When people ask me why I’m for the NYPD’s new bicycle safety enforcement initiative that’s poised to start, I have a very straightforward answer for them: It’s going to save lives, period.
As president of the 84th Precinct Community Council, I talk to cops all the time. Just the other day I was asked to come over to the station house on Gold Street to address the 20 new cops we’ve received. I told these young officers flat out that they shouldn’t be shy about giving out tickets, because sanctioning people with tickets will ultimately save someone’s life.
I’m not anti-bike, but I follow police statistics: About 90 percent of the bicyclists killed in this city died, in part, because they were not following the rules of the road. Obviously, these deaths were tragedies and they never should have happened. But in many of these cases the bicyclists were violating the rules in some way. They were either on roads without bike lanes, going through a red light or riding the wrong way down the street. The “ghost bikes” you see in the different neighborhoods that honor these fallen bicyclists only tell half the story.
When a cop pulls a car over and gives a motorist a ticket for driving while holding his cellphone to his ear, the cop’s not being petty or cruel. He or she probably saved that person’s life because the driver won’t be so fast to talk on a cellphone the next time he or she gets behind the wheel.
The same thing pertains to bicyclists. A neighbor of mine once complained to me that he got a ticket for riding his bicycle on the sidewalk on his own block. All I could tell him was, “I don’t think you’re going to do that again.”
And it was true, he had already taken the lesson to heart — he walked his bike down the street to complain to me about the ticket!
Every single day, I drive to Borough Hall and every single day I see both motorists and bicyclists breaking one rule or another.
Often I see a bicyclist with three toddlers sitting on the back of his bike. Now, when the light is red, he waits at the crosswalk, but as soon as he feels that he’s not going to get squashed, he zips into the street — with three little babies in tow! If that’s not playing with fire, I don’t know what is.
But I bet if he got a ticket, he would think twice about jumping the light again. That’s because in the end, proper enforcement saves lives, no matter if you’re a bicyclist, a motorist or a pedestrian.
Leslie Lewis is president of the 84th Precinct Community Council.