NYPD Would Like to Lecture You on How to Ride a Bike in New York City

Cyclists need NYPD to enforce laws against reckless driving behaviors, not platitudes from a precinct where motorists injure and kill with impunity.

Good thing there weren't any police cruisers blocking this guy's way.
Good thing there weren't any police cruisers blocking this guy's way.

NYPD and the Upper East Side’s 19th Precinct have a message for New Yorkers who ride bikes: Be more like Officer Timothy Stamm.

Stamm, profiled in a short PSA the precinct posted on Twitter last week, is a bike commuter who knows it’s his “responsibility” to keep himself and his fellow New Yorkers “safe.”

“I always wear a helmet,” Stamm says in the clip. “I always obey traffic laws.”

Give Stamm credit for biking to work, but the cycling environment depicted in the video doesn’t square with the reality of biking on NYC streets, which is more dangerous than it should be due in no small part to NYPD.

In the PSA, every bike lane is clear of double-parked drivers and other obstructions. No one honks at Stamm, passes him within inches, or opens a car door in his path, safe in the knowledge that police generally don’t care when drivers endanger cyclists’ lives.

In actual New York City, street users who put others at risk aren’t on bikes. That’s true in the 19th Precinct, where drivers killed eight people in the last 24 months, according to data compiled by Streetsblog, and cyclists killed no one. Yet the precinct, with the blessing of Council Member Ben Kallos, has concentrated much of its traffic enforcement efforts on working cyclists, confiscating bikes while motorists injure and kill people every day.

NYPD could have produced a PSA from a cyclist’s perspective targeting dangerous driver behaviors like failing to yield and passing too closely — traffic violations that get people killed. But that would conflict with the NYPD worldview that people on bikes are by and large responsible for whatever befalls them.

And while it may be inspiring to see a cop follow traffic laws and wear a helmet, NYPD doesn’t live up to Stamm’s standards for safe behavior.

Imagine a video portraying a typical police officer’s drive to work: “I put tape on my license plate to avoid tolls and speed cameras,” the officer might say. Or: “I use my parking placard to park in the bike lane because I can get away with it, and it’s closer to where I stop for coffee.”

That would be more realistic than a lecture on how all a New Yorker needs to ride safely is a helmet and a strict adherence to the rules of the road.

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