Brooklyn bike law

Councilman Steve Levin's proposed bill forces cops to investigate all serious bicycle crashes

The Brooklyn Paper
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A Williamsburg lawmaker is pushing a bill that would force police to investigate all serious car-on-bike crashes — not just ones in which cyclists lose their lives.

The legislation, put forward by Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsbu­rg), requires the NYPD to follow state law, forcing to cops to investigate collisions that result in serious physical injury, rather than just ones in which “death is likely.” It could also add hundreds of trained traffic experts to the force.

Levin said several crashes followed by botched and stalled investigations in Greenpoint, Fort Greene, and East Williamsburg prompted the proposed legislation.

“It’s vital that police investigate these cases more thoroughly,” Levin said. “Reckless drivers should know there are consequenc­es.”

The bill comes after several high-profile car-on-bike collisions in which cycling boosters claim cops made serious mistakes, including:

• The case of Michelle Matson, a Greenpoint artist who was stuck by a hit-and-run driver and suffered a broken back in October 2011. Public records indicate cops let the case go cold and did not properly investigate because there was no fatality.

• The case of Stefanos Tsigrimanis, a musician who was killed by a truck driver in Fort Greene in September 2010. Cops didn’t pursue the case until 10 days after his death because they incorrectly believed he there was no risk he would lose his life.

• The case of Clara Heyworth, a marketing director killed by a drunk driver in Fort Greene in July 2011. The District Attorney could not pursue the case, because police did not go arrive at the scene until at least three days after the crash

, limiting the amount of evidence obtained.

• The case of Mathieu Lefevre, an artist killed by a truck driver in October 2011. Cops made errors in the police report, failed to collect evidence at the scene, and are now facing a lawsuit from the victim’s family for allegedly withholding videos and documents from their investigation.

Levin’s bill comes after a recent city Council hearing proved the department’s policies are not in line with state law.

State law requires police to investigate crashes between vehicles — both car-on-car and car-on-bike accidents — when “serious physical injury” occurs.

But the NYPD’s patrolman’s handbook is not consistent with that law, noting that cops must investigate only when “death is likely.”

Levin’s bill would change that. It calls for the agency to have at least five so-called Accident Investigation Squad officers trained at each precinct, bumping up the number from 19 to 380 citywide. One such officer would be on call at all times in each precinct.

That increase in training and perhaps manpower is a step in the right direction, said Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer for Lefevre’s parents.

“It’s a wonderful idea,” he said. “Life-changing crashes deserve a meaningful assessment.”

A spokeswoman from the Police Department did not respond to requests for comment by press time, and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association says it could add unnecessary strain on an already overburdened police force.

“It’s a matter of shifting priorities and I can tell you we’re already stretched thin,” said spokesman Al O’Leary. “There are a lot of questions legislation doesn’t take into account.”

But bicycle advocates cheered the bill, which Levin must now bring before his peers in a yet-to-be scheduled Council hearing.

“Horrifying, life-changing crashes shouldn’t go unresolved,” said Michael Murphy of Transportation Alternatives.

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.
Updated 5:31 pm, July 9, 2018: Story updated to include more responses to the proposed legislation, and a link to our pals at
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Reasonable discourse

SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Sounds like a great idea but "hundreds of experts" costs millions of dollars. Where does that money come from. Also, if you give Ray Kelly hundreds of traffic experts what makes you think he won't take them and have them tracking Muslim drivers? He will take the extra head count and have them do what amuses him.
March 27, 2012, 7:43 am
DG from Brooklyn says:
Why is Levin described as a Williamsburg lawmaker? His district includes many other neighborhoods. Or does that not fit into the Brooklyn Paper's "all cyclists are Williamsburg hipsters" narrative?
March 27, 2012, 7:51 am
ty from pps says:
SwampYankee -- For the first time (I think), I actually agree with you. Ray Kelly shows time and time again how he misuses the resources entrusted with him as commissioner of the NYPD. Of course, he gets to take cover under the "terror" umbrella and various other smoke screens...
March 27, 2012, 8:13 am
mike from GP says:
Also note that this effort applies to pedestrians, as well as bicyclists.
March 27, 2012, 8:25 am
Juan from Gowanus says:
No money? What's the point of having a police department if there is no money to investigate criminal misconduct which results in serious injuries and death? That's what the police department is for.

It's preposterous to argue against training traffic accident investigators because they will supposedly target Muslims.

This is good legislation, long overdue.
March 27, 2012, 9:03 am
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
They have the resources to investigate now. Forget the "hundreds of traffic experts" do we really want NYPD demonstrating, and enforcing, their expertise on traffic? For better or worse, let DOT continue to be the experts
March 27, 2012, 9:09 am
Tom Elliott from Washington, DC says:
So three of the four examples of why this law is necessary involve death -- which already call for police investigations. Levin is able to cite just one example of a bike-on-car accident that should have been investigated. Yet he is nonetheless calling for 361 new traffic cops to enforce it. If NYC hires 361 new cops every time something falls through the cracks, I suspect the consequences will be vastly different than what he's intending.
March 27, 2012, 9:55 am
boof from brooklyn says:
If the problem is that there's not enough money to police the drivers of motorized vehicles, the answer is clearly that drivers are not paying enough to drive.

It's a no-brainer. The machines and their drivers create the danger and they should pay to mitigate it.
March 27, 2012, 10:49 am
S from PPW says:
We would never accept the NYPD not investigating gun violence or sexual assault because there isn't enough money in the budget. We would never accept the Department of Buildings refusing the investigate a crane collapse due to a lack of money.

Thank you, Steve Levin, for standing up for what is right.
March 27, 2012, 11:16 am
Peter from Park Slope says:
I have a major bone to pick with the first paragraph of this article:

"A Williamsburg lawmaker is pushing a bill that would force police to investigate all serious car-on-bike crashes — not just ones in which cyclists lose their lives."

This bill has nothing to do with bicycle-on-car crashes. It is demanding that the NYPD properly investigate *any* accident where a serious injury occurs.

The first paragraph of this article is intentionally misleading.
March 27, 2012, 11:34 am
ty from pps says:
Peter -- This is Natalie O'Neill's M.O. Create controversy and wedge issues out of everything. She has no journalistic integrity (i.e., ethics), so she makes sure to emphasize what will garner the most hits for this website. If she could somehow integrate a variation of "cyclists and bike lanes are destroying Brooklyn" into every article, she would.

For example, if there was a burglary and the getaway vehicle was a bicycle, she would write a story about "The Bicycle Bandit" and how easy access to bike lanes made his getaway easier. (Remember how the ambulance using the PPW bike lane to bypass traffic was somehow a *bad* thing??!)
March 27, 2012, 12:19 pm
da editah says:
ty, I beg to differ. I have known several reporters who wrote perfectly fine copy before and after their months at the Brooklyn Paper. However, while they were scribes there, their style changed completely. The problem is not Natalie or any of the other reporters; it is the editorial voice of the whole newspaper.
March 27, 2012, 12:47 pm
SwampYankee from runined Brooklyn says:
Gothamist was generating thousands of page hits a month on cycling stories.. They are consistently the most popular stories on their site. The Brooklyn Paper just wants a piece of that action. Just look at the comments for any cycling story. seems to be a big issue with a lot of people. I wonder how much of a campaign issue it will be come the next election?
March 27, 2012, 1:02 pm
ty from pps says:
da editah -- That's fair. Once in a while I do see glimmers of balanced reporting from Natalie O'Neill that appears like effort was taken to avoid editorializing... perhaps those were days Hersh was on vacation and the reporters were able the "get away with" actually being journalists.

I wonder if the maintains a "This is what I would have published if I could have..." portfolio if she decides to try to get a job with a slightly less yellow-colored news outlet.
March 27, 2012, 1:05 pm
Brooklynite from Brooklyn says:
I'm curious what Tal Barzilai has to say about this issue.
March 27, 2012, 1:06 pm
SwampYankee from runined Brooklyn says:
tap once if you can hear me

Do Brooklyn Paper writers get paid more for more page views?
March 27, 2012, 1:31 pm
Natalie says:

March 27, 2012, 2:04 pm
S from PPW says:
Levin's website says that he represents "Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint; parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope, Boerum Hill."

Natalie, keep tapping. Why did you describe him as a Williamsburg lawmaker?
March 27, 2012, 2:18 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off all, Natalie O'Neill doesn't deserve a personal attack no matter how much you hate her, and some of you what you mention could be seen as slander. Nevertheless, it's not the police don't have the resources, it's how they are being used. Unfortunately, they tend to be where their priorities are the most. Some of them don't care about crimes that just happen to be misdemeanors, and go after the felonies instead, because they are much more major. Also, it's very common for police to make the claim that they won't do something unless they get something like a pay raise, and increase in their pension, or even some kind of boondoggle like a bond measure that they will only use for themselves.
March 27, 2012, 4:20 pm
ty from pps says:
Thank goodness we didn't have to end the day without a dose of Tal Barlazai Wisdom! Praise him!
March 27, 2012, 5:13 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
The police in this area are divorced from the neighborhood. They are not known, they do not know what's going on. I've never seen one walk a beat. I have, however, seen Homeland Security VIPR teams in the subway, so you can take that for what it's worth.

Perhaps the local precinct would do better to maintain a relationship with their, uh, precinct. Perhaps their officers would be more successful with their, uh, jobs, if they knew their blocks and the people who lived on them.

Instead what we get are anonymous squad cars gunning through the stop lights in our area, on their way to something from somewhere, with no regard to the toddlers they may run down or families they may destroy, simply because they refuse to give a ——.

So asking them to investigate all crashes when they FAIL at that basic policing is, like, above and beyond. Never gonna happen.
March 27, 2012, 5:14 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
One important thing to remember is because the NYPD is divided by precincts, they can only go as far as their jurisdiction takes them. Once the perpetrator enters the next precinct, they can no longer go after them. This is sort of like crossing state or even county lines here. The most they can do after that is just alert the next ones to go after them when chasing. However, it has been known that cops have been accepting free things primarily because they feel underpaid ever since they were made to serve the public free of charge compared to how they were used originally hence the corruption.
March 27, 2012, 7:34 pm
ty from pps says:
OH GOD! Tal -- just stop. You are talking out of your ass... and you are WRONG, so WRONG.

"The most they can do after that is just alert the next ones to go after them when chasing." WHAT?!?! Are you nuts? That's not even close to reality, never mind truth.


Why do you keep wanting to "inform us" with the crap that spews out of your stupid stupid stupid brain.
March 27, 2012, 10:52 pm
mike from GP says:
You wouldn't know it from the article, but we are talking about NYPD Highway AIS cops here.
March 28, 2012, 1:40 am
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

You amaze me. You ignorance of the real word is only exceeded by your ability to spew.
March 28, 2012, 9 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Once again, you bike zealots have shown that once again, you attack the person rather than just simply disagreeing with the idea.
March 28, 2012, 3:02 pm
boof from brooklyn says:
That's why I always commit all my bike crimes on the Brooklyn-Queens line. Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane can't follow me over.
March 28, 2012, 3:56 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- It's one thing to disagree with an idea or opinion that is based on fact or rational thought.... it's another thing dealing with the spewing of a idiot buffoon (that's you) who is so divorced from reality that he actually thinks his comments are intelligent!!
March 28, 2012, 5:10 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

We are not attacking you. Just pointing out how little you know about what you keep typing about.
March 29, 2012, 5:09 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
Everyone, Tal has been taking his meds. He's much toned down. Let's not pile on him now and drive him into the downward spiral again. We've all been (myself included) answering him with vitriol when it's sympathy he needs. He's a sick man, haunted by bicycles. Let's band together and get him the help he needs. Tal, we're here for you, buddy. The mean bicycles can't get you if you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think positive thoughts.
March 29, 2012, 11:14 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Scott, if anyone here seems to be on some kind of medication, it's you. Nevertheless, the police investigated what happened in came to the conclusion that truck driver wasn't responsible for that cyclists death. I hope that this will set a wake up call to following the rules rather than trying to act as if they are above them. Flouting the laws is what puts them into harm's way. Once again, I have nothing against those that like to ride bicycles, it's those that like to act as if they are holier than thou that I am against. I still think that some of you bike zealots need to take same time off the internet and probably the Haterade some of you are drinking as well. Also, I suggest some anger management classes for some of you as well.
March 29, 2012, 4:14 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
Go Away Tal.

Go Away.
March 29, 2012, 7:09 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- it is amazing how little self-reflective capacity you have.
March 30, 2012, 12:13 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
You guys really need to stop drinking that Haterade and start taking some chill pills with all those personal attacks you are making.
March 30, 2012, 3:20 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
I don't hate you. I just fear that someone will take your uninformed statements seriously.
March 30, 2012, 3:30 pm
nick from brooklyn says:
law 101

If this becomes an issue and police are required to spend time (do paperwork) and the city spend money to investigate these incidents, they will seek to reduce the number of incidents (less paperwork).

Police do this by issuing summonses, and making arrests.

A person riding a bicycle is supposed to follow all traffic laws that a motor vehicle does. Cops are supposed to write you a summons for running a red light on a bike. This is the same summons that a person in a motor vehicle receives (same monetary fine)

Currently most cops don't do this. If you push cops to investigate more incidents. They will.

So what means for a cyclist is that you will get stopped and issued a summons not only for riding on the side walk, but also
-riding the wrong way down a street,
-riding outside of bike lanes,
-carrying an article w/o at least one hand on the bars,
-wearing 2 earphones attached to a audio device,
-riding a bicycle more than 30 min after sunset or 30
min before sunrise w/o front headlight and rear
-no working breaks,
-failure to stop at red traffic light,
-failure to obey traffic control device,
-more passengers on bike then seats provide,
-no reflective material,
-no helmet wile riding a bike for commercial purposes,
- riding a bike while intoxicated(this includes marijuana)
June 25, 2012, 2:54 am
nick from brooklyn says:
oh and by the way to clarify police officers can enforce laws anywhere in there "geographical area of employment". The NYPD is employed by (can you guess it) NYC.

For anyone who cant follow this means that an NYPD officer geographical area of employment is NYC (all of it).

Police officers are also encouraged to carry there firearm off duty and can make arrests off duty.

That being said most cops wont because it takes more paperwork. The arrest/summons in most cases has to be processed in the precinct where it took place. The exception being mass arrests. And every pct does paperwork differently. Why wold a cop want to spend his time on paperwork for a minor violation in a different pct. when it wont reduce the numbers in his own pct. It wont count on his eval, and is more time consuming.

Though if you make it worth it for the cop to arrest you. he will.

On a side note you really believe that if a cop sees a Roberry, murder rape etc. and is chasing a suspect there are invisible walls he cannot cross. A cop can and will chase a suspect to California if the chase takes him their. and drag the perp. back to the location of the pct where he committed the crime.

A cop can and will break any door down that a fleeing perp puts between himself/herself and the cop.
June 25, 2012, 3:21 am
nick from brooklyn says:
please educate yourself
June 25, 2012, 3:29 am
nick from brooklyn says:
and if anyone still reads books

not advertising, just please read something educate yourself a little on what you are talking about. It will make more a much better debate. a simple Google search is all it takes
June 25, 2012, 3:33 am

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