Video: NYPD Cruiser Chases Down Manhattan Cyclist

In the first few seconds of this video, when you see the cop in the unmarked NYPD cruiser hit the siren and edge through a Manhattan intersection, stopping traffic before he steps on the gas, you may wonder: Is there a bank robbery in progress? A call of shots fired?

No. This officer is speeding up Sixth Avenue to chase down a cyclist, who according to CarBuzz (via the person who posted the video on YouTube) was stopped for running a red light.

Given that the cyclist wasn’t cuffed on the spot, it’s safe to assume the suspected offense was indeed a traffic violation. Setting aside the constant flouting of traffic laws that goes unchecked by NYPD, how much risk is this officer creating for the cyclist, or for that matter the public at large, by initiating a foot-to-the-floor pursuit on a city street? Could it possibly be less than the perceived risk created by the cyclist himself?

Short as this pursuit was, watching the video I couldn’t help thinking of Tamon Robinson, the man run down and killed by NYPD officers in Brooklyn a month ago. Or any number of NYPD chases that ended in injury and death for innocent bystanders.

Leave your reaction in the comments.

  • Mixed Message

    True, the NYPD has a long way to go to make traveling on our city streets safer, but  I don’t get the problem here. The cop made sure it was safe to proceed through the intersection with lights and sirens going, only sped up enough to catch up to the cyclist, and was careful not to knock him off his bike once there. If the cyclist ran the light then he deserves a ticket. To suggest the officer is in the wrong only takes away from your legitimate complaints and coverage of traffic enforcement in the city. 

  • Conrad

    I understand the impulse to complain about how dangerous cops are. I have NEVER seen a police cruiser wait at a red light if it was first in line. Literally, not once.
    But…it’s hard to defend when the bike runs the light right in front of a cop. I treat all red lights as stop signs, but I’ll never run one in front of a cop. This messenger had the bad luck to do it in front of an unmarked car is all.

  • Guest

    Totally agree with what Mixed Message said.

  • What exactly did the cop do wrong here? Observed someone breaking the law and then (in a relatively safe manner) caught up to them and told them to stop? 

  • I think the officers were totally correct to assign that ticket.

    What baffles us is why THAT is the violation that gets the attention, when there are so many other violations which endanger the public more than that kind of violation, and for which the public would be better served if the police pursued with the same zeal.

    I would love to see the cops make an effort to nail all of the offenders who disregard traffic lights, including those who floor the gas at a yellow light coming up on a very wide intersection.  If a few errant cyclists get caught up in that, sucks to be them. 

    (Note that red light cameras may have some deterrent effect, but the tickets assigned on camera-recorded violations come with lesser penalties than the officer-assigned tickets. And they do nothing to reduce the accident risks of a wild driver who’s ripping down the street.) 

    But as far as we know, the cops are focused on the cyclists and are letting automobile drivers get away with similar violations with regularity. And the extensive abuse of the speed limit and of right-of-way violations is maddening. The police aren’t keeping the streets safe. And going after little nonsense like this – technically illegal, but not a public menace – is the wrong approach. It’s not politically disputable or legally misguided. It’s just wrong.

  • i love cops.

    but in this case, they’re only doing what TA and most other ‘advocates’ want the cops to do — harass and ticket cyclists. maybe one day we’ll get an ‘advocacy’ organization that tells the truth about red lights — they shouldn’t apply to pedestrians and bikers, period. until that time, it’s open season on anyone brave enough to walk and bike.

  • If I was the cop here and saw a cyclist go through a red in front of me on Sixth Avenue in the Village, I would not pull this move and accelerate at such speed. What if the pedestrian standing on the corner there decides to start crossing Sixth Ave? 

    This isn’t as dangerous as the multi-block high-speed chases we’ve written about, and maybe 999 times out of a thousand no one would get hurt, but to my eyes it looks riskier than warranted by the offense.

  • What fascinates me about this is that I see cyclists break the law in front of cops all the time, without the cops batting an eyelash….downtown Manhattan is a great place to observe this,  there are cops on just about every corner, ignoring violation after violation. By cyclists.  Electric bike riders.  By drivers.  By pedestrians.  By everybody. 

    So what was it that got the bug up this one cops rear to make him actually do his job?  And why can’t we get cops like him to address the squads of motorcyclists in my community (Staten Island) who speed, run red lights, and do wheelies down busy streets all summer long?  Or the motorists who seem to ignore every traffic law, as our local paper regularly recognizes? 

  • The other cool part about this video is how the cop just blocks the cyclist’s path, or tries to push him into parked cars. 

    A car driver presumably would have been afforded the luxury of getting pulled over like a normal human being, but i guess all bikers are terrorists or axe murderers or something, so it’s necessary to cut them off because you have to assume they’re going to try and outrun a car police cruiser.Maybe the biker was riding down the street, assassinating people with a sawed-off water gun or something. Maybe he just had to be stopped immediately.Or something.

  • Anonymous

    @shmooth:disqus If the cop had miscalculated and ended up hitting the cyclist and injuring him,  there’d be the usual “that’s what you get for breaking the law” comments on sites other than this.

    Of course, I see this as another argument for not running lights: cops are terrible and I want to have absolutely zero interactions with them.

  • mjd

    I’m a daily bike commuter and streetsblog reader who thinks cyclists as well as motorists need to be consistently ticketed when we break laws.  Can’t tell anything from this video, unless you posted it as sort of rorschach to get a sense of your audience.  I’ve been ticketed as a cyclist and motorist, deservedly in each instance (and as a pedestrian for that matter jaywalking in LA, not that I suggest ticketing pads today in NYC).  Consistency of law enforcement will in the end make bikers safer.  Would love love love to see red light cameras and enforcement of the 30 mph city speed limit.  Not to mention getting car services, ambulettes, passing cars, taxis, street vendors, and, well, maybe in the >10,000 bikeshare bikes future, peds, ticketed for blocking bike lanes.

  • Driver

    Ticketing bikes for going through stop signs or lights when there is no imminent danger is BS.  I see so many actually dangerous violations on a daily basis by other drivers that it makes ticketing bicyclists seem like a poor use of resources.   

  • matt

    Since we didn’t see the cyclist committing the infraction its hard to take a stance on it. The officer gets the benefit of the doubt. 

    As for how the officers pulled over the cyclist, I’ve been pulled over in exactly the same manner as a pedestrian. I’m not sure there is value in debating the finer points on technique.

    Is the cyclist being unfairly targeted? Possibly so, but this video simply isn’t proof of it.

  • Makes me wonder about that LA case of the female cyclist, Susanna Schick, who had her hip and ribs and all sorts of stuff smashed by, allegedly, just falling off her bike. 

    I’ve publicly theorized that it was the cop car that supposedly saw the whole episode that actually hit her (her back wheel was taco’ed, etc.). 

    A maneuver like this from a reckless cop could have been how it went down.

  • Anonymous

    Just doing his job, yes.  But why all the drama and hostility?  Why not be on the far side of the intersection observing for violators doing reckless shit that endanger others?  Its clear they are just out to fill quotas as quickly as possible and have no sense of decorum to boot.  That’s what this video says anyway.  

  • Brad Aaron

    The problem is not the ticket. It’s the pursuit.

    The officer could have tailed the guy for a block or two, caught up with him and directed him to stop his bike. Instead he sped in front of him to cut him off.

    The cop’s choices left little room for error, on his part or someone else’s. Nothing in the video suggests there was any reason to risk hitting the cyclist or a bystander.

  • Joe R.

    I personally wouldn’t stop for an unmarked car. That could be anyone, including bike thieves posing as police. Granted, the options for an escape in this case are limited but normally whenever I hear sirens behind me I turn off at the next intersection and make a few quick random turns to get lost on the assumption they’re after me, even if I haven’t broken any laws. It’s just the state of mind I’ve been in ever since getting a sidewalk cycling ticket back in 1999.

    @shmooth:disqus Agreed 100% that red lights shouldn’t apply to either cyclists or pedestrians. Changing the law to that effect is the best short term answer to end this quota-driven nonsense. Long term the best answer is to get rid of most of the traffic lights.

    @bdccb23d062e811922ea9e07e83dedb7:disqus Enforcement assumes there’s nothing wrong with the laws and infrastructure in the first place. That’s hardly the case here. It’s actually safer most of the time to cross on red as either a cyclist or a pedestrian, provided you ascertain if it’s clear first. Moreover, in NYC with it’s 12,000+ signalized intersections timed for car speeds, a cyclist or pedestrian following the law will take 2 or 3 times as long to get where they’re going. Normal transportation planning considers even a 50% delay unacceptable to motor vehicles, so why is a 200% or 300% delay for other modes OK? Moreover, it’s incumbent upon the state to ensure road safety in the least intrusive way possible. That means you shouldn’t get a red light if nothing is crossing. We can do that with pedestrian and vehicle detectors. Since we refuse to use those in NYC, then you shouldn’t be forced to wait at red when nothing is crossing. You gain nothing at all in safety by doing so.

  • Joe R.

    @d4dc7a5cc92da57b472a4549d761da33:disqus I pretty much do the same thing, basically treating reds as yields, but never run lights right in front of police. It’s just not worth taking the chance they might be short of their quota. That said, if I knew I could do what I do legally, then some of the attention I devote looking for police cars could be focused on other things. There’s no shortage of hazards a cyclist needs to look out for without diverting some of their attention scanning for cops.

  • KeNYC2030

    Riding crosstown in the Village tonight I was almost hit twice — by cop cars.  The first time, at 9th St. and Sixth, the bike lane on 9th changes from the left to the right side, but the cop car waiting at the light to my right refused to let me make the traverse in front of him, even though I had the head start.  A few blocks west, on Christopher, a different cruiser a few cars behind me suddenly put on that infernal new “low whoop” siren they now have, whipped around traffic and made a fast right, nearly taking me out as I crossed the intersection as fast as I could to get out of the way.  In hot pursuit of a lawbreaking killer cyclist, no doubt.   

  • Ratopia

    The only dangerous behavior here is the moronic cop driving like he’s Kojak. The NYPD is  psychotic.

  • Guest

    I don’t think the cop drove out of control. Not sure why you’re defending illegal behavior.

  • Anonymous

    I see that @933285225d6a05a99fe35d72b38ff17e:disqus  has a mixed message, they say that NYPD has a long way to go to make NY streets safer, but is stoping a vehicle that weighs <20% of the driver's body weight making ANYTHING safer? Stopping traffic light that, flooring the vehicle only to come to a near-screeching halt. Who was at risk, the people that were stopped COULD HAVE included cyclists that might not have been able to see a police car darting in front of car traffic and running the red light. The cyclist only put themselves in danger. Pulling over a cyclist in such a way seems VERY reckless, and a WASTE of police resources. 
    Why not ENCOURAGE cycling–a way to avoid MORE CARS.

    The practice doesn't put anyone but the cyclist at risk, but what if the LAW was different?
     The Idaho law is unique among the state laws; no other state has adopted this approach … yet. So how has the law worked out for Idaho? The “stop as yield” section of the Idaho law has also been in effect since 1982 (the “red as stop” section was added in 2006), giving Idaho a quarter-century of real world experience with its experiment in bicycle traffic law. Ray Thomas reports that
    the Idaho experience has been positive according to Mark McNeese, Bicycle/Pedestrian coordinator for the Idaho Transportation Department… Idaho bicycle-collision statistics confirm that the Idaho law has resulted in no discernable increase in injuries or fatalities to bicyclists.

  • Anonymous

    We need to document more of this type of interaction, but MORE importantly, WE NEED TO CHANGE THE LAW.

    For people on bicycle ( a vehicle that likely weighs <20% of even their ideal body weight, ~30lbs) should the same laws apply to them as to vehicles that are MUCH larger weigh some 3,000-12,000 pounds and of course MUCH slower to stop? In Idaho, the answer is NO. for nearly 30 years cyclists can legally enjoy the right to YIELD at a STOP sign. Since 2006 people on bikes can also treat a RED signal light as a STOP sign.  Has this resulted in more total chaos and cyclists being run over/running over pedestrians? Nope. Getting the person on the bicycle ahead and away from the intersection prior to the cars leaving a) will encourage time (and energy) efficient bicycle travel b) is often much SAFER, since they are then able to make that L turn—and/or just be more visible to motorists.

    When will New York State follow suit and allow this to be law??

  • carma

    why does the editors here always bash the nypd for everything they do.  looking at this video is clearly biased towards hating the nypd for doing their job.   it is unknown from the video what actions the bicyclist did in order for the police to charge up to give a summons.  yes, it could have been easy pickings off the fruit tree of tickets, but it could have also been a true dangerous red light running action from the cyclist.  while i agree the laws for red lights and cyclists dont truly mingle well as bicycles can pretty much stop on a dime and have much better peripheral vision than a motor vehicle would, the law is currently the law.  and to run a red light in front of a police vehicle, marked or unmarked deserves a ticket.

    with that said, the police vehicle did alert side traffic with sirens that it was going through the intersection plus, although it seems like the unmarked Impala was jetting like a bat out of hell, the speed of which the cruiser was going was actually around 30mph.  on top of that, i dont think the cutting off of the cruiser into the cyclist was impeding on the cyclists safety.

    yes, ive seen some bad brutality with cyclist.  we all remember officer pogan right?  but this is not one of those.

  • J

    I think I have to agree with a lot of people here. The cyclist ran a red light. The cop saw it, nosed their way through an intersection, caught up with the cyclist in one block, and gave him a ticket. The cop only accelerated once he got through the intersection, and that block that he sped down to catch the cyclist was completely empty. This was not a drawn out high speed pursuit, weaving through traffic, blasting through intersection. It doesn’t appear to be high-speed or reckless at all. Yes, I think high speed pursuits on city streets are atrocious and should be called out, but I don’t think this is one of them. 

    I also think that when we complain about every little instance of even mildly aggressive policing of cycling, it makes bike advocates look bad, like we’re somehow justified in breaking the law. Sure, it’s easy to feel that way, given the dearth of safe bike facilities and utter lack of protection from police; but from an advocacy perspective, that line of thinking is untenable. The cyclist broke the law, and the cop gave him a ticket; end of story.

  • guest

    The law needs to change. For cyclists, red lights should be treated like stop signs, and stops signs should be treated like yield signs. This is the law in Iowa, of all places.

  • krstrois

    It’s hard to see this as a proportional response. At the same time, I think the current traffic laws as enforced (or not) inhere this sort of behavior on the part of cops. And our incomplete infrastructure and ridiculous categorization of bikes as “vehicles” makes it hard for cyclists to know how to behave. This video is a perfect example of this insanity and I am not surprised to see people having two kinds of reactions. I’m not surprised to find myself agreeing with both. This is our problem and it needs to be fixed. 

    Even though I have had plenty of positive interactions with individual officers, my emotional response to the video, and to situations like this that I witness in person, comes 100% from my reptilian brain. I am scared of the NYPD as an entity and of men in groups, especially when they’re wearing uniforms. And they don’t do much to allay my fears. 

  • Mixed Message

    Yes, the law should change. Yes, the NYPD has a lousy track record on traffic enforcement. This video has nothing to do with either of those. 

    We’re asked to assume the rider ran a red light. How do we know he didn’t almost cause a crash or hit a pedestrian? How do we know he hadn’t already followed him for several blocks (Brad Aaron)?  We can infer what happened before the video rolled all day long, but what we see is pretty clear. The officer was careful to avoid incident in catching up to the cyclist and made sure the intersection was clear. To claim otherwise is simply crying wolf. 

    This post was rather sensationalist and does nothing to make the case for improved enforcement or for improved traffic justice. 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think the chase was particularly reckless and we don’t know exactly what the cyclist was stopped for.

    That said, there is a problem with the argument that “if you run a red light, you get a ticket”, and that is that the police exercise a *huge* amount of discretion when it comes to choosing which people to stop, and there is reasonable concern that the attention given to cyclists may be disproportionately high (even without considering the relative risk of cyclist’s violations when compared to those of motor vehicles).

    The NYPD boasts that they issue almost 1 million summonses per year for moving violations. But how many moving violations actually happen on the streets? I’d say a very conservative estimate would be 10 million per day. That would mean that only about 0.03% of violations get a summons. Is that 0.03% distributed fairly, not to mention in a way that actually improves safety?

    I remember reading a quote from an officer who basically said “we prefer to ticket cyclists because they are easier/safer to chase”.

  • After I first saw this this morning I ride my bike from Park Slope to Brooklyn Borough Hall and back.  Being freshly reminded that I could get a ticket for going through red lights I made a pint to stop at all of them.  NO OTHER CYCLISTS STOOPED.  I was actually told to move by other cyclists when I blocked the bike lane WHEN THE LIGHT WAS RED.

    So come on people, we know the cops have an agenda.  Just stop at the light. My trip was still twice as fast as the subway would have been and free.

  • David

    I got stopped by a similar car on sixth ave in soho about a year ago, got and paid my 190 buck ticket. (car rate)  What can I say, end of the month quota maybe.  I def. think twice now about running red lights, but still do after peeking about. (hard to see the unmarked cars).   my two cents.  The chase part does not bother me too much.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t understand how people can defend this way of pulling over the cyclist. Unless he was Marcia Kramer’s fantasy Terrorist on a Bike, he didn’t need to have life and limb threatened by a cop.

    The cop did this to a cyclist because he knew a bike couldn’t hurt him. The street cleaning vehicle and the two livery cabs I saw running lights on my trip into work, though, would be followed until they pulled over on their own–because pulling this kind of move could get the cop himself hurt. But of course, they weren’t pulled over at all.

  • Pyz

    With the adoption of all of the new bike lanes, bicyclists have become a greater menace to pedestrians than automobiles and trucks.

    Bicyclists continue to exhibit no heed for direction markings on one-way lanes; traffic signals, especially when red; and crossing pedestrians. 

    This is even worse for the food delivery persons on electrified bicycles, whose mass and speed is tantamount to a small motorcycle.

    Thank you NYPD.

  • Joe R.

    @a8d4258ac259e5b265de93205c0636a7:disqus “With the adoption of all of the new bike lanes, bicyclists have become a greater menace to pedestrians than automobiles and trucks.”

    So that’s your informed opinion? Turns out motor vehicles kill dozens or even hundreds of pedestrians annually, versus something like six pedestrians killed in the last ten years by cyclists. Get your facts straight before posting your drivel. And read up about the Idaho stop law. It’s needed far more in a place like NYC than in Idaho. Traffic signals were designed for cars with their poorer visibility, greater mass, and higher speeds, not bicycles or pedestrians. The NYPD tickets cyclists not because it makes things safer, but because it makes it easier to reach their (supposedly nonexistent) ticket quotas. Time to cut the NYPD by about 2/3rds so the remaining 1/3 can do what we pay them big bucks to do-name go after real criminals.


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