Bike Crackdown: Is The NYPD Setting Up Cycling Checkpoints This Summer?
The Voice just got some info suggesting that the New York Police Department might boost bike ticketing efforts, including setting up more cycling safety checkpoints around the city -- and the NYPD doesn't plan on informing the public beforehand.
Here's what's up: a reader was recently riding away from the Bedford Avenue L-station and saw a squad car and two officers stationed near North 12th Street, near the corner of McCarren park, where she encountered a bike checkpoint -- an encounter which prompted us to ask a few questions about the NYPD's efforts.
"One officer ran out into the middle of the road as I approached and waved me down. I figured they had the street closed off for filming or something, as happens occasionally in the neighborhood, so I stopped and got off my bike," she said.
"The officer proceeded to examine my bike, commented on my reflectors, asked me to move to the sidewalk, and asked for my ID. At this point, I realized I was probably about to get a ticket for something, but hadn't run a red light and wasn't on the sidewalk."
He then asked whether she had considered getting a bike bell, since it's the law.
"He explained that this was a checkpoint for enforcing bike safety, and that I was about to be issued a summons for failing to have a bell on my bike," she said.
"While this was happening, another car rolled up, and there were total about five officers on the scene, blocking traffic on Bedford and trying to stop every biker that went by. I saw several bike go by without bells who the cops didn't get to, or who just plain ignored the calls to stop. I was corralled in with another young man who was stopped. He suggested to the officer that we leave our IDs and run to the bike shop up the street to purchase a bell on the spot. The officer denied it.
I was issued a ticket for $90 under code 1236B, as was the guy they stopped with me. One officer told us if we mailed in a receipt showing we had immediately purchased a bike bell with our plea, they would waive the fine. When we asked the other officers how to go about doing that, they had no idea what we were talking about. All in all, I saw them stop about 6 or 7 people in the time I was there."
Now, bike checkpoints in New York aren't anything new per se. Streetsblog reported on a seeming bike ticket blitz recently taking place in Central Park, for example.
We still wondered whether anything was changing with ticketing techniques, so we reached out to the NYPD, asking via e-mail: "Is the NYPD planning bike checkpoints to check for things like bells and lights this summer? I was told that an informal checkpoint was set up on Bedford Avenue Wednesday, and I am curious to know whether more are planned and if so, whether there will be notice given -- such as with DUI checkpoints."
Here's what the cops said: "We will not be giving the times and locations of our checkpoints."
We then asked: "Question -- if bike checkpoints are supposed to encourage safety so that people get things like bells and lights -- why not give some heads up? Some have said that not giving any indication beforehand makes it seem like the police department is more concerned with ticketing than safety? Please let me know the reasoning behind not giving a heads up."
We're still waiting to hear back on that second inquiry.
However, the NYPD did not deny that more checkpoints will be set up, and said that checkpoints will not be publicized beforehand (unlike safety crackdowns for other vehicles which are publicized beforehand, such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Operation Hang Up.")
If you want to read up on city bike laws, check out the Department of Transportation. Administrative Code and New York State Law also apply, and info on those statutes can be found here. Transportation Alternatives has put together a nifty guide to bike rules, too!
Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.