NYPD Shoot Fish in a Barrel

Photo: Doug Gordon

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke fame reports that NYPD sent a battalion of bike enforcers out to the intersection of Chrystie Street and Rivington Street on the Lower East Side this morning. This is a T-intersection where no motorized traffic conflicts with the path of northbound cyclists. If you’re biking north on Chrystie, it makes a lot of sense to treat a red light here as a “yield to pedestrians and cyclists” sign. That does happen to be against the letter of the law, however, and police were taking full advantage, handing out $190 tickets. (Meanwhile, the maximum fine for drivers caught speeding in Albany’s proposed automated enforcement bill is $50.)

There’s a ton of bike traffic at this intersection in the morning as cyclists commute in from the Manhattan Bridge. I’ve seen similar stings at T-intersections on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, and readers have recently reported red-light bike blitzes at T-intersections on Riverside Drive uptown. It seems like police know how to stake out locations where they can rack up a lot of easy tickets — places where cyclists tend to break the rules without riding recklessly. But if NYPD wants to do bike enforcement that serves a genuine public purpose, like reminding people not to blow through crosswalks with heavy pedestrian traffic, do they know where to go? Reader Chris O’Leary suggests the following spots:

How about places like Union Square, where cyclists whip off Broadway onto the 17th Street lane with no regard for crossing pedestrian with a signal? Or 2nd Avenue at 14th, where I invariably see one dumb cyclist every light cycle cut through an active crosswalk against the light? Or 6th Avenue, where I face salmon that regularly force me into traffic in an already narrow bike lane?

If these ticket blitzes really are about safety and not harassment, the NYPD is doing a horrible job showing it.

Chris also recommends showing up at precinct community councils to tell the local cops what type of traffic enforcement you’d like to see. This intersection is in the 5th Precinct, which meets on the last Wednesday of every month, except for July and August. The 5th Precinct issued 63 speeding tickets in all of 2012.

  • Jay Walker

    When, on your bike, you come to a complete stop at every stoplight and stop sign, and never yourself jaywalk when in New York, then you may complain about enforcement of jaywalking here. I have never known any bicyclist to obey all traffic laws, although I have known many, many complaining, entitled bicyclists.

    Always ride your bike at such speed that you can control it at all times. If you crash into a pedestrian, you were not controlling your speed.

  • mguralni

    I agree with Chris O’Leary. I was having an amazing ride this morning from Brooklyn, over the Manhattan Bridge and up 1st Avenue. Cyclists using the bike lane as far as you can see. Then, I came to the intersection at 1st Avenue and 20th Street and my trip was spoiled. The light was red for cyclists and motorists and many pedestrians were in the crosswalk. As I waited, two sets of 3-4 cyclists each zig-zagged through the pedestrians, ringing there bells for everyone to get out of there way. It was a horrible display of bad cycling behavior, disobeying the rules of the road, not being safe and not being respectful. Those are the cyclists that should be ticketed by the NYPD, not the ones going through a safe T-intersection.

  • Joe R.

    I personally never understood this type of cyclist behavior. It reminds me of when cars jockey around to gain one place at the next red light. When you hit red lights with heavy pedestrian or motorized cross traffic, chances are good by the time you finally get through you’ll be only a few seconds ahead of those who just waited for the light to change. When you consider the stress you cause yourself and everyone around you trying to thread your way through a crowded intersection it’s totally not worth it. I’m a big fan of Idaho stops, even Idaho yields as I practice them. But there’s a time and place for everything. I save serious time and avoid the stress of being in packs of accelerating cars by passing quiet intersections, especially those with long light cycles. Moreover, it’s safe doing that if I don’t pass through faster than lines of sight allow. However, when intersections are crowded, I don’t even bother. I just wait for the light to go green. I’m not going to make an ass out of myself trying to thread my way through pedestrians and motor vehicles. It’s dangerous for one thing. And often by the time I finally get through, the light will be going green anyway.

  • guest

    Yeah, guess what? Just walking doesn’t threaten others’ safety, while bicycling can easily do this. If you’re hit by a speeding bike, there will be injuries!

  • guest

    This is a key problem: so many bicyclists do NOT follow simple common sense safety practices and are incredibly self-involved and entitled. Quite a few are also on their phones, even texting.

  • Anonymous

    Not true: the lawlessness of the average NYC pedestrian represents a real threat to cyclists. I say that as someone who is still dealing with dental problems that came from a pedestrian jaywalking in front of a bus and into a bike lane, forcing me to crash or hit that person.

    And if a pedestrian *is* hit by a speeding bike, you’re right that there likely will be injuries–to both the pedestrian and the cyclist. With cars, it’s almost always only one way.

  • Joe R.

    Your post doesn’t make a bit of sense. All I did was matter of factly tell the person who asked if he/she walked a bike through a red light that red light laws aren’t enforced on pedestrians here. I didn’t say they should be. As for people walking not threatening others safety, that’s BS. I’ve read plenty of stories of people who crossed without looking and ended up causing bicycles or cars trying to avoid them to crash.

  • Anonymous

    Here’s a recent example of how jaywalking can kill an innocent victim. A bus driver, trying to avoid the jaywalker, ended up crashing into a house, killing a boy inside. http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/boy-7-witnesses-bus-crush-brother-article-1.1209882

  • Anonymous

    The LAPD will throw you to the ground Rodney King style if they nail you for jaywalking.

  • Anonymous

    That’s an awesome idea! Maybe garbage truck drivers would be more careful.

  • Mark R. Brown, AICP

    So maiming and killing with an automobile can incur less of a fine than failure to yield on a 20lbs bike? Police enforce culture, not reasonable laws.

  • NY LES

    I am absolutely fine with this; and a bicycle is my primary form of transport since Citibike started.

    I see way to many bikers breaking the law (running through red lights, going the wrong way etc.) and it looks bad on everyone. A little enforcement here and there might get the message across.

  • Liz

    The biggest joke here is that this stretch of Chrystie is loaded with vehicles in the bike lane, some using it as an extra lane, some loading building supplies, some just sitting there while the driver texts. Also, middle of the street u-turns, busses with their tails hanging in the bike lanes, pedestrians, food vendors, bottle collectors.It’s one of the most unsafe lanes for bikers. I have NEVER seen the police ticket or ask drivers to move. If the NYPD were really interested in safety, they would ticket all that. I saw this police action yesterday and missed getting a ticket by only a few seconds. It was pretty gross.

  • Paul

    You can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. Why not own up to the fact that the bike riders were wrong and simply feel entitled to run red lights, salmon against traffic and other bikers, go the wrong way on one-way streets, or ride on sidewalks. The excuse is always, “I was being careful,” or “None else was around.” I’d like to hear those as an excuse for a car driver at 3 in the morning. Would any of us accept it. In recent years, I’ve had many close calls with bikers breaking the law, far, far more than with drivers. And this doesn’t include the far greater number of cars vs. bikers. Of course, cars are more dangerous for pedestrians (not much more for a senior citizen, though) and no one is excusing them. Throw the book at them, I don’t care, but please, don’t excuse bikers. We cannot trust everyone to make and interpret the law and safety for themselves. Kuddos to the cops.

  • Anonymous

    Please. The posting and the overwhelming number of comments are making the following point: this is a T intersection and thus one where bikers stand very little chance of doing themselves or anyone else any harm. The posting specifically points to other place that the NYPD could be targeting cyclists if they really want use enforcement to foster safe riding.

    And if you’ve had more close calls with bikes than with cars, you must never drive, since drivers primarily endanger each other–they just magically forget that the moment the subject of bikes comes up.

    I say all this as someone who is as law-abiding a bicyclist as there can be. In the abstract, I have no problem with police enforcement of cycling. But when it’s crap like this, I find it outrageous.

  • david

    As much as I support the new bike share, it does come with problems. Newbie bikers who don’t know what the f. they are doing, not keeping to the right on a path, going too fast for a particular crowded area, merging into moving bike traffic. And yes, Crystie st is an area where a pedestrian with the light can be hit. I don’t like the lazy policing as I see it, but bikers need to improve and be educated about safe riding. I think the 190 is too high of a price of course.

  • Anonymous

    Though the dreaded “newbie bikers” are on everyone’s tongues when CIti Bike comes up, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who looks particularly inexperienced on one. I know I’ve seen them on regular bikes, particularly on weekends or early in the spring.

    If anything, I’d bet that, right now, since we’re still in the very early adoption phase, the percentage of people riding Citi Bikes who are experienced riders in New York is higher than it is on regular bikes–or at least not much different.

    Pure speculation, of course. And maybe it’s my Brooklyn-centered perspective. But I think the claims about newbie bikers misbehaving on Citi Bikes are seriously overstated.

  • NY LES

    Also it is mostly the very experienced bikers who never bother to stop at a red light not necessarily the newbies.

  • Alex

    Are you serious? “Kudos to the cops”? How about your local precinct sets up a sting and nails you and many others with a $125 jaywalking ticket for starting to cross the street after the red hand starts blinking? TECHNICALLY you’re breaking the letter of the law. I’m sure they’ll argue that they still can make it with plenty of time, but we just can’t trust people to interpret the law safely.

    Have you ever heard the phrase “The letter, but not the spirit of the law”? Because that applies here. The police should not be in the business of targeting minor infractions that are not actually causing any danger. It’s a waste of resources.

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