"Consensus" Reached to Reduce Central Park Bike Ticketing

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Cyclists running a red light in Central Park. (Alex Goldmark)

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation)

While police continue to step up enforcement of cyclists who violate New York City traffic laws around the five boroughs, Central Park cyclists may see some relief.  (If you've been ticketed, tell us about it here for a crowdsourcing project.) Two city council members, along with cycling advocates, report that a consensus was reached after a meeting with police, multiple community groups and local elected officials.

The meeting late last month was hosted by City Council Members Gale Brewer, Dan Garodnick and the Central Park Conservancy. Garodnick says, the "consensus view was that the police would continue to enforce the law, but would focus their ticketing on cyclists who speed through lights when there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk waiting to cross.” Ticketing in Central Park escalated significantly early this year, and made headlines after police made house calls to apologize to a handful or bike riders who erroneously received speeding tickets.

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He said there was "general understanding" that this was the consensus in the room, and the the police were "O.K." with the consensus.

Council Member Brewer stressed the police did not formally endorse any plan. "It's not a new law, but it could be a practice," she said. "The overall concept is: if there's a red light and there's pedestrian, the rules apply, you have to stop on a bicycle. If there's a red light and no pedestrian, you can go on," she said. She explained that all parties at the meeting discussed details like potential sight lines for seeing pedestrians and still agreed this was a workable solution. The informal agreement was arrived at after all parties cited safety as a primary concern. Pedestrians don't want cyclists whizzing past without yielding, and cyclists didn't want to sit at stop lights when nobody was there to cross. So participants at the meeting came to an agreement that it would be safe for cyclists to ride through red lights if there are no pedestrians nearby.

At the meeting were representatives from the Department of Transportation, Parks Department, the Central Park Conservancy, as well as runners groups, cycling clubs and pedestrian advocates.

The DOT has already changed the timing on the traffic signals to make it easier for cyclists to ride around the Central Park loop without encountering a red light. President of the New York Cycle Club, Ellen Jaffe who was at the meeting, says, "anecdotally, there has been a great lessening of tickets" among members of her club, which is mostly includes racing cyclists who train early in the mornings or late at night when the park isn't as crowded, as well as more occasional bike riders.  She added, "I haven't heard of any [tickets] recently and it was a constant drumbeat on our message board" for months.