Despite Bowery Death Toll, NYPD Decides Cyclists are the Real Menace

A reader reports of another NYPD cyclist crackdown, this time on the Lower East Side.

This tip is a little overdue, but 2-3 weeks ago I was pulled over on my bike by a traffic cop hiding behind a van on the east side of the Bowery, between Rivington and Prince St. He had also pulled over another cyclist, and proceeded to write him a summons for turning right on a red light. He said that the NYPD had received a lot of complaints about cyclists running the red light at Rivington. When the cyclist asked who had complained — businesses, residents, etc. — the cop replied, "Everyone." Interestingly, he said that he was not out to get cyclists, and rather than write him the $250 red light summons, he wanted to let him off easy with a $50 pedestrian obstruction summons. By the time he got to me, he kept me waiting while he answered a phone call, and ended up waving me off without a summons. This after about 15 minutes of watching him make a production out of how nice he was being to the other cyclist.

I decided to write to Streetsblog when I saw that, a couple of days ago, cops in the same location were writing out summonses to a good half-dozen cyclists. I guess they are doing a blitz. Cyclists using the Bowery to get to the start of the Prince Street bike lane, beware.

Cops are not the only thing to look out for. Motorists make this area an especially hostile environment. We know of two pedestrians and one cyclist killed on the Bowery just since late 2007. Yet instead of slowing down out-of-control drivers, NYPD again chooses to target cyclists — even as the brass preaches the value of "green" transportation.

If intensified traffic law enforcement can be spurred by vague "complaints," where is the police response to actual fatalities?

  • LN
  • Nice way to start off Bike Month.

  • PaulCJr

    Yes fight those tickets!! If you’re a bicyclist that was given a red light ticket or the supposed ped ticket fight it. As long as you stop and yielded at the red light, just like a car you have the right to make a right on a red as long as it was safe and you were not endangering peds lives. We the people of NYC (all boroughs) need to stand up and fight for better ped, bicycle and transit admineits in all parts of the city, especially in the outer boroughs that are getting screwed with the mayor’s gun ho push for tons of parking.

  • Wonder how many tickets have been handed out to drivers doing 65 mph on Prospect Park West? Who wants to bet that “none” might be the right answer?

  • “As long as you stop and yielded at the red light, just like a car you have the right to make a right on a red as long as it was safe and you were not endangering peds lives.”

    Huh? Right turn on red is illegal in NYC.

  • vnm

    Mike, you are correct, in theory. Except that I see motorists making right turns on red every day in NYC and never getting ticketed.

  • Kyle G

    You know what. This article is ridiculous. Cyclists have a set of guidelines that they are supposed to follow. If you don’t follow them you are going to get a ticket. Yea the cops probably had a bunch of cyclists stopped, but that means that there was a lot of them breaking the law(s). I am a cyclist and not a cop. I just think it is absurd when someone breaks the law and gets caught and blames the cop who caught them for their blunder. All they are doing is their job. Follow the laws and be respectful and you will never have a problem with any law enforcement people.

  • I agree that when you break the laws, you must accept the consequences. However, the point of this article is to question this particular ticket onslaught for cyclists when motorists a)Commit just as many traffic violations, if not more, and do not experience the same type of crackdown (how many cars do we see speeding, running reds, turning on red, making illegal u-turns, parking in the bike lane, etc), while they are clearly the more dangerous vehicles, and B)Get off scot-free for driving recklessly and seriously injuring others a result of those violations.

    If this cop is trying to meet his quota, he should visit 2nd Ave below 14th. There’s a car in the bike lane almost every block. Plenty of tickets to go around.

  • AlexB

    I feel that cyclists should always obey the law, but I don’t think applying the same rules to cyclists as to drivers is rational. I also don’t think anyone should ever get a ticket for jaywalking.

    If you have ever biked over the Manhattan Bridge and are headed uptown, you know the Bowery would be the perfect place for a bike lane.

  • Kyle G, you said :

    “Cyclists have a set of guidelines that they are supposed to follow. If you don’t follow them you are going to get a ticket.”

    This isn’t really true most of the time in NYC. It is very rare to get a ticket for a traffic infraction on a bicycle here.

  • lauren


    While it may be rare to get a traffic infraction ticket on a bicycle in NYC, the question is what is the best use of police resources.

    I am a driver, cyclist, and pedestrian. Every single time I drive my car, I see many drivers who fail to signal their turns. This is quite dangerous to cyclists and other drivers alike. Of course, we all learn not to trust what cars “say” they are going to do, and are always prepared for cars to make sudden turns across our paths. Cars making turns ROUTINELY fail to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, even though they are legally required to do so. Cars ROUTINELY break the speed limit. It is exceedingly rare for drivers to get a ticket for doing any of these things.

    Ticketing should be used to target the most frequent and dangerous behaviors. Cyclists are a small percentage of road traffic and thus, by definition, cannot generate the most frequent dangerous behaviors. It just seems a crazy waste of resources to set up on cyclists rather than drivers.

  • John Deere

    Can you please find the state or city statute that gives cyclists the right to make a right turn on red after stopping and yielding? When you do find it, please post the text of the statute, and its reference number.


  • Michael

    As a bicyclist, have you ever considered the idea of — heaven forbid — actually stopping at red lights, and obeying other traffic laws, as well?

    If not, why not give it a try?