Bike Ticket Update

Friday, May 27, 2011

Alex Goldmark, reporter for Transportation Nation, discusses his efforts to map bike ticketing and what you need to know about biking rules.

Check out the map:



Alex Goldmark

Comments [56]

Sonia from Prospect Heights

Casey's video of ticket

Jun. 09 2011 11:22 AM

After listening to the podcast of this show, I'm thinking the best solution is to stop biking to work, go back to the SUV, drive to the gym, take spin classes, and then drive to work. Although a very cautious biker, I almost never wait at red lights during my 6am commute through industrial Brooklyn. Tickets for not having a bell? And PSA's encouraging the masses to engage in name-calling when bikers break the rules? It's time to help the smog spike to a point that will lead to appreciation of those biking rather than contempt and an absence of common sense.

May. 30 2011 06:14 AM
ileen from uws

Are children allowed to ride their bikes on the sidewalk? At what age does it change to make them switch to the street? What about adults riding with their children? I have seen many families (or maybe the same family many times) riding down my block, sometimes single file, sometimes 2 x 2, Are the parents breaking the law riding with their kids?

May. 27 2011 12:56 PM
Bruce from Murray Hill

On a daily basis, the biggest danger to me in my neighborhood seems to be delivery guys going the wrong way in traffic or running lights. I proposed making the delivery person, the manager, and the business all responsible for the fine. And then triple the fine when it comes down to a 'commercial' violation. Take the profit motive out of blind-siding pedestrians? And as someone who owns a bicycle but stopped using it as a mode of transportation upon returning to NYC some sixteen years ago because everyone had gone NUTS, bicycle riders do have a tendency to be self-righteous gits. But then pedestrians need to remember that the lights are there for a reason. Oh, right, and stop talking on the damn phone while you are jaywalking. It only proves how stupid you are.

May. 27 2011 12:13 PM
Al from Kensington

I live on Ocean Pkwy in Brooklyn. There is a bike lane on OP. The sidewalks in my neighborhood are overun with delivery men on bicycles. They never have lights at night. Rarely reflectors. Worse yet, most of the Chinese restaurant delivery men are now using electric bikes which are fast, silent, and heavy. They are not registered as motorized vehicles, as required by the law. I was hit by
one last month while crossing a dark side street. No light on the bike, driver dressed in black. Both my wife and I have had near missed while walking our dog on the sidewalks.
Why are bicycle dellverymen riding on the sidewalk or on the wrong side of the street or against traffic on one way streets never ticketed by the cops??? Is it possible that orders are being issued from on high not to ticket deliverymen violating every possible traffic rule? Orders coming from the NYPD brass or even the Mayor’s office? What does it take to get these guys off of our sidewalks?

May. 27 2011 11:36 AM
Christopher Jensen from Kensington, Brooklyn

PART 2: (Please read the comment below first, as it is part one. Ironic that WNYC, which claims to celebrate the longer narrative, limits comments to 3000 characters)

The best part of my traffic court experience came when I went to pay my $150 fine. The clerk, a very nice lady, said this to me:

“All of the sudden we are seeing all these bicycle tickets! It used to be we would see one or two a month -- now we see hundreds of them! I don’t understand what they are doing, putting in all these bike lanes and then issuing all these tickets!”

What I really appreciated about this woman’s insight is how it sheds light on a fundamental disconnect that exists in New York City between transportation policy and transportation enforcement. I am so thankful for all of the work that the Department of Transportation has done to improve cycling infrastructure, but police enforcement is ridiculously out of touch with these changes. Bike lanes are used for double parking all the time and the cops do little about it! Can we please make Janette Sadik-Khan the next police commissioner?

Decades ago it was a victory for cyclists to be subjected to the same rules of the road as cars because with this responsibility came our first rights to the road. But the present transportation landscape has changed. Those who drive motor vehicles are a social liability, and those who cycle are altruists: the need to reduce traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions, and pollution should drive us towards supporting cycling and discouraging motor vehicle use. One way to do this is to change the rules of the road for cyclists. What I learned in my traffic hearing (and probably already understood but did not want to face) is that the law is algorithmic. The law does not care about your good intentions, about the sacrifices you make, or about the benefits you provide. Police are given laws to enforce and make decisions about when to enforce those laws. Once you are in the system, the algorithm rules. So we need a new algorithm. I suggest a simple three-part “rules of the road” for cyclists:

Cyclists must yield to pedestrians who have the right of way. Failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, or any other form of reckless cycling that endangers pedestrians, should be subject to heavy fines;
A red light is like a stop sign for cyclists; and
A stop sign is like a yield sign for cyclists.

All other normal rules (such as those preventing wrong-way riding) can stay the same. These new rules acknowledge that cyclists pose a far lower risk to all road users and are so valuable to our city that they ought not be subject to the rules imposed on a 3000 lb. car traveling at 30 miles per hour.

May. 27 2011 11:33 AM
Christopher Jensen from Kensington, Brooklyn


I just finished listening to this segment and I have to say: it is rare for the Brian Lehrer show to be missing the big picture, but certainly on this story you have failed to present the issue in a balanced manner.

In this smaller story of “pedestrians versus bikes” we seem to be ignoring the bigger menace of vehicular traffic. It is because our streets have been so thoroughly surrendered to vehicles that we have this present-day “conflict” between bicyclists and pedestrians. If our roads were converted over to mixed use there would be far fewer user conflicts (although driving a car in New York City would become less easy -- sounds good to me).

I received a ticket on April 4th for making a left out a left-side bike lane on Dekalb Avenue onto St. James Place while the light was still red. While I was not conforming to the letter of the law, I was also clearly not creating any hazard: there were no pedestrians in the area at the time and I yielded to cars with the right of way. Why was I ticketed? I think it was mostly because I was an easy mark: stupidly I did this right in front of a police car. Now I check for cops before making the so-called “Idaho stop”, which is probably increasing my chance of missing dangers in front of me.

By the way, moments after I received my ticket I passed the same officers who were stopping for a smoke break on Lafayette Avenue while cars whizzed by at over 40 miles per hour. This is what galls cyclists: cars get a pass. We assume that cars will run red lights, speed, and block bike lanes. Boys will be boys and cars will be cars. The 88th Precinct (home of the officers that issued my ticket) makes a policy out of allowing their officers to park squad cars in the Dekalb bike lane because “there is not enough room for parking”.

Yesterday was my hearing in traffic court. I appeared, pleading not guilty on the basis of the fact that the ticket was arbitrary and discriminatory. I did not contest the officer’s depiction of my behaviors which of course got me a guilty verdict. I then argued that I should have a drastically reduced fine because my offense presented a drastically lower public menace. I had a pretty elaborate pair of rationales for lowering my fine, one based on my lower momentum and one based on the lower overall cost to society of cycling-related accidents. The judge was nice enough to let me make these arguments before telling me that there was minimum fine that he had to impose, which was $150 (by the way, there was some misinformation on today’s show regarding the base fine for bicycle red light violations, which is actually only $190. You are foolish to pay $270!). I saw the judge’s reduction of my fine as minimally supportive, but in the end the law was clearly not in favor of either my “not guilty” plea or my argument that applying car fines to bike offenses is ridiculous.

May. 27 2011 11:29 AM
Mary from Brooklyn

I'm happy that bikes are becoming more visible and these laws legitimize their presence as traffic vehicles, but bikes are not cars and should not be ticketed as such. Of course people shouldn't ride on the sidewalk, but tickets for going through a red light at a deserted intersection in the middle of the night? Really? This is a step in the right direction, but incomplete in its execution. It won't be complete until bikes are recognized as vehicles in their own right and cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists recognize and respect that.

Also, where are all the motorists getting ticketed for parking in the bike lane or turning into a bike lane without looking at an intersection? Or where are all the pedestrians getting ticketed for using the bike lane as an extension of the sidewalk? We're all in this together guys. Treat each other with respect.

May. 27 2011 11:09 AM
SivYon from Brooklyn

In reference to ticketing bikers in Central Park early last summer:

I am a bicyclist and I commute with my bike on a daily basis. I use to work at the Delacorte Theater and witnessed the ticketing. IT WAS NECESSARY!

The bicyclists do not yield to pedestrians at the busiest of lighted intersections. They dodge baby carriages, knock people over, and while the ticketing dragnet was up, the parks department had to set up a line of officials to get the riders to stop. Bicyclists would not stop when told. And I witnessed a few occurrences where officials had to physically grab the bike in motion (almost clothes-lining the offender).
...and, in my opinion, this was justified.
Bicyclists have had little to no support from law enforcement protecting their rights...even their lanes. As a result, there are a lot of spoiled bicyclists suffering from road rage and an indifference to safety.
Bringing the laws that apply to everyone back into perspective, is necessary for some us. It is unfortunate that it takes a financial punishment to enforce this and not common sense.
That being said: I would love to see police ticketing cars for parking in bike lanes (in a fantasy world, this would include all of the official vehicles as well :) ). As for the pedestrians who walk--on a regular basis--in bike lanes or in front of us while crossing the street against the light: please (GOD) ticket them. They have no idea how dangerous this arrogance is to not only the bicyclists, but themselves as well.

May. 27 2011 11:03 AM
Stephen Loges from Manhattan

I was mowed down by a bicyclist while taking a walk in Central Park on Thanksgiving Day a few years ago. I was crossing WITH the light and IN the crosswalk. There were dozens of witnesses. I spent the afternoon in Lenox Hill Hospital's emergency room which cost me dearly. A few days later when I was able to walk, I tried to get the cyclists name to demand reimbursement for my medical expenses. It turns out that New York's Finest didn't even bother to get the guy's name or file an accident report.

A bicyclist can be just as dangerous as anyone driving a car. Traffic laws are on the books for a reason and should be enforced. NO EXCEPTIONS.

May. 27 2011 10:53 AM
Vern from Harlem

My officemate just told me that bicycle tickets count as moving violations can lead to POINTS ON YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE -- increased insurance, arrest, etc. Is that true?

May. 27 2011 10:52 AM
Bob Harley from Brooklyn

I spent my teen years living in Holland and I biked everywhere. Biking at night without a light would earn one a ticket. I am terrified as I drive my car in NY at night and see shadowy bikers (mostly at that hour delivery people) moving in all directions, often the wrong way on one way streets. I fear for them getting severely injured and I fear for myself lest I hit one.

May. 27 2011 10:51 AM
rose-ellen from jackson heights

More of the erosions of "we're a nation of laws" since the new mellenium.If enough people don't like the laws the authorities may or may nort enforce them.Like if enough people don't want a muslim on their plane,he gets thrown off or if enough people want to protect illigals they create sancturary cities wwith impunity from the fed gov't. or if enough people want to enforce no smoking in public it gets enforced other wise not.More and more we're becoming a nation of people[and their whims or how loud a group is] not of laws.[I thought the point of obeying a traffic law no matter what the actual circumstance on the ground was, is to habitualize people and thereby minimize mistakes and therefore accidents.The new millenium is truely becoming the age of the people -not governemnts and apparently not even laws.

May. 27 2011 10:51 AM
Chrissy Rossettie

There's a strip of Bushwick Avenue by the Myrtle intersection which is such a death trap that there's really no way to ride in the street during traffic without getting hit (not to mention the giant potholes that have given me a flat more than once). I've been run off the road and onto the sidewalk many times and have come close to getting hit several times. I choose to ride on the sidewalk in this area and if I ever get a ticket I will protest it on the grounds that there simply isn't another safe option. I shouldn't have to walk my bike for 6 blocks, either. If the city doesn't want me riding on the sidewalk in that area they should do something about making the street a place for people to ride without having to take their lives in their hands.

May. 27 2011 10:51 AM
Brian from brooklyn!

NYCDOT has the bike rule on the website

bell law is there. didn't know that one either! looks like i'll be getting one this weekend. maybe a horn

May. 27 2011 10:48 AM
Phil from Park Slope

A dutch guy told me that in the Netherlands, drivers are automatically responsible for the medical costs if they are in an accident with a cyclist, and this is the main thing that keeps people safe. That sounds like a great idea!

May. 27 2011 10:47 AM

This show points out the big problem: More bikes, no education. It would be as if you gave out driver's licenses without people knowing the law and the reasons for the laws

May. 27 2011 10:46 AM
Fuva from Harlemworld

This is making biking way too complicated and in the process, may discourage it. Safety shoudl be a concern, but a bike is just NOT a car. Gimme a break....The kids/ teens around my block on dirt bikes are now even more vulnerable to the NYPD.

May. 27 2011 10:46 AM

The problem with this idea of the "idaho stop", is that it is essentially creating a situation in which the law is obeyed and disobeyed at the discretion of the biker. No one EVER heads into an intersection, or makes any decision about riding, intending to have an accident, and yet it happens all the time. I have been almost hit as a pedestrian and I have almost hit cyclists while driving who barrel through intersections while talking on the phone, or speed biking in the zone and think there are no cars but in fact they are just in their own world and completely ignoring not only laws but common sense, and the rights of others to use the roads without incident or danger.

Anecdote: I once was in the middle of making a turn in my vehicle and a biker snaked in front of me. I narrowly avoided hitting him but the miss was so close I followed him and said, "do you realize you just narrowly missed getting killed?" He smirked at me and said, " What can I say I like to live dangerously". This attitude is exactly why it is very important to insist that everyone---bikers included---observe traffic protocols.

May. 27 2011 10:46 AM
Vern Ballard from Harlem

My officemate just told me that bicycle tickets count as moving violations can lead to POINTS ON YOUR DRIVERS LICENSE -- increased insurance, arrest, etc. Is that true?

May. 27 2011 10:45 AM

Section 1236. Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.

(b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.

May. 27 2011 10:45 AM
tim from long island

if a pedestrian is walking, and about to step into the crosswalk, is the pedestrian responsible for knowing whether or not a cyclist approaching is antici0pating the need to stop for the pedestrian about to enter the crosss walk?

May. 27 2011 10:45 AM
Adam from Queens

Recently I was crossing the pedestrian/bike path near the Intrepid with a toddler. I was in a cross walk and two cyclists raced by within inches, screaming at us to watch where we were going. When I tried to point out that we had the right of way it was too late they were gone, they never slowed down.

May. 27 2011 10:44 AM
adelle from UWS Manhattan

When so bicyclists receive a ticket vs. a summons?
I received the latter for not using the bicycle path, although I WAS riding with the flow of traffic on the right side of the street and needed to make a right hand turn, whilst the path was on the left side. (Columbus Ave between 87th and 86th. So I must appear in front of a judge? ACK!

May. 27 2011 10:44 AM
Harvey Hells Kitchen

I'm not against bike riders but as a pedestrian in a heavily trafficked neighborhood, I think it is only fair that bike riders be fined for riding on sidewalks. I don't walk where vehicles run, why shouldn't a vehicle be fined when they run where I walk.

May. 27 2011 10:44 AM
Maarten from Dordrecht, Netherlands

Interesting to hear about the high amount for the tickets for not having a bell, or for running a red light. I used to live in NJ, but live in my home country the Netherlands now (speaking of bicycle nation??). Here, we have separate traffic rules for bicyclers.

And to answer a question of your guest about bells: yes, there are rules for them, and there should be. Dodging pedestrians in Dutch city centers is just craziness without one....

Just check out the Dutch regulations on that, as background!

May. 27 2011 10:44 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I know you said earlier that most of the tickets have been issued in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but not in my part of Brooklyn (Midwood/Marine Park). We have a plethora of people riding bicycles on sidewalks, which I hate. The sidewalks are narrow enough without bicycles knocking into pedestrians.

Perhaps the City should emphasize teaching bicycle safety in schools, which is where I learned it when I was in elementary school. I learned when I was 9 or 10 the bicycle rules of the road, including turn signals, stop signals, riding on the right side of the road, etc.

Perhaps the City should also provide the same information to people when they go for their drivers' licenses. That way, they all know and can teach their friends and their children.

I think that the main problem now with the ticketing of bicycles is that not enough people have knowledge of the bicycle safety rules and that the City is currently enforcing them. The City should, at the very least, take the responsibility of informing the citizens of its rules before ticketing blitzes begin.

May. 27 2011 10:43 AM
Bef With an F from Crown Heights, Bklyn

Cyclists forget that they are, in fact, a moving vehicle, and not just a pedestrian who happens to have a bicycle strapped to them.

As an aggressive pedestrian, cyclists should be glad I haven't stepped in front of them purposely. Yet.

May. 27 2011 10:43 AM
Heidi from Forest Hills, NY

I ride in Queens on the sidewalk with my two small children, ages 6 and 10. It would be dangerous to have them ride in the road. Can I get ticketed for this?

May. 27 2011 10:43 AM
Jan Braverman from North Jersey

Exceptions to red light rules are for terminally impatient cyclists who ride bikes solely to get somewhere faster as opposed to health or ecological reasons. For these people, the imposition of vehicle laws is trampling on their rights. The police cannot tell them to waste their valuable time at stop lights.

May. 27 2011 10:43 AM
darby rosengren from helsinki finland

Hi! A biker in Helsinki where you MUST have a bell to warn when approaching from behind for walkers, prams, skaters, etc to move to the right...seems self-evident. Also, of course, a light, helmet...

May. 27 2011 10:43 AM


May. 27 2011 10:43 AM
mw from nyc

i believe the onus is on the bicyclist to make sure you ride safe for all and abide by the rules of course.

but how about the pedestrians who cause obstacles to bikers? standing in bike lanes. not following street signs. etc

May. 27 2011 10:43 AM
Stephen from Manhattan

You show me 100 bicyclists who says they stop at red lights, never ride on the sidewalk, and always yield to pedestrians, and I'll show you 100 liars. Bicyclists should be licensed, period, and made to obey ALL traffic laws regardless of time of day or amount of traffic.

May. 27 2011 10:43 AM
brandon from midtown

I received a ticket last week on prince street in soho. There was a cab parked in the bike lane. As I rode around it I tapped the hood to remind the driver that he stopped in the bike lane. Who was in the cab? A couple of angry cops. I was written up for not having reflectors, and not riding in the bike lane. Two hours later, while riding up lafayette I went around another cab and was once again stopped and written up for not riding in the bike lane.

May. 27 2011 10:42 AM
Phil from Park Slope

Unfortunately, applying laws designed for cars to bikes doesn't make sense, and your definitive statement that bikers will be safer by following all the laws to the letter is simply not true. It leads to bikes and cars in conflicts at every intersection. People don't follow the laws not because they are "jerks" but in the interest of self preservation.

Cyclists are expected to ride in the road with cars (unlike peds) but are not allowed to take a whole lane--and no matter who is at fault they will always be the injured party in a collision with a car or a car door.

May. 27 2011 10:42 AM
hannah from Prospect Heights

Cabbies put people at far greater risk with their aggressive driving. And yet how often are these dangerous member of the road targeted? Pedestrians are rarely killed by bikers, but very often by cars. The focus is wrong if our goal is safety.

May. 27 2011 10:42 AM
Marian from Berlin, Germany

I listen to the show from Berlin, and I am envious of the American idea that pedestrians have the right of way. Ha! It's bikes amok here. Bikes on the sidewalk is the norm, going either direction. This despite the fact that most streets have a bike lane. Sometimes there is a designated bike lane on the sidewalk, but they are not in it! On the sidestreets, they ride almost exclusively on the sidewalk. If a cyclist must swerve from the bike lane to avoid hitting me because *I did not pay attention* I can be sued if the cyclist gets hurt and likely will be. When you cross the street you have to linger on either side till all the bikes go by. Parents seem to teach their kids not to look out for pedestrians, and nothing ever changes! I support cycling but pedestrians here are at the cyclists' mercy.

May. 27 2011 10:41 AM
Jonathan from Midtown West

I hope ticketing really does ramp up. I am sick of bicyclists runnings lights, screaming and ringing their bells like it's your fault that the walk sign is green.

May. 27 2011 10:41 AM

How common are tickets for riding the wrong way. After motorists opening their doors without looking, head-on near-misses with cyclists going the wrong way are almost the greatest annoyance I face when I ride.

May. 27 2011 10:41 AM
Amy from Manhattan

The caller who didn't have a bell said the cop told him he needed a mechanical turn signal, not just to signal w/his arm. Can Alex Goldmark comment on this?

May. 27 2011 10:41 AM

The red light fines were made to deter cars for stopping. There should be a separate statute for bicycles, no question.

May. 27 2011 10:39 AM

Why do bikers believe that they should be above the law? If I am driving and go through a red light, despite the fact that there are no other cars on the road, I will be ticketed.

May. 27 2011 10:39 AM
clk from manhattan

I walk four to five miles every day and I have been almost hit by bikes several times in the last few months. What is most upsetting is that rarely do you get a "sorry," or anything other than a sneer or a profanity. This happens even when they are traveling the wrong way on a one way street or they are about to go through a redlight.

May. 27 2011 10:39 AM
Yola from 125th street

My fiance bicycled to an appointment the last week on 125th Street, on a quiet portion leading up to the bike path along the Hudson River. On the way there, he noticed that there was a cop car sitting there. On the way back, he passed a stop sign on his bicycle , and was pulled over and ticketed. Only too late, he realized it was a trap set up specifically to target bicycles in a place where there are virtually no pedestrians.

May. 27 2011 10:38 AM
Phil from Park Slope

Unfortunately, applying laws designed for cars to bikes doesn't make sense, and your definitive statement that bikers will be safer by following all the laws to the letter is simply not true. It leads to bikes and cars in conflicts at every intersection. People don't follow the laws not because they are "jerks" but in the interest of self preservation.

Cyclists are expected to ride in the road with cars (unlike peds) but are not allowed to take a whole lane--and no matter who is at fault they will always be the injured party in a collision with a car or a car door.

May. 27 2011 10:38 AM
Janine from Manhattan

I would like to see how many were ticketed for riding their bikes on sidewalks. I think this is the most dangerous to pedestrians and it's the infraction I see most.

May. 27 2011 10:38 AM
carolita from nyc

More cyclists need to be ticketed for riding on the sidewalk. I am not the only person I know who has been run over by a cyclist. You have to look behind you both ways in Inwood before you think of "switching lanes" on a sidewalk here. They could at least be required to use bells. I bought a lot of 25 bike bells this winter and I give them out to every bike messenger who delivers food to my door.

May. 27 2011 10:38 AM
Alan from Manhattan

Wouldn't you have to give tickets to pedestrians as well who cross the street against the light? The number of people who do that far out number cyclists who do the same - Alan

May. 27 2011 10:37 AM
Cameron Page from Crown Heights Brooklyn

I prefer no rights and no responsibilities. Remove all bike lanes and let me go through red lights safely. I will get where I'm going faster. I prefer the wild west to a cage

May. 27 2011 10:36 AM
boo from brooklyn

am i under the wrong impression that red lights are comparable to a stop sign for cyclists? i thought if you stopped and looked and it was clear that it was okay to go through, not wait for the duration. is this wrong?
thank you

May. 27 2011 10:36 AM

I just returned from Amsterdam and we could learn a lot from them. Bikes, cars, and pedestrians only work if all three groups obey the law. People do not jaywalk in Amsterdam. Bikes do not run lights. It works

May. 27 2011 10:36 AM
David from Brooklyn

I would be nice to see time of day in the ticket details as well.

May. 27 2011 10:34 AM
Freda Moon from The East Side of the Prospect Park Loop Road

My husband and I were ticketed for taking the road through Prospect Park after 1am. While I understand the park itself is closed at that time, it didn't occur to us that we weren't allowed to ride on the roads that circle the park. It strikes me as crazy that we'd be forced to ride on the heavily trafficked and very dangerous Flatbush Ave. to get home. Is this really about safety?

May. 27 2011 10:33 AM

Is there any data about whether there has been any increase in ticketing of vehicles and pedestrians for blocking/misusing bike lanes? This is never going to be fair until they start holidng cars and people who block, stand, and run/walk in bike lanes accountable as well.

May. 27 2011 10:33 AM

I'm detecting a bias in this report. Tickets are for infractions of the law. And the law is there to make traffic safe. When a biker runs a red light, he not only endangers himself, but the pedestrians who are crossing with the light, too.

To just talk about the tickets makes it sound like this is just harassment - this is about safety!

May. 27 2011 10:32 AM

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