NYPD Bike Enforcement Carries High Price in Communities of Color

Brownsville Bikes
Business at Brownsville Bikes suffered when NYPD started targeting sidewalk cycling on the block. Photo via Google Maps

Editor’s note: Stephen filed one last story before wrapping up his tenure at Streetsblog earlier this month. Here it is.

The New York Police Department hands out a lot of tickets to cyclists — in fact, for years the number of sidewalk cycling tickets outpaced the number of speeding tickets local precincts gave to drivers.

Bike tickets are not distributed evenly among the city’s population. A report published last year found that the neighborhoods where the most sidewalk cycling tickets are issued tend to be neighborhoods where most residents are black or Latino.

When those tickets are criminal violations that require a court appearance, the personal cost of the citation can quickly escalate. Ignoring the ticket can lead to a warrant, and appearing in court may require a full day away from work, causing lost wages.

Uriah Wickham, 58, bikes from Brownsville to work in Midtown. A few years ago, he was pulled over with other cyclists who briefly used the sidewalk on Sands Street to get around a construction zone. “I was given a summons to go to court. I had to take a day,” Wickham said. “The judge said to go home. But I did lose my day of pay.”

This type of ticketing can also have a ripple effect. Cleveland Smillie (a.k.a. Jah Hammed), 63, has owned Brownsville Bikes, the neighborhood’s only bike shop, for 30 years. A few years ago, he said, officers began cracking down on sidewalk cycling near his storefront. It decimated business, since people were worried they would get ticketed if they did anything even slightly wrong as they approached the store.

Kenneth Graham recently stopped at Brownsville Bikes to get a fender added to his bike. “I ride everywhere. I got it because I don’t want to take the bus. I’m tired of buying MetroCards,” said Graham, 30, who lives in Canarsie and started cycling a few months ago. A side benefit: He’s quickly dropped from 300 pounds to 255 pounds.

Graham hasn’t been stopped by police on his bike yet, but he came close recently. He was biking on a quiet walkway in Howard Houses — like most public housing projects, it’s a super-block without through streets — and quickly attracted the attention of police. “It seemed like they was chilling until they see my bike come through the walkway,” he said. “I just got off the bike, so they didn’t bother me.”

R. Charles Bryan, who regularly bikes between Cypress Hills, where he lives and works, and Harlem, where his mother lives, has a strategy to avoid police stops. He hasn’t changed his behavior on a bike, but he has changed what he wears.

A few years ago, Bryan was sitting on his bike while stopped on the sidewalk a few blocks from his mother’s home to talk with someone. Bryan, wearing a hoodie and sweatpants, wasn’t moving; his feet were on the ground.

That’s when a pair of officers came up from behind him and gave him a ticket for riding his bike on the sidewalk. Bryan says that’s just one of roughly two dozen times he was stopped for biking infractions in the course of about five years.

Another time, he biked to his father’s house in Flatbush, changed into sweatpants, and biked back on the same route an hour later. Police stopped him for riding outside the bike lane and told him he fit the description of a suspect on the loose. After he sat on the curb for 45 minutes, Bryan says, the officers let him go but changed their story, saying they only pulled him over because neighborhood residents were complaining about cyclists.

“They didn’t even give me a ticket,” Bryan said. He found he would get stopped by police most often not in lower-income areas like East New York, but in gentrifying neighborhoods like Harlem.

A couple of years ago, the pattern snapped into focus. “If I was biking and I was in a wife beater and shorts, I’d be more likely to be stopped, to be harassed, to be told I had run a red light,” Bryan said. “But if I was wearing spandex shorts and a biking jersey and a helmet, they’d tip their caps to me and say, ‘Keep going.'”

“I’m very, very aware of a uniform that I need to wear,” he said. “It’s really just the uniform of money.”

Bryan has suggested to his friends that they change what they wear while biking. Not all of them follow the advice, and some have chosen to blow off sidewalk biking tickets, reasoning that it’s not a serious offense. “Next thing you know, they have a bench warrant. It can be so detrimental for such a small issue,” Bryan said. “I don’t think that should be illegal. I definitely don’t think it’s something that should merit a bench warrant or anything of that nature.”

There is clearly bias at work in NYPD’s treatment of sidewalk biking and similar offenses. Many of the city’s political leaders agree with one of the avenues Bryan suggested to address the problem: They say sidewalk riding needs to be reclassified.

Earlier this year, the City Council began to look at decriminalizing minor offenses like sidewalk cycling, an idea Police Commissioner Bill Bratton later said was “crazy.”

Nevertheless, under Bratton NYPD has shifted the majority of sidewalk cycling tickets out of criminal court. Last year, the department began issuing most sidewalk riding tickets as moving violations. Other violations, however, including jaywalking, remain criminal infractions.

Last month, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel released a report calling for the decriminalization of minor offenses like bicycling on the sidewalk, among other changes [PDF]. “Unpaid summons for bicycling on a sidewalk or drinking an open container of alcohol in public should not result in an arrest and a permanent criminal record,” they wrote.

Brewer, who was on the City Council when it criminalized sidewalk cycling that endangers person or property, is now effectively seeking to undo that vote, Crain’s reported.

“They don’t pay the fine, they end up with a warrant and someone comes knocking on the door,” Brewer told Crain’s. “That’s what we’re trying to avoid. We don’t want people to end up with records for the rest of their lives for little, little offenses.”

  • Matthias

    It’s time to decriminalize biking on the sidewalk, and to criminalize driving a motor vehicle on the sidewalk.

    Police harassment of cyclists is definitely an issue in Harlem. I feel nervous whenever biking near police–I can only imagine how much worse it would be if I were not white. I usually ride the 20 feet up onto the sidewalk to reach my building, but I know people who have been ticketed for doing this, even though it endangers no one. I have personally been summonsed for making a careful right turn on red.

    I can see how sidewalk tickets would kill a bike shop–people want to test things out in a safe space. Funny how no one tickets the sidewalk drivers at my local car dealership.

    https://www.google.com/maps/place/Harlem-125th+Street+Station/@40.8060705,-73.9380945,3a,75y,69.07h,82.8t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sEeVCfuHUu2FxC_c8AWvY6g!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DEeVCfuHUu2FxC_c8AWvY6g%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D92.4509%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xfe047c422f1adb6b!6m1!1e1

  • SSkate

    Sounds like stop-and-frisk with a new name.

  • walknseason

    Great reporting. We need more about the intersectionality of livable streets and how its lived through race, class and gender.

    Many people wonder why, for example, black communities are lukewarm about bike lanes. Sometimes its as obvious as that they avoid biking because they don’t want the NYPD up their ass, whereas in a car there’s a safety there. White communities don’t get that and get frustrated at being let down by supposed allies.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    Of all the problems facing New York City the one problem that isn’t even a problem are cyclists. Yet the city’s enforcement efforts would indicate that next to murder and the threat of a terrorist attach a person on a bicycle would be number three. Why? Because a bicycle is freedom, a person on a bicycle is independent not dependent. That for some reason is a threat. I’ll say this again, I’ve been driving for 35 years had one speeding ticket. Three or four years of riding a bicycle in NYC and I’ve received one ticket, stopped at least three times and I’m white. I can’t figure it out other than a control issue.

  • Komanoff

    Those quotes from Rahakmah Charles Bryan are particularly chilling. If this is Stephen M’s last piece, what a capstone.

    Back around 2000, with my younger son in the kiddie seat, I couldn’t find the LIRR entrance at Flatbush/Atlantic. I saw a police car parked curbside so I rode up onto the sidewalk to ask directions. The cop motioned for me to come next to his (open) driver-side window, which I didn’t want to do for fear of traffic. In my entitlement (white, dad) I practically commanded him to open the passenger-side window, which he did. I asked my question, he answered, I thanked him and moved on.

    The idea of anyone non-white doing what I did that day, and getting away with it, is laughable.

  • mattkime

    police enforce the status quo

  • Joe R.

    Changing laws would really be the answer here. Whatever a legislator’s feelings on bikes, if bike laws are routinely used to harass the citizens they represent, I think a good strategy is to do an end run around the NYPD and just change those laws. Never mind decriminalizing sidewalk cycling. It should be legal unless signs dictate otherwise. The only places where you might put these signs would be very busy sidewalks, and then only during business hours. Same thing with traffic laws. Make it legal for cyclists to treat red lights and stop signs as yields. The fewer reasons the NYPD has for stopping cyclists the better.

  • Joe R.

    I found this elsewhere but I think it’s very relevant to this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daron-murphy/true-crime-how-i-was-put-_b_3500257.html

    This person’s experience clearly shows the unintended consequences of NYC’s biking laws.

  • Alex

    I agree that it should be legal to bike on the sidewalk. The impracticality of it means people won’t be going for longer than intra-neighborhood trips and the ease of cycling will be a great tool to advocate for a better connected bike network as well as bridge an important gap between child and adult riders. A slow bike on a sidewalk is not a big deal, and to deconstruct the idiom, it’s not even a deal. It should just be allowed.

  • Cops in Philly and Camden bike on the sidewalk all the time, and run red lights. In Japan, people bike on the sidewalk, not on the street. There are bike lanes adjacent to crosswalks in Tokyo, but not on the street.

  • Bon voyage and and many thanks to Stephen Miller for his tireless, commendable contributions to NYC’s safer streets movement over the past few years.

  • walks bikes drives

    I agree with you on many points. First and foremost, cycling on the sidewalk and jaywalking should definitely not be any more serious than a moving violation. Secondly, and we have discussed this before, sidewalk cycling is safe and should be legalized in the outer boroughs, such as where you live. It should still be blanket banned in Manhattan and the more built up areas of the outer boroughs so a person could step out their front door and not have to worry about a cyclist colliding with them. I find it very unsafe to have a cyclist riding down the sidewalks here on the UWS, other than slowly gliding along at a snail’s (pedestrian) pace.

  • Mongo Mortified

    I hope Stephen Miller didn’t write the Lede. It has nothing to do with the article.

  • In Hoboken, riding on the sidewalk is legal, with the limitations that a bicyclist may not go “at a speed greater than the walking speed of pedestrians”, that a bicyclist must give an audible signal when passing a pedestrian, and that a bicyclist “shall keep as close to the curb as is practicable to allow pedestrians to walk along sidewalks without impedance.” (Rules and Regulations for Bicyclists, Rule J http://www.hobokennj.org/departments/transportation-parking/bicycling/ )

    It is tempting to think that sidewalk riding could work here, too. While it would be fine for much of (perhaps most of) New York City, there are nevertheless quite a few area where this practice would be unworkable. The problem is that there would essentially need to be a separate law for every single street.

    To have a blanket prohibition for adults is much simpler.

  • Miles Bader

    The problem is that there would essentially need to be a separate law for every single street.

    Obviously that isn’t true.

    The law should simply be worded in a way that pays attention to actual goals—preventing accidents / harm—instead of being a blanket prohibition.

    In other words, the law should prohibit riding in a manner which is dangerous to others. They can include some helpful guidelines (to assist the police in making a quick judgement, and help the public decide what to do) if they want, but in the end, the law needs to be in sync with people’s expectations; laws that aren’t are bad laws.

    A bicyclist riding slowly on a wide non-crowded sidewalk isn’t a problem; it does not endanger or even inconvenience anyone. Thus the law should not make it a problem.

    A bicyclist riding very fast on a crowded and narrow sidewalk is a problem, because the risk to people is too high. The law should reflect this—not for “riding on the sidewalk”, but for endangering people.

  • But there are some places where any kind of sidewalk riding would be dangerous to others. Places such as Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, Main Street in Downtown Flushing, Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, Third Avenue near The Hub in the Bronx, and a lot more. There are too many of these locations to mark each one with signs detailing the exact boundaries of each “no sidewalk riding zone”.

    Allowing riding on the sidewalk in New York City is an idea which sounds good at first, but which falls apart upon closer inspection. The elaborate legal framework would be too cumbersome to justify the marginal gain.

    After all, anyone who wants to assert that most of the sidewalks in outer-borough neighbourhoods are safe for riding should be reminded that most of the streets in those same areas are also safe for riding.

  • Joe R.

    Back when I first started riding as a teenager, I mostly rode on sidewalks. As I gained confidence I did more and more of my riding in the street. By the time I was in my early 20s, I almost never rode on the sidewalk any more. The sidewalks in the outer boroughs would be an excellent incubator for any novice cyclist. Note that I was technically over the present legal age for sidewalk cycling when I first started riding. Had sidewalk cycling been illegal back then, I might have given up cycling, or never even started it. It’s mostly along major arterials in the outer boroughs where sidewalk cycling would offer safety benefits. The motor traffic on many of those streets is too aggressive for new cyclists. The way the streets are laid out it’s impossible to do most trips solely on quiet side blocks. Eventually you need to go on arterials. Sidewalks can function as defacto protected bike lanes.

    The funny thing is sidewalk cycling was legal here up until the early 1990s (I forgot the exact year the law was passed against it) and the city didn’t fall apart.

  • Miles Bader

    You’re missing the point completely.

    You don’t have to make elaborate anything. Just tell the police “give a ticket to people riding dangerously (and write a justification)”.

  • Kevin Love

    Criminal negligence is already illegal. There is no need for a separate sidewalk cycling law.

  • Joe R.

    The practical end result of what I suggested would likely be most of Manhattan would have signs prohibiting sidewalk cycling, at least during business hours. You might avoid the need for so many signs with a blanket prohibition in the CBD from perhaps 7AM to 9 PM. You might have a 24 hour prohibition in some areas likely to have heavy foot traffic all night. Same thing where there’s a parallel protected bike lane.

  • Joe R.

    Exactly. A blanket prohibition on sidewalk cycling punishes people for doing something which is not necessarily harmful or potentially harmful. It violates the principals of natural law which says you can’t sanction someone unless there’s harm, or very high potential for harm. Ticketing people actually hitting or coming close to hitting people makes a lot more sense.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    Yes, but they crave overtime, benefits, good contracts and retirement with disability bonuses and VOTERS give these things to them. So my cycling comrades hold these “bennies” over their heads and they will love bicyclists no matter what they are told to do.

  • walks bikes drives

    Last week, as I was riding down Fifth avenue along museum mile during the morning rush, there was a cyclist riding down the park side sidewalk keeping pace with me. Now, it is virtually impossible for a car to keep pace with me during rush hour as I have a moving average going down Fifth of about 23mph, averaging about 20-21 on the uphill portion and and 25-26 on the level portion. Obviously, he was far from safe, even with the wide park side sidewalk. The issue then becomes how to deliniated safe from unsafe. I think it could be simple. A bicycle on the sidewalk should be propelled by the rider’s feet in contact with the sidewalk and NOT on pedals. I’m the few instances where I feel compelled to take my bike on the sidewalk, I have safe and simple rules for myself: feet not in pedals, hands on breaks, and I NEVER say excuse me to a pedestrian because I NEVER pass a pedestrian, no matter how slowly they are walking. Then, I get myself back on the road bed as soon as possible. The sidewalk is the pedestrian domain, and I am borrowing it for that moment. In that, I will not inconvenience a pedestrian in any way, shape, or form. Simply, I feel I am safer on my bike this way than walking along side it because I have better edge control since the whole of the bike is essentially my shoulder width, as opposed to walking alonside where I feel a higher likelihood of hooking someone with the far bar end. This is my practice, not just what I preach.

  • walks bikes drives

    My street does not have heavy foot traffic in the middle of the night. However, with a door that opens directly onto the sidewalk, stepping out on my street can put me directly into the path of a cyclist coming by with no warning to me or them. In areas where the buildings are not set back from the sidewalks, there should simply be a 24 hour prohibition on sidewalk cycling. Period. To post signs on all Manhattan streets would be simply dispicable. We have enough signage. Let’s keep it simple, and sidewalk cycling should only be acceptable in the more “suburban” areas with private houses and set back buildings.

  • I’m not missing the point; I’m addressing the point.

    If you want the standard to be that sidewalk riding is legal except when done in a dangerous manner, then this sets up an untenable situation in those places where even slow sidewalk riding is dangerous at all times outside of overnight hours.

    The only remedy to this would be a group of zones where no sidewalk riding is allowed, with signs marking the boundaries of these zones. Which is way too much trouble.

    Allowing sidewalk riding without specific zones where it remains banned would create dangerous conditions for pedestrians. And (on the point of this post) this would provide easy pickins to the cops, who could selectively enforce with impunity, as every single sidewalk bicyclist in certain locations would be causing danger for pedestrians.

    The point that you are missing (or ignoring) is that the existence of these many locations where sidewalk riding is inherently dangerous renders any plan to allow sidewalk riding in New York either unfair (if no exceptional “no sidewalk riding” zones are carved out) or else absurdly cumbersome (if these “no sidewalk riding” zones are created).

  • Kevin Love

    Who do you think is safer to go after: a person with a gun or a cyclist?

  • Kevin Love

    Police enforce according to their own bigotry.

  • Joe R.

    Ouch! 25 mph on a sidewalk? On 5th Avenue no less. That doesn’t sound safe. I did go 25 mph on a sidewalk in rural NJ once. Maybe I’ve hit 20 mph on a few sidewalks in eastern Queens which were completely empty where I could see a few blocks ahead. Incidentally, I was only on those sidewalks because the adjacent road was milled for repaving, hence totally unusable for cycling. What really puzzles me here is if you want to go fast, why would you want to be on a sidewalk? Putting aside pedestrians, you have to slow down to go up and down curb cuts at every corner. That hurts your rhythm plus kills your average speed. I’ve found most times when I ride on sidewalks I’m hard pressed to average over 10 mph even when they’re empty. There’s just too much “stuff” which slows you down.

  • Joe R.

    Cops with guns are even more dangerous than citizens with guns. If we’re going to ban guns, let’s start with the NYPD.

  • Joe R.

    It becomes less cumbersome if the city would install parallel bike infrastructure as a matter of course on busy streets. if you do that, then the rationale for sidewalk cycling completely evaporates. The rules also become far less cumbersome. No need for zones. Sidewalk cycling is allowed on streets without any safe bike infrastructure and not allowed on streets where there is safe infrastructure. “Safe” in this context would mean protected bike lanes, greenways, or elevated bike viaducts. Basically, “safe” is any bike infrastructure which physically isolates bikes from motor vehicles. NYC would have an impetus to quickly install safe bike infrastructure on any streets with heavy pedestrian traffic. That would mean most of Manhattan for starters.

    On the other hand, if the street is too dangerous to ride on, but you also ban sidewalk cycling without providing a safe alternative, you’ve essentially made that street off-limits to bikes, or at least to less experienced people on bikes. That’s exactly why bike mode share is hovering in the low single digits.

  • Joe R.

    As I mentioned elsewhere, the practical end result of banning sidewalk cycling totally is to make some streets off-limits to less experienced cyclists if you fail to provide safe, parallel bike infrastructure. I understand the problem when buildings aren’t set back. At the same time, if traffic levels are such that most cyclists don’t feel safe riding in the street, you’ve essentially given them nowhere to ride. Any streets where sidewalk cycling would be unsafe 24/7 need to have parallel safe bike infrastructure. The fact is people will ride on sidewalks whether it’s allowed or not if they feel the street is unsafe. The only fix is to provide a safe alternative. This means the Manhattan Avenues pretty much all need either protected bike lanes, or better yet elevated bike viaducts. Or maybe some combination of the two, where the viaduct is built over a protected bike lane. The protected bike lane is analogous to an expressway service road, while the viaduct is the expressway.

  • ahwr

    As I mentioned elsewhere, the practical end result of banning sidewalk cycling totally is to make some streets off-limits to less experienced cyclists…if traffic levels are such that most cyclists don’t feel safe riding in the street, you’ve essentially given them nowhere to ride

    The thing is, ‘less experienced cyclists’ aren’t a class of people. If you make a street off limits to someone based on age, race, creed, color, sex, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, marital status, or socioeconomic status etc…you’re doing something fundamentally wrong. Asking someone to walk their bike on a street they’re not comfortable riding? Or take a bus or subway for a trip? You’re not closing anything off to people. You’re closing a small part of the street to an activity.

  • ahwr

    A bicycle on the sidewalk should be propelled by the rider’s feet in contact with the sidewalk and NOT on pedals. I’m the few instances where I feel compelled to take my bike on the sidewalk, I have safe and simple rules for myself: feet not in pedals, hands on breaks, and I NEVER say excuse me to a pedestrian because I NEVER pass a pedestrian, no matter how slowly they are walking.

    In other words, a ‘ride as guest’ policy on the sidewalk? Sounds great. Not sure what you mean about not having your feet on the pedals, on a road bike you’d need to keep one on. A cruiser can be different though. When cyclists try to ride slowly with their feet on the pedals they generally aren’t all that stable, it’s hard to know if they’re looking for a tiny gap to push through, or if they’re willing to continue at walking pace. Yea, they won’t kill me, but I don’t like walking home with bruises because some guy trying to do a trackstand knocked me down. A foot on the ground offers better control of the bike than riding slowly and helps convey that the cyclist is willing to continue at a slow pace. That communication makes a bike on the sidewalk much less stressful for people walking.

  • ahwr

    those places where even slow sidewalk riding is dangerous

    Dangerous isn’t really the right word here. Other cities allow sidewalk riding as the general rule with some exceptions. The experience there isn’t an epidemic of KSI crashes. It’s that walking becomes more stressful.

  • ahwr

    How encompassing do you define harm? I assume quantifying ‘very high potential’ for harm depends on how great the harm is. Is one in ten million right if the ‘harm’ is the equivalent of a KSI crash? Is one in ten right if the harm is the equivalent of giving someone a good scare?

  • Joe R.

    “Harm” legally means inflicting bodily injury, death, or damage to property. “Very high potential” is open to a bit more interpretation but I would say pedestrians jumping out of the way of a sidewalk cyclist to save their skin fits that definition. So does passing a few inches from pedestrians at high speed. Basically, it’s riding in such a manner that a minor mistake or misjudgement will result in a collision. I’m not sure “scare” enters into this at all. That’s very subjective. Some people get scared seeing a bike pass 10 feet away. You need more objective criteria like I mentioned.

  • ahwr

    Sidewalks can function as defacto protected bike lanes.

    The problem is the sidewalks you want people to bike on, on arterials, are the ones that get used by people walking to stores, or to a transit stop, or to schools, or to their homes. They aren’t empty. They also have a design speed of about 3-5 mph. Frequent low visibility intersections, driveways, buildings that don’t have setbacks etc…

    Japan’s cities are just as crowded as NYC. It works there, it would work here.

    You can import road design pretty easy. Culture? Not so much.

  • Joe R.

    That’s all good and well until you get to the part where the UN considers human mobility a basic right. I believe that includes any means of travel where humans propel themselves. If a street is not suitable for cycling then you need to provide a parallel route nearby which is. An example of this might be a bike path next to a highway. If you fail to provide either a safe street or a parallel safe path then the UN says this is a human rights violation.

  • Joe R.

    Sidewalks are obviously an inferior alternative to true bike infrastructure. Unfortunately, it seems the city won’t be building much of the latter in my lifetime. Given that fact, we might as well use what we have, however lousy it may be. The big problem here is many outer borough arterials can’t really spare a lane for bikes, nor would people go along with giving up a parking lane for bikes. The latter probably won’t work that well anyway given that buses will still need to pull to the curb for stops, interrupting the flow of traffic in the bike lane. You could of course build bike viaducts or tunnels but I’m not seeing NYC spending that kind of money. All we’re really left with then is the sidewalk.

  • ahwr

    So there’s no allowance for nonphysical harm in your worldview? Should it be perfectly acceptable for a driver to honk at pedestrians or cyclists that the driver deems to be ‘in the way’? Not something that can be ‘punished’ until someone is struck?

  • Joe R.

    Using the horn in close proximity can in fact cause physical damage to ears. It also causes noise pollution which numerous studies have shown to definitely be cumulatively harmful. The law has to use objective criteria here. When you start using people’s feelings as the basis for punishment, you’re going down a slippery slope. Should a guy who looks at a girl be punished if it makes her feel uncomfortable? I hope you see where this is going. You end up with different, arbitrary punishments for the same thing, or no punishment at all. In my example, if the girl enjoys the attention, no punishment. If she feels uncomfortable, punishment. If she feels like she’s about to be raped, major punishment. Same thing with sidewalk cyclists. One person might be bothered by a bike passing 10 feet away at slow speed. Another might not care if they’re buzzed at 20 mph. The person riding doesn’t know which. A few simple, objective criteria which cyclists and police can follow are all that is needed. People here are making this more complex than it needs to be. There are of course also certain sidewalks which are so crowded riding a bike on them at any speed has high potential to cause harm. Those are the places you just ban sidewalk cycling altogether.

  • ahwr

    >It also causes noise pollution which numerous studies have shown to definitely be cumulatively harmful

    same as any other form of stress, including the stress from being buzzed by a cyclist in close quarters.

    >There are of course also certain sidewalks which are so crowded riding a
    bike on them at any speed has high potential to cause harm.

    No there aren’t. Someone could bike down a sidewalk in midtown without causing physical harm. But it makes the sidewalk unpleasant for people walking. That’s reason enough to ban it.

  • qrt145

    In my anecdotal experience, sidewalk biking in midtown is almost nonexistent, and I don’t think it’s because it’s banned, but because people realize that if they want to move at more than 3 mph, they can’t do that on the sidewalk (and that often goes for walking too! 🙂

  • dr2chase

    Is this ever ticketed? Last time I was walking much in NYC it seemed unlikely that was the case.

    If someone is biking over 15mph on the sidewalk with any pedestrians at all on it, I think there’s a case for a ticket. Biking above a walking speed when the sidewalk is crowded, I think there’s a case for a ticket (it’s not clear that the pedestrians are better off if the cyclist walks the bike instead — that takes up more room). Both cases, no need for someone to be struck.

    But simply dinging cyclists “on the sidewalk”, especially when it’s disproportionately dark-skinned with a particular clothing style? That’s not really about safety, and the law that allows that (that is not being used to enhance safety) should go away. It’s just racism dressed in a safety suit.

  • walknseason

    Point?

  • WoodyinNYC

    Riding a bike on a sidewalk isn’t always dangerous. If there’s nobody walking on the sidewalk, why not let it be used by riders who aren’t speeding along?

    If I’m remembering correctly from a visit some years back, in Washington, D.C., the signs downtown directed bikes to sidewalks and out of the streets, which clearly are dangerous.

  • WoodyinNYC

    A horror story.

    We have a police state, built by politicians not the police, with draconian laws against everything from having a joint to selling loosies to sitting in the park after closing hours to riding a bike on a sidewalk.

    Most white people, that is, the ruling class of middle-class and working class voters, think the police state only oppresses the blacks, so no problem. Then when whites get arrested for the same stuff, one by one they realize, this is not a free country any more.

  • WoodyinNYC

    Bicycling while black.

  • WoodyinNYC

    This country knows how to ignore United Nations platitudes on human rights — like Freedom to Travel. For 50 years and counting our citizens could be jailed for travel to Cuba. Now you want Freedom to Ride the Streets of New York City? You ask too much.

  • Linda

    Two words: Quoh Tah.
    Would slow the food delivery in the richer neighborhoods if done.

    That said, it is legal to ride on the sidewalk in Los Angeles, works fine.

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Sidewalk Biking Enforcement and NYC’s New Criminal Justice Reforms

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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 […]

The Real Menace on Our Sidewalks

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So it looks like the City Council is pondering legislation that would raise the fine for biking on the sidewalk (currently $100) and possibly establish a new squad of enforcement agents dedicated entirely to ticketing commercial cyclists. At a hearing earlier this week, transportation committee chair James Vacca framed the riding habits of commercial cyclists […]