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24th Precinct CO: We’re Making Streets Safer by Cracking Down on Cyclists

An Upper West Side NYPD precinct where motorists killed six pedestrians and cyclists in 2014 says it’s reducing injuries by cracking down on people riding bikes.

Captain Marlon O. Larin, commanding officer of the 24th Precinct.
Captain Marlon O. Larin, commanding officer of the 24th Precinct.
Captain Marlon O. Larin, commanding officer of the 24th Precinct.

The 24th Precinct is where drivers fatally struck Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, Samantha Lee, and Jean Chambers, prompting a public outcry that, coupled with the launch of Vision Zero, raised the profile of traffic violence as a citywide issue.

Though data show that motorist behavior is the main factor in most serious crashes, this week Captain Marlon O. Larin, the precinct’s commanding officer, credited a drop in injuries to an August cyclist ticket blitz.

DNAinfo reports:

In August, officers from the 24th Precinct handed out 135 summonses to cyclists for violating bicycle laws -- such as running red lights, cycling the wrong way and riding on a sidewalk -- up from 52 citations during the same period last year, police said.

That vigilance is paying off, with 12 injuries from collisions involving a bike or a car last month, compared to 20 during the same period last year, according to the precinct.

When bicyclists run red lights, they could get seriously injured and are putting themselves in "unnecessary harm," said 24th Precinct Capt. Marlon Larin at a meeting Wednesday.

"I don’t think bicyclists should be able to [run] a red light. A car’s going to win," he said.

Given the small sample, I asked data analyst Charles Komanoff about Larin’s claim.

“A drop to 12 from 20 for a single 30-day period is almost certainly random fluctuation rather than evidence of a statistically significant trend,” Komanoff said via email. “So we would need to see at least several months of data. And it would need to be correlated/connected geographically with the increase in summonses, given the distances covered by the precinct.”

According to the DNAinfo story, Larin also indicated that enforcement in the 24th Precinct is at least in part based on anecdotes, rather than data.

The precinct gets a high volume of calls from residents complaining about cyclists who aren't adhering to the rules of the road, Larin added.

"We also have to take heed to the complaints we get," he said.

DOT’s Vision Zero View tracks the density of traffic injuries by precinct, on a five-level scale, indicated on the map in shades of red. As of July the 24th Precinct ranked in the middle -- level three -- indicating it’s not doing as well as other precincts in keeping injuries low.

Longtime street safety advocate Ken Coughlin attended the Wednesday precinct meeting, telling Larin: "Every ticket written for a cyclist is a ticket not written for a more dangerous violation... I would urge you to enforce against the truly dangerous violations."

Local officers wrote more bike tickets in August than for speeding and failure to yield combined. Since there haven’t been any traffic fatalities in the 24th Precinct this year, Larin may as well claim the bike crackdown is responsible.

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