When It Comes to Bike Enforcement, NYPD Can Do Better Than This

Warm weather means more bicyclists on city streets. It also means more ham-handed attempts by NYPD to improve bike safety, and officers are out in force this week ticketing people on bikes.

NYPD's traffic enforcement priorities yesterday on Hudson Street. Photo: BrooklynSpoke/Twitter
NYPD’s traffic enforcement priorities yesterday on Hudson Street. Photo: BrooklynSpoke/Twitter

Instead of ticketing wrong-way cyclists buzzing pedestrians in crosswalks, the police typically camp out and rack up tickets where cyclists break the letter of the law without jeopardizing anyone. Ticketing people for riding through a red light at a T-intersection is the bicycle equivalent of ticketing a pedestrian who crosses against the light when no cars are coming.

Bike enforcement operations have been spotted on the Hudson River Greenway, at the base of the Manhattan Bridge, on Hudson Street, and on Eighth Avenue. These are all locations where there are plenty of people biking, and probably plenty of people who bike through red lights after checking to see if the coast is clear.

Handing out red light violations at these locations is easy for police, but it’s not a good use of resources if the department is serious about Vision Zero.

Officers from the 5th Precinct, for example, can often be spotted issuing red light tickets to cyclists coming off the Manhattan Bridge and on Chrystie Street. The same precinct has issued just 46 speeding tickets and 71 failure to yield tickets so far this year.

If the department is going to spend time on bike enforcement, it should at least focus on the people riding the wrong way or cutting through crosswalks at speed. That would be harder than ticketing the “scofflaws” who are jaywalking on bikes, but it might actually improve conditions on the street.

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