hurdle.The officer was breaking the law, though, when parked in an illegal and hazardous location without an “emergency operation.”  I don’t see any way to excuse the people who were issued a summons for their choice to break the law, but the officer should be held accountable for the parking violation.

  • Peter Patchen

    The exact same thing happened to me today in Redhook. A police car was parked in the bike lane on Smith street at Hamilton where the road there is incredibly torn up and rough. So, I could go into the broken up street with the car traffic or onto the completely empty sidewalk. 

    I rode onto the sidewalk and was looking for a place to get back down into the street when the Police car pulled me over. In the time it took them to write me the summons, I pointed out two other cyclists who did the exact same thing to avoid the rough road.

    Now I have to take time off of work to answer a completely unnecessary summons caused by the cop who gave it to me.

  • fj

    Cars, trucks and buses are armed and dangerous.  Cyclists and pedestrian have none.
     
    Plain and simple it is the law of the jungle.  It is not the rule of law.  While my mantra includes profound belief in the rule of law there are many laws and systems of laws that are totally unjust and must be overturned.

    Might makes right and traffic laws are terribly skewed to those with the power; to those who not only monopolize our streets but how we move about and live on this planet; for money and more power.

    Plain and simple.

  • Ian Turner

    Peter: Is there a reason you couldn’t have walked your bike on the sidewalk around the police car?

  • Anonymous

    Ian: You’re not a bike commuter in NYC are you? 

    Bike lanes in the city are constantly blocked and the police do nothing about it. For instance, just look down 9th street between 8th Ave. + 4 Ave. in Park Slope on any day and you’ll see what I mean. If I had to get off my bike and walk around every car or truck parked in a bike lane I’d be walking as much as riding.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a bike commuter and I second Ian’s question. I know all about cars parked on the bike lane, including police cars, but I go around them legally, by riding on the street. If for some reason the street seemed really unfeasible, then yes, I would walk my bike on the sidewalk to get around the obstacle.

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