By Thomas Tracy
The city has bent over backwards to give bicyclists room to ride safely all over Brooklyn streets, and now the police department is going to make sure pedalers do it by the book.
The NYPD is preparing a massive crackdown against renegade bicyclists, promising to ticket often-overlook “vehicular offenses” like failing to obey traffic signals and signs, breaking the speed limit, tailgating, and failure to signal before turning.
“We’ll be enforcing the vehicle traffic laws as well as bicycle safety regulations,” said Deputy Inspector Milt Marmara, commanding officer of the 69th Precinct in Canarsie. “Bicyclists will have to follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles do.”
Several police sources told us Tuesday that the strict enforcement of safety and vehicle traffic laws regarding bicyclists will begin in a matter of weeks, and that bicyclists caught breaking those rules will be issued a moving violation.
Bicycle advocate groups have already 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 Sampornaro, 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.”
Transportation Alternatives has already put together a handy “cheat sheet” for bicyclists. which includes a cornucopia of rules bicyclists have been known to break without consistent retribution, including:
• Failure to yield to pedestrians
• Changing lanes without signaling
• Riding outside a bike lane (where one exists)
• Turning without signaling
Cops will also be clamping down on the infractions pedalers have been targeted in the past, like riding against traffic or on sidewalks, or not having a working white or red light on the vehicle while riding at night.
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 residents in southern Brooklyn are lashing out against the city’s daring bicycle lane program,
In October, Department of Transportation officials were nearly run out on a rail as they told Community Board 18 about plans to bring bicycle lanes to E. 94th and E. 95th streets in Canarsie. Earlier in the year, residents of Gerritsen Beach stopped an attempt to have bike lanes drawn on Gerritsen Avenue.
But cops say there’s another reason why this crackdown’s begun: Bicycle accidents are on the rise and people are worried.
“It’s a safety concern, we’re taking too many bike related accidents,” according to one police source, who couldn’t provide us with any hard data about borough-wide bicycle accidents “The public feels that we are not strict enough [against bicyclists].”
Police brass say 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.
Marmara said that most of the bicyclists riding around Canarsie are teenagers or local delivery people, so he doesn’t have a whole lot to enforce.
And even in bike-friendly Downtown Brooklyn, where many two-wheel it back and forth to work, entire platoons of officers won’t be dispatched to maintain an orderly commute.
“This is a bicycle centric neighborhood, so I’d say that a majority of the bicyclists here abide by the rules,” said Lt. Patrick Diskin of the 78th Precinct in Park Slope. “It shouldn’t be a big problem.”
The news of the uptick in enforcement was cheered at Borough Hall, where Borough President Markowitz, who recently decried the city’s proliferation of bike lanes in song, endorsed the plan.
“Since the City views bicycling as a viable mode of transportation and is installing bike lanes to accommodate cyclists, then I obviously welcome enforcement of all traffic laws— whether you’re a motorist, pedestrian or cyclist — to keep our streets safe,” he said in a statement.