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Call it a bikelash!
The NYPD has been ordered to begin a borough-wide crackdown that will hit renegade riders for often-overlooked “vehicular offenses” like failing to obey traffic signals and signs, breaking the speed limit, tailgating, and even failure to signal before turning.
Several police sources said on Tuesday that the strict enforcement of safety and vehicle traffic laws — which apply the same to cars as they do to cycles — will begin in a matter of weeks, and that bicyclists caught breaking those rules will be issued a moving violation.
Two-wheelers were stunned to hear that they had risen on the list of police priorities.
“They should focus on drivers, because frankly drivers have more potential to cause harm than cyclists do,” said Lacey Tauber, a Williamsburg resident and rider.
Cycling activist Baruch Herzfeld predicted that the enforcement policy itself will be “dangerous” and “inefficient” and could further strain relations between the city and cyclists.
“Mayor Bloomberg will have as much luck getting the NYPD to enforce these violations as he did getting the Sanitation Department to shovel this past snowstorm,” said Herzfeld.
Officially, of course, bicycle advocate groups have begrudgingly endorsed the increased enforcement — as long as every driver, in car or on bike — is treated with an even hand by police.
“Cyclists need to obey the law, just like any other street user,” said Caroline Samponaro, a spokeswoman for Transportation Alternatives. “But the NYPD needs to prioritize enforcing the dangerous behavior of all street users, whether they be cyclists or drivers.”
The crackdown comes as more and more people are turning in their Subarus for Schwinns. In 2009, the bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives estimated that more than 236,000 people bicycle across the five boroughs — 28 percent more than the year before.
At the same time, the city has continued its Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for 200 miles of new bike lanes across town in the next three years. Once that’s completed, the Department of Transportation plans to add about 50 miles of bike lane each year until 2030, when it is anticipated that the bike network will be finished.
It also comes as some Park Slopers are lashing out against the city’s bicycle lane program, most recently with protests on Prospect Park West, where the bike lane remains a lightning rod, with opponents complaining that it has made the boulevard less safe for pedestrians.
Indeed, cops say that’s the reason for the coming crackdown: Bicycle accidents are on the rise and people are worried.
“It’s a safety concern,” said one police source, who couldn’t provide any hard data about borough-wide bicycle accidents. “The public feels that we are not strict enough [against bicyclists].”
Police brass said that the public has no reason to fear that the NYPD’s new mission against errant bicyclists will hamper their ability to stop other crimes like murder, rape, muggings, burglar and iPhone thefts.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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