DMV Cheating Cyclists With Unlawful Surcharges and License Points

street_justice2

As NYPD’s latest bike ticket blitz — “Operation Safe Cycle” — rolls into its second week, here at my law firm we’ve been getting more than the usual number of phone calls and emails from cyclists with questions about summonses. Usually the big question in these discussions is whether to plead guilty, not how to plead guilty. But now it appears that if you pay your fine online for a moving violation while cycling, you’ll probably be paying an $88 surcharge that you shouldn’t be, and getting points on your license that don’t belong there.

The problem arises when cyclists make their plea and pay the fine online, as most who receive traffic tickets in New York City do. Even though traffic tickets issued to cyclists usually indicate on their face that the vehicle is a “bicycle,” the DMV’s online payment system appears to ignore this fact.

Yet the DMV’s own rules with respect to surcharges and license points make crystal clear that they do not apply to cyclists. The specific provisions of law that exempt cyclists from the $88 surcharge and from points are set forth in a letter we recently sent to the DMV demanding that it cease and desist from applying these unlawful penalties. We have yet to receive a response.

This is no simple computer glitch either. Judging from the pre-printed traffic forms supplied by the DMV, you’d think it’s trying deliberately to trick cyclists into overpaying their fines. The form states: “included in the total amount for each violation (except equipment) are mandatory surcharges in the amount of $88. Equipment violations include mandatory surcharges of $58.”

dmv_form

No doubt many cyclists paying their ticket online or by mail mistakenly believed that “mandatory” meant “mandatory.” It is not hard to imagine the outrage that would flow if motorists and the politicians who pander to them learned of a similar injustice with respect to motorists’ tickets.

While some tickets issued to cyclists are meritless and deserve to be challenged, my impression is that most are based on clear violations of the law. Just like motorists, most cyclists pay such tickets, even when they disagree with the law or how it was applied in their particular case. Yet cyclists who pay their tickets have been subjected to unfair, excessive and unlawful penalties — simply because DMV doesn’t care enough to get the law right.

If you believe that during the last two years you were wrongly required to pay the $88, or received points on your driver’s license that resulted in increased insurance rates, speak up in the comments or contact my office.

Steve Vaccaro is an attorney with the Law Office of Vaccaro & White.

  • SauronHimself

    Or just start wearing a helmet cam. The upfront expenditure will save you a ton of grief down the road.

  • Andrew

    I give up.

  • Joe R.

    Same here. Maybe before getting into a long-winded discussion think things through a bit. Nothing in the law or the real world states that people using the streets have to account for people who are still on the sidewalk. Your entire argument fell apart at that point. I just wish I would have thought of the appropriate response much sooner, namely:

    It’s assumed a pedestrian has no intent to cross the street until they’ve actually stepped off the curb.

    That’s a fact both legally and practically.

  • Andrew

    That’s an absurd assumption, and it’s one that as far as I know is not grounded in law. Would you also say that drivers making left turns are only required to yield to oncoming vehicles that have already entered the intersection, and that they can assume that any motorist who has not yet entered the intersection has no intent to proceed across it? Of course not – anybody who drives like that isn’t yielding to oncoming traffic. Similarly, any motorist or cyclist who is required to yield to crossing pedestrians (while turning, or at a stop/yield sign, or at an unsignalized crosswalk) but does not take into account, and cuts off, pedestrians who are about to step into the crosswalk has not yielded.

    Of course, like most other traffic laws, this is rarely if ever enforced, and plenty of motorists are assholes about it, delaying pedestrians by thousands of person-hours per day and occasionally injuring or killing a pedestrian who made the simple mistake of crossing the street with in the crosswalk as the law specifies.

    If you’re so concerned about what’s required by law, I’ll remind you that cyclists are required by law to stop for red lights and to remain stopped until they turn green. If you’re going to break that law, please don’t be an asshole about it.

  • Joe R.

    First off, oncoming vehicles are in the street, not on a sidewalk where view of them may be blocked. Second, and this should be obvious, pedestrians move a heck of a lot slower than cars or bikes. A motor vehicle which has not yet entered the intersection may enter it before the left turn can be completed. Specifically, from this link ( http://dmv.ny.gov/about-dmv/chapter-5-intersections-and-turns ):

    For any left turn, the law requires you to yield to any traffic headed toward you that is close enough to be a hazard. The decision about when traffic is too close takes experience and judgment. If you have any concern, wait for traffic to pass before you turn left.

    A motor vehicle (or bike) turning right is almost always able to complete its turn without cutting off pedestrians if no pedestrians are present in the crosswalk when the turn is started. Same thing with a bike passing a red light. If a hypothetical pedestrian hasn’t stepped off the curb when the bike is nearly up to the crosswalk, the bike will be long past by the time the pedestrian reaches the place where the bike was traveling. Anyway, for turns the law (N.Y. VAT. LAW § 1111 ) is as follows:

    Such traffic, including when turning right or left, shall yield the right of way to other traffic lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.

    For unsignalized intersections we have N.Y. VAT. LAW § 1151:

    (a) When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk on the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, except that any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overpass has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles. (b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield. (c) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.

    I see nothing about yielding to pedestrians on the sidewalk. Your supposition that motorists and cyclists should do this is ridiculous for two reasons. One, in most cases the vehicle is long gone before the pedestrian would potentially cross its path, and hence there is no conflict. Two, and much more importantly, drivers and cyclists already have enough to do processing things on the street. You can’t expect them to start playing guessing games as to which people on the sidewalk may cross and which ones won’t. That will distract them from things right in front of them, making a crash much more likely.

    I boldfaced part b on purpose as maybe this is what you’re thinking when you say a person still on the sidewalk might be cut off by a turning vehicle. Sure, if they’re running it could conceivably happen, but guess what, the part I bold-faced puts the pedestrian at fault if it does. A turning vehicle can’t reasonable be expected to stop if an idiot runs off the sidewalk right in front of it. If we’re talking pets or young children who don’t know any better, the onus would on their owners or parents for not keeping them leashed or controlled.

    For all your talk about asshole cyclists and drivers, you sound like an asshole pedestrian with totally unrealistic expectations. Keep your complaints to when people don’t yield to you in a crosswalk. I’m happy to back you up there as those are valid complaints.

  • lop

    If there is a crosswalk with a curbside travel lane and a continuous flow of traffic, cars have no obligation to yield to the pedestrian trying to cross since he is still on the sidewalk, correct?

  • Joe R.

    Chances are if traffic was so heavy that there were no gaps to cross a traffic signal or a pedestrian bridge would be installed. Besides, I’m not aware of anything like you described in NYC.

    Andrew’s supposition is that cyclists/drivers need to wait for someone still on the sidewalk who is about cross even when there is no curbside travel lane (as is the case with just about every street in NYC) on the idea that if they don’t the right-of-way of the pedestrian is interfered with. The problem with that idea is you typically can’t see someone on the sidewalk until you’re fairly close to them because your view is blocked by parked vehicles. And said person still has to cross the parking lane before they would even be in conflict with vehicles. By the time a driver/cyclist is close enough to see a person on the sidewalk, that person couldn’t possibly end up in the vehicle’s path before it passed unless they were running. Therefore the pedestrian’s right-of-way is not interfered with. At normal walking speed the vehicle will be long gone by the time a person crossing reaches the travel lane. You also have the fact that a person standing on the corner may not even be crossing at all. People driving/cycling don’t have the luxury of playing guessing games and slamming to a stop every time they see someone on the corner on the theory the person may cross.

    What it comes down to is this is an idea Andrew got into his head. It’s not supported in either law or practice, nor would it even be remotely practical to do so. He also got into his head the idea that I often usurp people’s right-of-way when passing red lights. I don’t even see pedestrians the times I usually ride, much less have them crossing in front of me. I can do 10 or 20 rides before I might have one time where a person is crossing a street while I’m passing a red light. I might do 1000 rides before a person crossing in that scenario and myself would get to the same spot at the same time, meaning there would be a conflict if I didn’t change speed or direction. Of course, in those very rare instances I yield before passing the red light.

  • lop

    By the time a driver/cyclist is close enough to see a person on the sidewalk, that person couldn’t possibly end up in the vehicle’s path before it passed unless they were running

    Let’s say you have a road that is four lanes wide. One travel lane and one parking lane in each direction. You approach a red light and slow to ten mph to check for cross traffic before entering the intersection. That’s about 15 feet per second. Say the cross street is the same width, so roughly forty feet between crosswalks. At a reasonable walking speed of 4 mph, about 6 feet per second, a pedestrian enters the travel lane before you pass the crosswalk.

    Joe why is it that poor road design or illegal parking means pedestrians lose out? If there is a crosswalk and you don’t slow down enough to see if someone is going to enter it because there is a parked car in the way how is that exercising due care? I think that’s where Andrew is coming from. Many drivers and cyclists say pedestrians lose out. It sounds like that’s the angle you are pushing. Especially when you blame the lack of visibility on parked cars, and not on your excessive speed for the conditions given that those cars are there. Most drivers outside of NYC, and even in many parts of NYC also push what it seems like you are, that there usually aren’t pedestrians so it’s okay if you can’t see them well at your speed. Maybe what you are doing is safe. I don’t know how you ride. But it sounds a lot like behavior that car drivers justify that we know to be dangerous. It’s easy for them to honestly belief what they are doing is safe, since it’s safe almost all the time. It’s just that if ten thousand people do the same you get some injuries and deaths, even if that isn’t something that ever happens to most drivers.

    slamming to a stop every time they see someone on the corner on the theory the person may cross.

    I don’t want anyone to slam on the brake hard. If someone is running a red or trying to roll through a stop sign I want them to be going slow enough that I don’t have to look at them, that I can continue walking or jogging on the sidewalk at up to 6 mph. It seems a reasonable cutoff. Going back to the example I gave in my last post what I want is for cars to slow as they see me. Not to slam on the brakes, just to slow moderately until they pass the crosswalk. Only a few cars pass before one sees me traveling slow enough to come to a full stop to let me cross.

    If you pass a yield sign without stopping and a collision occurs, it is taken as prima facie evidence of failure to yield. You want red lights and stop signs to be yields for bikes. So wouldn’t it be the same? If the only reason a collision did not occur is because a pedestrian slowed down, wouldn’t that be failure to yield as well?

  • Joe R.

    Let’s say you have a road that is four lanes wide. One travel lane and one parking lane in each direction. You approach a red light and slow to ten mph to check for cross traffic before entering the intersection. That’s about 15 feet per second. Say the cross street is the same width, so roughly forty feet between crosswalks. At a reasonable walking speed of 4 mph, about 6 feet per second, a pedestrian enters the travel lane before you pass the crosswalk.

    You mean someone crossing on the opposite side of the intersection here, correct? I would certainly see that person in plenty of time to slow or stop as needed. As far as people crossing on the same side, I’ve already mentioned that I adjust my speed so I can stop within my field of view. Typically I can see people entering the crosswalk when I’m at least 25 or 30 feet from the crosswalk, often more. That means I can stop in plenty of time if I’m going 10 mph. If the distance is less, I adjust my speed accordingly. If there’s a tall vehicle parked right by the crosswalk, and I can’t swing left to increase my line of sight, I’ll barely be moving when I get to the crosswalk, fully prepared to stop if I see someone. I’ve repeated this multiple times. How is this not exercising due care? The main point is I can stop within my lines of sight if I must. The second point, and this seems to be where Andrew takes issue, is that I won’t adjust my speed or direction until someone actually steps off the curb unless the lane adjacent to the curb is a travel lane. There isn’t a conflict, I’m not forcing the person to wait by doing this because the instant I see them step off the curb I can stop well before the crosswalk if need be. If I’m right in the crosswalk the instant they’re ready to step off the curb, I’m long gone by the time they hit the travel lane. Again, no conflict, plus they don’t have to break their stride on my account.

    Maybe it’s a Manhattan thing with Andrew. I’ve noticed in Manhattan pedestrians are totally clueless in their spatial judgement. Many cross like a car can stop from 30 mph in 2 feet. There also seems to be a pathological hatred of bikes. I’ll never forget my week long stint as a bike messenger in midtown in the early 1980s. As I passed this woman, not doing anything wrong on my end besides riding, she whines “Ewwwww. A bicycle!” as if a roach just crawled on the kitchen counter. If that’s how Andrew regards cyclists, then I’m wrong no matter what I say or do.

    Going back to the example I gave in my last post what I want is for cars to slow as they see me. Not to slam on the brakes, just to slow moderately until they pass the crosswalk.

    And if I’m passing a red light at 10 mph or less, I’m already going slow in that scenario. Why is there a seeming double standard where “slow” for a car is considered to be maybe 10-15 mph but for a bike it’s more like 3 mph? If anything based on the relative masses the reverse should be true. Seriously, I hear dribble like that all the time here. We’re praising slow zones which keep drivers to 20 mph but at the same time lots of people here say riding at 20 mph is too fast in urban areas.

    Joe why is it that poor road design or illegal parking means pedestrians lose out?

    Everyone loses out. If motorists or cyclists have to go much slower than they otherwise would have to in order to ascertain if anyone is about to enter the travel lane then they lose out as well. There’s no good reason besides local politics, plus a huge sense of entitlement among motorists, that we must allow parking close to intersections. Many other places don’t allow it. Neither should NYC. Parking within 75 feet of the crosswalk on approach side of the intersection shouldn’t be allowed. It obscures the view of crossing pedestrians for vehicles going straight or turning. It obscures the view of vehicles for crossing pedestrians. It’s dangerous, period, too dangerous to allow in the name of car storage.

    If you pass a yield sign without stopping and a collision occurs, it is taken as prima facie evidence of failure to yield. You want red lights and stop signs to be yields for bikes. So wouldn’t it be the same? If the only reason a collision did not occur is because a pedestrian slowed down, wouldn’t that be failure to yield as well?

    Except the way I ride that would never happen. There just isn’t any situation the way I ride where I couldn’t stop in time if someone came into my field of view. I’ll readily admit I have seen asshole cyclists buzz pedestrians in crosswalks at 20 mph as they pass red lights but I’m not one of those suicidal idiots. Given the lines of sight at most NYC intersections, 10-12 mph is about the maximum safe speed you can pass a red light, assuming of course you can see people entering the crosswalk at least 30 feet away. Parked cars usually obscure cross traffic enough so it’s not safe to be going much faster. At some intersections lines of sight are so poor you need to nearly come to a stop. Anyway, no need continuing to rehash the same things repeatedly. If we had proper bike infrastructure none of this would be an issue. Frankly, were I to design a city from scratch bikes, pedestrians, and motor vehicles would each have their own level. That’s really the only way to keep everyone safe-by total physical separation. As we’ve seen from this discussion, 1000 people will have 1000 different views on safely operating. None of them will be right 100% of the time, and the laws certainly won’t be right 100% of the time. That’s why over 35,000 people die each year on our roads.

    This is most likely going to be my last post in this thread. I’ve explained things clearly to the best of my ability. It’ll be more productive use of everyone’s time if we focused on the statistically most dangerous things. Hint-it’s not late night cyclists passing red lights in Eastern Queens at mostly dead-as-a-door nail intersections.

  • Andrew

    Your quotation from the DMV website is informal advice on how to make a left turn, not a statement of the law. Here’s the relevant law, from http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/trafrule.pdf (emphasis mine):

    (a) Traffic control signals. Whenever traffic is controlled by traffic control signals exhibiting different colored lights successively, the following colors shall indicate and apply to operators of vehicles and to pedestrians, except as superseded by pedestrian control signals, as follows:

    (1) Green alone:

    (i) Vehicular traffic facing such signals may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such place prohibits any such movement. But vehicular traffic, including vehicles turning right or left, shall yield the right of way to other vehicles and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal is exhibited.

    (ii) Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway within any crosswalk.

    This (obviously) doesn’t mean that vehicular traffic turning right or left is only required to yield to other vehicles that are already situated within the intersection! It means that vehicular traffic turning right or left is required to anticipate potential upcoming conflicts with other vehicles and with pedestrians in the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk, and to avoid those conflicts.

    By definition, yielding requires anticipating the movements of others. When a motorist or a cyclist or a pedestrian is required to yield, that means that the motorist or cyclist or pedestrian is required to watch for and to anticipate the movement of whoever it is that he or she is required to yield to, and to slow down or stop if necessary to avoid a conflict.

    The law isn’t asking you to yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk, because you have no business cycling or driving on the sidewalk in the first place. The is asking you, in some situations, to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and at intersections, which requires watching for pedestrians approaching those crosswalks and intersections, because otherwise you are not yielding.

    If you cannot see a pedestrian approaching a crosswalk from the curb, then you are going too fast to yield. In the specific situation “When traffic control signals or pedestrian control signals are not in place or not in operation” – where traffic generally moves faster than at a red light or a stop sign or a yield sign or a turn – a small piece of the burden is placed on the pedestrian’s shoulders: “no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the operator to yield.” But that doesn’t negate the basic requirement of motorists to yield. It also doesn’t apply at all at crosswalks with traffic control signals or pedestrian control signals.

    Spare me the whining about guessing games. 99% of the time, it is plainly obvious when a pedestrian is approaching a crosswalk with intent to cross or is standing at the foot of the crosswalk waiting to cross.

    I’m not sure why I bother. It’s clear that you’re going to do whatever the hell you want, regardless of the law or of common courtesy.

  • Andrew

    10-12 mph is about the maximum safe speed you can pass a red light

    If you can’t see pedestrians approaching the crosswalk (where they have the legal right of way and they have every right to expect no conflicting traffic whatsoever) at 10-12 mph, then 10-12 mph is too fast.

  • Joe R.

    I seems like we fundamentally agree in concept about what I must do but we’re splitting hairs over exactly when I need to react. The key here is if someone is crossing, I need to adjust my speed/direction such that I don’t force someone in the crosswalk to change their speed or direction to avoid me. That in turn requires me to see people some time prior to when they will actually be in my path. If I react when I see them step off the curb, I have more than enough time as they need to cross the parking lane (9-10 feet) plus the distance I typically ride away from the parking lane (~5 feet or more) before they’re in my path. Even at fast walking speeds it takes at least 2 seconds to cover that distance. 2 seconds is an eternity to a cyclist. The key here is for me to adjust my speed so I always have at least those 2 seconds (hopefully more) to react. And that’s what I do. If lines of sight are close to zero, my speed will be close to zero as I approach the crosswalk. 10-12 mph is the most I will be going but that’s only in cases where I can see people leave the curb when I’m at least 40 feet from the crosswalk.

    I think part of our misunderstanding comes from the fact that you don’t ride. If you did, you would realize a good cyclist is essentially in a hyperaware state where the world is going by in slow motion. Unlike a motor vehicle where the controls are clunky, I can change speed or direction nearly instantaneously when reacting to something in my path. I’ve avoided doors when were opened 10 feet in front of me when I was traveling at 20+ mph, for example, but in practice I prefer never to cut things that close if it’s within my control to do so. I can certainly easily give a pedestrian their legal right-of-way when I have at least two seconds advance notice before they’re in my path. If I were driving a motor vehicle with fewer sensory cues and more clunky controls, I might need at least 4 seconds. In that case, I wholeheartedly agree I would need to look for people on the sidewalk about to cross.

    The only instance where I can (and do) react to people while they’re still on the sidewalk but about to cross is when I’m in a curbside travel lane (very rare where I am). In that case I obviously have to as they will be in my path immediately after leaving the sidewalk.

  • Joe R.

    It means that vehicular traffic turning right or left is required to anticipate potential upcoming conflicts with other vehicles and with pedestrians in the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk, and to avoid those conflicts.

    Yes, exactly, and I quoted that informational advice to show you “anticipate” is largely a judgement call. It’s highly dependent upon the speed of approaching traffic, lines of sight, and most importantly the type of vehicle you’re operating. Someone operating something like an 18-wheeler will need to react to things many more seconds before there’s a conflict than someone on a bike, for example. While I appreciate your input, what you’re essentially doing here is questioning my judgement of what I need to do to anticipate conflicts. I certainly would never question yours with regard to what you do to stay safe while crossing a street. You may do things entirely differently in that situation than me because your reaction times, walking speeds, and even comfort zone may be entirely different.

    At some point we all have to trust each other’s judgement. What I find pretty amazing in this city is pedestrians jaywalk like crazy, cyclists run red lights like crazy, and yet serious incidents are relatively rare. That tells me people in general are good at operating in a manner which keeps them safe, at least when on foot or riding a bike. Operating a motor vehicle is another story. Here I think we can both agree you need quite a bit more standardization and regimentation because the consequences of a mistake are much higher than if a cyclist or pedestrian screws up (which they very rarely do).

    Remember coexisting in a big city is often a give or take scenario. It would be nice if nobody ever delayed anyone else but that’s not realistic. I’m quite tolerant of people crossing midblock or against the light, to the point that I adjust my speed or direction to give them a wide berth. I realize there are good reasons for doing this, both for safety and convenience. By the same token, pedestrians should realize there are both safety and convenience reasons for cyclists to run red lights. Now most cyclists won’t intentionally delay pedestrians crossing with the walk signal but we’re human, so it happens occasionally. Just as I don’t like entitled cyclists who whine for 10 minutes if the bike lane is blocked instead of just going around the vehicle, it rubs me the wrong way when pedestrians expect absolutes, as in never violate my right-of-way. Sure, I’ll aim for that, but sometimes it won’t happen. When that’s the case, I appreciate the same level of tolerance I give to people who may cross in front of me when I technically have the right-of-way. In both cases, the person with the right-of-way has the high ground, but at the same time we must remember right-of-way is something which is given, not taken.

    I’m not sure why I bother. It’s clear that you’re going to do whatever the hell you want, regardless of the law or of common courtesy.

    Not entirely true. I like to read posts like yours because on occasion they might tell me I’m doing something wrong. I have changed a few things about the way I ride based on reading other people’s posts here. I also give a lot of advice to other cyclists regarding things I’ve learned over the years to safely avoid conflicts. We can all learn from each other here.

  • lop

    So people aren’t allowed to run on the sidewalk? Based on your numbers there’s potential for conflict if anyone does.

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, I think running on sidewalks, although legal, falls into the same category as cycling on sidewalks-there are times when it’s OK, but other times when it’s really not a good idea (i.e crowded or narrow sidewalks). The speeds of a runner and slow cyclist are similar. Remember one of the biggest reasons given for not riding on sidewalks is that drivers turning or yielding to pedestrians at stop/yield signs don’t anticipate someone coming into the crosswalk at the speed of a cyclist (or a runner).

    From the standpoint of the runner, whether bikes are running the red light or not, I think it’s dangerous on many levels to run from the sidewalk into the crosswalk unless you have a clear view of approaching traffic. Walk signal or not, it’s not a given that vehicles won’t pass the red light. It may not even be intentional. People make mistakes sometimes. For that reason, runners should slow to walking speed if they don’t have a good view of approaching traffic before crossing. On the other hand, if lines of sight are good, they’ll see me and I’ll see them. I’ll certainly start yielding to a runner still on the sidewalk if it looks like there will be a conflict if I don’t.

    Also note that 2 seconds is the bare minimum I try to give myself. 3 or 4 is better.

  • Andrew

    Nice justification, but by blowing through crosswalks at full speed you are cutting off pedestrians and giving other cyclists a bad name.

  • Andrew

    No, you quoted that informational advice to show me (incorrectly) that yielding to pedestrians somehow requires only liking for pedestrians who have already entered the crosswalk.

    The reason “serious incidents” are relatively rare is that pedestrians are fully accustomed to giving up their right of way for somebody cutting them off. It’s like claiming that a neighborhood has no mugging problem because everybody gladly hands over their money and therefore nobody gets shot. In fact, whenever a pedestrian with the walk signal has to wait for a motorist or cyclist, the system has failed.

    If you must run red lights, how about you at least do so at a walking speed (about 3 mph), so that you can see what and who is approaching your path?

  • Andrew

    More justification.

    Like it or not, every time you run a red light on your bike, you are breaking the law.

    Like it or not, a pedestrian running across the street with the walk signal is not breaking the law and has every right to expect to not encounter conflicts with cyclists or motorists.

  • Joe R.

    Full speed for me is typically 17 to 23 mph on level roads with no winds. I’m gone past 60 mph on downgrades (not in NYC). I said this about my speeds running red lights:

    If lines of sight are close to zero, my speed will be close to zero as I approach the crosswalk. 10-12 mph is the most I will be going but that’s only in cases where I can see people leave the curb when I’m at least 40 feet from the crosswalk.

    Nothing in there about passing red lights at full speed. 10 mph isn’t blowing through anything. That’s the typical speed cars go when they roll stop signs.

  • Joe R.

    The reason “serious incidents” are relatively rare is that pedestrians are fully accustomed to giving up their right of way for somebody cutting them off.

    Well, in the case of motor vehicles do they have much choice? I’ve been cut off by turning cars while crossing multiple times. Outside of banging on the car, or if the car is going fairly slowly taking out my keys and scratching it, there’s not a whole lot I can do but wait.

    In fact, whenever a pedestrian with the walk signal has to wait for a motorist or cyclist, the system has failed.

    The system is a failure, period, because it depends on people following a script 100% of the time for safety. If someone makes a mistake, at best another will have their right-of-way usurped. At worst, someone may end up dead. Moreover, traffic signals lull people into a false sense of security, in that many people don’t even look when they have a green light (that’s everyone-drivers, cyclists, pedestrians) on the notion that a red light is somehow a magical force field. Doesn’t sound like a good system to me, especially when the parts of the script pertaining to pedestrians and cyclists not only can cause inordinate delays, but also at times place them in danger they could easily avoid, meaning they often ignore the script. I’d rather physically separate the three groups. Or failing that, get rid of the scrip altogether so everyone has to look at every single intersection all the time.

    If you must run red lights, how about you at least do so at a walking speed (about 3 mph), so that you can see what and who is approaching your path?

    In some cases 3 mph is indeed the maximum safe speed I can pass a red light. When and where I ride that’s relatively rare, but in any case don’t get the impression that I always pass red lights at 10 or 12 mph because I don’t.

  • lop

    That’s the typical speed cars go when they roll stop signs.

    It’s closer to five.

  • Andrew

    Congratulations, you’ve just defended your own behavior by comparing it to the dangerous, inconsiderate, and illegal behavior of motorists who cut off pedestrians who have the legal right of way. Are you sure that’s the company you wish to keep?

    While you run red lights at crosswalks where pedestrians have no reason to expect cyclists to cut them off (especially at 3-4 times walking speed), you must yield to pedestrians. If you’re not absolutely 100% certain whether or not a pedestrian is approaching – e.g., your view is impeded – assume one is, even if that assumption makes your life a little bit harder or delays you by a few seconds.

    The world doesn’t revolve around you.

  • Joe R.

    The world doesn’t revolve around you.

    Or you. Your expectation to never, ever, ever, ever, ever have anyone impede your right-of-way is totally unrealistic. I’ve had my supposed right-of-way impeded multiple times-by motor vehicles while walking or biking, by pedestrians while biking, maybe even by other pedestrians while walking. Is it wrong on the part of others to do this? Yes, absolutely and here we’re in 100% agreement. Is it right to act like an f-ing entitled prick about it like it seems you do? No, that’s how children behave.

    Guess what? I don’t like having someone cross midblock or when I have the green any more than you enjoy having a cyclist who hasn’t bothered to look force you to stop in your tracks when you have the walk signal. The difference is I slow, stop, change direction, whatever to avoid them and get on with my life. Good thing for them I look even when I have the green instead of just assuming right-of-way. I don’t bitch about it in blog posts except in the rare exception my life is put in actual danger (i.e. I have to weave into traffic to avoid hitting a jaywalker). People sometimes make mistakes even when they don’t intend to. That’s why I assume a jaywalker who didn’t notice me may have had something else on their mind. If I can avoid them without putting myself in potential danger I chalk it up to just another day in the big city. Maybe you should do likewise. If I took everything as a personal affront my blood pressure would be through the roof. Coexistence in a big city means we all have to at times tolerate things others aren’t supposed to do.

    It’s the intentional stuff I hate, like when people in cars throw stuff at people on bikes even when they people on bikes did nothing to deserve it (and yes, I’ll readily admit some cyclists do stuff which merits having coffee tossed at them). Ever had anything intentionally thrown at you while walking, even when you were doing absolutely nothing wrong? No, I didn’t think so. Live in my world for a few weeks. Maybe you’ll realize by comparison having to break your stride once in a blue moon to avoid a cyclist who may have not seen you pales next to all the crap I regularly go through. It’s often said people who bike in this city really have to love it given all the garbage (literally sometimes) they have to go through.

    If you’re not absolutely 100% certain whether or not a pedestrian is approaching – e.g., your view is impeded – assume one is…

    Man are you f-ing obtuse. OK, we’ll try again:

    If lines of sight are close to zero, my speed will be close to zero as I approach the crosswalk. 10-12 mph is the most I will be going but that’s only in cases where I can see people leave the curb when I’m at least 40 feet from the crosswalk.

    You do know given the width of city streets it would be really hard to hit a person with a bike even if you intentionally tried, right? No cyclist passing a red light intends to hit a pedestrian. Even in your hypothetical scenario where your view is blocked 100% until you’re on top of the crosswalk, chances are minimal the cyclist would actually collide with the person. One or both would use their agility to avoid a collision. It won’t make for a pleasant encounter, but on a danger scale it falls between a 0 and a 1. And yes, no argument that you shouldn’t approach blind crosswalks at 10 or 12 mph. I don’t. I’ve repeated that multiple times already.

    Anyway, I’m done here. Trying to reason with you is like expecting a blade of grass to write a quantum physics thesis. Either you have a really low IQ, or you’re just dense, or you have mental issues. I’ve seen enough of your arguments with others go the way this is going that I should have realized it’s not worth my time. Maybe in time someone will get through to you, but it won’t be me.

  • Andrew

    Is it wrong on the part of others to do this? Yes, absolutely and here we’re in 100% agreement.

    Then please don’t do it yourself!

    Is it right to act like a f-ing entitled prick about it like it seems you do?

    Sir, I don’t consider it a minor affront when someone threatens my health or my life in order to “persuade” me to “voluntarily” give up time that is rightfully mine. I see it as fundamentally no different from when someone holds a gun to my head in order to “persuade” me to “voluntarily” give up cash that is rightfully mine.

    I don’t take threats to my life or to my health lightly.

    If lines of sight are close to zero, my speed will be close to zero as I approach the crosswalk. 10-12 mph is the most I will be going but that’s only in cases where I can see people leave the curb when I’m at least 40 feet from the crosswalk.

    More justification. If any pedestrians feel the need to wait for you and to let you go first, with the walk signal in their favor, for fear that you might otherwise injure them, then you are no better than the motorists you claim are in the wrong.

    I simply cannot believe that anyone thinks it’s actually OK to run red lights at 10-12 mph.

  • Joe R.

    Sir, I don’t consider it a minor affront when someone threatens my health or my life in order to “persuade” me to “voluntarily” give up time that is rightfully mine. I see it as fundamentally no different from when someone holds a gun to my head in order to “persuade” me to “voluntarily” give up cash that is rightfully mine.

    From wikipedia:

    delusion:

    A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary.[1] As a pathology, it is distinct from a belief based on false or incomplete information, confabulation, dogma, illusion, or other effects of perception.

    Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or mental illness, although they are not tied to any particular disease and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and mental). However, they are of particular diagnostic importance in psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, paraphrenia,manic episodes of bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression.

    I rest my case. Get some professional help. You’re equating someone holding a gun to your head to a bike riding in front of you at slow speed. The bike’s not a threat. Even a car in such a situation isn’t as much a threat as a gun unless it’s going over about 15-20 mph. You can kick the bike over if it bothers you that much (and I encourage you to do so if the cyclist really cut you off mid-stride).

    Then please don’t do it yourself!

    I don’t but you keep insisting I do, as if you’re privy to everything which happens when I ride. I rode the last two nights. Guess how many pedestrians I actually saw in or near crosswalks when I got to intersections (this includes ALL intersections, including those with traffic signals)? None. That’s typical. On a busy night it might be two or three. They all get the right-of-way legally due them from me.

    If any pedestrians feel the need to wait for you and to let you go first, with the walk signal in their favor, for fear that you might otherwise injure them, then you are no better than the motorists you claim are in the wrong.

    Why would they? Do people with the walk signal wait for cars that are still rolling up to the crosswalk, but not yet stopped? That’s exactly what I would look like to someone crossing. They have no reason to stop based on the speed I would be approaching the crosswalk. If they do because they have a preconceived idea in their brain that “this is a bike, it’s not stopping at the light”, well, that’s their choice.

    Remember here even if I’m approaching the red light at 10 or 12 mph (because there’s really good lines of sight), I’ll only actually pass through the intersection at that speed if it’s empty. If people are actually crossing in front of me, or starting to cross, I’ll start slowing down as needed to give them a wide berth (or just stop and wait for green if a steady stream of pedestrians are crossing). I just can’t think of any scenario the way I pass reds that I would startle someone, cause them to stop in their tracks, or otherwise usurp their right-of-way. Usually the opposite. I’ve waited for people who I know have the right-of-way, and then actually had them apologize to me. I typically let them know they had the legal right-of-way, not me, so no need to apologize.

    I simply cannot believe that anyone thinks it’s actually OK to run red lights at 10-12 mph.

    If you rode a bike you might think otherwise. Plenty of intersections have a bus stop on the approach side of the crosswalk. Really easy in such cases to see everything-pedestrians/vehicles, in time to stop if necessary if you’re approaching the intersection at 10-12 mph.

  • Bolwerk

    This masturbation has been going on for over a week, and you guys are probably talking past each other. It’s almost not clear what the original offense was. You guys are probably 90%+ in agreement with each other on these issues anyway.

  • Andrew

    If you don’t understand why a pedestrian might be concerned about being injured by a cyclist approaching at 10-12 mph who does not appear to be preparing to stop for the red light, I don’t think I’m the one who’s delusional.

  • Joe R.

    The problem seems to be a lack of common experience more than a lack of agreement.

  • Joe R.

    The bottom line is I can’t read people’s minds. That seems to be what you expect here-operate so nobody even thinks I might be a danger to them. I can only operate in such a manner that I know based on prior experience is not putting anyone else in danger, or requiring them to do anything to avoid me. If someone may interpret something I do as potentially hazardous, I can’t do a thing about it because I don’t know what they don’t consider dangerous. In the minds of quite a few people in this city, a bike moving at any speed is something they consider dangerous. The only way I could appear to be not dangerous to these idiots is to not ride at all.

    I see plenty of cars approach red lights at way more that 12 mph, then brake to a stop at the last second. I don’t cross in front of these vehicles until they actually stop, but many others do. Like I said several times already, get on a bike. After a couple of months you might understand what I wrote better.

  • Andrew

    The bottom line is I can’t read people’s minds.

    Then maybe you shouldn’t be running red lights – certainly at speeds faster than walking.

  • Joe R.

    Here’s where you’re making no sense at all. Let’s say I approach a red light at 12 mph with no intentions whatsoever to pass it, and then brake to a stop right before the crosswalk. In your mind I still did something wrong because people crossing might think I intend to run the light. You’re basically saying then I should approach a red light at some speed known only to you which makes you think I don’t intend to run it, whether or not I actually intend to. Nothing whatsoever in the law beyond the speed limit governs the maximum speed I may approach a red light.

    So now you need to be telepathic to yield at reds? Operationally, yielding at a red light is no different than yielding at a yield sign. If I’m capable of doing the latter, I’m capable of doing the former. You’re making it out to be a lot more complicated than it really is.

    Do me a favor. Let a few other people, especially a few regular cyclists, read this exchange between us. Your reasoning at this stage has enough holes to drive an aircraft carrier through.

  • Andrew

    So now you need to be telepathic to yield at reds?

    No, you need to slow down to walking speed – about 3 mph.

    Remember, you have no business passing through a crosswalk on red in the first place. The crosswalk is 100% the pedestrian’s space at that time. If you want it to be considered acceptable to violate that norm, it’s incumbent on you to do it in a way that absolutely respects the needs of the pedestrians crossing – on their terms, not yours, since it’s their crosswalk and it’s your red light.

    But it’s clear that you don’t care in the slightest whether what you do is acceptable.

  • Joe R.

    Assuming the law allowed treating reds as yields, which is what many cyclists want, here is the legal definition of yield:

    (a) Yield signs. The operator of a vehicle approaching a YIELD or YIELD-RIGHT-OF-WAY sign shall slow to a reasonable speed for existing conditions of traffic and visibility, stopping if necessary, and shall yield the right-of-way to all traffic on the intersecting street which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. Proceeding past such sign with resultant collision or other impediment or interference with traffic on the intersecting street shall be deemed prima facie evidence of a violation of this rule.

    No mention of a specific speed other than “a reasonable speed for existing conditions of traffic and visibility.”

    I want all laws, not just those pertaining to hypothetically treating red lights as yields, to be only a restrictive as necessary for safety and not one bit more. There is not a need to slow to 3 mph every time you yield. You’re basically saying then that pedestrians who cross against the light should also slow to 3 mph. That means no jogging, running, or even fast walking if you go against the walk signal, even if you can see cross traffic blocks away.

    Oh, and I want the law to be changed to allow pedestrians to treat reds as yields, preferably before bikes are given the same privilege. Doing both things will prevent silly jaywalking/jaybiking crackdowns in the future.

  • Andrew

    Assuming the law allowed treating reds as yields

    It doesn’t. And, after this discussion, I very much hope it never does.

    Because the word “yield” means two very different things, depending on who you’re talking to.

    To some people, it’s fundamentally restrictive: don’t proceed until you’re absolutely certain that you’re not interfering with the rights of those who have the right of way, especially if they’re more vulnerable (i.e., slower and less able to do damage) than you. To others, it’s fundamentally permissive: do whatever the hell you want, unless you happen to notice somebody who you might be interfering with, in which case maybe you should consider letting them go first if it isn’t too much trouble.

    The second approach is dangerous, and after this discussion I’m no longer ready to naively assume that cyclists by and large take the first.

    So how about we drop the counterfactual and stick to the real world, in which cyclists are required to wait for red lights? Thanks.

  • lop

    Proceeding past such sign with resultant collision or other impediment or interference with traffic on the intersecting street shall be deemed prima facie evidence of a violation of this rule.

    If you extend traffic to include pedestrians then causing someone to break their stride would be failure to yield if you don’t stop to let them go first, right? Going around them wouldn’t be enough. I don’t see the exemption that you are allowed to go first if you weren’t actually going to hit them. How far do you extend that though? If someone is ten seconds away can you proceed? Five seconds? One? How many people have to be comfortable with you maneuver? 100%? 95%?

  • Joe R.

    OK, so if you get your wish that reds as yields never happens what WILL happen is I’ll push to have as many traffic signals removed as possible, preferably most of them. It’s not that hard. You ask for warrants justifying the installation based on traffic levels or visibility factors. If the city can’t produce one, which will be the case 90% of the time due to the signal being installed at the behest of an ignorant community board, it will have to be removed. I’ll bet other cyclists, plus many motorists, will do likewise. The entire reason we’re even having this discussion is because NYC failed to make sure traffic signals never go red unless something is crossing. If that had been done, as should be required by law, then the entire reds as yields thing is moot. Nobody should have to wait at a red light just to stare at empty space. That’s effectively stealing from people. If you think it’s OK for the state to engineer things in such an overly restrictive manner then North Korea is for you.

    So how about we drop the counterfactual and stick to the real world, in which the police don’t consider it failure to yield if someone has to momentarily break their stride? In the end, the only law that matters is the law as the police choose to enforce it, and the law only matters when police are actually around to enforce it. I’m certainly not stupid enough to pass red lights when I see police.

  • Joe R.

    You’re making it sound like the concept of yield can never work. In practice sometimes someone else will make a mistake or misjudge slightly, causing you to wait when you really shouldn’t have. Other times you’ll make the mistake and cause someone else to wait. It’ll probably all even out in the end. Generally, in practice you’ve failed to yield if a vehicle screeches on their brakes to avoid you, or a pedestrian has to jump back out of your way, or there’s an actual collision of any kind. That’s what will actually earn you a failure-to-yield ticket. Everything else you and Andrew are discussing is meaningless mental masturbation. Really, this discussion is going from the ridiculous to the sublime with all this nonsense ivory tower reasoning.

    Here’s a question for you-if I voluntarily stop to let a bike or car pass which got to the intersection when I did, or slightly after, because I deem it more efficient overall, are they failing to yield? It might look that way to you. That’s why the more concrete criteria I gave above are typically what the police use, not if someone may momentarily break their stride. They could be doing that to scratch themselves too.

    I don’t see the exemption that you are allowed to go first if you weren’t actually going to hit them. How far do you extend that though? If someone is ten seconds away can you proceed? Five seconds? One?

    How about we extend it a few lifetimes so nobody can ever proceed through an intersection because someone might want to pass through it in a century? Is that good enough for you?

  • lop

    When the police run a failure to yield sting you think they only give out a ticket if the cop had to jump out of the way?

    If you wave someone through an intersection no they haven’t failed to yield.

  • Joe R.

    No, I mean if I don’t wave them through. Sometimes I’ll just pause instead of continuing to walk, and they’ll continue in motion. The key is making eye contact. If you pause and make eye contact with the driver, he/she knows you’re there, and knows you mean for them to go first.

    I have no idea what criteria NYC police use for failure to yield. Knowing the NYPD, you probably get automatic failure to yield if you’re black or brown, regardless of what actually occurred.

  • lop

    If you communicate with a driver to signify that you are giving up your right of way and yielding to them, no they haven’t done anything wrong if they proceed first. Though when people do that it introduces a new layer of confusion and unpredictability. Not obvious that that is desirable in the aggregate, even if in individual cases it might be deemed more ‘efficient’.

  • Patricia

    Hello Steve, Thank you so much for all you do for us, New York cyclists.
    I got a ticket for running a red light on a pedestrian crosswalk in Manhattan. The agent mistakenly wrote that my bike is black, instead of yellow. In any case I guess I should plead guilty. My priority is to avoid the points, and the extra $88 that they are making us pay. Could you please let me know how to proceed? I can go to their offices in person if necessary, I’d just like to take action asap. If you redirect me to your office for legal advice, please let me know first what your fees are 😉 Many thanks! Patricia

  • Ian Turner

    I’d strongly recommend pleading not guilty. Bring a photo of your bike. Very good chance the case will be dismissed and it will only take about 40 minutes of your time.

  • Jeff

    Hey Steve! You are awesome!!
    I just got a ticket for going through a red light but the ticketing officer didn’t sign the ticket with his name and rank. Is this ticket still valid? I know if it is I’m liable for $190. Any thoughts on this anyone?

  • Brittany

    Just got a speeding ticket. Was going 20 over. Have to pay a little over $200. The officer said I was going 40 in a 60 and asked if I thought the speed limit was 55, I said yes. He then said that everyone thinks that, but he proceeded to give me a ticket. I told him it was my first time getting Pulled over. Now my insurance is going up, I have points on my license, and I have to pay over $200.

  • Ellie

    Hi – I just got a red light ticket violation in Brooklyn on bike. It looks like the officer sited the violation at a 1111D1C. Is this a car violation? Should I not be paying that $88 if surchards?

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