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CYCLE OF RAGE: Hey, Sixth Precinct — Cyclists Need Protection, Not Intimidation

One of the illegally parked cars was, of course, a police van, which created this chokepoint on Christopher Street. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Thirty-four minutes.

That's all it took for me to encounter 24 cars or trucks blocking bike lanes within Manhattan's Sixth Precinct.

So, counting time for paperwork, it would have taken me roughly an hour or two to write four times as many blocked bike lane summonses as Sixth Precinct officers have written all year.

Let's repeat that: Two hours of my time vs. 10 months of work by an entire precinct full of officers.

Here they are: All the cars and trucks we saw parked in bike lanes in the Sixth Precinct in 34 minutes. Photos: Gersh Kuntzman
Here they are: All the cars and trucks I photographed parked in bike lanes in the Sixth Precinct in 34 minutes.
Here they are: All the cars and trucks we saw parked in bike lanes in the Sixth Precinct in 34 minutes. Photos: Gersh Kuntzman

Why am I telling you this? Because on Monday the precinct's social media genius tweeted a four-word declaration of war against cyclists: "WE WILL SUMMONS YOU!"

The tweet featured a picture of an unmarked squad car as its occupants, presumably, were ticketing a Citi Bike rider (whose bike was in the foreground). Here it is in full:

To all bike ? riders ? Reminder ?disobey pavement marking ? ride the wrong way ? disobey traffic control devices or you do not comply with any NYS vehicle traffic law ? WE WILL SUMMONS YOU !

I wasn't the only cyclist offended by the tone of the precinct's tweet; the blowback on social media was immediate. Cyclists pointed out that the unmarked car was, itself, parked illegally in the Citi Bike dock, that the tweet never revealed what the cyclist allegedly did, and that the all caps decree sounded more like intimidation than protection.

And plenty of people pointed out the command's horrible record on writing tickets to bike lane blockers and zero (yes, zero) tickets to drivers who block bus lanes so far this year. By comparison, the neighboring Ninth Precinct has written 49 bike lane and 20 bus lane tickets over the same period — it's still not a lot, but the bike lane tickets represent more than eight times what the Sixth did.

It's appalling that officers under Capt. Robert O'Hare have shown such little regard for the mayor's Vision Zero policy — especially given that 44 cyclists and 58 pedestrians have been injured by cars within the Sixth's cozy West Village confines through September of this year. One pedestrian has died.

Yet O'Hare's cops have written just six tickets for blocking bike lanes.

Now, to its credit, the city has installed many protected bike lanes in the neighborhood, so perhaps the better design means it's reasonable that the Sixth Precinct has failed to write many summons to drivers who force cyclists into traffic, where they can be hit and killed.

So I took a ride. Within 34 minutes, I had taken 24 pictures of cars and trucks parked in bike lanes.

So clearly, the Sixth Precinct could do more to bring these scofflaws to justice. Tweeting an all caps warning to cyclists — who have caused zero deaths citywide through September, compared to 145 fatalities caused by drivers — sends the wrong message.

Or maybe it's sending the very message that the NYPD wants to send. After all, cops are so notorious for their own bad driving that there are whole Twitter accounts like @placardabuse devoted to chronicling their offenses — so many accounts, in fact, that those Twitter accounts need their own Twitter accounts just to keep up with all the cops parked in bike lanes, in bus lanes, on medians, in crosswalks, in people's driveways, at fire hydrants, under fake "no parking" signs, on sidewalks (many sidewalks), in handicapped zones, whole streets, and literally anywhere they damn well want.

I asked the NYPD brass if the Sixth Precinct's tweet met the agency's high stated standard for courtesy, professionalism and respect, or whether a top official would talk to me about the Sixth Precinct's failure to enforce bike lane parking, but no one got back to me.

I even stopped by the Sixth Precinct station house on W. 10th Street to show Capt. O'Hare my pictures.

He wasn't available, I was told.

His loss. If he had spoken to me, he might have learned how easy it is to protect cyclists from illegally parked drivers. It's even easier than writing a nasty tweet.

Gersh Kuntzman is Editor-in-Chief of Streetsblog. When he gets angry, he writes the Cycle of Rage column. They’re archived here.

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