Tuesday Headlines: So, About that NYPD Crackdown Edition

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The NYPD just concluded its three-week “crackdown” on reckless drivers and bike lane blockers. So how did that go?

As best as we can tell — mostly because the NYPD guards public information as closely as the Department of Correction holds onto triple murderers — the crackdown was both a success and a reminder of how little the NYPD does during the other 49 weeks of the year.

First, the good news: During the so-called “Bicycle Safe Passage Initiative,” cops wrote 8,648 summonses for parking in a bike lane — or nearly double the number of summonses written during the same period last year. Also, cops wrote 2,913 summonses to motorists who failed to yield to a pedestrian or bicyclist — a 17-percent increase over the same period last year, according to Sgt. Mary Frances O’Donnell, a police spokesperson.

So when they want to do it, they can do it (though, let’s do some math: The summonses for parking in a bike lane add up to roughly five per precinct per day — so, wow, some crackdown. And not to be annoying, but 2,913 failure to yield summonses is less than two per precinct per day. Most cyclists see two failure to yields per bike ride per minute).

Now, a legitimate complaint: The NYPD is entirely opaque about public data. The department’s own website shows that from January to June of this year, cops wrote just 368 tickets to drivers parked in bike lanes citywide! Yet Patch reported that other NYPD data — data that’s not online — showed that officers had issued 35,089 summonses to vehicles parked in bike lanes this year as of July 7, a 14-percent drop from the 40,802 tickets written in the same period in 2018. So, again, some crackdown.

We had asked the NYPD for the same data last week, but it never came, despite several follow-ups. Memo to the next mayor: Please get NYPD record-keeping up to 1990s standards, at least.

Now, for the rest of the news from a busy Monday:

  • Jose Martinez in The City followed Sunday’s scoop with another about the ongoing glitch in a $230-million computer system that is killing subway service.
  • With President Trump dawdling, Gov. Cuomo and his New Jersey counterpart created a new bi-state entity to move ahead on the essential Gateway tunnel project — without which, the entire northeast economy will die (or, in terms the president can understand: Make New York Deflate Again). (NYDN, though the same paper’s editorial board was very skeptical!)
  • Just in time for Tuesday’s hearing on the subject, city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg penned a well-argued op-ed in favor of the city’s plan to reduce cruising by empty Uber and Lyft drivers (NYDN). Why did Trottenberg write it instead of the Taxi and Limousine Commissioner? Oh, right… (Politico’s Dana Rubinstein)
  • Meanwhile, the Post let Uber claim the de Blasio administration proposal will hurt poor people. You know what really hurts poor people? Bus service that is stymied by 80,000 extra Uber and Lyft cars congesting our streets.
  • The Post took the exact wrong angle on a Council bill that would let cyclists join pedestrians in getting a jump on cars at red lights. The bill will make roadways safer. It’s an objective fact. But you can always find some uninformed rando on the street to say otherwise. That said, we love when the Tabloid of Record goes after illegal parkers!
  • We really thought the MTA had its Chicken Little problem solved. Guess not (NYDN)! No wonder why this plan to put up lots of nets sounds good to us (amNY).
  • Speaking of the West Side Rag, the outlet had new details about that reckless driver who hit two pedestrians last week on West End Avenue. Turns out, she had a long criminal record, including multiple driving infractions. Tell us again why she still had a license?
  • From the assignment desk — for the West Side Rag only. We buried a great local story in our piece about how badly the Parks Department screwed up the Hudson River Greenway for cyclists: CB7 Chairwoman Robert Semer privately demoted Parks Committee Co-Chairman Ken Coughlin over the weekend. Why? Our sources know, but we’d much rather read your full story about how one of New York’s greatest cycling and street safety advocates could get shoved aside on an otherwise enlightened community board.
  • Before you go lionizing former Manhattan DA Robert Morganthau, remember two things: The Central Park Five and his very poor record on vehicular violence. (Charles Komanoff via Twitter)
  • And, finally, sure, Natasha Lyonne, be our guest if you want to compete with Whoopi Goldberg in a competition of one-time New Yorkers who think they know what’s best for the city. (Bike Snob via Twitter)
  • BrandonWC

    The 368 tickets are moving violations for driving in a bike lane. The 35,089 summonses presumably are parking tickets. Two different things.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Those crackdowns on drivers who didn’t hit anyone will probably be about as effective as crackdowns on bicyclists who didn’t hit anyone.

    It really does come down to re-engineering the streets and the vehicles.

    I understand that they are finding out that creating automated cars that don’t run over bicyclists and pedestrians is harder, and robocars farther away, then expected.

    But now that we know what is possible, it is possible to demand the sort of driver over-rides the Federal Railroad Administration imposed on the railroads, with regard to speed when turning, etc., violating the speed limits, running red lights, etc.

  • Andrew

    Dangerous drivers are dangerous even before they’ve hit anyone, and the point of enforcement should be to persuade them to stop being dangerous before they do hit someone.

  • Exactly. At the moment, people get into their cars with a sense of impunity, knowing that there is essentially no chance of their being caught doing something wrong, and that, even if they are caught, the penalty is negligible.

    We need to replace that sense of impunity with a sense of fear, by means of enforcement and punishment that are severe enough to instill in anyone who drives an appreciation of the awesome responsibility involved in this act, and to dissuade many people from driving in the first place.

  • AMH

    NYPD were stopping cyclists for riding through red lights in Central Park but seemed to be letting them off with a warning. So there’s that. (Can we finally get rid of the traffic lights now that the park is no longer a highway? It’s pretty depressing to see them being replaced with new ones rather than removed entirely.)

  • KeNYC2030

    Totally agree. The Central Park Conservancy and Parks Dept. seem not to have gotten the memo that it’s no longer a highway. There are something like 46 lights on the loop and the agencies appear determined to hang onto every last one of them. Maybe they’re landmarked.

  • The idea that cars are banned “permanently” from Central Park is most likely a fantasy.

  • AMH

    It’s certainly better than when it was a traffic sewer, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly car-free experience in Central Park.

  • Joe R.

    I think Larry’s point here is that the enforcement is on the wrong people. It’s analogous to the police setting up ticket traps to get cyclists slow-rolling red lights, while elsewhere they ignore cyclists who plow through red lights at full speed when the crosswalk is full of people. The automotive equivalent of the latter is people lane jockeying for position, accelerating quickly into any open space, gunning it to make lights, staring at their phones while driving, not yielding while turning, making illegal u-turns, backing at high-speed into vacated parking spots, etc.

    I’ll bet a lot of the police enforcement against motorists is for stuff like failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign when there are no pedestrians crossing. We need real enforcement specifically against the type of actions known to put people at risk. My list gives some examples but is by no means exhaustive.

  • Joe R.

    That’s why we want to get rid of the traffic lights. Doing so will create a big, expensive hurdle should a future administration ever decide to allow cars back into Central Park.

  • Yes, indeed; and that explains why the lights have not been removed.

    It’s one more thing for Corey Johnson to deal with if good fortune holds and he becomes the next mayor.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Yes that was the point. The NYPD “shoots fish in a barrel” when cracking down on motor vehicles too.

    The police don’t want to do this work, and when forced to they do it badly.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG