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Cops Crack Down on Cyclists Running Red Lights

Friday, March 18, 2011

WNYC
Cyclists riding through a red light in Central Park (Alex Goldmark)

Police are cracking down on cyclists who run red lights in New York City.

The commander of the Central Park Precinct, Captain Philip Wishnia, told a crowded community meeting on Monday that, in Central Park alone, the NYPD has issued 230 tickets to cyclists since the beginning of the year.

"I do understand that for the last 15, 20, 30 years you guys and gals were cycling in the park and nothing like this was enforced," he said.

Wishnia said the NYPD started Operation Safe Cycle in January city-wide, and officers have to enforce the law in the parks just like anywhere else.

Bikes are treated as vehicles on city streets and are legally obligated to obey traffic laws. According to the figures Wishnia cited at the meeting, his officers have given more tickets to cyclists this year than to speeding cars in the park in all of 2010.

He also cited a dramatic increase in pedestrian traffic and stressed that safety for all the park visitors was his priority. Red lights are there to reduce speeds and keep traffic safe, he said.

Some cyclists are upset at the prospect of having to stop at the nearly 50 lights in the Central Park loop, and several say they've given up riding there.

Derrick Lewis used to train every day in the park but not anymore. On a cold February morning he had just put new brakes on his bike and was taking it easy.

"I took a short test ride on my bicycle and very slowly rolled through a red light and a police officer in a small three wheeled vehicle pulled me over and gave me a $270 ticket," he said.

He felt singled out as a cyclist because pedestrians aren't ticketed for jaywalking.

This idea of the singled-out cyclist has been proliferating on the city's bike blogs and local papers since rumors of a crackdown began to surface in mid-January.

Wishnia made it clear he'd support a change in the signals on the Central Park loop, or another solution if one arises, but until then, his officers have no plans to stop issuing citations. The solution, he said, lies with the legislative branch.

Politicians, including City Council members Gail Brewer and Ydanis Rodriguez, are planning to introduce a bill that would alter the stop lights to a continuous flashing yellow for cyclists during the hours when cars aren't allowed the park.

The City Department of Transportation, however, told WNYC that the flashing yellow plan would cause confusion for pedestrians about when it's safe to cross. The DOT also added that it is not considering any other plans to change the signals at this time.

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Comments [11]

Abbey from Baltimore

There are bigger ramifications of this behavior at work here, and it involves a vicious cycle of arrogance and anger. As a Baltimorian who drives a car, I can attest to an amazing amount of frustration when witnessing this new wave of cycling elitists break the law. In relation to this, I was reading this article (http://whoweam.com/2011/09/ambassador-cyclist-outlaws-2/) and it makes an astounding point: there are more drivers on the road than cyclists. These drivers vote. Ergo, an angry driver will most likely vote against legislation offering cyclists more freedom, or the construction of bike routes and bike lanes, for example. Thus, the cyclists continue their antics and nothing gets accomplished. Looking at this issue from 20,000 feet might just be one more way to improve social relations within a city, and potentially beyond.

Sep. 02 2011 03:40 PM
Abbey from Baltimore from Baltimore

There are bigger ramifications of this behavior at work here, and it involves a vicious cycle of arrogance and anger. As a Baltimorian who drives a car, I can attest to an amazing amount of frustration when witnessing this new wave of cycling elitists break the law. In relation to this, I was reading this article (http://whoweam.com/2011/09/ambassador-cyclist-outlaws-2/) and it makes an astounding point: there are more drivers on the road than cyclists. These drivers vote. Ergo, an angry driver will most likely vote against legislation offering cyclists more freedom, or the construction of bike routes and bike lanes, for example. Thus, the cyclists continue their antics and nothing gets accomplished. Looking at this issue from 20,000 feet might just be one more way to improve social relations within a city, and potentially beyond.

Sep. 02 2011 03:38 PM
dr2chase from Boston

Rule of law, sure, but unless you enforce all the laws for everyone 100% (everything, including slopping over stop lines and speeding by even 1mph), the laws should be enforced roughly in proportion to the impact of the infraction.

By that measure, this enforcement is insane. Car enforcement should be 10x or 100x stricter than bike enforcement.

By-the-way, when I say "impact", I mean on other people. If we want to go all nanny-state on the cyclists "for their own good", then we need to go all nanny-state on those drivers who don't get enough exercise (a far bigger killer than bike crashes, and one handily reduced by exercise, like biking).

Mar. 19 2011 11:36 AM
Adam from Queens, New York

Yup. I want to see pedestrians ticketed for jaywalking and walking in bicycle lanes too. Unruly pedestrians are the #1 reason why I no longer use the 1st and 2nd Avenues bike lanes and ride with traffic.

Mar. 19 2011 10:16 AM
Ben

Ticketing cyclists for running red lights while riding loops in the park is ABSOLUTELY INSANE.

Yes, it is reasonable to ask cyclists to obey the traffic laws, like cars should and pedestrians should. But ticketing them for riding loops in the park has just the opposite effect -- it gives people contempt for the laws they should otherwise be obeying.

It would be like ticketing pedestrians for jaywalking who step off the curb, even if they haven't crossed the street -- everyone does it and it isn't the problem at all.

Mar. 19 2011 12:41 AM
Philippe from Astoria

I use the park both as a cyclist and as a pedestrian. When a pedestrian, I understand that I shouldn't walk in the middle of the road and that I should always be alert when crossing the street. In the park, I don't expect bikes to stop for me at red lights. I let them pass and then cross.
Pedestrian have the whole park for their use, so why so many of them feel they need to walk in the middle of the road. When I ride my bike, I stay on the loop and don't bother pedestrians on foot paths. I expect the same consideration from them!
Ticketing cyclist for running red lights in Central Park in ludicrous!

Mar. 18 2011 06:42 PM
wkgreen from NYC

If I see one more comment about how cyclists are dangerous and arrogant I will SCREAM!!! We're talking here about the roadway in the park. Any other discussion about cyclists in the city is a VERY long topic for another day.

During non-car hours the CP loop is for linear non-motorized recreational movement and exercise in a specified direction. Anyone crossing it needs to watch where they are going. Period. The road is not a place to relax unless you happen to be a passenger in a moving carriage or pedi-cab under the control of someone else charged with being alert. If you want to let your mind wander while strolling in the park go ahead, no one is stopping you, and there are plenty of territory to do that. Meadows and lakesides abound! It’s a BIG park. As a cyclist I’m not allowed in those places, as it should be. I can’t go tearing off into the woods or up into the meandering network of foot paths. I ONLY have the road!

But please, why can I not have that one tiny piece of the park? WHY?!!

Mar. 18 2011 02:15 PM
jim

The author writes, "He felt singled out as a cyclist because pedestrians aren't ticketed for jaywalking."

This is a very strong point, if a bicycle is consider a vehicle or not and must heed the light, they should crack down on pedestrians jaywalking/crossing wherever they see fit as well then.

Too many times I have seen cyclists having the right of way and jaywalking pedestrians becoming the obstacle. So to @Bernie, they should be yelled at.

Sorry but you can't have it both ways.

Mar. 18 2011 01:57 PM
Dave

I'll give 'em enforced red lights, but I'd appreciate it if they got the big black SUVs parked in the bike line while they're at it.

Also, what happens if you get off your bike and walk it through a red light?

Mar. 18 2011 01:31 PM
Susan from Brooklyn

I as a cyclist agree that there are those that should be ticketed for their recklessness but we shouldn't all be grouped in the same category. There exists different types of drivers and pedestrians as well practicing all different levels of responsibility. One major problem - many lack common sense and for this, near collisions and accidents do happen. They should be punished. However, slowing down at a red light on a bike and continuing since there is no way that anything will happen seems to me like common sense just as any new yorker would jaywalk when the coast is clear. A bike is a bike and a car is not a bike. How can we have traffic laws that abide by both when they are not the same? There are bike laws that need to be enforced but c'mon. Let's have them make some sense!

Mar. 18 2011 11:27 AM
bernie from bklyn

cyclists- you are now paying the price for years of your arrogant, dangerous behavior on nyc streets.
i can't tell you how many times i've almost been run down by a racing cyclist when trying to cross the walkways in the parks, waling across the bklyn bridge and now just crossing the street when you guys don't heed the lights and blow past and into pedestrians.
and it doesn't help that most of you feel the need to yell at pedestrians if they don't quickly get out of your way.
more tix for cyclists, please!! citywide!

Mar. 18 2011 10:24 AM

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