BREAKING: NYPD Blitz on Bike Lane Blockers and Reckless Driver Blitz is Going Permanent!

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The blitz is going permanent!

The NYPD has confirmed that it will seriously step up enforcement of reckless drivers as part of Mayor de Blasio’s “bicycle safety” plan that will be announced this week — an announcement that came hours after Council Speaker Corey Johnson called for just that in an article on Streetsblog.

“Yes, confirmed,” NYPD spokesman Phillip Walzak told Streetsblog on Wednesday afternoon after being asked if the mayor would announce that a permanent extension of the NYPD’s three-week enforcement blitz against bike lane blockers and drivers who fail to yield would be part of the mayor’s announcement this week.

Johnson had called on the department to go beyond its current practice of periodic ticket blitzes during high-profile crises.

“We’re not going to solve the crisis of cyclists losing their lives with a brief three-week crackdown — we need to keep enforcing rules keeping cars out of bike lanes,” Johnson had said, highlighting an insufficient NYPD response to a spate of cyclist and pedestrian deaths this year that has undermined the city’s Vision Zero initiative.

Johnson also said the enforcement must come as part of “an interconnected network of protected bike lanes.”

More bike infrastructure will likely be part of any safety announcement, but Johnson and others sought to focus on the NYPD’s effort — or lack thereof — which was ordered up by the mayor on July 1, after three cyclists had been killed in just one week. At the time, the death toll was 15 cyclists. It has now risen to 17 — seven more than all of last year. Total fatalities on city roads are up 16 percent this year, too.

Over those three weeks, the NYPD response was either impressive or completely lame, depending on how you crunch the data. The agency did write nearly double the number of summonses to drivers who blocked in bike lanes during its July 1-21 enforcement effort — 8,648 summonses or 95 percent more than 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.

But those numbers mean that cops — in the middle of a high-profile blitz — wrote just five blocked bike lane tickets per day per precinct and two failure-to-yield tickets per day per precinct. Those numbers are obviously a tiny fraction of the number of instances of both violations. Also, the so-called blitz did not include emphasis on other categories of violations that affect street safety, such as speeding, running red lights or distracted driving.

In addition, NYPD statistics published by Patch showed that before the blitz, the police effort on clearing blocked bike lanes was waning. Officers had issued 35,089 summonses to bike lane blockers between Jan. 1 and July 7, 2019 — a 14-percent drop.

That’s one reason why activists wanted the NYPD to at least remain on its blitz footing.

“NYPD’s enforcement blitz must become permanent,” Marco Conner, then-interim co-deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, had said. “We already know that enforcement has to be widespread and consistent to be effective. In addition NYPD must allow their Traffic Enforcement Agents to do the part of their job they’ve been trained for, namely to ticket drivers for moving violations like failing to yield and blocking the box. These are violations that occur on every New York City street throughout the day, and which Traffic Enforcement Agents are uniquely positioned to observe and enforce.”

The mayor’s announcement this week is clearly eagerly anticipated. It is expected to be multi-faceted, but there’s no substitute for sustained NYPD enforcement, said Jon Orcutt of Bike New York.

“Cars and trucks don’t stay out of bike lanes because it’s a good idea,” said Orcutt, a former Department of Transportation official. “Enforcement needs to create a real disincentive for endangering bike riders, and that will only happen with a sustained, perpetual effort.”

  • Och

    They are full of BS. There’s a “bike lane” on Neptune Avenue in Coney Island, and a car repair shop right around a local precinct blocks bicycle lane and sidewalk with their card during business hours, and even leaves cars double parked in the bicycle lane overnight – and they never get any tickets, despite cops driving by their shop every day. Not even during the supposed three week blitz.

  • William Lawson

    Not to mention the fact that they’ve been photographed sitting in bike lanes all over the city during this “blitz.”

  • This is good news, and it gives hope for the future.

    Of course there are still going to be many, many examples of cops behaving badly. But we ought to be pleased at this step in the right direction.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Did anyone even notice a difference with this blitz? Will anyone notice a difference if it’s made permanent?

  • salutMamut

    I’ll take this seriously when the NYPD stops blocking the bike lane on Schermerhorn St.

  • woodyguthrie

    Automation — the only way enforcement can work, because NYPD is not interested.

  • Joe R.

    Enforcement via steel and concrete is the best. Have bollards so cars can’t physically intrude into protected bike lanes at all. Have bollards near the curb at police stations and car dealerships so nobody can park on the sidewalk. Basically anywhere motor vehicles don’t belong, put up a physical barrier to keep them out. While we’re at it, have bollards or heavy duty gates that go up when a light goes red to prevent motorists from going through.

  • Alan Mukamal

    +1 Where practical, cameras could feed systems that automatically generate tickets. The technology would pay for itself and then some.

  • Andrew Cushen

    I saw a system like this a couple years back on TV. Not sure which city–Detroit maybe? There was a set of hood-mounted cameras connected to a laptop inside the cop car. All they had to do was drive down the street and the system would read license plates then flag stolen cars, ticket scofflaws etc. Seems to me this could easily be extended to bikelane parkers.