Crackdown! City hitting cyclists with twice as many tickets

Crackdown! City hitting cyclists with twice as many tickets
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Cops are slapping cyclists with nearly double the number of traffic tickets in the wake of a “crackdown” on rogue bikers in Brooklyn.

Officers wrote at least 695 bicycle summonses in the borough during the month of February — compared to just 375 in the same period last year — with cops citing “pedestrian safety” as the impetus for the booming ticket blitz.

But critics on two-wheelers — straight-laced commuters, bad boys on fixed gears and bike shop owners among them — say there hasn’t been enough outreach or accident data to suggest a need for enforcing rules that police once simply ignored.

“It comes as a real shock,” said Erin Quirk, who claims to be a cautious cyclist who was nonetheless ticketed for running a red light on Ashland Place near Myrtle Avenue on Dec. 16.

“I ride my bike everyday; I made a judgment call — and I don’t think I was taking an extraordinary risk,” she said, claiming that the light was yellow. “If they’re going to enforce laws they never did before, they should give us a warning.”

Quirk fought the $190 ticket in court, but lost.

By law, bicycles are treated like cars — and a rogue cyclist can also rack up tickets for riding on the sidewalk or against the flow of traffic.

The summons figures released to The Brooklyn Paper this week are the first tangible evidence that the NYPD’s crackdown against cyclists — announced in January — is more than just a collection of anecdotes from annoyed peddlers.

The crackdown comes at an awkward time for the Bloomberg Administration, which has spent much of the past two years encouraging cycling by painting hundreds of miles of new bike lanes.

As a result, more New Yorkers are cycling than ever. In 2009, the bicycle advocacy group Transportation Alternatives estimated that more than 236,000 people bike in the five boroughs — 28 percent more than the year before.

But the result has been a bikelash; new lanes have become hotly contested as pedestrians and drivers seek to have the pendulum swing back to their mode of transportation. On the Prospect Park West bike lane, for example, opponents complain that it has made the boulevard less safe for pedestrians.

The crackdown was needed because of a rise in bicycle accidents and to ensure “pedestrian safety,” said a police spokeswoman, but the city has not released any data to back up the assertion that more enforcement is needed.

As a result, cyclists are skeptical of the effort, insisting that the tickets are just a way for the city rake in cash and show it is serious about making cyclists abide by the rules of the road.

“They’re probably thinking it’s payback time,” said David Dixon, owner of Dixon’s Bicycle Shop in Park Slope. “I bet you the captain’s got a bug up under his ass.”

Dixon says customers are constantly complaining about “silly” tickets. But some tales from the crackdown show the need for enforcement and police restraint.

Early in the ticket blitz, for example, one man got three tickets from a single incident on Union Avenue near S. Third Street in Williamsburg: One for riding on the sidewalk, another for riding against traffic — and the last for mouthing off to the officer who stopped him in the first place.

“I know it’s a safety issue,” said Tejas Singh, 26. “But three friggin’ tickets? For riding a bike?”

Erin Quirk got a ticket for running a red light on Ashland Place and Myrtle Avenue, part of a citywide crackdown.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini