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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bicycle Speeding Ticket, Central Park NYC: A Double Injustice

3/24/11 #232
12 miles, 41F, clear/blue

In New York City, bicyclists and the Police Department (NYPD) have been having a contest of wills. The bicyclists are enjoying unprecedented success with bike lanes and bike parking. Jannette Sadik-Khan, the city's aggro Bicycle Commissioner is kicking ass. Bike advocates say it's all about their rights, but Sadik-Khan says it's all about safety - and she has the numbers to prove it.

The NYPD and the Big Apple bicycle community have not enjoyed a great relationship. New York's Finest regard the Critical Mass rides as intentional disturbances somewhere between civil disobedience and anarchy. The city's recent focus on statistical policing using software called CompStat generates numerical ticketing quotas goals for police officers, and ticketing cyclists is a relatively easy way to make their numbers.

There's been some public pushback against the new bike lanes. Cyclists demand that police enforce the bike lanes. People who park delivery trucks in the bike lanes are upset to get tickets from the police.

That's not all; there's the Hipster War. Hassidic Jews have had bike lanes removed because they contend female cyclists, dressed in shorts, skirts, and spandex, are inappropriate. Bicycle advocates came back in the middle of the night and repainted the bike lanes.

The police have probably had enough of bicyclists, and that frustration is expressed in a variety of ways, some clever and some ridiculous.

The city announced in October that it was increasing enforcement of bike laws, specifically running red lights, ignoring stop signs, speeding, and failing to use bike lanes.

Recently, an NYPD patrol car was parked over the bike lane, preventing anybody from using the bike lane. When bicyclists left the bike lane to get around the patrol car, officers ticketed the rider for leaving the bike lane. The $130 ticket was for "Reckless operation of bicycle."

In the last few weeks, police officers have been ticketing bicyclists for failure to stop at red lights inside Central Park. The kicker is that they're ticketing the cyclists during the hours that the park is closed to cars and all motor vehicles - there's only bikes on the road. The fine is $270.

Yesterday, bicyclists riding in Central Park (again, when the roads are closed to cars) had their speed measured with police radar guns and speeding tickets were written. The police were running a radar speed trap for bicyclists.

From the NY Times:
The speed at which David Regen, 49, had been traveling as he coasted down a hill on West Drive inside the park was not terribly fast — 25 miles per hour, according to the ticket. That is the same speed at which cars are permitted to travel when the roads are open to them. But parks department regulations dating from 1991 limit bike riders to 15 m.p.h.

Mr. David Regan was given a traffic ticket (see copy at right)for "exceeding speed limit". You'll see that where the form asks for a license plat number, the officer wrote in "bycicle" (sic).

This bicyclist is the luckiest guy in the world. I would love to have a ticket for speeding on my bicycle. I would frame it and hang it up on my wall, right between my pictures of the Pope and Elvis. That would be the coolest thing.

Murphy's Law persists, though, and it was inevitable that something would ruin Mr. Regan's wonderful story of The Man Trying To Keep Him Down.

Later that night, a NYPD officer came to Mr. Regan's home, apologized for the way he had been treated, and told him the ticket was bring withdrawn. They reminded him of the park's 15 mph speed limit for bicycles and went on their way.

First they give him an unjust ticket (the first crime). Then they take his badge of honor away (the second crime). Voiding the ticket and stealing his Ultimate Rule#5 Bike Story: that is such an injustice.

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