NYPD May Stop Ticketing Cyclists After They’re Killed

Writing condolences at the vigil for dead cyclist Robyn Hightman. Photo: Yosef Kessler
Writing condolences at the vigil for dead cyclist Robyn Hightman. Photo: Yosef Kessler

Cops may abandon their controversial practice of ticketing cyclists after fatal collisions, the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed officer said on Thursday.

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan’s seemingly ad-libbed comments came after a reporter at unrelated press conference asked why bikers are typically targeted for enforcement after they are killed by car drivers  — indeed, cyclists received nearly 40 percent of the summonses issued in a traffic enforcement blitz Tuesday and Wednesday near where a truck driver hit and killed 20-year-old cyclist Robyn Hightman on Monday morning.

“They went to the scene after an incident, which we do,” said Monahan, offering the summons statistics from the blitz. “We’ll look at this strategy and it’s something we’re looking to adjust.” (It is unclear if Monahan was announcing a new policy or merely considering one. New York Post reporter David Meyer later tweeted, “Pressed by reporters, Monahan says not ticketing cyclists is one option under consideration.”)

Any change in policy would be welcome. Time and time again, the ticket stings have enraged bikers and safe-street advocates, who find themselves the target of cops even as they are still mourning one of their own. 

The NYPD has said the ticket sprees are part of Mayor de Blasio “Vision Zero” plan to ultimately end all traffic fatalities, but cyclists argue that cops should go after the cause of virtually every road fatality: car drivers. But that’s not how the NYPD has typically handled post-crash enforcement.

Cops and Hizzoner have defended the practice, but advocates charge it doesn’t do anything to make bikers feel safer on the dangerous streets of New York City.

“It’s hard for me to understand this bizarre practice [but] advocates feel it’s motivated by nothing more than animus toward people who happen to get from A to B by pedaling on two wheels,” wrote Doug Gordon in an op-ed in the Daily News.”

Even local pols, including Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander and Council Speaker Corey Johnson have criticized the NYPD for continuing to ticket cyclists after one of them is killed, since cars are the real culprit.
“Trucks and cars are the cause of the overwhelming number of traffic fatalities in our city,” said Johnson in a Tweet.

The practice is rarely discussed, but one officer who asked to remain anonymous once pulled back the veil on the so called “72-hour plan,” which calls for stepped up police presence and enforcement in the area where the collision happened in the hopes of stopping the next one

“The rationale for the 72-hour plan, I’m guessing, is that they figure anytime someone dies, because it’s a serious thing, they focus on that area to see what people were doing wrong there to prevent another fatality,” said the officer. 

But the cop admitted then that what seems to be a practice of just randomly going after bikers — who make up just a tiny fraction of traffic — may not be the best use of resources. 

“Better direction has to be received from the supervisors at the precinct level and at the borough level … to say that there are certain violations that they’re looking for and certain violations that they’re not looking for,” he said.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for more details about Monahan’s bombshell. 

  • relevantjeff

    I’ll bet they’ll walk those comments back, or say that they don’t reflect the views of the police department, faster than you can cross the Williamsburg Bridge on a bike.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Ticketing cyclists after those rare instances where someone on a bicycle kills or critically injures someone, that I get. Doing so after a cyclist is killed makes no sense.

    I wonder if there is video footage of this tragedy.

  • To make matters worse, they’ll pull over a casual rider who stops at at a red, looks both ways and then slowly, carefully creeps across while ignoring three bikes who zoom through a red without looking or who ride the wrong way.

  • PDiddy

    Talk is cheap. Time will tell.

  • thomas040

    ‘MAY’??!

  • Joe R.

    The thing here is just about every single time a cyclist killed someone they weren’t doing anything technically illegal. As much as motorists love to chide cyclists for going through red lights, they forget cyclists have skin in the game. They’re not going to ride in such a way as to hit people or vehicles since doing so can get them killed as well.

  • Larry Littlefield

    True enough. In a collision between a bicyclist and a pedestrian, age and health equal, the bicyclist is only slightly less likely to be severely injured that the pedestrian.

  • Dean Stephens

    “The mayor and the cops make it abundantly clear whose lives they value
    in this town. And if you’re a person who rides a bike, it ain’t you.”

    What planet do these people live on? What kind of crack are they smoking? How many tens of millions of dollars has NYC spent on bike lanes, road diets, Vision Zero, etc., catering to the vanishingly small percentage of individuals (as this writer admits, “just a tiny fraction of traffic”) who refuse to grow up?

    The bike nuts’ chutzpah never ends. Normal people are wising up.

  • Mellow Yellow

    you are an ass

  • CJ

    “Refuse to grow up?” You’re the one calling people who are just trying to get to their destination without getting harassed or killed crackheads.

    Normal people are wising up… to how idiotic and childish people like you react when your masculinity feels threatened by people riding bikes.

  • No, they’re not going to stop. Why the hell would they? One cop felt a momentary twinge of humanity and spoke out his ass, that’s all this was. Don’t expect no change in policy.

  • Normal person

    Yeah! Those silly bike nuts. Getting upset each time a person dies and the cops blame the victim. What chutzpah!

  • PDiddy

    Plenty of people using the cycleways and more would do it if they felt safe while riding.

    And would you consider yourself normal? I consider you to be a fucking coward.

  • Joe R.

    What exactly is growing up? Driving a big, fucking pickup truck instead of riding a bike? “Normal” people? If you actually believe everything you wrote you’re a certifiable nut case. Bikes and micromobility options like e-bikes or e-scooters are the future of transportation in cities. We tried cars. That didn’t work out very well.

  • Andrew

    He presumably thinks that normal grown-ups all get around by car, while bikes are toys for children to play with.

    He might, then, be surprised to learn that most New York City households don’t own cars.

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