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Leading Pedestrian Intervals

Cyclist Takes NYPD to Court Over Improper Red Light Tickets

12:00 AM EST on December 13, 2023

Photo: Josh Katz|

Sometimes you gotta sue for what’s right.

It's getting so that you have to sue the city to get the cops to start following the law.

A cyclist who was wrongly ticketed by a police officer for properly going through a traffic light when she had the "Walk" signal has sued the city to dismiss the ticket — and get the NYPD to stop writing up other cyclists who are taking advantage of a 2019 law allowing them to get a head start on drivers on a leading pedestrian interval.

“The law changed four years ago — and everyone caught up except the NYPD and the Department of Motor Vehicles,” said Christopher Greene of Vaccaro Law, which is representing plaintiff Andrea Adleman. “They need to be reminded what the law is so cyclists don't continue to receive tickets for doing what they are instructed to do.”

According to the lawsuit, Adleman was cycling up Sixth Avenue in Manhattan in the bike lane on June 7, 2022, when she legally crossed 41st Street on the pedestrian walk signal while the traffic light for cars was red.

“This is not disputed,” the suit says.

The intersection where Andrea Adleman says she was unfairly ticketed.

Nevertheless, Police Officer James Mariconi of Midtown South Precinct, wrote her up for the alleged infraction. Adleman explained to the cop that she was just following the law, but he wasn’t buying it. 

“The officer’s answer was, ‘That’s for pedestrians,'” she said. 

Adleman fought the ticket, but it was upheld in April by an administrative judge who also was unaware of the 2019 law.

“This is a violation. You have to operate a bike like a car,” the hearing officer said, according to the transcript. "You can't go through red lights."

Adleman's only recourse was to pursue the matter as part of a so-called Article 78 lawsuit, asking the court to not only toss out her own conviction but also to direct the NYPD and DMV to learn the rules and stop improperly ticketing cyclists, said Greene.

It's possible that the city will decide to just settle the case out of court and agree to follow the law that was passed back in 2019 — a decision that would give it more teeth to be enforced, according to civil rights attorney Keegan Stephan, from the firm Beldock Levine & Hoffman.

"Unfortunately it's not uncommon to have to sue the NYPD to get it to just follow the written law. Once you have the court ruling ... [the NYPD will] not only liable for not following the law, but also liable for violating court order," he said.

The city first introduced the new setup for pedestrians in 2017 and then extended the safety benefit to cyclists two years later with a law carried by then-City Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

And it’s about time that cops read their own patrol guides, said Greene, pointing to the city’s own literature and graphics included in the lawsuit instructing cyclists to travel with the pedestrian walk signal.

“This is not a unique problem. It’s happened to many others, and it needs to stop. It’s simply wrongful conduct. Nobody likes to be pulled over by the police,” he said. It's unclear how many cyclists have gotten these unjust tickets, nor can it be determined how many cyclists simply paid the tickets rather than fighting.

It’s not the first time officers have failed to follow the laws they’re sworn to uphold, routinely slapping riders with tickets for following the LPI.

But the incompetency doesn’t stop there. Streetsblog reported last year that both cops and judges with the DMV were insisting that the law that’s been on the books since 2019 didn’t actually exist.

The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment, and the DMV declined to comment on pending litigation.

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