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NYPD Cop to Cyclist: I Didn’t Ticket That Truck in the Bike Lane Because My Supervisor Told Me Not To

12:00 AM EDT on August 20, 2018

This is the illegally-parked truck that started a long conversation between a cyclist and a cop that revealed a lot about how police officers think about cyclists. Photo: Chesney Parks.

An officer from the NYPD's Seventh Precinct said he did not slap a ticket on a truck parked in a bike lane because his supervisor told him to give such scofflaws "a little time" — a rare admission that confirms many cyclists' worst fears.

Last Monday, a cyclist who goes by the name Chesney Parks on Twitter approached Officer Adam Blum to inquire why the cop chose to "drive by and ignore" rather than ticket the driver of the moving van parked in the bike lane on Clinton Street, between Stanton and Rivington streets on the Lower East Side.

"Because you're allowed..." Blum started before Parks cut him off.

"No, you're not," he said, adding that he seen the van blocking the bike lane — and endangering cyclists and drivers — for an hour.

That's when Blum said he was only following orders.

"When my supervisor tells me something, I have to abide," Blum said in the exchange, which was captured on camera and will likely be must-see TV for all cyclists who distrust the NYPD's sincerity about enforcing basic safety rules. "The supervisor explained it to me like this: with commercial vehicles double parking ... according to the laws as I've been told, they have a legitimate window of five minutes before I am allowed to do anything.

"He told me to give them a little time," Blum added of his unidentified supervisor.

The law, in fact, states that bike lane violators do not get a grace period. The city Department of Transportation's "bike lane parking" fact sheet says clearly that motorists are not permitted to obstruct a bike lane for any amount of time. Also, section 4-08(e) of the Rules of the City of New York defines "general no stopping zones" where "stopping, standing and parking (are) prohibited."

"No person shall stop, stand, or park a vehicle in any of the following places," the section reads. One of the places is “bicycle lanes.”

Scores of cyclists have been injured after being forced into traffic by taxis or trucks (or cops!) parked even for seconds in bike lanes — in fact, two days before Parks filmed his video with Officer Blum, Australian tourist Madison Lyden was killed by a garbage truck driver after she was forced out into traffic on Central Park West because a taxi driver blocked the bike lane. There are dozens of Twitter accounts devoted to exposing scofflaws, including @USPSInBikeLanes, @carsnbikelanes, @fedexinbikelanes, and, of course, @copsinbikelanes. (Full disclosure: StreetsblogNYC is also working on its own investigation of double-parking by trucks making deliveries and is still accepting photos via email or with the Twitter hashtag #loadinglosers.)

The exchange between Parks and Officer Blum, who won a precinct community council award in 2016, is in no way definitive evidence that every cop gives a break to every bike lane scofflaw — but it does confirm increasing anecdotal evidence that police officers don't care much about truck drivers, cabbies, city officials with cars (or fellow cops) that endanger cyclists.

Indeed, the NYPD declined to comment for this story when asked to explain why Blum's supervisor told him not to properly enforce the law. Streetsblog also asked if it is city policy to give bike lane blockers a five-minute grace period. Again, no response.

Parks said he appreciated that Blum took the time to talk to him, but added that the NYPD is "utterly tone deaf."

"In the days after Madison Lyden was killed, it was business as usual for cops and bike lanes," he told Streetsblog. "There's just no response from them whatsoever. No crackdown on bike lane violators. No top-down order to stop parking NYPD vehicles in bike lanes. In everything they do and say, our police department communicates to cyclists that they're on their own. Their lack of enforcement endangers every single road user and pedestrian in the city and it has to stop."

Perhaps Blum was merely following the example of Mayor de Blasio himself, who famously said on a radio show earlier this year, “If someone is blocking, for example, a bike lane for 30 seconds while they take out their groceries or they let their kid off, I don’t think they should get a ticket for that."

The conversation between Blum and Parks lasted far more than five minutes, but Parks said he returned to the moving van 20 minutes later and it had not been slapped with a ticket, evidence that Blum did not make good on his promise to "gladly" ticket it after the requisite observation period.

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