Cyclist Gets Retaliatory Ticket For Telling Cop to Stop Blocking Bike Lane

Here’s an argument for using cameras to enforce traffic laws: getting cops like this off of the traffic beat.

As first reported in the Daily News, Brooklyn cyclist Ben Kopciel was issued a $200 ticket earlier this month in what looks like a retaliatory gesture for telling an NYPD officer to get out of the Ocean Parkway bike path. The encounter was captured by Kopciel on video (a New York Times-endorsed trend).

Kopciel was biking north on the Ocean Parkway greenway, located in a median between the service road and the central traffic artery. Where the bikeway intersects 18th Avenue, a police car was parked squarely across the painted bike crossing. As he swerved around the car, Kopciel curtly told the officer, “Move back,” while gesturing with his hand, then continued down the bike path.

As he approached the next intersection, however, the same officer was pulling into the same bike path-blocking position, this time with his lights flashing. The officer pulled Kapciel over and asked him why he didn’t stop at the previous light. Kopciel said he did.

Rewind the video and you can see that at the moment Kopciel entered the intersection, the pedestrian signal was still blinking red; the traffic light, which is out of the frame, therefore had likely not yet turned. As Kopciel crossed the street, the video shows a yellow school bus entering the intersection just before him. A few seconds later, you can see a pack of three or four cars behind that bus, cars which must have crossed at about the same moment as Kopciel. Only the cyclist, of course, was pulled over.

The misuse of police power on display is all the more revealing in context. The 70th Precinct, where the officer was stationed, only handed out 30 tickets for running red lights in the month of June, or about one a day. How many times of the tickets were like this one, and how many did the 70th Precinct issue to drivers for dangerously blowing through a red?

  • Anonymous

    In terms of the Ocean Parkway signal, the cop is right – the main light was red and the turn light was green.  Too bad for him that those lights have no bearing on the bike path.  Bikes are supposed to use the pedestrian signal which just started blinking Don’t Walk.  Kopciel was right and the ticket is bogus.

  • Guest

    What is the ticket for? Jay-Walking? Bicycles are supposed to use the crosswalk with pedestrian signals? Flashing red pedestrian signal is don’t start walking (enter the crosswalk) finish if you have already started. 

  • Driver

    The cop looks in the wrong here, but I am confused about the setup of this intersection.  Hopefully someone who knows this intersection can clarify. 
    When are the turn arrows green?  At the beginning or the end of the regular green light cycle?  Is the arrow green concurrent with the green light, or is the arrow green and the light red?  Do both directions of traffic have green arrows at the same time, or are they different?  Is there a red arrow?  Or is traffic allowed to turn left with the green light, even if the turning arrow is not green?
    I ask this because it seems unusual that the car that appears to be in the oncoming turn lane is stopped, but traffic moving in the same direction as the cyclist seems to be going straight AND turning.  This would make sense if there was a green light and green arrow at the same time in the direction the cyclist is traveling, but it would be very unusual (and unsafe) for the turn arrow to be green while the pedestrian signal indicates walk or flashing the red countdown, which is still a pedestrian right of way.
    Hopefully someone can shed some light on this.

    While it definitely looks like the cyclist is in the right here, this statement made me laugh. 
    ““I knew for sure it wasn’t red because cars were still going through on Ocean Parkway,”

  • KillMoto

    Gawd I wish that was me, I was on my chainring-forward recumbent, and that I had a brake failure right where the bile path met the cruiser’s door.  I’d fall and scrape my leg. Me and my dream team of lawyers would own the NYPD.  

  • Ben Kintisch

    Ah New York’s Finest. Protect and serve….if you’re a car driver.
    Harass and harass….if your’e a cyclist.
    And you’re invisible…..if you’re a (non-minority) pedestrian.
    And stop and frisk….if you’re a young black or Latino male.
    When did this become okay?

  • Emily

    Not sure the cop was particularly malicious, but he seems kind of dim.  He shouldnt have been where he was, but a lot of things shouldnt be and you just have to let them ride.  I’d like to take the time to lecture every motorist that idles their car for no apparent reason when they arent even sitting in the driver seat, but I have to live my life and not get involved with talking to brick walls.  Tell it to the judge, show the video, and if he is a decent human being he’ll throw it out.  If not, live and learn.

  • carma

    @SB_Driver:disqus 
    i happen to bike and drive often on Ocean parkway so let me give my best take on the road.  the bike lane is nestled on the westbound side of OP.  side service lanes are at the outer corner of the very long blvd.  the bike lane is sandwiched in between the 3 lane roadway and the road itself has turn lanes plus turn signals.

    what you are seeing is the cyclist biking northbound on OP.  the southbound service lane will often have motor vehicles turning into the median which may block the bike lane.  The service lanes also has no signals, but does have Stop signs at every intersection.  The turn signals from the main road are also at the beginning of every cycle and traffic is allowed to turn at any time.

    it is because of the sandwiched design of this bike lane that makes it uncomfortable to bike without encountering a car at the middle of the interesction.  while i dont think it is particular a hazard as a cyclist does have good peripheral vision of all the intersections, it can be frustrating as it may appear that a vehicle is blocking the lane.

    From what i see from the video, the cyclist had a full green as the school bus and several other vehicles on the main road went straight on northbound.  i do not see any wrong in the cyclist and absolutely did NOT run any red light which was a clear blatant lie on the cops part.

  • Jay Shuffield

    If there is any traffic infraction shown in this video, it would have been committed by the police officer.

    Since the marked police vehicle is clearly stopped where it blocks the crosswalk and bicycle lane, the officer may be violating Section 4-07 of New York City’s Traffic Rules:

    Spillback. No operator shall enter an intersection and its crosswalks unless there is sufficient unobstructed space beyond the intersection and its crosswalks in the lane in which he/she is traveling to accommodate the vehicle, notwithstanding any traffic control signal indication to proceed.

    Note that both the City and State explicitly limit the ability of police officers to violate traffic regulations to instances when they are “involved in an emergency operation.”  It is perfectly clear in this video that the marked vehicle was not involved in any sort of emergency operation.

    Meanwhile, the video is equally clear in showing that the cyclists did not run a red light, but rather crossed with the right of way.  Unfortunately, this incident has every appearance of an officer feeling “disrespected” because some lowly cyclist dared to question his (possibly illegal) activities, and chose to write a false ticket to show that he was in charge.

  • J

    Yet another example of why we need independent oversight of the NYPD. Sign the petition here:

    http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/2777/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6164

  • I’m an advocate for alternatives to cars and love it when cops get on mountain bikes.  But it’s iffy to say this is a retaliatory ticket.  It’s obviously a justified ticket–the bike rider admitted to not realizing he went through a red light–and could have been avoided had he been a little more diplomatic to the officer who, granted, was parked in a problematic place.

  • I’m surprised he was on that Ocean Parkway bike path at all.  It is in such terrible shape that it is far more dangerous than being on the street.  I’ve tried biking it a few times on the way back from Coney Island: large potholes, concrete slabs heaved up 6 inches.  I gave up and biked back on the access road.

  • Joe R.

    @hfreeman17:disqus The pedestrian signal was still flashing red when the cyclist went through the intersection.  In NYC pedestrian signals usually remain flashing red until the light changes from green to yellow, after which they go to steady red, so the cyclist clearly had the green here. Also, since there is nothing except the pedestrian signal clearly visible from the bike path, then one would assume this is what cyclists are supposed to use. This being the case, even if this was an oddball intersection where the pedestrian signal remains flashing after the traffic light goes to red, the cyclist still would not have to stop since the pedestrian signal was flashing red, not steady red. You’re allowed to cross on flashing red so long as you’re clear of the intersection before cross traffic gets the green signal.

    It’s clear to me we need to do two things to prevent this kind of abuse of power in the future. One is move towards automated enforcement of red lights and speed limits so people no longer can get bogus tickets like this. The second is to pass an Idaho stop-type law so police can no longer routinely harass cyclists with red light or stop sign tickets. Under a properly worded Idaho stop law, unless there is cross traffic, it would no longer be necessary for bikes to stop at red lights or stop signs. Cameras at intersections could ensure the police would only give cyclists tickets when passing lights if there’s vehicular or pedestrian cross traffic. Requiring cyclists (and especially pedestrians) to stop and wait at every red signal, even if nothing is crossing, serves no valid safety or other purpose.

  • I don’t know, Joe.  Looks like the flashing pedestrian counter went from “1” to solid red as Ben was crossing or as he was about to.  And Ben conceded that he didn’t see the light.  He seemed more interested in not slowing down and instead telling the cop to move back.

    I’m generally in favor of bikers and pedestrians having more space and reclaiming public space from vehicles, even officials’ vehicles.  But my main point was that he was unwise or at least not very tactful in how he addressed the officer. 

    Certainly, a motorist who waved back a police officer in a car would get no less of a response?

  • Joe R.

    @hfreeman17:disqus Actually, most of the countdown signals I see go from one to zero and then to solid red just as the light flips from green to yellow. That would mean Ben was entering the intersection just as the light was going from green to yellow, which is still legal. I do agree 100% though he should have kept his mouth shut. I’ve seen police obstructing my legal right-of-way a number of times. I’ve yet to say a word because I highly doubt anything good would come from it. I’ve little doubt the ticket here was solely because Ben decided to open his mouth.

  • Jay Shuffield

    I would also note that when the officer escalated this situation, he chose to compromise the comfort and safety of others.

    The marked vehicle can clearly be seen driving against traffic, just so the officer could issue a ticket to somebody who posed no risk to public safety and had broken no laws.

  • Ian Turner

    @hfreeman17:disqus : Whether the cyclist was disrepectful or not has no bearing on whether or not he was going through the red light. The ticket, valid or not, was clearly retaliatory. Please stop insisting otherwise, and please stop blaming the victim. It is not a crime to ask a police officer not to break the law.

  • Anonymous

    The cop car was blocking the through bike lane – just as inappropriate as if he had stopped in the middle of Ocean Parkway and blocked a car lane.  The straight through bike traffic and pedestrian traffic has the same priority right of way across these intersections as the cars on the main drive do.  And as the service roads have stop signs, straight through bike traffic has higher priority than service road cars.

    Look at the first seconds of the video – they show the intersection a block before the cop car.  There is a very clearly painted set of crosswalk lines connecting the walkway on the mall – but note this pedestrian space has full curbs and not curb cuts.
    Next to that is the very well marked bike path lane with six (count ’em six) arrows as well as two big wide lane lines connecting the bike path’s curb cuts.  As many pedestrians on the Ocean Parkway mall are pushing baby strollers, they frequently use the bike lane curb cut rather than the crosswalk.

    At 15 seconds into the video, you see the cops blocking the bike path lane, but here, because they are sitting right on it, you can’t see the bike lane markings.

    Technically, there is no legal space for any car to stop in this area without blocking one or both of the marked non-motorized crossings.

    Reality is,  most drivers have recognized that if they stop their car before the wide bike lane stripe, they are not blocking the bike lane at all, and have minimal impact on crossing pedestrians.  As well, stopped at just before the bike lane, the back of the car is not blocking cars driving through on the service road.  If one driver pulls up close to the curb, there is room for a second driver to stop near the center line.  Most drivers actually seem to understand this.

    The cop was either totally oblivious to their being cross traffic traveling along the mall, or deliberately decided that they don’t count and can wait until he leaves to cross.  Either incompetence or malfeasance.  There is a small minority of cops who understand traffic law, and those can both drive well and direct traffic well.  The rest, they can’t direct traffic, and they are lousy drivers, both on and off duty.  Cops don’t get promoted for managing traffic, they get promoted for catching guns and drugs, so screw traffic law and driving safety.

    The cyclist should get a statement from the DOT as to who has priority based on their  traffic markings, stopped cars or through bicyclists and pedestrians.
    My understanding is that the markings were laid down in the last 3 to 5 years or so, to explicitly provide the bicycle path with priority and a safer crossing (or as safe as possible, given all the turning traffic at each corner.)  Straight through traffic is always supposed to have priority over turning traffic, unless there are explicit signs/signals to the contrary.  Here there is an explicit straight through bike path lane.

  • Tsamm

    cops are legal criminals….this one is retarded too.  listen to the way he talks.  must be a TSA recruit.

  • Ridgewoodian

    Ugh…I was ticketed yesterday for riding on an all but deserted section of boardwalk at Orchard Beach. Officers insisted there were signs “all over” banning bikes. I asked them to show me and they refused. The one big sign they pointed out, “down by Beach 3” didn’t mention bikes at all. “I bike all over town,” I told one of them, “Coney, the Rockaways. This isn’t usually a problem, and if it is you just say, ‘walk your bike.'”

    “Rules are different up here,” he said.

    I wonder why….

    Anyway, I’m going to fight it. And even if I lose hopefully they’ll spend more collecting my fine than I end up paying.

    Way to protect and serve.

  • Anonymous

    DOT should paint each of the Ocean Parkway bike crossings with their bright green pavement paint so that drivers know they shouldn’t stop there. DOT does not want to do this – they
    actually stop the pavement paint at all crossings – using just the chevron arrows you see in the video.

    Copenhagen uses bright blue pavement paint explicitly at conflict points – and
    these Ocean Parkway intersections are clearly conflict points.
    Look at any of the Copenhagen cycletrack pictures or videos and you will see blue paint across problematic driveways and complex intersections. 

    I don’t know why DOT made their decision not to apply pavement paint across conflict points.  Perhaps they can explain their reasoning.  Better, they should reconsider for locations like these Ocean Parkway Bike Path crossing lanes.

  • guest

    Many bikers are careless and run red lights and think they own the road. This gentlemen however received a ticket because he gave an officer of the law a command. He would have been stopped if he had done that regardless if he were a cyclist, pedestrian or motorist. If you truly think quotas don’t exist you are an imbecile. Cops have too much power.

  • This is a clear example of an officer abusing his power. The bicyclist clearly has proof and I hope that he reported the officer. If there is a follow up story, please leave me a link in case I missed it :] Thanks.

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