NYPD Shifts Sidewalk Bicycling Tickets Out of Criminal Court

NYPD is issuing substantially fewer criminal summonses for sidewalk bicycling, opting to enforce the violation with traffic tickets instead. While the shift is a good step toward decriminalizing the behavior, as a result there’s also less information available about how police are applying the law against sidewalk biking.

Photo: Seth Werkheiser/Flickr
A better ticketing policy from NYPD, but one that’s also harder to track. Photo: Seth Werkheiser/Flickr

Last year, police issued 6,069 bicycle-related criminal summonses, down from 25,082 in 2013, according to a report NYPD issued last week on broken windows policing [PDF]. Why the big drop? A footnote explains: Last year, NYPD “began issuing violators of riding a bike on a sidewalk moving violations rather than criminal court summons.”

A traffic ticket, which can be handled online or via mail, is less serious than a criminal summons, which requires a court appearance and can carry the threat of jail. In practice, both summonses and traffic tickets for sidewalk riding typically result in a $50 fine, according to attorney Steve Vaccaro.

Fewer criminal summonses should lessen the burden on black and Latino communities that receive a disproportionate share of sidewalk bicycling enforcement from the police. But because of limitations in how NYPD releases data, sidewalk riding tickets are harder to track than sidewalk riding summonses.

Each year, the Criminal Court of the City of New York issues a report on the city’s most frequently-charged criminal summonses. Sidewalk bicycling always comes in near the top: In 2013, it ranked fourth, with 18,700 summonses, and in 2012, it ranked third with about 25,000 summonses. (Last year’s annual report is not yet available.)

Now that NYPD is issuing traffic tickets instead, sidewalk riding should show up in NYPD’s monthly tallies of moving violations by precinct. Problem is, there’s no category for sidewalk bicycling. In fact, there’s no category at all for violations issued to cyclists.

In annual summaries of NYPD moving violations, the “other” category included 60,274 violations in 2012 and 69,088 in 2013. Last year, when thousands of sidewalk bicycling violations were supposedly added to the mix, it only jumped slightly, to 69,979 violations.

NYPD has not replied to an inquiry about the number of sidewalk bicycling violations it issued last year.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Local Speeding Tickets (Barely) Outnumber Sidewalk Biking Summonses

|
We’ve got a new installment in Streetsblog’s hotly-anticipated Sidewalk Biking Ticket Index, which compares the number of sidewalk biking summonses issued by NYPD to the number of speeding tickets issued by local precincts. In a reversal from 2012, NYPD last year issued more tickets for speeding on local streets than criminal charges for riding a bicycle on […]

NYPD Issues More Tickets to Drinking Pedestrians Than Speeding Drivers

|
NYPD issued more summonses for open container violations than for speeding in 2011, one of a number of law enforcement oddities revealed through data issued by police and compiled from court records. Drawing on data obtained from city criminal courts, the New York World, a project of the Columbia Journalism School, analyzed summonses issued by NYPD […]

Sidewalk Biking Enforcement and NYC’s New Criminal Justice Reforms

|
The City Council just passed a package of bills — collectively known as the Criminal Justice Reform Act — encouraging police officers to issue civil instead of criminal summonses for “quality-of-life” offenses like possessing an open container of alcohol or littering. Sidewalk biking wasn’t one of the offenses included in the bills, but a reform NYPD made to its enforcement […]

Drivers Have Killed Seven People in Bike-Obsessed 19th Precinct in 2016

|
Blanca Pagan, the senior who was struck last Friday by a driver who failed to yield, was at least the seventh pedestrian killed by a motorist this year in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side. Deputy Inspector Clint McPherson, the precinct’s commanding officer, has prioritized ticketing people on bikes, with encouragement from local City Council members Ben […]

Mixed Signals From Bratton’s NYPD Jaywalking Directive

|
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s memo ordering precincts to focus on dangerous jaywalking offenses looks like a positive sign, but it still directs officers to write out citations in a way that ensures many won’t be heard in court. The Daily News reports that Bratton issued guidelines Tuesday that instruct beat cops to issue warnings to […]