Precinct Where Drivers Killed Seniors in Crosswalks Ramps Up Bike Tickets

Photo: Elie Z. Perler/Bowery Boogie
Handing out traffic tickets that do nothing to improve safety? This will end well. Photo: Elie Z. Perler/Bowery Boogie

If you’re an NYPD precinct commander interested in issuing lots of tickets to cyclists in a short period of time, the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge bike path is a tempting place to send your officers. While the intersection itself has fewer crashes than other parts of the neighborhood, the regular stream of cyclists funneling to and from the bridge path makes for easy pickings.

The Manhattan Bridge bike path touches down at the intersection of Forsyth and Canal Streets in Chinatown. Sheltered from most of the dangers posed by bridge-bound drivers using the western section of Canal Street, the intersection is usually busy with people walking and people on bikes. The traffic signal there often plays second fiddle to the eyes and ears of pedestrians and cyclists, who cross when there is no oncoming traffic.

Combine this setup with the fact that the Manhattan Bridge is one of the city’s most popular bike routes, and you’ve got a recipe for a ticket bonanza — not for run-of-the-mill jaywalking, of course, but for cyclists who choose to go against the light. On Sunday, the 5th Precinct parked a cruiser around the corner on Forsyth and stationed an officer there to hand out tickets. When one cyclist didn’t stop after the officer shouted, he was pushed to the ground.

“Seeing a guy get tackled off of a bike is not something you see every day,” said Elie Z. Perler, who saw the confrontation before posting about it on his neighborhood blog, Bowery Boogie. “It just seemed excessive.”

The 5th Precinct has taken a backwards approach to bike enforcement before. At a nearby T-intersection at Chrystie and Rivington Streets, where there is no cross traffic during red lights, officers often hand out red light tickets to cyclists, costing $190 each. After a pedestrian was killed in a Kenmare Street crosswalk in September by a driver who failed to yield, a Streetsblog reader said an officer used the fatality as a rationale to issue red light tickets to cyclists.

Perler published the photo yesterday, and the precinct addressed its approach to bike safety on Twitter today:

Through the end of October, the 5th Precinct has issued 619 red light tickets, up from 477 at the same point last year. That’s far more than the combined number of summonses for speeding (113, up from 81) and failure to yield (211, up from 150).

Because NYPD’s public data lumps drivers and cyclists together, it’s hard to know exactly how many of those tickets go to cyclists. While the department has not replied to inquiries about cyclist tickets today, history offers a clue: In 2012, the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct bragged that more than half of its red light tickets went to bike riders.

There have been two traffic deaths in the 5th Precinct so far this year, both pedestrians: Sau Ying Lee, 90, and Sui Leung, 82. Both were in crosswalks when motorists ran them down. Handing out tickets to cyclists wouldn’t have prevented their deaths, and it won’t help achieve Vision Zero.

  • ahwr

    Where on forsyth? No conflict exists between bikes passing the light and cars or pedestrians on that street. No reason to think that not seeing a cop car behind a truck on Forsyth means the cyclist was doing anything even slightly dangerous. The ramp blocks the view of the bike path somewhat. Perfect place for a cop to hide. Picture doesn’t show a lot, but it’s not right on the corner. The cop was on the other side of the ramp, what is that, fifty feet down? More? He wasn’t trying to be visible to get bikes to stop.

  • Alicia

    It’s generally legal when the bike lane passes in front of a driveway or on a cross-street. (Check your local laws, of course.)

  • Kwyjibo

    And you read about that crackdown on Streetsblog, and linked to it from a comment on another story that criticized de Blasio’s NYPD? And you’re wondering why Streetsblog is up BDB’s ass? Is that about right?

  • Bolwerk

    That’s not even unusual, but it’s besides the point. The police don’t have a right to assault people. There isn’t even any decisive evidence that the cyclist violated a law. The only person we can be certain violated a law was the guy who assaulted someone.

    For that matter, everyone in this city is an “idiot” by your standards. Usually police ignore people who run reds whether they’re on bikes, on foot, or in cars. This guy was just unlucky that he got caught up in one of those rare cases where they cared.

  • Bolwerk

    You keep ignoring that they had other options to detain him if they really wanted to. They required doing more work I guess, but a few minutes of work might just have saved the city a five or six figure settlement payout.

  • SteveVaccaro

    He’s a politician and he’s out for votes. In that quest he has done more than talk about pedestrians and bicycles, he’s done stuff. Though the talk is also important when it’s the Mayor doing the talking and a big part of what’s needed is shifting cultural attitudes.

    I’m the last one to hold back from criticizing NYPD, but in a traffic stop scenario to disobey a cop’s order to stop and attempt escape is just stupid.

  • Bolwerk

    Definitely. On top of that, stupid people probably break laws all the time, often unknowingly. We’re bound to miss some of their lawbreaking, so we should probably just summon them to their local precincts for regular beatings.

    That would be way easier for the police than having to, say, get in their specially designed cars with flashing lights that are designed to pull over people who commit moving violations.

  • datbeezy

    One of the real sadnesses here is that I could probably hand out $100,000 worth of Block-the-box and Failure-to-Yield summons a day on the stretch of Atlantic between Vanderbilt and Flatbush.

  • OlafurTh

    Pushing bicyclists down are the methods of bullies, so yes, it certainly would be assault.

  • OlafurTh

    Exactly. This is unrelated to drugs or weapons.

  • OlafurTh

    Good point there about if you see a cop, you are aware of your surroundings. Often though the cop tells me to bike through my red light if there are no cars. Those cops understand well this thing of keeping things moving and I always say thanks and give them thumbs up.

  • Guest

    I just have to comment here cause this may be the only time I ever agree with Steve.

    If a police officer orders you to stop, you stop. If you don’t, you can expect to be made to stop. There’s nothing difficult about that.

  • Guest

    It doesn’t matter if he committed a traffic violation or not. If the officer ordered him to stop, he needs to stop.
    When you get pulled over or waved to the side of the road by a police officer, you need to do as instructed. The time to debate whether you broke the law is in court later on.

  • Bolwerk

    I bumped into this (warning: New York Post) article about a school bringing in the NYCLU to train kids on their constitutional rights and thought of this thread.

  • Andres Dee

    Tackling a cyclist seems like a dangerous move both for the cyclist and the cop. It should be reserved only for “matters of life and death”. Can you imagine the outcry if a cop should get injured (or worse) doing this?

  • BikeTexter

    How does that work? You ask if it’s okay, or the cop just waves you on? I run reds in front of cops all of the time, unless they’re in obvious sting-mode. No tix yet, but I’ve never been given the official go ahead.

  • Bolwerk

    He can’t very well stop if he’s not aware he’s being ordered to stop. What a stupid comment..

  • Matthias

    I’m glad they didn’t go after the cyclist with a car, which would be quite dangerous. However, what if someone is deaf or doesn’t understand? Is that a free pass for attacking them?

  • Andy

    Being deaf is no excuse for ignoring a uniformed police officer near his marked police car. Probably not prudent for a deaf cyclist to be blowing lights either…

  • Bolwerk

    Deaf and blind? The cars are designed for pulling people over and give multiple sensory cues to let people know they’re being pulled over. Cyclists usually have eyes enough to see flashing lights.

    That is what makes Andy’s jackboot-licking police sycophancy so frivolous and the officer’s actions so undeniably inexcusable.

  • Bolwerk

    I’m not surprised people have stupid/authoritarian opinions like this, but the fact that there are so many now is quite literally wrecking New York City and has turned the United States into a police state.

  • Andy

    You can claim that police are in the wrong all you want. The fact is that had this cyclist not blatantly blown a light, you wouldn’t be wasting your time trying to apologize for his actions.

  • Joe R.

    Substitute “blowing a light” for literally anything else (police states love to make so many laws that it’s impossible not to find a pretense to stop a citizen). Substitute NYPD for SS or Red Guard or Pol Pot or any other authoritarian regime. Get the picture? Mindless obedience to the police for its own sake is never a good thing. Just ask all the law abiding Jewish citizens who did as they were told in the Third Reich how well that went for them. Wait, you can’t because most of them are dead.

    When faced with a corrupt police force citizens have an excuse, even a duty, not to listen to police officers who seek to sanction them for minor, harmless things.

  • Andy

    He evaded a uniformed officer by his marked patrol car when he ran a light! Calling this assault by corrupt police is blowing this way out of proportion. He easily could have followed a law that everyone knows and not have had this outcome…

  • Joe R.

    I discussed this many times. The law itself is unjust. NYC can’t be bothered to put sensors on traffic signals so they only go red if something is actually crossing. That being the case, the state has no right to usurp the time of a pedestrian or cyclist by forcing them to wait at red lights at empty intersections. It’s not OK for the state to steal someone else’s time without good reason. There is no good reason here. Cyclists and pedestrians are perfectly capable of determining with their senses whether or not it’s safe to cross. Traffic signals are a device to keep cars from colliding with each other. They shouldn’t apply to anything else. Evidently there was no safety issue here as he managed to get across the street just fine without colliding with anything.

  • Bolwerk

    When did you stop beating your wife?

  • Bolwerk

    Why couldn’t the police officer follow the law? Assault is a felony. Given how critical it is for everyone else to follow the law in your eyes, you should be calling for a prosecution.

  • Andy

    Stooping to ad hominem attacks because you ran out of ways to defend a red light running cop evader… No thanks, but have a good holiday!

  • This thread is closed.

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