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NYPD Claims it Voided Bogus Ticket To Crash Victim For Not Wearing Helmet 

12:01 AM EDT on September 28, 2020

The cops writing Zoltan a ticket for not wearing a helmet on Sept. 5. Photo provided

The bogus ticket that cops issued to an injured cyclist for not wearing a helmet after a reckless driver cut him off will be tossed out, a police spokesperson said Friday — one day after Streetsblog reported the incident involving the inept officer ticketing the 23-year-old crash victim.

“The summons was issued in error. That summons will be voided, and the officer will be instructed on proper summons-able offenses,” said NYPD spokesperson Det. Sophia Mason.

Streetsblog reported on Thursday that the cyclist, who wishes to be identified only as Zoltan, was riding an electric Citi Bike in the Eighth Avenue bike lane in Manhattan at about 12:30 a.m. on Sept. 5 when he says the driver ran the red light and cut him off, sending him crashing to the ground, near 20th Street. The bike was unrideable after getting smashed up, but Zoltan was luckily able to walk away with just a few bruises.

Zoltan's injured knee.
Zoltan's injured knee.

But when three Midtown South cops — two without masks — showed up, they seemed to care more about the fact that Zoltan wasn’t wearing a helmet than the actual crash itself or whether the victim had been injured.

Zoltan says one cop asked him why he wasn’t wearing a helmet, and then cited him for violating New York State’s Vehicle and Traffic Law 381-6. The law in question does exist, but it only pertains to registered motor vehicles like motorcycles — not bicycles, or even pedal-assist electric bicycles like the Citi Bike Zoltan was riding.

And Zoltan says he had a green light, and that the driver was speeding as he turned onto Eighth Avenue, but the police report claims otherwise, stating that Zoltan went through a red light. A witness told cops that he only heard the crash, did not see it, and looked up afterwards to see a red light, according to the report, which completely omits Zoltan’s observation that the driver was speeding.

According to the summons, Zoltan was supposed to show up to court on Oct. 26 at 9:30 a.m. to plead not guilty to a law that isn’t even on the books. Now, he apparently won’t have to, but told Streetsblog that no one official has told him of the allegedly voided summons — cops did not reach out to him to tell him it was issued in error.

“No one told me,” Zoltan said. “That would have been so annoying if I still had to go. I’m just really glad I don’t have to go into court, I was worried about the fees I would have to pay for a lawyer, and I wouldn't have even know what to say in court."

The NYPD did not respond to why it had not told the cyclist that he needn't show up to court or provided a written statement declaring that the ticket has been voided.

Experience suggests that Zoltan should show up in court anyway. Last August, Andy Campbell, an editor at Huff Post, received a very similar erroneous ticket — in this case for operating a Revel moped without a motorcycle license, which is not a violation.

After pursuing the matter with the NYPD, Campbell was also told that the ticket was issued in error, it would be voided and the officer would be retrained.

But one, if not all, of those pledges was as bogus as the ticket.

"As someone slapped with a similarly egregious summons from the NYPD, I’d warn Zoltan to check with the court despite their promises," Campbell told Streetsblog. "They told me that mine was written in error, and yet they’re still fighting me on it a year later. I won’t rest without justice, and neither should Zoltan!"

Campbell said he didn't believe the NYPD would void the ticket, so he looked into it and found out that he, indeed, had a court date, scheduled for July, 2020, in Coney Island.

"Because of COVID-19, they’ve pushed my court date to April 21, 2021," Campbell said. "And I’ll be there, you can bet your ass."

The NYPD has a history of wrongly ticketing cyclists for made-up rules, misunderstanding vehicular laws, especially when it involves bikers, and even blaming them for their own deaths or injuries after crashes. And after a fatal crash, cops have targeted cyclists, instead of the reckless drivers.

After 20-year-old Robyn Hightman was killed by a truck driver last June, cops handed out more than 37 percent of the summonses issued in a traffic enforcement blitz to cyclists — a shameful practice that only further enraged an already grieving community, and one which the NYPD had said last year it would stop.

Last November, police slapped a delivery cyclist lying on the floor after getting doored with a summons for riding outside the bike lane — a valid ticket under certain circumstances, but not when the bike lane is blocked by a car, whose driver could have been ticketed. Police ultimately voided the ticket.

That same month, police brass had to order rank-and-file cops to write a ticket to a reckless driver who had hit a cyclist on Queens Boulevard, only after Streetsblog and other outlets alerted headquarters to a viral video that showed that responding officers had behaved poorly.

And one victim of traffic violence penned an op-ed in Streetsblog last summer expressing how unsurprised he was by cops’ poor treatment towards the victim of a road-rage incident after his own experience with trying to get police to take his crash seriously.

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