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Bicycle Safety

NYPD’s Reckless Driver ‘Crackdown’ is a Breezy Three-Week Affair

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Is that all there is?

One day after Mayor de Blasio responded to a surge of cyclist bloodshed this year with a promise of greater road safety, the NYPD unveiled a paltry effort to reduce the carnage: a three-week ticketing blitz focusing on moving violations that officers (and city road design) have failed to eliminate already: speeding, red light violations, failure to yield, distracted driving.

The NYPD's announcement on Tuesday of "strategies to support NYC citywide bicycle safety passage" also included a promise to write more tickets to drivers who "are parked in, or otherwise obstructing, a bicycle lane" and those who are "double parking," the agency said in a statement.

Police officials said the ticketing would "be conducted on all tours with participation from all enforcement personnel" between July 1 (which was actually yesterday) and July 21. That's just 21 days amid a crisis of cyclists deaths that has consisted of 15 bicycle riders killed so far this year, up from 10 in the entirety of 2018.

The NYPD says we'll see more of this through July 21. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr
The NYPD says we'll see more of this through July 21. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr
The NYPD says we'll see more of this through July 21. Photo: NYC DOT/Flickr

If the short duration of the NYPD effort strikes cyclists and their advocates as paltry, the rest of the NYPD statement won't likely alter that opinion. According to the NYPD:

    • Traffic Enforcement Agents will enforce the above hazardous parking violations throughout the city.
    • All Traffic Safety Personnel in all 77 precincts will participate and enforce the above Vision Zero and hazardous parking and moving violations commencing on July 8, 2019 through July 21, 2019. [Editor's note: That is 14 days — and raises the question, "Don't traffic safety personnel in all 77 precincts already participate in this manner?]
    • Patrol Supervisors will respond to a scene of a bicyclist/pedestrian struck in order to conduct a thorough investigation on whether Administrative Code 19-190, “Right of Way” law has been violated. [Editor's note: Streetsblog has noted that patrol officers already respond to such scenes yet rarely issue such tickets, so we have asked NYPD if supervisors are being retrained to encourage them to write right-of-way tickets.]
    • Auxiliary officers will conduct high visibility education outreach educating drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians on safer bicycle, vehicle and pedestrian tips to reduce injuries and fatalities. [Editor's note: They already do this.]

In a statement, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said cops would "work with all of our city partners to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate bicycle fatalities."

“The NYPD vigorously supports Vision Zero, and enthusiastically promotes safety for everyone on our city’s streets,” he added.

Reporters asked O'Neill if the NYPD effort included making good on a promise by Chief of Department Terence Monahan to stop cracking down on cyclists after a bike rider is killed — and the top cop said it did.

Indeed, Tuesday was the first time in recent memory that police did not write summonses to cyclist one day after the death a cyclist — in this case, Devra Freelander, who was killed by a cement truck in Bushwick on Monday.

But activists were unimpressed by Tuesday's NYPD announcement.

“The rise in bike rider deaths and injuries is related to the increase in vehicle traffic in New York City in the past several years, and will require structural change in street design and law enforcement to turn around," said Jon Orcutt of Bike NY. "Treating it like a momentary aberration won’t protect cyclists in August or thereafter.”

Transportation Alternatives' co-Interim Director Marco Conner has long called for traffic enforcement agents to enforce dangerous driving violations.

"We can only hope that this initiative lasts more than just three weeks,” he said. “People were dying at unacceptable rates prior to this crisis, and this announcement sadly shows that the mayor failed to realize that."

But Conner did applaud the NYPD for showing "part of what the NYPD's role should be in traffic enforcement."

"Our city's thousands of traffic enforcement agents are particularly well positioned to enforce daily acts of dangerous driving violations — we don't need armed police officers conducting the majority of such enforcement," he said.

An earlier version of this story mischaracterized Marco Conner’s comment. Streetsblog has corrected the record.

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