It’s Spring! Time for NYPD to Punish People for Riding Bikes

Photo: @Tyson_J_White
Photo: @Tyson_J_White

The weather is finally warming up. Flowers are in bloom. Trees are green again. And NYPD is devoting traffic enforcement resources to punishing people for riding bikes.

Twitter is buzzing with reports of bike ticket stings this morning in Midtown and on the Lower East Side — the Midtown North, 13th, and 7th precincts, specifically.

The NYPD public information office didn’t know of a coordinated bike operation happening today, but the spokesperson we talked with said he couldn’t rule it out.

The number of fatalities caused by New York City cyclists is practically zero. Yet every spring, when more people start to ride, cops camp out near bike lanes and poorly designed intersections to tag them for rolling through red lights and wearing earbuds.

This does nothing to make streets safer, but the NYC version of “Vision Zero” does not differentiate between a person on a 20-pound bike and the operator of a multi-ton tractor-trailer designed for interstate highways — except truckers are generally free to ignore traffic laws, even when the result is death.

Did you encounter a bike ticket trap this morning? Let us know in the comments.

  • Reader

    De Blasio is a total failure.

  • Guest

    Yep, around 8.40am unmarked NYPS car (with uniformed cop) stopped someone for riding with 2 headphones on 1st Ave btw 19th and 20th. Shortly after saw a uniformed cop posted on 1st Ave and 36th. Usually he hides and jumps out to ambush cyclists, but this time he was standing right by the bike lane and staring us all down as we waited across the intersection, as if daring us to pass.

    Didn’t see them this morning at 1st and 23rd but that is also an *incredibly* common ticket trap (got one myself recently, first ticket in a decade of riding here). Do not cross that intersection with car green light, especially during the morning commute on a day when weather isn’t awful. Cops often hide their car behind a larger vehicle parked right across the intersection, and you won’t see them unless you stop. It’s so common that I actually came across some random person on Reddit who also recently got a ticket at the same intersection and from the same cop.

    Question: any news on fleetweek detours? Isn’t it starting tomorrow? Would appreciate any info you can provide re: Hudson bike path, as I commute there in the evenings. Thank you!

  • BrandonWC

    84th Pct was camped out at the intersection of Jay and Tillary this morning. Not sure who they were going after.

  • kevd

    saw they’d pulled over someone on a vespa like scooter at about 9:40 (West bound on Tillary)

  • Jeff

    It’s been really bad on St Nicholas Ave by the park, to the point that I’ve been detouring to Frederick Douglass even though it’s a bit out of the way and substantially less safe. It’s also been bad on ACP just north of the park, and again as a result I’ve been taking 3rd Ave uptown coming from the east side to avoid it altogether.

    In general, during ticket blitzes, it’s best to avoid bike lanes, common bike routes, and anywhere else you might feel safe riding a bike. Yes, one could certainly follow the letter of the law, but doing so in protected bike lanes will take you forever to get anywhere, whereas on something like 3rd Ave I can just ride at full ramming speed and generally keep up with the “green wave.”

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    this is just getting to retirement at 55 for the NYPD with full pension by using low hanging fruit quota for the Police. They salivate at these assignments cause it takes no effort and they don’t actually have to police real criminals which would put their lives in danger all while checking off their quotas for the day and are one step closer to 200k in pension a year.

  • If you have two earbuds in but nothing is playing — that is, if you are using them essentially as earplugs against the wind — is this illegal?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “This is just getting to retirement at 55 for the NYPD with full pension by using low hanging fruit quota for the Police.”

    The full pension for the NYPD is after 20 years at any age, so 42 to 44 years old is more like it for those who don’t make sergeant or detective.

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2018/05/10/public-safety-census-bureau-public-employment-and-payroll-data-for-march-2016-and-march-2006/

  • Barry Grant

    I see them all the time at Houston & Chrystie on bike stings. At the very same intersection, motorists routinely ignore the red turn signal and speed left from 2nd Ave onto Houston into the path of cyclists, who have the green light to cross Houston. I once pointed this out to a cop who was writing a cyclist a ticket and needless to say, I got the usual torrent of abuse and threats. Not once have I ever seen cops stop a single driver for blowing this red turn signal, even when they’re camped on the corner. The NYPD needs to be disbanded and reformed from root to branch because clearly they’re one of the most unprofessional, badly trained and ultimately useless police departments in the world.

  • Vooch

    One solution is to bog the system down by going to traffic court. You should have zero expectations that you win, BUT it ends up costing the system way more than the the fine you pay.

    The leadership watches the net profit stats carefully.

    If 5% of cyclists went to traffic court; even if they all ultimately paid the fines; the leadership would soon move onto other more profitable rackets.

    I fought a red light ticket ( cycling ) and was able to drag it out such that cop had to attend 3 court sessions. Even though I paid fine in the end; I won because it cost them at least 10 times the money I paid,

  • Ian Turner

    Actually, something like 2 in 3 citations are dismissed at traffic court. You should have every expectation that the citing officer might not show up.

  • vnm

    De facto, it might as well be, right? If you get pulled over for that and explain what you just said, and they ticket you anyway, your trip is delayed and now you have to fight it in court.

  • Adrian Horczak

    I think there’s a lower chance for citations involving bike riding

  • Joe R.

    Also, win or lose write letters to representatives, the media, judges, etc. complaining. I did exactly that with a sidewalk cycling ticket I got in 1999. I like to think I wasted way more time of city employees than the $75 the city got from the ticket.

    Another idea is to pay the fine in pennies. Pennies are legal tender and must be accepted as payment for a fine. If that person who racked up over $4K in fines for running a few red lights paid in pennies it would probably take the clerks all day to count the money. That would bring the line to a standstill for hours. If cyclists did this as a matter of course the practice of fining cyclists would end.

    Basically, gum up the works any way you can.

  • AMH

    Hilarious–where do you get that many pennies?

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    probably not but these nypd goons don’t care. I use my oversized headphones to keep my hat on and it’s not even plugged in but I wouldn’t risk biking around the NYPD to find out what their stance is.

  • AMH

    That was my strategy, but the cop showed up and I was ordered to pay in a matter of minutes. I was still able to put off giving them their money for another two weeks, but how did you drag it out across multiple hearings?

  • jeff

    I’ve gotten a couple of these bogus NYPD “bike sting” red light tickets and went to court and got them dismissed. Once you plead not guilty, they schedule a court date, and sometimes they reschedule and reschedule, and it can be 2 or 3 years before you have to show up. Odds are good then that the cop won’t make it to court. Whether or not they dismiss them depends entirely on the judge. And you can appeal even if they rule against you. There’s a legal argument that the NYPD is not enforcing traffic law but instead is operating a toll booth, and since police don’t have the power to collect taxes the ticket is invalid.

  • jeff

    I wouldn’t go that far, but your point is a great illustration of what’s so wrong and backwards about the NYPD’s attitude toward bicyclists. They couldn’t care less about safety – if they did, motor vehicles wouldn’t be able to speed and blow through red lights with impunity and kill 100+ New Yorkers every year (heck, they didn’t even bother to pursue the Burns woman after a hit and run where they had her license plate – just let her go on to kill 3 kids). NYPD thugs just don’t like people on bikes and they abuse their power to punish bikers just because they can.

  • Peter

    That law is bullshit. Are deaf people not allowed to ride bikes? What about the idiots playing music so loudly in their cars that they can’t hear an ambulance siren when it’s right behind them?

  • Joe R.

    Go to a bank. Or multiple banks. They keep all coins in stock for businesses to use as change. I personally have at least a few hundred dollars in pennies just from change. My thoughts here are that they will most likely NOT want to have to count that many pennies. So after that you ask them “Are you refusing to take my offering of legal tender US coin as payment?”. If they say yes, then they just waived any right to collect the fine as they refused payment. Then you can give the pennies back to the bank.

    Or maybe we cyclists can start a penny fund. We build up a horde of pennies which is loaned to cyclists being fined. My theory is the courts will refuse payment in pennies as a matter of practicality because it will cost them more to count the money than it’s worth. So the cyclist gets out of the fine, the pennies go back into the penny horde for future use.

  • 8FH

    I got one at 23rd and first, too, a couple of weeks ago! I’m usually pretty zealous about following the rules, but I entered the intersection just as the light was changing to the car turn light, and so I got the $190 ticket. Yesterday, they were back, and at each of the 3 intersections after that, I was obstructed by turning vehicles failing to yield.

  • Joe R.

    Knowing the police if you mentioned all that they would probably say you’re being a wise ass and ticket you anyway. That said, what if you’re wearing standard earplugs? I wonder if that’s technically illegal as it blocks sound. Personally, I think wind noise is one of the great sensations of cycling and I would never intentionally block it out but others might feel differently.

  • Ian Turner

    Cancel the day before and reschedule for 9 months down the road.

  • qrt145

    I’m all for paying in pennies out of spite and will consider it if I have to pay my tickets, but just wanted to point out that coin-counting machines have already been invented. 🙂 Not sure if traffic courts in NY have them, but according to Snopes a borough in Pennsylvania decided to get coin counters for this very reason: https://www.snopes.com/news/2015/08/14/parking-fine-pennies/ (Of course, if the system has to buy this equipment because of you, I guess you can count it as a “win”.)

    In addition to count counting machines, there’s the option of weighing the money, as reportedly happened in Venezuela due to hyperinflation: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-31/tired-of-counting-piles-of-cash-venezuelans-start-weighing-them

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    Not to mention those that do that with their fucking windows up / closed shut.

  • Blwndrpwrmlk

    Counting down the days until he leaves, forever.

  • Joe R.

    Actually, weighing wouldn’t work with pennies. There have been two types in circulation since 1982. The older copper pennies weigh 3.11 grams. The newer copper-plated zinc ones weigh only 2.50 grams. That means a penny counter would be a necessity.

    One other positive effect if lots of people started paying fines with pennies would be a push to finally get rid of pennies. Once phased out, the government can then no longer accept them, although practically it wouldn’t matter as you could no longer easily get them. I’d love to see pennies, nickels, and dimes phased out, with $1, $5, and $10 bills replaced by coins. These two things would save billions lost now counting small change and replacing worn-out bills.

  • AZ

    If you are able to keep up with the “green wave”, you’re not breaking any laws, so what are you worried about then? I follow the rules and it doesn’t take me forever to get anywhere.

  • qrt145

    It’s OK, they can give you a coin collector discount when a significant fraction of your payment is in old, solid-copper pennies! 🙂 Those are worth more than their face value anyway…

  • jr195

    You seem to have missed the part where the cops are enforcing actual laws. Backwards enforcement priorities, yes, but trying to make the case that the laws don’t apply to us will win you absolutely no arguments or sympathy with the NYPD, politicians, or the non-cycling public. You will, however, extend the stereotype that we are a whiny, entitled special interest group.

    Note that both tweets you linked are about ticketing people running red lights. What other traffic laws would you argue are unfair when applied to cyclists, but not to car and truck drivers? How about publishing a list?

    Try stopping before the crosswalk at a red light some time; you’ll probably find pedestrians bewildered at your decency, and they might even smile and say thank you.

  • jeremy

    I got stopped this morning and fined on Manhattan ave in Greenpoint by an unmarked car on a T intersection. Such BS. I always yields to peds when proceeding through a T intersection. The is literally 0 danger for anyone. These laws were made for CARS because they are dangerous. We deserve special treatment like in France and many other progressive countries

  • AMH

    It’s an intriguing idea; it seems that it’s been tried many times with varying results. (The origami pigs are by far the most original.)

    https://blogs.findlaw.com/legally_weird/2015/08/can-i-pay-my-fine-in-pennies.html

  • Jeff

    Right, that’s my point. There’s three options, the way I see it:

    1) Use bike lanes, follow the letter of the law, take an unreasonably long time to get anywhere.
    2) Use bike lanes, be safe and reasonable (albeit outside of the letter of the law), risk getting harassed by the police, get to where you’re going quickly
    3) Avoid bike lanes, take one-way multi-lane rocket tubes, follow the law, and get to where you’re going quickly.

    Option 3 is a privilege of the “strong and fearless” cyclist.

  • Joe R.

    Well, I personally wouldn’t pay with copper pennies but some might. You don’t get them as much in circulation these days as you used to.
    I’d say about 1 in 10 pennies I get in change are copper. Still way more common than getting silver. It’s been a few years since I’ve gotten any silver coins in change.

  • 8FH

    I generally stop before the crosswalk then pull forwards for visibility before the light changes. It’s not safe to stop at the stopline without LPI and cyclists being able to use the LPI. Most pedestrians are not surprised by my stopping before the crosswalk, unless I stop quickly.

  • 8FH

    I believe private businesses are not required to accept them for products and services not yet rendered, but the government is required to accept them for fines and debts, and private individuals are required to accept them for debts.

    However: I am not a lawyer or public policy expert, so take this with a grain of salt.

  • Ben

    i don’t really understand the ear bud law. pedestrians don’t have to have one ear free and you can drive in a car/motorcycle with windows up and music blaring. suddenly cyclists have to become the most aware people in the city?

  • kevd

    its a law written and enforced by people who have never ridden a bike

  • Manny

    i do say the bikes are riding here on sidewalks 5 ave 22 and 23 rd street in Brooklyn ny and the cops don’t give them tickets. Delivery bike riding the wrong way also.

  • eve_v

    This happened to me and it is the laziest way for them to make money through tickets. I was on a dedicated bike lane, not a real intersection (more like a T) wearing a helmet and riding super slow when a cop stepped in front of my bike to give me a ticket for “running a red light”. I ran a yellow light and there was literally no car or pedestrian traffic at 8 am in that area, I pled non-guilty, they’ve changed my court date three times and then sent a $400 ticket to my address. Aren’t there more pressing traffic issues to tend to in East Harlem???

  • jeremy

    Why 400$? Is it worth pleading non guilty?

  • Frank Kotter

    In Germany, the law only states that you must still be able to hear. So, they speak to you at a red light and if you turn and look, you’re fine. Not perfect but definitely more reasonable.

  • Frank Kotter

    Thanks Norm.

  • kevd

    so damn reasonable you germans!

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