OPINION: NYPD’s ‘Bike Safety’ Tweets are a Joke

Safety tip: Milling an entire street and telling cyclists to wing it is in fact not very safe. Photo: 17th Precinct
Safety tip: Milling an entire street and telling cyclists to wing it is in fact not very safe. Photo: 17th Precinct
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With outreach like this, maybe it’s better to get ignored.

You may have noticed that police precincts love to tweet photos of their officers handing out bike safety pamphlets to cyclists just trying to go about their day. But come on — is this really a good role for the police, to stop people on bikes and make them take a flier on how it’s their fault when they get hit by someone driving a car?

If you look at crash data (courtesy of Crashmapper), it’s clear that no, there’s no reason to do this. The NYPD doesn’t really like to dip its toes in #bikeNYC, and honestly that’s pretty fair (love you kids), but when the police do poke that hornet’s nest, it doesn’t appear anyone running the show checked to see who’s causing the crashes in every precinct.

Here’s a small sampling of the messaging being done by the DOT’s “Vision Zero” partners (that was obviously said with sarcasm).

Ninth Precinct (East Village)

The last time the Ninth Precinct addressed #bikeNYC was on June 21, 2019 (first day of summer!), when the East Village officers let people know the Traffic Safety Team was focusing on all the wrong things. In 2019, there were 1,149 crashes in the Ninth. What were the largest contributing factors in those crashes? “Driver inattention/distraction” was the main contributing factor in 637 crashes, while other driver errors were cited 636 times (crashes often have multiple causes). Pedestrian or cyclist error was a factor in just 39 crashes (or 3 percent).

Strap in, because you may see a trend here.

13th Precinct (Gramercy Park)

OVER 80 PERCENT OF INJURY-CAUSING CRASHES ON THIS PRECINCT’S STRETCH OF SECOND AVENUE WERE DUE TO DRIVER BEHAVIOR. IN ADDITION, OUT OF 872 CRASHES IN THE ENTIRE 13TH PRECINCT, JUST 23 WERE FROM PEDESTRIAN OR CYCLIST ERROR. COPS BLAMED DRIVERS FOR 570 MISTAKES THAT LED TO CRASHES (SOME CRASHES HAVE MORE THAN ONE MISTAKE). SORRY ABOUT THIS THE CAPS LOCK KEY IS STUCK.

17th Precinct (East Side)

Cops in this precinct spent a beautiful day in October handing out bicycle safety tips. Unfortunately, out of the 837 total crashes this year, “driver inattention/distraction” was the leading contributing factor with 574, followed by 411 other kinds of driver mistakes. Pedestrian or cyclist error was listed as a factor in just six crashes. Hopefully the bicycle safety tip told to people there was, “Do not trust a single driver in this precinct.”

19th Precinct (Upper East Side)

The 19th Precinct almost gets it right, correctly identifying cars in the bike lane as a safety risk, something the precinct has tweeted about. But the social media whizzes here also play bothsiderism by continuing to promote the officers’ pamphlet-handing skills. It’s a bizarre disconnect, given that out of the 1,624 crashes in the precinct this year, 820 were because of a variety of mistakes by drivers, 663 were chalked up to “driver inattention/distraction” and just 16 were due to pedestrian or cyclist error.

77th Precinct (Crown Heights and Prospect Heights)

Traffic Safety Officers in the 77th Precinct don’t just write summonses, they also help educate people. But it seems like we’ve got some HBO Films’ Bad Education going on here, because just 14 out of the 1,077 total crashes this year had pedestrian or cyclist error as a factor. “Driver inattention/distraction” was a contributing factor in 557 and crashes were caused by 502 other factors involving driving errors.

94th Precinct (Williamsburg and Greenpoint)

In the 94th Precinct, the local precinct provided safety tips to the spawn point of Brooklyn’s notorious bearded hipsters. Is it possible that while police handed out these fliers last year, they also told everyone they stopped that out of 1,967 crashes in the area, 1,398 were from assorted driver failure, 300 were due to “driver inattention/distraction” and just 11 were because of pedestrian or cyclist error? Maybe they should spend more time highlighting how they keep West Street’s protected bike lane clear.

100th Precinct (Rockaways)

Cops in the 100th Precinct don’t hand out fliers in person, but they do love to digitally remind cyclists that they’re just like cars under the law. It seems like drivers could use more of a refresher on the rules of the road, though, because out of 365 crashes in the precinct that mostly covers Rockaway, 143 were chalked up due to “driver inattention/distraction” and 141 were from a combination of other driver screw ups. Pedestrian or cyclist error was a factor in just one (1) crash, making the odds lower than someone saying, “Nah, I actually don’t want a nutcracker.”

114th Precinct (Long Island City-Jackson Heights)

In the 114th Precinct, they’re not big on #bikeNYC, but they are big on photo ops that suggest Vision Zero is all about reminding cyclists and pedestrians they’re on their own if a driver slams a car into them. Out of 2,162 crashes, a melange of 1,010 driver mistakes were a factor in, “driver inattention/distraction” was a factor in 712 and pedestrian or cyclist error is a factor in just 15 crashes.

111th Precinct (far eastern Queens)

Credit where it’s due here: The 111th Precinct managed to tweet about #bikeNYC last year while also telling inattentive drivers to keep their eyes on the road. Maybe they can give some lessons to the rest of the precincts.

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