You Heard It Here First: Cyclists Ticketed for Using New Willy-B Lanes

When we posted pics of the new Williamsburg Bridge bike lanes last Friday, Streetsblog commenters wondered if, since one of the lanes directs cyclists onto a sidewalk, police might be lying in wait. Wrote Barnard: "Just because bicycling is legal doesn’t mean the NYPD won’t write you a ticket for it!"

Earlier today Benjamin Running posted a link to this item from Gothamist, where a cyclist relays this story:

"As I reach the corner of South 4th Street and South 5th Place, just
one short block away from one of the Brooklyn entrances to the
Williamsburg bridge, I see that the bike lane arrows turn and point to
the sidewalk. I thought it odd but I followed it knowing that it was
just a short bit away from the entrance. 3/4 ways down the sidewalk I
get stopped by 2 cops telling me that I can’t ride on the sidewalk….
And then they proceed to give me a ticket!

Is this some kind of entrapment? The bike lane arrows clearly point
toward the sidewalk and there is no sign telling you to get off and
walk your bike. While they were in the middle of giving me a ticket, a
girl on a bike comes up behind me and they stop her and give her a
ticket for the very same reason. And she had the same complaint I did;
she was just following the bike lane arrows that pointed to the

Gothamist thinks it’s possible that cyclists are misinterpreting the markings and may be riding on a sidewalk area not meant to be included as part of the bike route, while Wiley Norvell of TA says "this is a good, necessary set of markings" on "one of the more dangerous parts of the north Brooklyn bike commute." Norvell notes that a cyclist was killed at this location not long ago.

Regardless, it sounds as if the PD is exploiting this improvement to continue harassing cyclists entering and exiting city bridges.

  • The Gothamist post now has an update from DOT; DOT says that it is implementing a shared-use zone on the sidewalk there, but apparently it hasn’t told NYPD yet.

  • Something seems screwy here. DOT made changes and didn’t tell NYPD, yet NYPD just happened to start a ticketing blitz the week after new lanes were striped? I firmly believe most police officers aren’t ‘against’ cyclists, but cops planted at the bridge that disregard the very obvious bike lane directions onto the sidewalk are not doing much to ease tensions. The tickets will get thrown out in court and in the end, just be a waste of many people’s time, causing unnecessary frustration.

  • Actually, the ticket blitz has been going on for a few weeks. I saw cops writing tickets there several weeks before the new lanes were striped.

  • Robert Milkwood Thomas

    Before my brain splits in two, I wish the city would make up its mind whether it wants to invite more cyclists on the streets or wants to harass them off the streets.

  • bk

    The police in the area have received many complaints of cyclists not following the rules of the road and are stepping up enforcement–this has been discussed at several precinct meetings. That doesn’t excuse this, of course, but FYI

  • Marty Barfowitz

    This is an absurd and mindless waste of NYPD resources. 100 cyclists and a City Council member need to show up at the next precinct community council meeting to demand that this stop and that the police direct their resources towards preventing dangerous motor vehicle driving, horn-honking and the like.

    If biking on the sidewalk is, in fact, such a big problem, enforce against it in a place where pedestrians are actually at risk. This entrance to the Wburg Bridge is not a problem. The cops just want to write a bunch of tickets so that the next time a community person complains about dangerous cyclists they can say, “Look, we’ve handed out X number of summonses, we’re addressing the problem.”

    NYPD: Pathetic.

  • Geck

    I think we will be seeing more of these shared use lanes (outside the most congested portions of Manhattan). They often make a lot of sense. Bikes fall somewhere between pedestrians and motor vehicles and sometimes they can safely and appropriately share pedestrians areas (taking it slow and yielding to pedestrians).

  • Jaywalker

    Sounds like an underhanded way to raise revenue in the midst of a financial crisis to me!

  • somebody

    whether the directions to use the sidewalk prove to be correct or legal does not matter as much as the poor design and safety implementation. i think that location is a pretty lousy place to make a left turn – a turn that pits cyclists against a nearly invisible car turning from s5th pl. this is particularly a problem when it comes to those unfamiliar with the intersection especially inexperienced cyclists who may well not realize they are actually turning into a lane for cars driving the opposite direction.

    as i have said before, the DOT needs to stop slapping down bike lanes just to meet the mileage goal and work harder on proper design and placement. fools!!

  • somebody

    oh, and, no, i did not hear it here first!

    thanks, Gothamist!!!

  • The “first” was for predicting it.

    Oh, joy, I do live in 84th which has been responsible for harassing salarymen and ladies riding bicycles to work on the brooklyn bridge bicycle path (of all things!). I’ll add their meetings to my civic calendar, though I do admit I fear being attacked with canes when I speak out in favor of the bicycle.

  • st

    i do not understand why NYPD and DOT do not work together on issues like these. Can we get a meeting between Janette and Ray? So many of the positive efforts by DOT to make our streets safer and more efficient are undermined by NYPD’s lack of support/buy-in.

  • somebody

    @ doc barnett

    eyup . . . . i shoulda read more carefully.

  • Sean Sweeney

    Perhaps DOT is not the functioning agency we thought it to be.

  • If the DOT is claiming the area as a shared use zone, I highly recommend that everyone who got tickets should photograph the area for proof and print webpages highlighting the controversy, then fight the ticket in whatever courts these tickets are for. I can’t see any of these tickets actually standing up in a court of any kind.

  • If I were the DOT, I would “reach out” the local precincts with paint and sinage (which can take days or weeks to complete) as well. Letters and emails are a waste of time with goons that write tickets for doing exactly as the nearly complete markings indicate. These precincts have shown that they’ll go to the ends of the legal interpretive earth to write cyclists tickets, so the only thing left to do push them off. But I’m flattered to see that some famously parochial Soho residents will take the anti-safe-cycling jihad even to low-class Brooklyn (after jamming the internets with endless comments telling Brooklynites on bicycles to stay out of their precious Soho).

  • Perhaps DOT is not the functioning agency we thought it to be.

    Perhaps NYPD is as bad as you say it is.

    Doc’s pretty much right: NYPD is a big organization with a lot of people that like to exercise the power if the badge. There are a lot of cooler-heads in the PD who certainly agree that a 5-year-long crackdown on reasonable cycling is a giant waste of resources. But there are some that think it’s cool when you can harass a group – or cool to jam the antenna of your radio into someone’s anus while he is being restrained. While the former attitude is more prevalent than the latter, PD is undeniably an organization with many individual attitudes that lead to very schizophrenic overall behavior, despite many many very professional individuals.

  • ricky

    The police in the area have received many complaints of police not following the rules of the road in regards to bikers and are stepping up enforcement nonetheless–this has been discussed at several citizens who hates pigs meetups. That doesn’t excuse this, of course, but FYI


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