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. 

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