Eyes On The Street: Cyclists Ticketing Cyclists

Via Bowery Boogie, two photos of bike-riding NYPD officers writing up two other cyclists for running red lights at the corner of Bowery and Delancey.

The Good: NYPD officers on bikes are not a sight you see every day. Bicycles can help police get around better in heavily congested areas and break down officers’ windshield perspective.

The Bad: The NYPD continues to target cyclists in its traffic enforcement efforts while ignoring more dangerous threats. In 2011, the police handed out almost 50,000 tickets to New York’s cyclists, but just over 25,000 to truck drivers.

The Ugly: Bowery and Delancey, where the cops are handing out these tickets, is one of the area’s most dangerous intersections. Over five years, 82 people were injured in traffic crashes at the intersection, and one year ago last week, a tractor-trailer driver killed a pedestrian at the corner. Here, even more than usual, the police need to be focused on improving safety, not hitting quotas or making a statement.

  • Streetsman

    Thinking maybe the monthly 5th Precinct meeting was last night and someone complained about bikes so they sent out some enforcement as a token response. Got be at those meetings to know what the community is asking PD to respond to.

  • Mikeramsey

    I’m thinking I can outrun the bike cops, if they’re all the same size as the ones pictured.

  • Driver

    It really is ridiculous.  I guess politics trumps common sense.

  • Biker

    Illegal bikers are dangerous! I almost hit the people who go the wrong way down bike lanes every time I ride… I think it’s good that people who run red lights get tickets. They’re breaking the law and giving all bicyclists a bad name.

  • Andy

    Will SB writers not be happy unless NO cyclist is ticketed? Clearly that’s never going to happen, so why not see the positive to this? I get it that car and truck drivers have much more potential impact to do harm, but here is a clear example that cops are using another mode to help the situation. A bike cop can at least do their business on the sidewalk (as we see here) instead of taking up a lane while wasting everyone else’s time around them in the process. I would imagine that being cited by someone standing next to you feels much less threatening than having a 3 ton SUV with lights flashing at you for 20 minutes.

    If the numbers continue to show that more cyclists get tickets than drivers, write an article about that. But don’t just take every image of a cyclist getting ticketed and call that discrimination.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe it’s because (i)  Cars and Trucks killing people have made this intersection one of the most dangerous intersections in NYC; and (ii) bikes run that red to get a head start, otherwise, they end up getting pinned in, which is much more dangerous.

    Enforcement of laws should be guided by reasonability.  It shouldn’t be guided by low-hanging fruit which will actually endanger more people’s lives.

  • As long as they also go up and down the bike lanes and ticket drivers illegally parked in them (won’t take long to find one), then I don’t mind…

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    A few months ago I saw two bike cops give chase to a biker who blew a couple lights on the Bowery, then turned west onto Prince.  Which is all fine, but they has no good way to let him know they wanted him to stop — he didn’t even notice they were chasing him until they literally pushed him off his bike onto the sidewalk (and a few bystanders) two intersections into Prince.  Also, the cops had to ride like total maniacs to catch up to him (he was going fast, but not careening as they were.)  Those bikes need sirens or something.

  • Joe R.

    So the police are actually dumb enough to give chase in a very congested environment? This is even more stupid than I thought it was. The only good news is by the looks of those police (and the type of bikes they’re riding), any reasonably fit cyclist can elude them within a few blocks. That being said, why even tempt fate by passing a red light if police are around?

  • carma

    while i can see the red light as silly for bicyclists in certain situations, wrong way cycling is dangerous for cyclists who are going the right way.  why cant nypd ticket these guys.  if anything they DEFINITELY deserve tickets.

  • I wonder if cops on foot will start ticketing people walking across the street on red(a.k.a. Jaywalking)

  • Anonymous

    – at the 84th Precinct Community meeting the other night, the precinct commander said that while they did have a couple of cops on bikes, they specifically did NOT ticket motorists – the rationale being that a motorist would be be tempted to ‘floor it’, and therefor endanger other people.

  • dporpentine


    why even tempt fate by passing a red light if police are around

    I’m convinced that one big reason that bikers get so many tickets is that they break the law in front of cops all the time. Drivers mostly behave when cops are visible. A little self-interest/self-control goes a long way . . .

  • I don’t necessarily buy into the philosophy of “more important things to do”; MAYBE there’s a real reason there were 50K cyclist tickets VS 25K to truckers.  Oh, I know, truckers do a LOT more damage; the point is, you ENFORCE THE LAW.  You don’t let 50 piddlers go by in order to catch a half-dozen players.

    I’m no fan of the NYPD, trust me, heard enough stories that NYC is off my visit list;  but in general, when I hear people talk about police having “more important things to do”. . . if they really DID, they’d be DOING it.  If they were all that lazy, they wouldn’t be doing the minor stuff, either.

  • Depechetraff

    Every time I’ve seen cops on bikes they’ve been riding on the sidewalk.


  • Jjjohnson

    These folks break the law on the bicycle. They should be ticketed. Is it hard to wait until the light changes? You are a vehicle on a bicycle. Many cyclists, of course not all, get hit not because the automobile is in the wrong it is because they break the law on their bicycle. We all need to follow the law,

    No ticket if you follow the city’s cycling laws.

  • Joe R.

    @19759bf9ca06c72c4bd471b3147c56f2:disqus “No ticket if you follow the city’s cycling laws.”

    Baloney. You may be LESS likely to get a ticket by following the law, but that’s still no guarantee you won’t get one. The police write people up for imaginary infractions all the time (i.e. not riding in the bike lane, not wearing a helmet, not having reflectors), especially near the end of the month. Their word against yours, and the judge always believes them over you. The only way to be truly safe from getting a ticket is to scan ahead for police, and turn onto another road when you see one.

  • Seveytm

    I received a ticket for running red light last April 2011, fuming and mad, I,m a 50 year old male on a 40 year bike. Frustratingly I attempted to obey the lights, this is near impossible. Anyhow, 8 months latter after numerous postponed hearings, I was found not guilty or dismissed because the cop retired. There has to be a fine line between reckless biking and petty enforcements, come on NY we can do better than this!

  • Morris Zapp

    @19759bf9ca06c72c4bd471b3147c56f2:disqus Right. And if the NYPD chases you through your own home and shoots you to death in your own bathroom, well, you must have had it coming.
    At least @twitter-361548560:disqus admits to having no idea what he’s talking about.

  • Bluebayer

    I ran a light on my bike  on 8th ave and 23rd. The cop said ” look the city spent a lot of money putting in these bike lanes. ” ” They have me out here in the 100 degree heat writing up you guys and btw you and me this is bullshit.” He ended up writing me up for not having a bell on my bike. It get’s better. ” You know what is really dangerous? ” he asks. ” see that douche bag in the Lexus on his cell phone? ” ” Now he is gonna get a real ticket.”
    ” oh and just so you know. The ticket is less expensive if you ran the light in the traffic lane.” He said as he bid me a good day and strolled over to the aforementioned Lexus.  

  • guest 13

    Do the bike cops have video cameras on the helmets? Would video evidence be enough to mail the tickets to drivers, if the bike cops are afraid to stop them on the spot?

    Excuses, excuses…

  • Anonymous

    more important things to do …

    Patrol officers are not making a daily decision along the lines of “Should I go write bicycle tickets today … or go spy on a mosque in New Jersey?”  Framing the issue in those terms is facetious.

    At a high level, the NYPD is allocating resources for things like the aforementioned spying (in another state!), bicycle traffic violations, and all manner of other BS.  At the same time, they are drastically underfunding the resources to investigate car and motor vehicle related deaths and injuries.  Allocating 19 investigators across the entire city to investigate vehicle crimes is woefully inadequate.  This should be its own bureau with resources similar to those allocated to homicide and narcotics.

    As others have mentioned, street crime in NYC is at historically low levels.  Now is the time to allocate resources away from street crime (aka the stop and frisk division) and redeploy them to vehicular crimes, which injure and kill far more people.

    The fallacy of the “quality of life” enforcement pioneered under the Giuliani administration is that it is very subjective depending upon whose quality of life one takes as a baseline definition.  Personally, I am not much bothered by people smoking crack or drinking in public.  But for the typical suburban-minded property owner from the outer boroughs the worst quality of life crimes are those which either decrease property values or impede motor vehicle mobility.

  • It’s really not that hard to avoid a ticket while bicycling in NYC; I’ve made it ~40 years without getting one that stuck.  99% of cops can’t write a summons except when they see the violation (that’s the problem with enforcement against dangerous motoring, remember?).  So for a red light, the cop has to be behind you, and looking at you and the light at the same time, to write you up.  If you feel you need to go through a red, it’s always best to use the “urban cyclocross” method:  dismount, trot through the intersection, and then remount.  I’ve had loads of cops watch me do this since the crackdown began in January 2011, and I’ve never been stopped.  If you feel you need to get through the intersection even faster than “urban cyclocross” will allow, slow down and look all ways, *including behind you*, before proceeding.  The look behind ensures you’re not under surveillance and forces you to slow down almost to a stop, which you should be doing anyway before attempting to ride through a red.  As for riding counterflow or on the sidewalk, those are lazy, selfish cycling practices, you’re inconveniencing and endangering other cyclists and or pedestrians, you deserve a ticket in my book.

  • ksarge

    Nobody should be running the light at Bowery and Delancy. That is just dangerous. If cops are to use judgement about when it’s appropriate to write a ticket to a cyclist for running a red light–which I don’t necessarily think they do–this would be a place where I think tickets should be written. It seems like a bad example of injustice to me. 

  • JamesR

    urban cyclocross doesn’t work if you’re wearing clipless, unless you want to fall on your face in the middle of the intersection and potentially get run over. 

  • JamesR

    urban cyclocross doesn’t work if you’re wearing clipless, unless you want to fall on your face in the middle of the intersection and potentially get run over. 

  • Danny G

    @0725e26de8afcbf0a72ccf98de3fb783:disqus  If you like the cycling benefits of wearing clipless pedals but want something more practical for everyday, try a boot or shoe with a slight heel. It will give you a bit more push than with flat shoes, and you don’t have to walk funny when you go into the store.

  • > Will SB writers not be happy unless NO cyclist is ticketed? Clearly that’s never going to happen, so why not see the positive to this? 

    If labeling the police on bicycles as “The Good” does not constitute seeing the positive, that must be an empty phrase indeed.

    The ugly thing is that this was the NYPD’s response to a dangerous intersection where pedestrians and cyclists are being killed in unusual numbers, by motorists. It’s the same thing police do in places like Savannah to pedestrians, they start enforcing “walking” laws more strictly when they notice a few poor sods getting run over. And there’s a depraved logic to it: if you blame the victims when they’re hit, you should also penalize potential victims beforehand.

    Fortunately in Manhattan, pedestrians are too high-status to be subject to vindictive enforcement of unwise traffic laws, but cyclists are only partway there. We still get “the treatment” on occasion. But if you’re worrying about how Streetsblog is covering that, you’re missing the point.

    It’s an insult to everyone who’s been injured and killed by motorists at this intersection that when police finally respond, they bring in a bicycle brigade.

    Send the bicycle cop in his snazzy blue jacket away from this place with the deadly serious automobile danger and put him somewhere that cycling is documented to pose an elevated danger. I hear there’s an vengeful lady with a Foundation keeping tabs on such things–haphazardly but it’s a start. Hang out there and write tickets to cyclists who cut off pedestrians, and you’ll find many other cyclists cheering on the good work.

    But THIS. This cynical misdirection on the site of a massive automotive killing field–even as the other police present direct motorists to drive their vehicles into pedestrians with walk signals–it’s just not to be tolerated.

  • John

    I can’t believe you are supporting allowing cyclists to run red lights.  This is not okay.

  • fj

    John, Can’t believe you think it’s such a big deal, just walk the streets of the central business district where thousands if not millions of pedestrians go through red lights every day; try Penn Station during rush hour; indicative of foolish transportation rules totally unenforceable geared to the really dangerous liability accounting that transportation systems based on automobiles require for the entire legal and insurance game because this machine system is such a bad design and so destructive; and the way the public has been duped into paying for it.

    Red lights are not needed when there are no cars.

    And cars are surely not needed when the streets are safe since more sensible practical low cost mobility methods would prevail.

  • still livid

    At least in the morning rush hour they have been ticketing cyclists going
    west on Delancey for crossing the northbound lane of traffic at
    Chrystie (not the Bowery) while this traffic still has the red (the southbound lane has a
    green turn arrow initially). Basically cyclists use the median here as a
    bike box to get a head start on traffic as it enters the multiple turning lanes at the Bowery. There is a tall stone wall for the bike cops to hide behind.

    As I wrote in Todays Headlines, if cyclists wait back with the cars at this
    intersection and are lucky enough not to get right-hooked when the light
    turns green, they are going to get right-hooked at Bowery because BOTH
    right lanes become turning lanes there. To avoid
    the right hook you have just a short distance in which you have to
    thread through traffic and get in front of moving cars to
    go straight. After a decade of riding through this intersection I have no doubt that it is safer to go through the single, northbound lane of Chrystie when all traffic has the red. No, I don’t run the light at the Bowery. It’s an entirely different situations. And, yes, I give pedestrians the right of way even when they’re wrong.