SEE IT! Hero Cop Does Job — And Gives Rogue Cabbie the Business

Officer So confronts the cabbie. Photo: Bike Commuting NYC
Officer So confronts the cabbie. Photo: Bike Commuting NYC

SB Donation NYC header 2Who is Officer So — and can she be promoted?

That’s what beleaguered cyclists are asking today after a biker posted a viral video showing an NYPD officer identified only as Officer So not only giving a cab driver a failure-to-yield ticket after he almost hit the bike rider — but then angrily keeping his PBA “favor” card when the cab driver brandished it to beat the ticket.

All the action was captured on the Bike Commuting NYC Twitter feed — an active site for harrowing and nerve-wracking body-cam footage.

The action begins where it so often does: The cyclist is seen in a protected bike lane as it approaches a mixing zone — in this case at First Avenue and E. 45th St. The cab cuts off the cyclist as he begins to make a left:

Within seconds, the officer is on the scene, demanding the cab driver’s license. But instead of handing over the document, the cab driver pulls out another card and tells the officer to “call this guy — a special lieutenant.”

That was all Officer So needed to hear.

“Wait, sir, I’m in the uniform!” she said. “You give me this card and say you know somebody? You’re going to hit somebody! Let me see your driver’s license, OK? Don’t tell me to call anyone, OK? You have to respect me. Driver’s license!”

It is unclear what kind of card the cabbie handed over, but it is well known that many cops give friends “favor” cards to help them wiggle out of minor infractions — a way for cops to protect their friends. The cards are subject to rampant abuse.

The cab driver continues to maintain that he “slowed down” for the cyclist and that he never speeds, but the officer persisted. “I’m going to call this guy and tell him how much you don’t respect me,” she said. “You show me this card [and say] ‘Don’t give me a ticket. Call this guy.’ Who do you think you are?” (A check of the invaluable database @howsmydrivingny did reveal several parking tickets for the cabbie, but no moving violations.)

That portion of the video ends with the cabbie pulled over to the curb, but the thread picks up with the cabbie saying, “I want to call my guy. I want to call the police.”

Needless to say, that didn’t help him avoid Officer So and her ticket book.

A final segment of the video shows another officer telling the cyclist, “What happened to you happens all the time here — it’s crazy.” The officers then complain that they’re not allowed to write failure-to-yield tickets unless they witness the incident themselves (though they are actually allowed to do so if there is a crash).

(Point of information: The cops sort of blame cyclists for getting in the way of cars, but one can’t have everything, we suppose.)

The incident reminded the cyclist that drivers are to blame because they are the ones who are less aware of their surroundings because they are protected by 3,000 pounds of metal.

“The problem is that not enough drivers have experienced the road on a bike,” she tweeted. “I rarely drive nowadays, but when I do get behind the wheel, I definitely feel like I’m much more aware of my surroundings, b/c I’m so used to biking.”

So who is Officer So? We can’t be certain, but there’s only one NYPD employee with the surname So in the entire online payroll of the City of New York. Kit Lin So has been a police officer since 2008, when she started with a salary of $38,809. She must be working a lot of overtime: Last year, she earned a total of $145,252 on a base salary of $85,292.

SB Donation NYC header 2Our annual donation drive continues!

  • If this cop’s attitude were the norm, drivers’ behaviour would be totally different, and our City would be a much better place.

  • Guy Ross

    I know this is an oversimplification but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say there would be less crime and better policing effectiveness benchmarks if the forces were comprised of majority females instead of the minority.

  • Rider

    That stretch of First Avenue is awful. The city needs to get rid of the mixing zones completely, which are almost like slip ramps for drivers. The drivers ought to be forced to slow down and make their turns from the regular traffic lane, which would have the beneficial effect of slowing all the rest of the traffic too.

    I have learned to slow down myself and wait for turning cars to either pass me or come to a stop at these intersections–it’s a bit less stressful. But not much.

  • crazytrainmatt

    When I’m not with my wife or kids, and unless traffic there is backed up, I take the tunnel. The way the lights are timed on 1st, bikes starting at 34th get stuck at 42nd (and its awful swerve followed by the merge to the center lane), and so you usually have no one behind you the whole tunnel. Though I do worry about the risk of someone hotrodding up at 60 MPH and I feel better on my own bike (with a 52/13) than a citibike, whose top gear isn’t really high enough here.

    But, yeah, fix the intersections. 2nd Ave uptown has its problems, but the lower volume of turning cars is noticeable (since more traffic is heading to/from the west than east). Every mixing zone on 1st during rush hour is a wall of turning cars, with the occasional pirate cutting in from the through lane.

  • bggb

    I’m generally not one to praise police but WOW

  • woodyguthrie

    Belligerent driver had to be asked 4-5 times to provide his license. She was fairly patient with the guy.

  • Komanoff

    Shoutout too to @driversofnyc for coolness under fire. Not just video-ing the whole thing but staying out of the way of Officer Lin So as she took charge of the situation, and helping the officer focus on the driver. Bravo!

  • Ian Turner

    Something tells me that Officer So is going to get reprimanded for this.

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    Why doesn’t NYPD do this more often? This is textbook how these cases should be handled. This article and video should be required viewing. I’d also like cops out riding undercover in regular street clothes. The only rare times you do see officers patrolling on bikes it is with NYPD written all over their backs. They’d hardly get the same treatment by drivers. Likely part of the reason a few of the bike cops I have talked to over the years have told me they never feel harassed. (Or maybe all of us should start ridging with jerseys and jackets that say NYPD in large lettering, an idea?)

  • Joe R.

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. This reminds of something similar which happened to my mother. Back in the early 1980s she was a probationary Bridge and Tunnel Officer for the TBTA. BTOs had (have?) full peace officer status, meaning they could in theory arrest a motorist if they have good cause. One day a driver comes through her toll lane who is obviously heavily intoxicated. She pulls him over, gives him a breathalyzer test, and confirms that he his. She decides to arrest him over the objections of her superiors. Most likely he is the son of a person who “knows somebody”. She goes to court, gets a conviction. And then her probation is extended for no real reason. Regardless, at least she got a drunk driver off the road before he could harm himself or others.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to see Officer So reassigned to desk duty or some other function where she can’t give tickets. Such is how things work in this city when offenders “know people”.

  • Joe R.

    Bikes are allowed in the tunnel? To me the biggest problem would be on the ascent. Yeah, you can get up a lot of speed on the descent to help carry you up be eventually you’re going to be traveling way slower than motor traffic. I have a 53/11 top gear, and I don’t know if I’d feel comfortable in the tunnel. Forget a Citibike. Unless they’ve changed the gearing on the newer ones you’ll be cadence-limited before you reach 30 mph.

  • crazytrainmatt

    I mean the UN tunnel under 1st ave, which is actually a slight constant downhill. There is no signage prohibiting bikes, though NYPD will kick you out if you try during UN week.

    Frankly, they could turn the left hand tunnel lane into an express PBL with some jersey barriers. There is only one lane from 1st feeding into the left tunnel with two lanes. The merge in is a bit iffy, but on the 49th st. outlet they did some traffic calming ages ago relative to the original Robert Moses design which actually makes it much better than the stream of cars rolling through the stop sign into the current bike lane at 48th.

    If you were talking about the QMT, between the curves and the fumes, I couldn’t think of a worse place to be on a bike!

  • Joe R.

    OK, I thought you were talking about the QMT, which I agree is probably the worst place to be on a bike, except maybe at 3AM with no traffic whatsoever. The UN tunnel is a different animal. I’d probably feel comfortable biking in it.

  • Good point. That’s how the people who become police officers with good intentions are eventually forced to accept the bad practices that are entrenched in police culture.

  • To me it was clear that you meant the tunnel on First Avenue.

    But to me riding there is kind of crazy. There is absolutely no shoulder-like space. I can’t imagine how a bicyclist going 15 miles per hour or so can deal with the much faster automobile traffic passing so close.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t ride in Manhattan, and I’ve seldom been a car passenger there, so I’m not at all familiar with 1st Avenue in that location. I know there’s a tunnel on Park Avenue but that’s too far away to be relevant to the discussion. Therefore, I assumed the reference was to the QMT.

    It’s a slight downhill, so between that and drafting vehicles it’s probably possible to keep pace with motor traffic. I’ve down exactly that on this stretch of Jewel Avenue prior to the bike lane being installed:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7278882,-73.8330644,3a,75y,260.48h,95.04t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1satH0niPgyeTZgkmuOYvOog!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

    I could typically get up to 35 to 40 mph, more with a tailwind. That was enough so I didn’t have motor traffic up my behind. The only dicey part is the upgrade right before the GCP service road. Eventually my speed is down to 20 mph or less. If there’s a red light, no problem because motor traffic is stopped. If not, I try to move as far right as possible.

    Probably the situation is similar in the 1st Avenue tunnel. It’s likely more dicey riding there off hours when you have nobody to draft, and the cars are likely going a lot faster.

  • crazytrainmatt

    Don’t get me wrong, this is not a prudent shortcut for your average biker. But I did mention it because of the typical chaos at street level with turning cars and pedestrians meandering in the bike lane.

    The way the green wave on 1st goes, I am usually at the tail of the pack coming into the tunnel. There are two lanes in each of the parallel tunnels so stragglers can pass, but outside of rush hour, I make it the whole way through without a single car behind me. The main risks are a driver with a cell phone or a bike vendetta from behind, or falling on your own with no sidewalk or shoulder.

    If they put in some barriers and green paint, it could be the demonstration project for your bike highways 🙂

  • Joe R.

    I totally agree with you. In its current state, it’s basically something for the brave and strong, not your average cyclist. But the barrier idea would work great.

    If they put in some barriers and green paint, it could be the demonstration project for your bike highways 🙂

    I didn’t even think of that here but yes, if we could do bits and pieces of things resembling bike highways the idea could catch on. Riding without cars, pedestrians, or traffic controls would be a real pleasure (and at least an order of magnitude safer than what exists now).

  • Peter Chowla

    She should get a bonus!

  • Ken Grant

    What was the point of revealing Officer So’s pay? That’s an unwarranted invasion of her privacy and unrelated to the report of her doing her job.

  • Rex Rocket

    Will find an alligator in her locker. Also, crackdown on bicyclists at 45 & 1st.

  • Mrunal

    When Officer So called for backup, the officers who responded did everything to discourage her from issuing summons. Even though the officer witnessed the left hook personally and the cyclist had the whole incident on camera.

  • 1 Less Car

    It is kind of odd. Like…”thanks officer for protecting cyclists!” and now “Let’s expose your pay to the world because…why?”

  • 1 Less Car

    Don’t worry, the NYPD will be back in force busting cyclists for minor infactions while cars speed by.

  • This is how we lose the few conscientious police officers.

  • Warriors suck balls
  • JR

    It is irrelevant to the story at hand, but it’s hardly an invasion of privacy here. That information is all publicly available on the web for all to find, put there by NYS.

  • Ken Grant

    It does not matter if the info is publicly available – the purpose of public records is to prevent fraud and corruption, not to embarrass public employees doing their job well. Why didn’t the “journalist” reveal the salary of the cop on the favor card?

  • I agree. This is reckless . It is going to make her a target outside and inside NYPD… she is doing a great job..

  • PDiddy

    The problem is that the bike lane cannot act as a bike lane and a street lane at the same time. Too many conflicts arise when bike lane users go straight and a car wants to turn right/left.

    NYC could try to do bike signals like in the Netherlands. But before those can work, protected segregated cycle lanes would have to be abundant throughout the city.

  • AMH

    There are already signals to separate cyclists and motorists at some intersections, but these end up penalizing cyclists by severely limiting their green time (even if no drivers are waiting to turn). The overarching problem is too much car traffic and zero effort to reduce it.

  • Joe R.

    That can only work when you have potential turning car traffic once or twice per mile (at most). When you have it every other block, segregated turn phases will make average cycling speeds as slow as walking. Even without the turn phases, the light timing isn’t all that great for cyclists. When cyclists are compelled to stop this often, they usually won’t, effectively defeating the purpose of the turn phase.

  • PDiddy

    Well the problem with what you are suggesting(reduced turns) means you are effectively making the street into a highway, and that has it’s own problems.

    If NYC can emulate as many Netherlands infrastructure designs as possible, the better. The city has all the underlying bones and potential human capital to turn the place into a bicycle mecca for the USA.

  • Joe R.

    If you time the lights for 25 mph then you can curb speeding. Eventually, drivers will get the message that all speeding does is get you to the next red light faster.

    If NYC can emulate as many Netherlands infrastructure designs as possible, the better.

    The danger in that is emulating only parts of designs without considering the whole. For example, let’s take protected bike lanes. They generally work well if one side of a street isn’t frequently interrupted by intersections. That would be along parks, cemeteries, rivers, railways, highways, etc. On streets with intersections every 250 feet they make things worse for cyclists by creating the potential for left or right hooks. Bordering heavily used sidewalks means pedestrian intrusions which create further problems.

    My guess is if a Dutch engineer were designing a bike lane for one of the Manhattan Avenues they would do these things:

    1) Bollard off the minor streets on the side of the avenue with the bike lane. These streets would be access only for motorists, and they would be accessed from the next avenue over.

    2) Make the bike lane wide enough for safe passing so it’s usable by cyclists of all abilities, including faster cyclists.

    3) Because motorists could no longer cross in front of cyclists at minor streets due to the street effectively being blocked off, when motorists get a red light, cyclists would get a flashing yellow “yield to crossing pedestrians”. This would greatly reduce the amount of stopping and slowing down.

    4) At major cross streets, there would likely be cyclist, and possibly also pedestrian, overpasses so as to avoid dangerous, busy intersections full of conflicts. The story which doesn’t get much press here is how the Dutch are now taking the next step of grade separating cyclists at major road crossings via overpasses or underpasses. Yes, it’s expensive, but it avoids danger and delay at the places where it’s most likely to happen.

    5) Time the traffic lights to the speed limit, in this case 25 mph.

    6) Consider installing fences, except at crosswalks, to keep pedestrians out of the bike lane.

    7) Consider widening the sidewalks, even at the expense of a motor traffic lane, if the reason for pedestrian intrusion is due to the sidewalks being too narrow for the level of foot traffic.

    I’ve also suggested elevated bicycle viaducts over major arterials but the above idea could work nearly as well at a much lower cost.

    The city has all the underlying bones and potential human capital to turn the place into a bicycle mecca for the USA.

    I totally agree but we’ll only get there by doing two things. One, make it harder and less convenient to get around by private car. Two, build whatever infrastructure is needed to keep cyclists safe and in motion. I can’t stress these points enough. You can’t have streets which work well for everyone because the space just doesn’t exist for it. The least space efficient mode, namely SOVs, has to be prioritized a lot less. And NYC has to be prepared to spend large sums for good bicycle infrastructure. Paint and plastic barriers don’t cut it. We should be spending a few billion per year for the next 5 or 10 years to get where we can be.

  • PDiddy

    All good suggestions but very difficult to magically appear all at once.

    Like you said. Doing only one thing may make things more complicated, confusing and dangerous.

    So where does the city start? The potential is high that those suggestions up there are just “too much” and it just paralyzes any future progress.

  • LimestoneKid

    Awesome sauce Officer So!

  • com63

    I still think the markings at these mixing zones are terribly confusing. The yield triangles should really be oriented along the edge of the bike lane rather than along the diagonal. The diagonal implies that the first one to reach that mark has the right of way, when in reality the intent is that turning drivers always yield to bikes going straight.

  • haplezz

    you made a great point

  • Ishamgirl

    Is this another cop hating blog? Cops do nothing right and the peanut gallery sits back with their panties in a bind. Of course no matter what the NYPD does, they’re never going to be right.

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