10 October 2017

Are We 19 Percent More Lawless Than We Were Last Year?

Are New York City cyclists committing 19 percent more traffic violations than they were last year?

As of 1 October, the New York Police Department handed out 23,452 summonses to cyclists in 2017.  During the same nine-month period in 2016, cyclists in the Big Apple were issued 18,991 summonses.

"Ticket blitzes" are a common topic of conversations I have with other cyclists in this town.  Of course, the NYPD--like just about every other police department--denies that its members engage in such practices, or are under pressure to meet quotas.  It does, however, seem that we are ticketed en masse over certain hours, days or weeks.

It also seems that we are ticketed disproportionately compared to drivers.  I take that back:  There is evidence of this.  Officers often say that, under the law, we are operating vehicles and are therefore subject to the same regulations.  They are mostly correct about that. However, I have witnessed many drivers running red lights or talking on their phones while driving.  I have never seen any pulled over and ticketed.  Drivers routinely "gun it" through yellow signals in the intersection nearest my apartment,  and none ever seem to be penalized for it.  

cyclists, nyc, biking nyc, bike tickets
Photo by Billie Grace Ward

And their actions can have far more serious consequences--but not to themselves, usually.  The metal surrounding them offers protection--to them, but not the cyclists, pedestrians (some of whom are residents of a senior center on the corner) or anyone else who happens to be on the outside.

Also, many cyclists feel "targeted" by the police.  I know I did when I was summonsed last year in Harrison:  The cop, on a motorcycle, followed me for about a kilometer to the intersection where I was charged with pedaling through a red light. The fact that it was near the end of the month and the officer told me to plead "not guilty" and just happened to be at the front desk when I appeared in court leads me to think that as a cyclist, I was simply an easy mark.  And, I am sure, other cyclists in New York City and other places are ticketed for that reason alone.

Or it could just be that the NYPD is under some mandate to raise 19 percent more revenue than it raised last year?  Who knows?


  1. While i cannot speak to the NYPD's practices, i do know that certain jurisdictions in my area (greater Chicago & collar counties) do target cyclists heavily. One example in my experience was a county sheriff's officer who shadowed one club's century ride and trolled four-way stop sign intersections on quiet rural back roads (with open prairie sightlines)while ignoring obviously speeding drivers on the state highways on the route. He also followed groups and ticketed for 2-abreast riding (it's legal in this state, BTW.)i believe he wrote over 50 tickets that day for $75 a pop.
    In Chicago, the PD will arbitrarily enforce in more "upscale" areas, often at the behest of a precinct committeeman or other ward heeler. i cannot remember the last time i saw a CPD officer pull over a speeding or cell phone using driver.
    Cyclists are easy prey for lazy cops who need to fill their quotas. Oh, and yes, they DO have quotas.

  2. "To Protect and to Serve", yeah right, missed out "Our Own Good"!

    Lost respect for the police from an early age and have always felt that their attitude was against the public and for their own benefit...

    1. The CPD's vehicles carry the motto "We preserve and protect." This is often paraphrased as "We
      observe and collect."

    2. Correction: The motto cited is actually "Serve and Protect." We apologise for the error.

  3. Mike and Coline--Nothing in my experience contradicts what you say.