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.