After Cyclist is Killed on Eighth Avenue, NYPD Cracks Down…On Cyclists!

An officer gave Celia Turner a $190 ticket for running a red light near the dangerous intersection where a cyclist was killed on Monday. Photo: Liam Quigley
An officer gave Celia Turner a $190 ticket for running a red light near the dangerous intersection where a cyclist was killed on Monday. Photo: Liam Quigley

The NYPD responded to the death of a cyclist on Eighth Avenue this week with a ticket blitz on Wednesday night against bike riders, including summonses for not wearing a helmet, which is not against the law.

As activists gathered at the intersection of W. 45th Street to mourn the hit-and-run killing of Joseph Chiam by a truck driver on Monday, many noticed that NYPD officers were handing out tickets.

Rider Kalle Westerling said he was on a Citi Bike when he got a ticket for riding without a helmet, which is not required of cyclists over 14. He tweeted about the incident, prompting Council Speaker Corey Johnson to say he would look into the matter.

Claudia Corcino of Transportation Alternatives said she saw three cyclists get tickets.

And Streetsblog stringer Liam Quigley arrived at the Transportation Alternatives vigil to find another woman getting a $190 summons for passing through a red light, which is illegal for cyclists, though is common when cyclists feel it would be safer for them to get ahead of speeding cars on roadways designed and enforced for drivers.

“There’s so much traffic,” said the ticketed rider, Celia Turner. “There’s always a ton of pedestrians in the bike lane and cars turning.”

Cyclists were frustrated that the police were writing tickets to bike riders even before they have apprehended Chiam’s killer. Police said they know the driver’s identity, but have not made an arrest.

“Amazing the bias against and willful ignorance of bicyclists here,” tweeted JD. “@NYPDnews might just be the most corrupt, car-centric police department of any major US city.”

The NYPD declined to comment. A person who works in another branch of city government called the NYPD’s practice of stepping up enforcing against cyclists after the death of a cyclist is “one of the stupidest things the NYPD does.”

Streetsblog has long reported on what many cyclists believe is a concerted effort by the NYPD to discourage cycling by writing bogus tickets.

— With Liam Quigley

  • William Lawson

    It’s absolutely f*cking ridiculous that they deny being anti-cyclist through the nose but then they pull off sht like this CLEARLY in the knowledge that it confirms every single one of our suspicions about them. These bike blitzes after cyclists die are so f*cking ridicuous and illogical and offensive and yet apparently the NYPD don’t even have to defend them. They just go right ahead and do it, fully aware of how wretched and reprehensible they look, and then blank anyone who asks them to explain the reasoning. Either they’re even dumber than the most cynical among us ever dreamed possible, or they’re just trolling cyclists and using our deaths as props. Whichever it is, holy shit I cannot believe we have police this bad. They are a cancer upon this city.

  • Joe R.

    The worst thing about these crack downs is the ticketing for things which aren’t even offenses, like not having a helmet, or riding outside the bike lane. Even if you win your case, you still lose by wasting time in court.

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    No greater enemy of cyclists in NYC than this vile piece of shit we call the NYPD.

  • kevd

    If only there were some sort of democratically elected official with the power over the NYPD!
    we should get one of those.

  • r

    Not just stupid. Offensive. A waste of resources. And most certain to lead to more dead people.

    Get the NYPD out of traffic enforcement and as far away from Vision Zero as possible.

  • djx

    That’s the point. The obvious lying is the point – it’s a way to say FU to everyone. They think this bullying earns respect. It really earns contempt.

  • AMH

    Where is the mayor on this? Corey Johnson is really filling in his leadership gap on a lot of things these days.

  • Simon Phearson

    I think it’s easier because Johnson doesn’t take the flak if the NYPD decides to “slow down” in response to more assertive civilian control.

    It’s a hard nut to crack. We need to get the NYPD under control, but the minute we try to do anything effective, the union bosses are out there raising the heat on the electeds. BdB backed down epically when they turned their backs on him, and I’d bet Johnson would too, if he were mayor. But on the council, he’s a little protected from that (or perhaps just more adept at making a show of being responsible).

    I frankly am not sure there’s anything we can hope to do with the NYPD unless we start approaching them like an organized crime syndicate. Offer something in exchange for something we want.

  • The NYPD is an enemy of humans at this point. By now we should be able to deal with these ticket stings because they are so pathetically predictable. Don’t run reds wherever you see NYPD presence, and always use LED head/tail lights (even in daylight if you ask me).

  • Jeff

    This used to be the case. It was easy to avoid “ticket stings” since they were always in predictable locations and very visible. I had the unfortunate pleasure of being pulled over by an unmarked car on Queens Blvd on a Sunday morning for going through two empty intersections–with escalating fines, I’m looking at around $1,000 in penalties. This was no “ticket sting.” I just got really unlucky, I suppose.

  • Holy shit, undercover cops writing bike tickets. So pathetic but not surprising. Sorry to hear that. Guess I have it easy here in East Village/Gramercy where their ticketing activity is much more predictable.

  • KeNYC2030

    We should put the NYPD under mayoral control Oh, wait . . .

  • Joe R.

    As much as I’ve wanted to try the Queens Blvd. bike lane, it looks like I’ll be avoiding it. These bike lanes are a magnet for police stings. Until/unless it ends, I’ll actually plan my routes to avoid bike lanes (the exception being greenways).

  • Jeff

    Yeah, the psychological toll is huge. They’ve taken what has always been a relaxing, care-free, reliable source of happiness in my life and turned it into a source of stress and self-doubt.

  • Jeff

    This has been my standard operating procedure for quite some time: Threat of ticketing aside, riding in general traffic is simply faster and more pleasant in my opinion.

    Having said that I still support and fight for a robust protected network as it extends cycling to more of the population, and I’m more interested in the livability of the city as a whole than I am my own personal cycling preferences.

  • I am so sick of this ! We need an equivalent Of “special victims units” adn 20 years of education ..

  • Joe R.

    I want a robust cycling network also, although my preference is for completely separated greenways where I don’t have deal with motor vehicles, pedestrians, traffic controls, or cops.

    While I can hardly say Queens Boulevard was just fine before the bike lanes, to an experienced cyclist it was quite usable, and usually pretty fast as well. At least from what I’ve heard the new lanes actually accommodate fast cyclists, unlike a lot of other NYC bike lanes.

  • Jeff

    Yup, I’d call the new lanes the best in the city for fast cyclists.

  • You should use that extremely useful bike lane, and just stop at the red lights. There are only two spots where the red lights are excessively long, and both are at points going east where cars can enter the service road from the main road and cross the paths of bicyclists. The first is just past 61st Street, and the second is just past Hoffman Drive.

    If you are a bicyclist in New York City and you don’t ride in Manhattan and you don’t ride on Queens Boulevard, then, damn, you are missing so many great things.

  • Joe R.

    Well, can I assume cycling dragnets would be highly unlikely at the times I might be riding, like 2AM? It’s not even a question of obeying the lights (which I do when I see cops). It’s that the NYPD is known for giving red light tickets even when you don’t go through lights.

    Why doesn’t DOT put those lights on demand only, so they only go red when vehicles are detected crossing over? That seems like the sensible thing to do.

  • Cristina Carnicelli Furlong

    This needs editing desperately. Your text and Claudia’s tweet don’t match up. You say she saw three tickets, she says one person pulled over…And…is this suppose to be cutesy? Because people still like naming sources, or agencies or geez, more than this..

    “The NYPD declined to comment. A person who works in another branch of city government called the NYPD’s practice of stepping up enforcing against cyclists after the death of a cyclist is “one of the stupidest things the NYPD does.”

  • Cristina Carnicelli Furlong

    To be clear- it’s a ridiculous practice that NYPD does, issuing tickets to cyclists. I’m a red-light runner myself, because as Gersh says, sometimes it’s safer…but re-read this article please….

  • Simon Phearson

    Right. Like, I’m not going to say that riding on First and Second in midtown was a picnic before the lanes went in, but now that they’re there (and we’re required to use them), it’s a death slalom, every time. Slow down for slower cyclists. Speed up to survive the merging zones, or play guess-the-intent with drivers at those flashing yellow arrows. Scan constantly for pedestrians looking anywhere but in your direction and drivers getting out of cars. Spend my time stopped at red lights watching behind me for turning drivers who might cut their turns too closely. It used to be, I would just choose a lane and book it. All there was to it.

    For a while, my evening commute involved a straight shot up Park Avenue in midtown. It was great – conducive light timing, plenty of space in the right lane (because most drivers avoided that lane except for drop-offs and pick-ups), no questions about whether drivers can see you as they’re getting ready to turn. Not any more. I get to deal with the UN nonsense now.

  • Jeff

    Like I said, in my case it did not appear to be a dragnet–an officer in an unmarked car just happened to be around.

  • Joe R.

    In all honestly, I’m not sure I would have even stopped for an unmarked car. I could have rightfully said how do I know you’re the police and not someone trying to steal my bike or mug me? Besides that, using an unmarked car to go after cyclists running red lights is a horrible misuse of police resources. This is something that shouldn’t even be allowed.

  • MatthewEH

    I hear you. I have a court date about something like this coming up in September. Well, until I call the courthouse to delay it, then show up at the DMV in person a few times for some more continuances.

    Not an unmarked car, but I don’t remember passing him either, I’m still a bit mystified how he got behind me.

  • motorock

    Happens all the time with motorcycles and scooters too. Sometimes, for made up reasons. I have gotten good at spotting unmarked cars after years of riding in the city.

  • motorock

    NYPD does this often with motorcyclists, stopping them for made up offences or just to “check papers”. You could get lucky if you are white but forget it if you are a POC, even if the cop is a POC himself. However, running red lights is illegal for everyone and I have seen cyclists run it and cause near accidents- that is not safe riding at all.
    Maybe advocates should ask for exemption of cyclists from red lights under safe conditions? I don’t know of any examples of cities that allow but there has to be a first, right? Lane splitting for motorcycles is illegal in NY and most states in USA except California- still many motorcyclists do it because it has been proven scientifically to be safer and rest of the Western world does it too without any issues. And motorcyclists have been trying to push to legalize it everywhere else.
    Interestingly, some states allow motorcycles to cross a red light if they are unable to trigger the sensors that turn the light green. That was a law passed because people advocated for it.

  • Andy

    Cyclists treating red lights as stop signs and and stop signs as yields is referred to as the Idaho stop. It’s been legal in Idaho for 30 years with no increase in bicyclist accidents. Delaware passed a similar law a few years ago and it was passed through the House in Utah a couple weeks ago.

  • Wait, the Idaho stop is legal in Delaware? Dang! I rode through Delaware on my way to Washington in 2016, and I didn’t even know about that.

  • @r – Get the words “Vision Zero” out of enforcement entirely. The original Swedish VZ had, and has, nothing to do with enforcement. When we Americanized it we just recycled the same ol’ same ol’ “Three Es” (with Enforcement as the least effective “E”) to sell it to cities, with disastrous results.

  • @Legitimategolf – You’d think that would help, but riding without a helmet is legal and riding outside bike lanes is legal, and they still ticket bicyclists.

  • motorock

    How come no one advocated this in NYC? or did it not pass or is being resisted? Like how lane-splitting is not allowed for motorcycles despite a more recent UC Berkley study that actually made California formally legalize it…

  • strangemonkey

    Be careful if you’re often riding at 2AM. I have a feeling a lot of fatalities happen in the early morning hours.

  • strangemonkey

    The sarcasm is not lost on me!